Our Class of 1954 has lost one of its kindest, gentlest, and most generous classmates. John Scherrer died on October 3, 2006, at the age of seventy four. He was diagnosed in August 2006 as suffering from lymphoma and, after a brief stay at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, CA, was transferred to a nursing home where he spent his last days.
John came to Amherst College from Friends Academy in Locust Valley, NY, where he was graduated along with Hans Schreiber, also a member of our Class. John, who came to be known as “Jaw” because of a football injury, played football but was most skilled at the racket sports. He lettered in tennis and played a mean game of squash. He joined Theta Delta Chi with his three sophomore year roommates, Woody Woodward, Art Miller, and Marshall Rutter. We all remember him for his good looks, genial personality, and eternal search for the perfect woman. Ironically, he died never having married.
After Amherst, he took his masters in history at Columbia, taught a few years in a private school in Long Island, and then attended the Univ. of Michigan to obtain a teacher credential.
John moved to California in 1960 and taught English at Malibu Park Junior High and Lincoln Junior High, part of the Santa Monica Unified School District System. John was a truly dedicated teacher who put the interest of his students far above his own. He became the most popular teacher in his school and was recognized and greeted warmly by his former students for the rest of his life as he went about his daily activities.
John was an only child and, shocked by the death of his parents a few years apart at the end of the 1970s, he retired from teaching in 1980 and became a very active community volunteer. In 1984, he founded a charitable organization known as LA Can (Community Action Network). He nurtured this volunteer service organization out of his own home and with his own funds for a number of years. It was such a successful organization that, in 1987, he was singled out by Reader’s Digest magazine in a “Heroes for Today” article. Later in his life, after turning over the leadership of LA Can to others, he became a community advocate for the youth of Pacific Palisades California and in his church, Palisades Presbyterian Church. There was no job too great or too small for John, who dedicated essentially his entire life to teaching and volunteering. One of the thrills of his life was composing a song entitled, “God’s Always There.” That has been recorded several times and was performed at his memorial service.
Although John did not actively participate in alumni affairs after graduation, he kept in touch with his close Amherst friends who knew that he was, until the end, a loving, kind, and gentle person.
—Marshall A. Rutter ’54