Amherst Magazine

Robert P. Carson '66

Deceased March 1, 2008

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In Memory

“Strangers once, we came to dwell together . . .”
—Amherst College Senior Song


We were strangers that first day in 1962 when each of us climbed alone up the stairs in the center entry of Pratt Hall. Then Bob Carson danced into our suite as if Amherst College were just another gig. He looked like a cross between an old Roy Orbison and a young Steve Allen. He shaved his heavy beard with a straight edge while the rest of us waved a Norelco over our peach fuzz. His commanding voice brought us together in song, skits, bits, mixers, bull sessions, all-nighters and, despite his girth and glasses, sports. He gave each of us a nickname. Bob even chose our fraternity.

His good humor and special needs kept us going. When Dudley Towne scared the rest of us by announcing the date for our first mid-term in Physics I, Bob exclaimed, “How can he test us? We haven’t learned anything yet!” He passed with flying colors, the second time around, in summer school. Although he never failed another course, we didn’t want to give Deans Wilson, Esty, and Porter any other excuse to boot him. So, the last few weeks of each semester, we applied cold packs and hot words to roust Bob on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings. When that failed, we lugged a mattress up to the balcony the night before and tucked him in: asleep or awake, he was present in Johnson Chapel at 9 a.m.

Bob inspired us for three more years, as the head of the DQ, station manager and lead Bad Guy at WAMF, and president of Chi Phi. He shared our call to conscience on graduation day when we all had to face the war, each in our own way. Bob chose to serve in Vietnam and ever after took pride in his decision.

He married, earned a master's degree in communications at Michigan State, and became a radio and television executive in Providence. There, despite divorce, he stayed for more than thirty years to help raise his two beloved daughters and their children. When he tired of managing one station at a time, he developed, promoted, and ran new formats to revitalize dozens across the country. Long before the digital wizards invented CDs or Internet downloads in their garages, he created a music network in his attic. He produced, direct marketed, and delivered tens of thousands of cassettes around the globe.

An accomplished chef, he started a bistro. Savvy with numbers, he advised clients how to navigate our infernal tax code. A master teacher, he mentored students at colleges and universities in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Georgia. A lifelong Amherst man, he advised generations of young women and men at WAMH. An electric entertainer, his Wingtips band played throughout New England. A gifted storyteller, he was putting the finishing touches on a novel, a murder mystery as much about character, the business of baseball, and Cuban exploitation, as fingering the killer of the Yankee’s best hitter in the deciding game with the Red Sox.

After he led us in the "Senior Song" at our 25th Reunion, I asked him, “If you’d only chosen to avoid the war as most of us did, how would you have rocked the world stage?” In recent years he faced—and answered—much tougher questions. When he hobbled to our 40th Reunion on his new knee, he carried no drink, no smoke, no crutch of any kind. No, he sang with us one more time.

Strangers once, we came to dwell together at the college. Thereafter, it was never about what he did or what he chose not to do. It is about who he was. Bob made sure we never felt alone, all our whole life through. Alpha and choragus, rest in peace: your voice rings.

PB Dimond ’66

 

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