Bill Siegel

December 11, 2018

Bill Siegel died yesterday, suddenly, an apparent heart attack.
He was wicked smart, fully engaged, witty, humble, and one of the keenest observers of our wild, diverse humanity that I’ve ever known.
He saw our greatness and our weirdness, took it all in, and worked to make us a little wiser, a little more joyful and just, a bit more peaceful and understanding and loving.
We met during the Chicago Public Schools upheaval in the late 1980’s, and worked together in the 1990’s–-Bill from Great Books, and me from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He stood steadfastly with the kids and the communities, the parents and the teachers against the banksters and the well-bred barbarians from the business schools with their corporate designs on the schools.
When he asked Bernardine Dohrn and me if he could interview us for a film he was doing with Sam Green about the Weather Underground. I thought it was simply the latest in the long march of taped and filmed interviews we’d done with students for high school history fair projects or college reports. We said, Sure, why not?
I was surprised to find us all at Sundance later, and in 2004 at the Academy Awards where the film was a finalist for the best documentary. The night before the Red Carpet ride the whole crew gathered in celebration, and Bill and Sam were toasted as they rose to rehearse their acceptance speeches. My favorite from Bill that night, a little high: “Thanks to the Academy for this recognition, but remember the Weather Underground wanted to make a revolution, not a film. Now we’ve made the film, let’s join hands and make the revolution!” He never gave the speech; the award went to Errol Morris.
His work was powered by curiosity, question-asking, problem-posing. He was never dogmatic nor didactic. He was always asking the next question, and the next, inspiring others to interrogate the universe.
Colleague and friend, comrade-in-arms, I’m devastated at our collective loss.
His love for his children Johanna and Louis was palpable and evident in every interaction we ever had—no conversation began without kid notes and child updates. I’m thinking of his kids and his partner now, sending nothing but love.
Bill Siegel: PRESENTE!

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