Alan R. Wolcott '79
Deceased February 24, 2004
We are sad to report that our classmate and friend, Alan Wolcott, was killed in a car crash on February 24, 2004, near his home in Richmond, VT.
Alan was born March 23, 1957, in the Congo, the son of missionaries of the Plymouth Brethren Church. After several years in Africa, his family returned to Sturgis, MI, where he completed high school. He was an outstanding student, an all-state football player, a school record-holder in the pole vault, and a stalwart on the wrestling team.
He arrived at Amherst with an unshakeable faith in Christ and a heart for ministry. Alan majored in biology and considered a career in medicine, but later decided to become a pastor. He defined success in terms of devotion to Christ, service to him and to other people. A favorite quote of his was: “If I were called to be a laborer I would hate to drivel down to being a king.” Alan was a leader in the Amherst Christian Association. He provided wise advice when asked, he had remarkable insight, and he was articulate and respectful in sharing his faith with anyone who was interested.
At Amherst Alan competed in both track and varsity wrestling, the latter being his passion for four years. He recovered from a serious knee injury in his junior year not only to wrestle again, but also to compete in the national meet in his senior year as a team co-captain. His comeback was an inspiration to the team and to his friends.
Alan was independent, single-minded, sometimes stubborn, but always considerate, soft-spoken, and gentle (except on the mat). It is impossible to think of him without remembering his sense of humor. We remember well his quirky, goofy, and frequent laugh. He had a beautiful voice and loved to sing, which he did spontaneously.
After graduation from Amherst, Alan earned a master of divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. He was ordained in the Evangelical Free Church. In 1984, he married Cheryl “Sheri” Johnson in Fargo, ND. Sandy Hull ’78, in seminary with Alan at the time, recalls that Alan and Sheri's first date was at his kitchen table.
One of Alan's dreams was to return to Africa to work as a missionary. At Amherst he always wore a bracelet made of a single elephant hair, which was about as thick as a pencil lead. He returned to Africa only briefly after seminary, but maintained his love for the people he knew there. In 1989, he and Sheri moved to Richmond, VT, where he planted a church and pastored it for ten years. The church finally closed its doors in 1999, but Alan never lost his zeal for his call or his love for the community. He developed his own website at http://www.vt-mustardseed.org, an expression of his care and wit.
Alan's family was central to his life, his happiest times being spent with them. He and Sheri were blessed with three outstanding children: Jeremy, age nineteen; Rachel, seventeen; and Ben, thirteen. He was particularly proud of their musical accomplishments. To support his family, in addition to his pastoral duties, he worked in the Vermont Social Security office where his immediate supervisor called him “one of the best examiners our office has ever seen.” His co-workers affectionately noted that he was “official mentor to no one but unofficial mentor to everyone.”
There are no better words perhaps than those of a son about his father. Jeremy wrote this about Alan shortly after his death: “Very few are granted the privilege of growing up to realize that the man they call father is every bit as much a hero as they had always dreamed.
“...I count myself among that fortunate few.
“...He was somehow still ‘cool” when everybody else’s parents weren’t; he gave us space when we needed it; he got in our faces when we were belligerent, forgave when we were penitent, and was proud when we needed approval. He regularly poked fun at us to give us a sense of humor and to keep us humble. He taught us to pray, and to respect the Bible as God's Word to us. He introduced us to his God.
“...Fundamentally, he was not a better man than anyone else; he was simply a saved sinner through whom God had chosen to make Himself known
“...[that] is the picture that ought to be framed for memory - and the one my dad would himself best prefer.”
We are richer for knowing our friend, and we look forward, with him, to the promise he knew. We are confident that Alan's death, as the psalmist writes, is precious in the sight of his Lord (Ps 116:15). But now, for a season, we mourn.
—Jon Holmlund ’79
—Tom Kalt ’79
—Stockton Wulsin ’79
Alan Wolcott had sent a letter and photograph in October for the 25th Reunion book, but died on February 24, 2004, in a car accident. The letter and photo are included below in his memory.
In many ways Amherst seems like a long time ago and a long ways away, even though we live within a three hour drive. I left Amherst hoping to become a physician and a missionary. But God had other plans in mind. I was rejected by some of the finest medical schools in the country and eventually wound up at a seminary. Since graduation I have been involved in pastoral ministry in Illinois and Vermont with the Evangelical Free Church of America. So far this hasn't been in a congregation with sufficient resources to pay a liveable wage so I've also worked in vanous other jobs. For the past 12 years weekday employment has been with the VT Disability Determination Services as an examiner- this is a bureaucratic review of people's aches, pains, complaints, and reasons why they cannot work.
My wife, Sheri, and I met in Illinois while at divinity school. Over the years, she has worked evenings at McDonalds so that one of us was always available when the kids have been home. Our oldest, Jeremy, is now a student at the University of Rochester. Rachel and Ben are in high school. All three have inherited their mother's musical talent, none have pursued athletics with the fanaticism of their father, thank heaven. While I might prefer madly dashing about Vermont to attend football games and the like, mostly it's been concerts, festivals and even to an all oboe recital.
Probably the main legacy from my years at Amherst has been friendships. I still have contact with several via email and letters, and I scan the '79 notes in the Amherst magazine routinely. Amherst also provided an early proving ground for my Christian faith-the spiritual well my parents pointed me to remained unsullied by skeptical analysis and even the occasionally hostile challenges I encountered. College also helped me develop a process for disciplined study, learning and work which has persisted and made bivocational employment feasible. One thing it didn't prepare me for was the tenacity of the alumni fund raising efforts (televangelists don't do it better!).
Some of my journey is chronicled on a website I put together w1th help from my techie son. It's www.vtmustardseed.org; there's spiritual stuff and some just for fun- try the "Wolx Werx" link. I try to keep an eye open for the "ah ha!" and "ha! ha!" moments in life. Recently I have been mulling over what I should/could have said to a friend of my parents at their 50th wedding celebration. She was 65, nicely dressed, quite buxom, holding a dessert dish with cake and rattling on with me. From the corner of my eye I noticed that she was coating her bosom with icing as we talked. Should I have 1) muttered, "Mrs. Smith, I'm sorry, but you're dragging your bosom in the icing and I think you should know" 2) excuse myself, find Mr. Smith and say, "Mr. Smith, I think your wife needs you to have a look at her boobs" 3) hope for an earthquake so that she would be compelled to dust herself off?
I'm open to suggestions ...