Amherst Magazine

Paul Dempsey ’39

Paul Dempsey ’39 died December 17, 2009.
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Paul Dempsey died in his sleep on Dec. 17, 2009. He was 92. He died in his own bed, in the house he designed, a few hours after being tucked in by his wife.

Paul was born in New Trier Township, Ill., on Aug. 16, 1917. His father was an inventor and entrepreneur who created a telegraph cipher code used by railroads to reduce signaling costs. Paul grew up in Wilmette, Ill., with three brothers and one sister and loved games and language.

In 1935, Paul graduated from NewTrierHigh School and set off for the U.S. Naval Academy. Navy life did not suit Paul, so he transferred before his sophomore year to AmherstCollege, where he majored in English literature, met the poet Robert Frost and graduated in 1939.

When the U.S. entered the war, Paul joined the U.S. Navy, where he taught officers to target and fire the big naval guns. In 1945, he was transferred to naval intelligence and was sent to the University of Colorado to study Chinese. In September 1945, he met his wife, Irene, and they were married three weeks later on a lark that lasted more than 64 years.

Paul completed his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1951. He spent time at CornellUniversity and UC Davis before joining SacramentoStateUniversity in 1963, where he taught and did research until his retirement in 1993.

Paul was an avid tennis player, playing daily into his 80s. He enjoyed all sorts of games, especially card games. His monthly poker evenings continued until weeks before his death. Even at age 92, he won much more often than not against younger competitors.

Paul is survived by his wife, Irene; his sons, Ajax and Jed; and his daughter-in-law, Diana.

—Jed Dempsey

 

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