Amherst Magazine

Peter S. Derow '65

Deceased December 9, 2006

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In Memory

Our classmate Peter Derow died suddenly on December 9, 2006. He was in the front quad of his beloved Wadham College, Oxford University, when his heart failed.

Peter grew up in Newton Center, MA, and prepared for Amherst at the Roxbury Latin School. At the college, Peter majored in classics, won the William Coe Collar Prize in Greek and the Billing Prize in Latin. Peter wrestled, played lacrosse and was involved in WAMF, our college radio station. While Peter did pledge Delta Kappa Epsilon, his was not the typical fraternity member’s life, as he married and had a child by the time he was a senior and lived off campus. But Peter is remembered by the relatively small circle who knew him well as a terrific friend who radiated intelligence.

After earning his B.A., Peter proceeded directly to Wadham where he read ancient philosophy from 1965 to 1967, returning to Princeton to write his doctorate. This led to Peter’s first academic position at Toronto University. He returned to Wadham, moved into the rooms once occupied by his first Oxford tutor furnished with “a billiard table and a pair of dusky pink sofas of extraordinary sagginess and great comfort,” according to an obituary published in The Guardian. One of his students, doing advanced work at the University of Texas, reported that amid the formality of Oxford, Peter was indeed a comfortable presence—always excellent and challenging as a tutor but never less than compassionate and, on the proper occasions, “very festive.” He often, reports his colleague Steven Hayworth, gave out copies of Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat to visitors. The cat’s antic spirit matched his own. Peter truly knew how to have “fun that is funny.” And while interested in the music of Greece, Peter was proficient at the bluegrass guitar.

Peter’s major published work was on the Roman conquest of Greece in the early second century B.C. His passion was for Greece, and he expressed a “general distaste for the Romans.” He was a strong supporter of the campaign to return the Parthenon (Elgin) marbles to Athens and was one of the original members of the Marbles Reunited campaign. Peter was always certain that the ancient world had much to teach us about the present.

Wadham was the center of Peter’s life, but he was a great walker and each September would pack up his Fiat Panda to spend several weeks walking in the Pyrenees. On the return, he would visit his favorite wine maker in the Beaune region of France and stock up for the coming year.

Peter is survived by daughters Catherine and Elizabeth and a son Paul. I am sure his classmates wish now we had known Peter better.

Paul Ehrmann ’65

 

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