Amherst Magazine

Ralph W. Greenlaw Jr. '38

Deceased July 19, 2009
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Ralph W. Greenlaw Jr.

His daughter called him “an old-fashioned gentleman, so considerate, the kind that would take your arm ...”

He was also a battle-hardened Army officer, decorated with the Bronze Star, whose Cavalry unit pierced the Siegfried Line.

Unlike many of our generation, he easily embraced the computer, doing his taxes and accounts digitally.

And he married his childhood sweetheart, divorced her, went through two more marriages and divorces, and remarried her in his old age. She died one month after he did.

Such vivid glimpses into Ralph’s life came from daughter Clare Greenlaw Goldstein, an attorney, in phone and e-mail interviews following his death of cancer July 19, 2009, two days before his 92nd birthday.

After his Princeton doctorate in 1952, Ralph taught history at State University of Iowa, at Wellesley and at Brown before moving to State University of North Carolina at Raleigh, where he headed the department.  A three-year interlude found him at CARE under Phi Psi fraternity brother Dick Reuter ’38 (d. 2005), director of the humanitarian food agency under President Kennedy.

Ralph edited a series of books, Problems in European Civilization, and wrote about the French Revolution, but what charmed daughter Clare was an unpublished war memoir, A Cavalryman Reports.  “He was a keen observer of what was happening around him and had a wry sense of humor,” she said.

Born in New York City, Ralph prepped at Phillips Exeter.  At Amherst, he lettered in squash, won a freshman Math prize and played in the Band.

He and Alice Handforth met at a summer camp when they were 12. “She had a crush on him from the time they met,” Clare said. They had two other children, a girl, dead in infancy, and a son, David, who died of Hodgkin’s disease at 20.  Besides Clare, three grandchildren survive.

George Bria ’38

 

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