GEORGETOWN, KY – They came from far and wide. John L. Hill Chapel was filled to capacity with family, friends, colleagues and students. Hundreds who couldn’t attend in person watched streaming video on their computers and mobile devices.


Hill Chapel filled to honor Doc’s memory.
(Photo: Nancy Royden ’87,
Georgetown News-Graphic)

Stories. Tears. Laughter. It was all to celebrate and remember the life of long-time Georgetown College professor Ira “Jack” Vinson Birdwhistell, known to many simply as “Doc.”

Doc Birdwhistell, associate professor of religion, died unexpectedly on Friday, February 7, 2014, at his home in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. Cause of death was attributed to a heart attack.

The service on Monday, February 10, was a tribute to the long-time teacher, friend and colleague through music, words and mementos displayed in the Chapel’s vestibule and on stage.

Doc’s passion for Georgetown College was always evident. An alumnus, he completed his advanced degrees at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and went on to serve as a pastor in Kentucky Baptist churches. He returned to the College in 1979 as campus minister and transitioned to faculty in 1997.

He was an encourager. A man with many interests. Always optimistic.

His impact on students and colleagues alike is legendary.

Sophomore Tyler Phillips told reporter Eric Balmer of the student newspaper The Georgetonian that he knew Doc’s name before he even stepped foot on campus. “When I decided to come to Georgetown, graduates from my home church would tell me ‘You have to meet Doc Birdwhistell!’” said Phillips. “Meeting him, myself, proved every one of their stories true. He lived compassion.”

Dr. Shiela Klopfer, head of the religion department, said, “Doc embodies in his teaching career and life the best that a Christian Liberal Arts institution offers.” In commenting for an article in The Georgetonian, she added, “He was an academic who reflected thoughtfully on his faith, seeking to find God’s Truth in our world. And he practically lived out his faith by loving the people he encountered.”

This man with the caring spirit will be remembered always for his famous phrase “Shine On!” It is one thousands of Georgetown College graduates, friends and colleagues will recall every time they think of Doc Birdwhistell.

The entire memorial service was recorded and is available for viewing online. A memorial fund has been established to honor Doc. Gifts to the fund may be made online using a credit card.

[Editor’s note: Alumni Tony Carney ’92 and Angie Mullins Boggs ’91  have reserved the community room at Heine Brothers Coffee, 119 Chenoweth Lane, Louisville, for area alumni to come together to reminisce and reflect on their times as students with Doc Birdwhistell. Share stories and photos. The Dutch treat gathering is set for Thursday, February 27, from 6-8 p.m. All are welcome. For more information, email]