Amherst Magazine

Michael D. Ditzian '62

From The Olio

Ditzian MICHAEL DAVID DITZIAN
51 Milburn Street, Rockville Centre, New York
Prepared at Southside Senior High School
American Studies,
Delta Upsilon, Athletic Chairman
Basketball "1962"
Chest Drive,
Intramural Council, Eligibility Chairman,
OLIO, Advertising Chairman

Michael D. Ditzian '62, died September 10, 2010.
(view alumni profile - Log-in required)

Here, from the morning of September 11, is George Carmany's email announcing the terrible news.

Hi everyone,

I am saddened to pass on the news that Mike passed away yesterday evening.

As a number of us know, Mike was a 20 year+ lymphoma survivor, and was a long term board member of the Lymphoma Research Foundation. He was Managing Partner of his law firm, Davis and Gilbert, and specialized in legal services to the advertising industry and general corporate law. Unfortunately Mike' disease recurred last spring, and he underwent chemo and a stem cell transplant. The last time we spoke in August he said that it had weakened him but that he was feeling stronger by the day. His spirit and expectations were very positive. However he then contracted pneumonia and a lung infection, and was presumably immunocompromised pursuant to the transplant.

Jeff [Epstein] has been very close to this situation and tells me that Mark Pasmantier was one of Mike's attendings. Mike's son Eric is to be married next month, and Jeff''s son will be best man. This is beyond sadness. Mike was a great guy, sound, mature, and thoughtful in every way, and one of '62s finest sons.

Subdued best wishes,
George

Here is a eulogy that Mark Pastmantier delivered at Mike's Service on Monday, September 13 ---

We were all there together, Michael Ditzian, his wife Barbara, his sister Maralyn, their daughter Jaime and their son Eric, as well as Eric's bride to be Fleur (wedding scheduled for late October). However, there was a sense of emptiness in the room because the family portrait was somehow tragically damaged. First by the fact that Michael couldn't speak and second because of the absence of his younger brother Kenny, who died some months ago after a long encounter with chronic lymphocyte leukemia. I had been Kenny's doctor for many years before he moved away from the New York area. I had been Michael's doctor since he was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1988.

Now the room was an eerie quiet if you could somehow blessedly subtract the noises of the respirator and the piercing alarms that seemed to go on incessantly. We were gathered together to review the medical options. Michael had done well for years after his first course of chemotherapy in 1988. He achieved a complete remission. However, earlier this year he relapsed and it was decided he required a marrow transplant. The transplant required intense chemotherapy but he made it through. He went home and appeared to be recovering. Suddenly he began spiking temperatures and became short of breath and required hospitalization. Things spiraled downhill and Michael required a respirator. In spite of the respirator, powerful antibiotics and gamma globulins Michael did not improve.

I outlined the options to Michael's family. This included continuing an aggressive medical approach at one end of the spectrum or removing the respiratory support at the other end. We spent the next several minutes discussing in some detail the procedure involved as well as their implications. At this point Barbara asked "what would you recommend?" This is a question I have answered thousands of times. Yet, as I looked around the room, I hesitated. I had known Michael since freshman year in college. I had met his whole family many times throughout college. I remembered his sister Maralyn from those days. For more than 20 years Barbara and Mike had been more than a patient and a spouse of patient. And I knew the children. As I tried to refocus on the question I realized I was crying and I said "I can't go on now, I will be back later today" and I excused myself.

As I walked back to the office I was reviewing the encounter in my mind. I think of myself as someone who is never unable to take on those tough topics. But I did remember another time when I said "I can't go on" and unbelievably Michael was involved then too. I was sitting with a young lady in a local pizza parlor in Amherst. We had both ordered pizza and a beer and we were both asked for proof of age. A picture of a little girl fell out of her wallet and I said "Sandy you never mentioned you had a sister." She said "no, that is my daughter." Then I said, "I had no idea you were married" she replied "I'm not." "I'm sorry you're divorced." I said. "I am not" she said. "I can't go on" I said as I put my head down on the table.

Mike was nearby and saw me put my head on the table but did not hear what had been said. He rushed over and asked if I was okay and what he could do to help. I don't tell this story to point out how in inept I was-though I was. I don't tell the story to point out how times have changed-and they have. I tell it because it illustrates some of Michael's most splendid characteristics. Mike was a stand up guy. He was there for his family, his friends and causes he believed in. His help came quickly and forcefully. He was kind and thoughtful and caring-just a good man.

He frequently called to elicit my advice about the health of family, friends and colleagues from work. He wanted to make sure that they were getting the best medical care. He offered to help make that possible even if it meant personal sacrifices on his part.

After his diagnosis of lymphoma he decided to become active in battling that disease. He worked tirelessly for the Lymphoma Foundation and is their current president.

Michael was grateful for his time at Amherst College. He was determined to pay back and has been active for years. He is the current president of our class.

Michael has been supportive of many other charities including the one that honors my late wife, Margaret.

Michael has always been modest about his good works. On one occasion when I was pushing him on the topic he diverted my attention by recounting his encounter with his boss Phillip Reiss, who was then the managing partner of Davis & Gilbert-Mike's law firm. At the time of Mike's diagnosis in 1988 Mike was terrified of what might become of his loving wife and children. He told Phillip of his fears and Phillip responded –"Michael I will guarantee that I will take care of them, concentrate on getting better." The story was so powerful we spent the rest of the time talking about the culture at Davis & Gilbert.

Mike and I became friends in the fall of our freshman year. We were both wannabe basketball stars. His wannabe was more realistic than mine. But we were both victims of the best freshman team in years. We both gave up after a valiant try.

Sophomore year he, Jim Gould and I roomed together in Pratt. All three joined DU together and remained close throughout college.

After college Mike went to Cornell Law School and subsequently got a master's in law from NYU. He ultimately joined Davis & Gilbert, a superb Law Firm. They are one of the leaders in advertising law and have a blue ribbon list of clients both nationally and internationally. Mike became the managing partner and under his leadership the firm has grown in the numbers of lawyers and profitability.

Mike continued his sports interests up until now. He played full court basketball longer then his doctor could believe but 15 years ago he took up golf. Thankfully golf surpassed basketball as his first sporting love.

Mike did most things well and he certainly was a smart and talented guy-but his best decision was to marry Barbara. They had a wonderful marriage. Her devotion to him throughout his illness could best be described as inspiring.

Mike wrote my wife's death notice to our class. I did not imagine at that time I would do the same for him. It has been my honor to care for him and I only wish I could have done so for many years longer.

Here is Mike' obituary

Finally, here are Mike and Barbara at our 2007 Homecoming ----

Ditzians