John J. Waugh '54
John J. Waugh '54 died May 19, 2010.
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JOHN J. WAUGH ’54
John, who died on May 19, was only with our class for our freshman year but was an extraordinarily loyal Amherst man for all of his life. Orphaned at the age of 9, he went in 1947 from the Little Wanderer’s Home in Boston to the U.S. Air Force and, three years later, came with us to the college. The depletion of his G.I. Bill of Rights funding forced him to leave the college at the end of the year and go to work. Beginning as a shipping clerk at a cold storage warehouse, he eventually became the CEO of the largest refrigerated warehouse system in the world and chairman of the International Association of Refrigerated warehouses.
In a 1998 letter to Bill Wilcox, John reflected on what motivated him to maintain his generous support of Amherst. He noted, “What I took from Amherst has been of inestimable value. One can only speculate now on how much more benefit a full four years would have provided.” His years of substantial contributions to the annual fund were augmented by a significant contribution to the Commitment to Teaching Fund. Though he did not attend any of our reunions, he did tell us all of his life in the 50th Reunion book, Strangers Once.
In a remembrance that appears in full on our class website, Matt Mitchell recalled a correspondence with John that developed over politics, beginning in 2003. Matt writes, “Although he styled himself a Republican, John had a strong libertarian streak and wielded a strong BS detector … he seemed particularly attached to the political positions that Herb and I did not attempt to conceal. Above all, he counseled civility. John’s mastery of language marched in lockstep with the incisiveness of his intellect.” One hopes that the critical intellect John shared with Matt owes something to that one year he spent among us.
John is survived by his wife Janet; a son and a stepson; four grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
—Thomas Blackburn ’54