Philip Walley Warken, 69, an emeritus professor of history and a longtime debate coach at the U.S. Naval Academy, died at his home in the Canaan Valley of West Virginia. He was pronounced dead Oct. 24, although the estimated date of death was four days earlier.
Dr. Warken was in some ways the academy's equivalent of C.S. Lewis at Oxford University or perhaps an American Mr. Chips. Like Lewis -- a bachelor until his autumn years -- Dr. Warken was, in essence, married to the academy. His eccentricities were part of campus lore. He had been known, for example, to burst into a classroom of unsuspecting midshipmen, declaim a few lines of high-flown rhetoric, then stroll on down the hall. He guarded his privacy so zealously that few if any photos of him are available.
"In essence, the Naval Academy was Professor Philip Warken's life," said Lawrence Thompson, a former colleague. "He loved midshipmen, the study of history, Ohio State football, the New York Yankees and, as a lifelong bachelor, the ambiance of the Officers' and Faculty Club. He also loved cats; his devotion to his felines inspired awe from among the most ardent of cat adherents."
He also was an inveterate cigar smoker, a habit that caused him a few problems in recent years as cigars became less socially acceptable.
Dr. Warken, an Annapolis resident for nearly four decades, was born in Columbus, Ohio, and received his undergraduate degree from Capital University in 1957. He received his doctoral degree from Ohio State University in 1969. He served in the Army Reserve from 1958 to 1963 while doing graduate work at Ohio State.
He came to the Naval Academy as an instructor in 1965 with a teaching specialization in American political history. He later developed courses in American social history and popular culture. His doctoral dissertation on the National Resources Planning Board was published in 1979.
Dr. Warken became head of the academy's debate program in 1967. By the 1970s, the academy team was routinely receiving national ranking and prominence as a member of the highly competitive District 8, which includes Georgetown University, George Washington University and James Madison University. His teams vied for several national championships. He was a district and national leader in debate circles and was president of the American Debate Association from 1991 to 1995.
"He had a very agile mind," Thompson recalled, "and he taught his debaters how to pick up an argument very quickly and attack it."
Midshipman debaters stayed in touch with Dr. Warken over the years. They always referred to him, not as "Coach" Warken, but simply as "the King."
Dr. Warken also was chairman of the History Department from 1980 to 1984 and played important roles in several accreditation reviews. A champion of faculty governance, he chaired the Civilian Faculty Affairs Committee several times. He also was one of the driving figures behind the creation of the academy's Faculty Senate and was its first president. He received the academy's Service Excellence Award in 1995. He retired in 1999.
Dr. Warken's death was in keeping with the mystique that grew up around him during his teaching career. He died in the cabin where he spent part of every year. The cause of death, according to Zia Sabet, deputy chief medical examiner for West Virginia, was "undetermined natural disease." Friends said he had prostate cancer.
There are no immediate survivors.