Letters to Class of 1963 Reunion Books
Amherst Class of 1963 Twenty-fifth Reunion
JOHN L. QUIGLEY, JR.
9 Lenox Place
St. Louis, Missouri 63108
February 18, 1988
Dear Old Friends
Johnny Franklin's call finally got to me. He implied that quite a few of us supposedly well educated, semi-literate Amherst '63 graduates were experiencing various levels of anxiety ranging from fidgeting to catatonia over writing this letter to the Class. Whether by helping me identify with others experiencing something akin to my own secret dilemma, or by tapping the competitive streak that was and has been such a serviceable defense all these years, here I sit writing -- hopefully for at least partial credit. [I was interested in Rice Leach's letter, reprinted in the last issue of Amherst, in a similar vein. Perhaps we should talk about these secret legacies of Amherst when we get together, along with the many other half-truths that will fill our conversations.]
Well, here's what's happened. Still unable to decide cleanly between seminary and medical school even after graduation, I took the occasion of my mother's death to allow myself a fairly relaxed year at Union Theological Seminary in New York -- in the good company of Jack Hawley and Al Thorp. The first year was enough to help me want to continue, but that was postponed following my neck injury on Labor Day weekend, '64, and the year of hospitalization and rehabilitation it necessitated. As it turned out, though unknown to me at the time, I was allowed to return only after the administration capitulated to the well organized, stalwart pressure to re-admit me, wheelchair and all, mounted by Al Thorp -- then the new student body President -- which turned out to have been a critically important intervention in my life, for which I have always been grateful.
Following graduation, I took on the task of organizing the Inter-religious Center for Urban Affairs in St. Louis. We assisted congregations and denominations in becoming involved in issues and projects having to do with poverty and justice in the city. Our most notorious achievement was the pursuit of an exclusionary zoning lawsuit eventually to the Supreme Court which established some legal precedent limiting the zoning powers of cities when the effect of zoning actions could be shown to be racially exclusionary.
Nancy and I married in '68 continuing our relationship from the New York years when she had been in nursing school at Columbia. The churches retreated in the early '70's and I became frustrated and disillusioned. We decided to join some friends, a group of former SNCC activists, in Georgia seeking to organize a sharecroppers collective. Sadly but appropriately, a year working there let us know first-hand that the day of close collaboration between black and white had not yet come. We moved with another couple to California to join the headquarters staff of the United Farm Workers -- and to reconnect happily with Jerry Cohen who headed the union's legal department. In a while, I became the Business Manager of the union and Nancy a Nurse Practitioner in one of the union's clinics. Those three years were perhaps the best, most productive, worthwhile and contented years in our careers. I developed some significant physical problems largely through self-neglect in late '73 which prompted our leaving the union, and finally kept me out of commission for a total of eight months.
Some serious thought during that time about the realities of disabled living, along with concern about establishing some sort of financially viable career, led me back to St. Louis and doctoral work at Eden Theological Seminary, in conjunction with training in psychoanalytic psychotherapy. I was certified a Pastoral Counselor in '77 and practiced with an agency and then on my own until last June. From '83 through '86, I also served on the Faculty at Eden Seminary as Field Education Director on a half-time basis. These years were professionally rich and deeply fulfilling, drawing out a much more quiet, responsive part of me in contrast to the activist organizer.
During this time also, Nancy and I adopted our daughter, Sara, from northern India and then our son, David, from Honduras, both as infants. They are now 10 and 6, respectively, and thriving. Through them we have successfully postponed acknowledging our middle-age and the rising cost of college education.
I've been involved with several non-profits over the years; two are representative. I am very pleased and proud to have been one of the founders and the President for six years of an organization in St. Louis seeking to provide supportive social services to individuals with chronic psychotic disorders, previously institutionalized for long periods of time. Beginning with one apartment and no staff, that agency has grown into a large, effective and well recognized model of deinstitutionalized services for this group of people. And at the moment I am President of another organization that for 35 years has been networking information among people with polio and other severe disabilities and is now addressing the "late effects" of polio around the world.
Finally, I've become a computer addict. How utterly common. But lots of fun for a guy who never sat still long enough to have a hobby. Last year I tried to turn my fun into employment and became the Business Manager of a cooperative purchasing consortium supporting technology in K-12 school systems in St. Louis. Over this last year, I've experienced the steepest learning curve I've known since Amherst. It’s been fascinating and exhilarating. But, I have a sense that it’s not going to be a lasting, stable career alternative and am already looking around again.
One of these days when I emerge from this latest aberration I suppose I will return to work in the non-profit, service sector for my remaining years of employment. My health is good. I've had to cope with a significant disability for nearly 24 years now and that has been an onerous and frequently troublesome burden. It has helped me to be much more sensitive to the struggles of others, to accept compromise as a way of life, and to be more wistfully cynical about success and career than I otherwise would have been. I have often wished that I had achieved something noteworthy, as quite a few of you really have. But within the psychological and physical constraints that have partly defined me, I've mostly enjoyed the smorgasbord. I very much look forward to seeing you all in June. Warm regards,