Amherst Magazine

Calvin Hastings Plimpton '39 — Recollections

Calvin Hastings Plimpton '39  Dr. Calvin Hastings Plimpton ’39, who served as the thirteenth president of Amherst in the tumultuous decade from 1960 to 1971, and as president of the American University in Beirut in the war-torn years between 1984 and 1987, died in January at age 88. A memorial service was held on campus on Saturday, May 12 at 11:30 a.m. in Johnson Chapel.

See photos and read remarks from the memorial service, and watch video of an interview with Dr. Plimpton, on our Events Multimedia pages.

We invite alumni and members of the Amherst community to post recollections about President Plimpton.

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Comments

The years when Calvin presided at Downstate were the best years of the institution—they presented a too-short moment of sunshine in an otherwise grey and often dull place. His wit and irreverence brought a smile to all of us. Many episodes stayed with me all these years. At one of the sometimes long and drawn-out regular chairman meetings, one of them kept on going forever until Calvin told him to speed up the process and added, to the chairman with the first name Henry, "Heinrich! Mir graut’s vor dir." I almost fell laughing off my chair; poor Henry had no idea that Calvin addressed him with the final exclamation of Margarete in Goethe’s Faust, refusing his and Mephistopheles’ liberation by exclaiming, "Heinrich! You fill me with horror …" and thereby achieving salvation. Calvin turned around and asked me with a twinkle in his eyes: "Have I earned redemption?"

My father, who worked as a plumber at the college, was touched to receive this invitation to your father’s memorial service. He recalled that your dad would regularly go to the maintenance building and talk with workers. Your dad was respected by these men.”

Tito Craige '70 has a nice letter remembering Cal Plimpton '39 in the Winter 2006 issue of Amherst magazine, online at http://www.amherst.edu/magazine/issues/07winter/letters/index.html.