Bill Hastings enjoys walking, exercising at the Activity and Recreation Center, working on book projects and meeting at Lakota Coffee Co. on Sunday mornings with his friends.
“We discuss world issues, personal problems and our health,” said Bill Wickersham, one of the members of the informal Sunday meetings. “You know, we old men sit around and talk about our ailments.”
But lately, Hastings has been engaged in a larger conversation with Missouri voters as the Progressive Party candidate for the 9th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He decided to run when he became dissatisfied with the government and the Democratic Party.
“I’m not eager to wait for them,” Hastings said of the party he used to identify with. “We need an alternative to Democratic representation.”
Wickersham said Hastings is a “forward thinker.”
“He’s good at making connections between things that others don’t see,” Wickersham said.
“Sometimes people don’t see Iraq as a local problem,” Wickersham said. “Bill would point out that it’s local people who are fighting, dying and paying for it. He’s a good decision maker. He listens to what everyone says and makes an independent decision. As a social psychologist, he’s good at using the scientific method, weighing the data and making rational decisions based on fact.”
Hastings has a long academic career. After earning three degrees, including a doctorate in social psychology, he became a professor at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Ill., a small, private, Presbyterian liberal arts college where he taught a variety of courses, including business and psychology.
“I’m not a specialist,” he said. “Social psychologists think of themselves as generalists.”
Hastings published one book in the 1970s through Oxford University Press, “How to Think about Social Problems.” He is working on two other books. One is about the concept of the self.
“Many books take a Buddhist position on the self,” he said. “What I want to do is write about that Buddhist conception from the point of view of Western research.”
The second work in progress is about the purpose of life, examining evolution and intelligent design from a psychological perspective. He said that, as a psychologist, he wants to explore the idea of motivation and intelligence as it relates to organisms.
Hastings has always had a passion for academia and enjoys being around university students.
“They’re what keep me going,” he said. “That’s probably why I retired to a university town.”
Robert Buccholz, a former colleague who is now professor emeritus at Monmouth, remembers Hastings well. He described him as honest, considerate and bright.
“He was very imaginative and had his own style,” Buccholz said. “He related to students very well, and everyone thought very highly of him.”
Occasionally, Hastings will pop up in conversations when Buccholz has coffee with colleagues at Monmouth. About a month ago, he said, they found out that Hastings was running for public office. All agreed that it was a great idea and that he could do some good.
In 1992, Hastings bought a home in Ashland and fell in love with the area. In 1998, he began phasing into retirement, living in Missouri for seven months out of the year and teaching the other five at Monmouth. In 2000, he moved to Columbia and retired here in 2004.
While teaching at Monmouth, Hastings met his wife, a native of France who taught French at the college. They later divorced.
Hastings came from a small family, and all have died earlier. But Hastings still keeps in touch with his brother-in-law, Eugene Rogers, who was married to his sister, Geraldine Hastings.
“Bill is very trustworthy; I know that for a fact,” Rogers said. “He’s the kind of guy that if you dropped a $5 bill in front him, he would chase after you and give it back to you.”
Rogers also admires Hastings’ loyalty.
“He’s had a few friends since childhood, and they meet once a year,” Rogers said. “Bill keeps people close by.”
About 16 years ago, Hastings and four of his childhood friends decided to get together every year on an August weekend at their friend’s cabin near Lake Geneva in Wisconsin, Hastings said.
“We go there to catch up, have a couple of beers and embellish our pasts,” he said.
John Binder, one of the friends who meet at the lake, has known Hastings since they were in first grade at Saint Sebastian, a Catholic school they attended.
“We went there after high school graduation,” he said, “and in the early ’90s we decided it would be a fun thing to do again. What I find interesting is how we all manage to reconnect and get to know each other individually again. It’s a very easy, nice kind of a thing.”
Binder, Hastings, and the rest of the friends grew up in the same neighborhood in Chicago about a mile south of Wrigley Field and near Lincoln Park, where they did the usual things kids would do back then, Binder said. They would play softball and ride bikes in the summer, have snowball fights in the winter and collect comic books year-round.
“We also grew up during World War II and the Korean War, and even though we were small kids, it was a very real memory for us,” Binder said. “The notion was a big thing with kids, so we used to create strange, imaginary worlds as if we were the rulers of our countries.”
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POSITION SOUGHT: U.S. representative for Missouri’s 9th District
PERSONAL: 66 years old; he is divorced and has no children.
OCCUPATION: Retired psychology professor, taught at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Ill.
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Loyola University; a master’s and doctorate in psychology from Southern Illinois University; and a master’s in business from Western Illinois University.
BACKGROUND: He enjoys exercising and reading nonfiction titles, usually those dealing with social sciences, economics, politics and religion, as well as academic writing. He is working on a book about the self.