Amherst Magazine

Charles Wesley Tyson
Charles Wesley Tyson

An Amherst "gentleman and scholar" of the Class of 1957, Charles Wesley Tyson, Jr. passed away on July 30, 1998, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

A Phi Gamma Delta, Wes received his AB degree from Amherst, majoring in physical chemistry. He was awarded an MS in chemical engineering from MIT in 1959, and then a law degree from the University of Colorado in 1969. However, that does not even begin to tell anything about Wes.

After graduation from The Pingry School in New Jersey where he played football and lettered in swimming, Wes arrived at Amherst in the fall of 1953, which was a relatively quiet time, after WW II and the Korean War, and well before the Vietnam War-an easier time than later years. I had the pleasure of rooming with Wes during my freshman year. We lived at 401 James Hall, along with Bob Schoenberg.

Wes was an easy-going roommate, amiable, hardworking, easy to talk to (he could discuss many subjects), and was well-liked by everyone in our dorm. Perhaps though, he was best known in the dorm for his sense of humor, which involved numerous "plays" on words. If you happened to miss one of these puns, he would patiently draw attention to it with a wry smile.

Bob and I also learned to prepare for weekend visits from his girlfriend, Sue Bohmer, a beaming, loquacious senior from Kent Place School, a prep school in Summit, NJ. A few years later on June 21, 1958, they were married in a large wedding in Summit. Wes and Sue had three children, Kimberley, Lauren, and Dwight. Sue, their three children, their daughter-in-law, Jo Anne, and their grandson Charles Spencer Tyson survive.

After graduating from MIT, Wes spent seven years working for ESSO Research and Engineering Company. In 1964, that work took him to Colorado , where he worked on an oil shale project. While at ESSO, Wes obtained three US patents, primarily involving reaction rates and a molecular sieve process to separate paraffin from oil.

Wes's family indicates that Wes's work on the oil shale project piqued interest in the law and, in 1966, Wes decided to make a mid-career change. In part because a daughter's asthma required a dryer climate, he enrolled at the University of Colorado, School of Law. After passing the Colorado bar exam, Wes joined the law department of Colorado Interstate Gas Company (now The Coastal Corporation) handling contract negotiations and regulatory compliance matters. Finally, because of his scientific and legal background, Wes represented the company during the promulgation of some of the early EPA regulations.

In the fall of 1983, Wes suffered the first of three of his four heart attacks. Two and a half years later, recovering from the fourth, he became interested in the possibility of using a cold, ultra-violet laser, known as excimer laser, to clean out the arteries clogged by atherosclerosis. Using this idea as a foundation, he and two other principles co-founded Spectranetics Corporation, a publicly traded NASDQ corporation with headquarters in Colorado Springs. The company continues to develop and promote the use of the excimer laser as an adjunct to angioplasties and for the removal of leads resulting from that process. As a director, vice president, and secretary, Wes worked hard to guarantee a sound scientific and financial basis for the company, at times taking unpopular stands against nepotism and other wasteful corporate practices.

From 1989 until November 1993, Wes served as a senior attorney for the city of Colorado Springs, where he was legal advisor to the City Council, the Charter Review Commission, and the Airport Advisory Commission.

Notwithstanding his many professional accomplishments and devotion to raising a family, he was also active in his community, serving on many civic boards. For a decade, he served on the board of Citizen's Goals, receiving its Reaching Higher award in 1992. A member of the Kiwanis Club, he also served as its president. He also served on the Symphony Men's Council, the Fine Arts Council, and many other organizations.

Perhaps his main civic contribution, however, was as a member of the Broadmoor Community Church, where he was a member of the Diaconate and served over a period of twenty years on the executive board, personnel and by-law committees. From conversations with Wes, it was apparent that he did not view the church as a means of introducing new doctrine or values, and was not hesitant to stand for his convictions where he felt important values were at stake. Nevertheless, at his memorial service, it was noted he always treated everyone, even those with whom he disagreed, with respect and dignity. Thus, he was able to share his views easily with people of many diverse opinions.

Wes leaves as his legacy a fine family, a lot of friends and admirers, together with a record of outstanding professional and community service.

-George A. Mathewson '57
 

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