John Casey

1943 — 2017

John P. Casey, Jr.

A Brief Biography

Dr. John P. Casey, Jr. was born in 1943, and after moving around extensively, received a B.A. from Coe College in Iowa, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Iowa. After teaching at Iowa State University and Illinois Wesleyan University, he spent many years pursuing a career in wood sculpture, then returned to teaching at the University of Toledo, where he met and married Rebecca Blass.

In 1991, he accepted the position of “College Philosopher” at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. Over the years he taught many courses there and served three years as Interim V.P. for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College. He then specialized in offering Environmental Ethics, Eastern Thought, and a range of Analytic Philosophy courses.

The Warren Wilson community gave him and Rebecca the permanent home he’d never had before. His last letter to the WWC community contained his thoughts that there is no separation and that “you cannot know the Tao, but you can be it.” He wrote: “Our lives are experiences to be fully lived. I hope you fully experience those occasions when while painting, you become the painting, ride your bike in the zone, play music and become the music. These can provide glimpses of being without separation. So when it is your time, you can be.”

—John Casey died on February 24, 2017

After his death, much of his artwork from his earlier life as an artist was found in the basement. It had been packed up for 29 years.

With His Students

John Casey was always seeking truth and encouraging his students to do likewise. He compared teaching philosophy and world views to carving wood. You just keep chipping away, looking for the beauty in the block, letting in the light.

When honored with a Faculty Teaching Excellence Award in 2000, one of his students commented—Everything we’ve learned seems more absorbable coming from someone who lives what he teaches.

John Casey with students at Warren Wilson College
John Casey with students at Warren Wilson College

With His Students

John Casey was always seeking truth and encouraging his students to do likewise. He compared teaching philosophy and world views to carving wood. You just keep chipping away, looking for the beauty in the block, letting in the light.

When honored with a Faculty Teaching Excellence Award in 2000, one of his students commented—Everything we’ve learned seems more absorbable coming from someone who lives what he teaches.

John Casey young wood sculptor at Renaissance Fair

John Casey as a young woodworker at a Renaissance Fair. Date unknown.