. . . some of them might read like this.
Professor X was a good teacher and colleague. Affable and self-effacing, he was well-liked by all. He was quick with a joke and to light up your smoke — at least back in the good old days when some of us smoked in our offices and the American Philosophical Association hosted a 'Smoker' at their annual conventions. But as the years wore on, Professor X, bereft of the stimulation of first-rate minds, became lazy and given to resting on his laurels. An early book, based on his dissertation, showed considerable promise, but a fair judge would have to conclude that he buried his talents rather than using them. He published nothing in the professional journals, sometimes opining that no one read them anyway. Like many, he became too comfortable. Tenure, often advertised as a bulwark of academic freedom, became in his case, as in so many others, an inducement to inactivity. He never progressed much beyond the level of his dissertation.
His real life was elsewhere, in family and friends and such hobbies as woodworking. Once, emerging from a year-long sabbatical cushioned on both ends by long summers with no teaching, he had nothing to show for his release time except a fine bookcase he had built. Like many of the long-tenured and unproductive, he was given to professional envy. When the distinguished philosopher Y came and read a paper for a paltry $200 honorarium, X questioned whether Y was worth so much especially given that this was a paper Y had read before other departments. X's scholarly inactivity was not for the sake of service elsewhere in the academic community: he had a knack for avoiding administrivia and such other academic chores as commenting on papers at conferences.
But now he has passed from our midst, and who among us does not have faults and limitations? Professor X's kindness and collegiality will surely remain in our memories. He will be missed.