The Legacy of Walter Jeffko: Living on in our Thoughts (and Actions)


Many knew him as “an institution on this campus.” Many more grew to know him as a friend. Walter G. Jeffko. A husband. A father. A grandfather.

Walter taught as a professor of Philosophy, with courses in Logic, Philosophy of Human Nature, and Contemporary Ethical Problems. The last, perhaps coincidentally, was also the title of his book, with the first edition being published in May of 1997. Walter believed so passionately in his work, that by June 2018 there was a fourth edition published with a preface happily explaining the updates and additions that followed. “I am pleased to present” were the words of the late Walter George Jeffko.

After teaching at Fitchburg State University for over 50 years, and only recently retiring in June, many have been made aware that Walter passed away on December 8, 2022 at the age of 84. There were services to attend in Fitchburg, MA and his hometown of Lunenburg that allowed loved ones to grieve. Some of those who were unable to make the services have already been signing the online guestbooks where they are also encouraged to upload photos and other memories of Walter.

While around campus, there is an impact from our loss. Is it possible that the impact of one’s life and what is given, can be greater tenfold?

When asked what was most memorable about Walter, David Svolba, also a Professor of Philosophy of Fitchburg State University, said “Aside from his powerful intellect and argumentative tenacity–Walter wouldn’t let you get away with sloppy thinking–he was also very funny!” Svolba says they met in 2011 when he was interviewed by Walter for a teaching position at FSU. The years that followed were filled with philosophical discussions, the sounds of race-cars coming from Walter’s office, and then there was his laugh.

It is no surprise that a major influence to Walter’s legacy was that of Philosopher John Macmurray (1891 – 1976). According to Macmurray, existence is rooted in action, not only thinking, and that relating to one another is essential to being a person.

Walter, a man who, Svolba says, “had a very sharp sense of the occasional absurdity of life and a great ability to find the humor in things,” was someone who also tackled some very big questions that remain unanswered still.
A once long-winded man, silenced by fate. What Walter has given in his lessons, as well as in how he lived his life, is a reminder, an encouragement, to not only think about those big questions, and to discuss them, but of course, to laugh.