Amherst Magazine

William P. Bendiner '65

Deceased April 23, 2001

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In Memory

Bill, being gregarious, spent freshman year in a three-man suite in Pratt. I, being reclusive, spent freshman year in a single-room-only occupancy in Morrow. I used to trot across the oval for company, and I met Bill in Pratt, along with Furniss, Pinney, Williams, Merrill, Aldrich, Farber, Statler, Katz and Gorenberg from that den of bridge.

By the time my associate agency led me back into contact with him, however, he was practicing applied physics at the Univ. of Washington and, of course, living in Seattle. He gave to Amherst with a liberal hand, so when he and I met for lunch from time to time the reason was conviviality, not confiscation. He stayed on my list of classmates to hustle even after my exile from Seattle to the Mysterious East, in late 1989.

Bill applied his physics to oceanography. Once, he tested the comforting hypothesis that natural forces such as tides and wind would quickly carry pollutants from lower Puget Sound to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where currents would disperse them. He discovered that the "flushing rate" of the Sound was in fact around a century. This brought no joy to those that had been treating the Sound as an alchemist's crucible that would transmute pollutants into some benign vapor and remove them from sight, mind and the reach of the law. Still, he called the matter as he'd seen it: He entitled his study "Dilutions of Grandeur."

Bill kept up his acquaintance with a full array of liberal arts. During the '80s, I encountered an important work, Cedric Whitman's Homer and the Heroic Tradition. I just doubted whether anybody beyond a specialist would know it. Yet over a lunch, I brought up Whitman's work. Oh, yeah, Bill had read it--and wanted to talk about it. I'm not sure I held my own.

Bill died April 23, 2001. The cause was AIDS. I'm circumspect enough to have suppressed such news, if asked. But Bill himself had told me years earlier that he was sick unto death with AIDS (he managed well for a long time after falling sick); and, when I asked his partner Doug how discreet I should be about it, he said not at all--and sounded quite defiant about it. Bill's own candor about it came partly from a character devoid of guile and partly from the last feature of that character that would leave him: the zeal to teach.

Pat Murray '65

 

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