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A tradition at the College for many years, the Memorial Minute is a tribute written by members of the Faculty and other members of the Amherst College Community upon the death of a colleague. Each “minute” is read by one of its authors at a regular meeting of the Faculty and is followed by a moment of silence in honor of the deceased. In 2005, the Office of the Dean of the Faculty began posting the Memorial Minutes on its Web site, beginning with those of the past decade.
- Duane W. Bailey
- Theodore Baird
- Antonio Benitez-Rojo
- Robert Breusch
- Elizabeth Bruss
- George L. Cadigan
- Otis Cary
- Henry Steele Commager
- G. Armour Craig
- Asa J. Davis
- Benjamin DeMott
- Anne Lebeck
- Richard M. Foose
- Reginald F. French
- Ernest A. Johnson, Jr.
- William E. Kennick
- Mirjana Lausevic
- Peter K. Marshall
- James Mauldon
- James E Ostendarp
- John Petropulos
- Donald S. Pitkin
- Calvin H. Plimpton
- Carl N. Schmalz, Jr
See Associated Images
- Dudley H. Towne
- Lucius Weathersby
DUANE W. BAILEY (1936 - 1998)
Duane W. Bailey, the College's William J. Walker Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy, died unexpectedly in the early hours of the morning of October 27, 1998 in the Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton. He had entered the hospital because of a painful though not seemingly mortal medical emergency, but his long-damaged heart, which had sustained for sixty-two years a life of extraordinary vigor and achievement, could go on no longer.
He was born on September 22, 1936 in Moscow, Idaho. The eldest of four brothers, he seems early to have assumed the role, which persisted throughout his life, of leader and helper to those who came after him. After an active boyhood on his parents' thriving farm in southern Washington, he entered Washington State College (now University) in Pullman, from which institution he was graduated three years later with a bachelor's degree in Mathematics, the subject which was dearest to him among his many interests. He pursued graduate studies at the University of Oregon, from which he emerged four years later in 1961 with a doctorate in mathematics. His thesis dealt with the subject of Banach Algebras, in which he maintained a -keen interest throughout his life, notwithstanding the fact that he pursued a great many other mathematical subjects with remarkable energy and versatility. It was at the University of Oregon that he met his lifelong friend James Denton, who was later to join him on our faculty. It was also here that he met his future wife Leeta, whose constant loyalty and devotion gave him so much help and happiness. Her he leaves behind him, together with three fine sons, as well as our College community, grateful to him in so many ways for his tireless service and many acts of trustworthy counsel and friendly helpfulness.
After graduate school Duane assumed a two-year instructorship at Yale. While at Yale he felt an increasing attraction to liberal arts institutions, and although tempted by an offer from Reed College in his native Northwest, he decided to come to Amherst, where he passed the remainder of his days. His energy and vision must have been early apparent, since he was entrusted with the chairmanship of the Mathematics Department even before he bad become a tenured member of the Faculty. It was during his early years at the College that he collaborated as an author of an ambitious and successful four-volume series of textbooks in calculus and linear algebra. He also participated in the development of a series of films on calculus for classroom instruction.
Duane's activities as a teacher were remarkably rich and varied. Despite the fact that his graduate training was in a branch of pure mathematics, he ventured as a teacher into an unusually broad variety of subjects, both pure and applied, ranging from real analysis and topology, which are central in the training of professional mathematicians, to numerical analysis and computer science, whose practical utility pervades so much of modern life.
In general it may be said that he had two ways of teaching, each appropriate to the circumstances. In the more elementary courses he adopted the time-honored lecture approach, laying a great emphasis on fundamental principles. He had a strong sense of tradition and the passing of knowledge from one generation to the next. Often, when asked by students how he knew such and such a thing, he would reply that when he was young he had been shown it by his teacher and that now he was passing it on to them. At the same time, he took pains to show how the thing might have been arrived at through reflection and ingenuity.
In his more advanced courses, however, in particular those designed for honors students, he employed a very different approach. Mathematicians are familiar with the so-called Moore Method, which derives its name from the distinguished topologist R.L. Moore, who cultivated it with legendary success. In this method, students are provided at the outset of the course with a few pages containing definitions and theorems. The work of the course amounts to this: The students are to ponder the definitions and prove the theorems, relying only upon themselves and the careful guidance of the instructor. No outside help is to be sought. As may be imagined, the work can be agonizingly slow and, in its way, painful. The instructor becomes something like the Socratic obstetrician, presiding over the successful birth of ideas. Very few teachers seem able to conduct such a class with success, and Duane was among them. what is required, aside from mastery of the subject, is steadfast patience, the intuition determining the time to speak and the time to refrain from speaking, and finally the certain faith that the students will find within themselves the resourcefulness which leads from darkness to light. Duane employed his own version of the Moore Method for many years; not a few of our finest graduates have reported that these courses transformed them from mere learners into mathematicians. Duane's passing leaves us a challenge and a luminous example.
Duane had a complex personality. His actions were not always easy to predict, though his good intentions were never to be doubted. He could and would change his mind, sometimes abruptly, more often in the deliberate manner of one who never stopped growing in intellect.. One of his heroes was the celebrated English mathematician G.H. Hardy (after whom he named his last beloved bulldog, still young and missing his master). In G.H. Hardy's view, mathematics was a purely intellectual endeavor, in its highest form devoid, and rightfully so, of all practical utility. He scorned the very idea that any of his mathematical work might one day find utilitarian application. Duane admired this elevated and antipragmatic view of his subject, so much so that his increasing involvement in computer science and technology was a source of wonder to some who did not at first perceive the many forces and interests that drove him. For Duane could love the heights of Parnassus and still be a very practical man. He raised bees and made honey and mead, which he would share with friends; he worked in wood; he studied and invested in the stock market; he investigated the laws of probability, partly by means of protracted poker seminars with close College buddies -he was meticulous in keeping score and seemed, on balance, to prefer winning to losing.
Not even Hardy's ghost, then, could keep Duane's practical bent from bursting through into his professional life. Duane had become interested in computers in his earlier years while working during the summers for General Electric. It became apparent to him sooner than to many others that computers would eventually permeate many aspects of American life, including Academia. Whereupon he came to the conclusion that computer science should have a curricular presence at the College. In 1979 he introduced Mathematics 15, the first course in computer science ever offered at Amherst. He taught this and other such courses for many years, even after the time Amherst had computer scientists of its own. Entirely self-taught, he acquired so much knowledge and experience that the College, both institutionally and on an individual basis, turned to him for help and advice, which he unstintingly provided. just as in his beekeeping days, townspeople would often seek him out when menaced by swarms of bees, so in later days would distraught colleagues, made despondent by misbehaving electrons, apply to him urgently for rescue.) In 1984 he became the College's coordinator for computer planning and discharged his duties with energy and distinction. In truth we may say, paraphrasing Emerson, that computer science at Amherst is the lengthened shadow of Duane Bailey.
Duane served the College in many ways besides those hitherto mentioned. He was never a member of the College Council, for which he more than once expressed his relief, but he did serve with distinction on a good many committees. He was twice elected to the Committee of Six and performed his duties so faithfully that the entire College came to see him as a man to be relied upon for honest and informed advice. He also served in ways less well known. Duane, as we know, was a beekeeper; but more than this, he developed an avid interest in the literature of apiculture and over the years acquired a fine collection of such books, which he dearly prized. Indeed, he was a collector of many things he thought fine, and perhaps it was for this reason that he regularly participated as a judge in the College's annual book collection prize competition. John Lancaster, curator of Special Collections and also a judge in the competition, reports that Duane took especial delight both in the seriousness and in the whimsy and play of the mind exhibited by students in their choice of books.
Duane had a very strong sense of history and took pleasure in instructing himself in the lore of earlier days at Amherst. This is perhaps partly why he took such delight in cultivating the society of faculty members with long institutional memories, with whom he frequently met on convivial occasions. He saw himself very much as part of an age-old tradition. By the same token, he took younger colleagues under his wing, pointing out to them the way they should go, at the same time conveying the grateful impression that it was he who was being instructed by them, as indeed, given Duane's personality, was doubtless the case.
No one could know Duane for long without perceiving that he was a man of strong likes and dislikes. Some could change, but some were constant as the northern star. He liked to raise plants and often did so in his office. He liked to keep bees, but out of doors. He liked bulldogs; cats were another matter, unless they had white whiskers. He admired Benjamin Franklin and for years had a portrait of him displayed in his office. He was fond of normal numbers, a taste restricted mostly to the tribe of mathematicians. A lover of music, he was a skilled player of the trombone, an instrument that lends harmony and support but does not crave the limelight. In his later years he especially admired the music of Shostakovicb. His love of restaurants of the most varied kinds is the stuff of legend. He liked red things: red houses, red cars, red peppers. This chromatic predilection did not quite extend to politics, which he followed avidly, and in his last years he contributed witty and incisive essays to a well-known national political journal. He admired the art of printing, including finely executed financial documents; his contempt, however, for personalized bank checks decorated, as he would say, with "clowns, posies and pussy cats," justifies to some extent, we will admit, his spirited self description as a "curmudgeon."
Duane was a man of unusual vigor. Of his mental energy we have already spoken. But he was also endowed with extraordinary physical stamina. Though anything but a sportsman, he loved to be active. He could stay up late into the night working at one of his many projects and still arise early next morning ready for a full day. His strenuous activity was dealt a sudden blow when, in his early forties, he suffered a serious heart attack. Characteristically, he fought back, learning everything he could about cardiology and cardiologists. After undergoing successful bypass' surgery, he was able to recover what in darker moments he feared he had lost forever--the capacity to teach and learn with the vim and enthusiasm of earlier days.
But the blessing of health was to elude him. Some five years ago, after surgery to remove a malignant growth, it was found that he had suffered serious neurological damage in one leg. This left him with permanent pain and restricted mobility. He took comfort in reading the book of Job, but the hoped-for help granted at last to the patriarch never came to him. Indeed, he was beset by other physical difficulties as well, to which a lesser man would sooner have succumbed. Because it was hard for him to remain upon his feet for long, he entered reluctantly on phased retirement. He carried on with his teaching, and despite persistent ill-health he was able to complete, in collaboration with his son Duane, a professor of computer science at Williams College, a new and timely book on network languages. Indeed, despite increasing sensitivity to pain, he carried on with all his duties to the very end. Though, to paraphrase Matthew Arnold, stones might have wounded his feet, to us he was "still cheerful and helpful and firm."
A tree, it is said, is best measured when it is down. Now that Duane's life among us has come to an end and we bid our final farewell here in this room, which meant so much to him because it means so much to the College, we have been able to see and relate (perforce leaving much unsaid) many things about him that were perhaps not apparent to any one person who knew him. There is a poem of Whittier, better known a century ago than now, but known to Duane, named "Telling the Bees." The title refers to an old rural New England custom: whenever a death occurred in the family, the bees were duly informed and their hives decked in respectful mourning. And now we, in our institutional fashion, have honored the custom by telling of one of our own family who has, in Whittier s words, "gone on the journey we all must go. And though sad at his parting, we are consoled by the reflection that despite many troubles he could do so much that brought fulIllment to himself and gratitude to so many.
David L. Armacost, Ralph E. Beals, James Q. Denton, Richard D. Fink, Frank H. Westhoff
THEODORE BAIRD (1901 - 1996)
The late Theodore Baird of this faculty, Professor of English emeritus, who died after a brief illness on December 22 last at the age of 95, will not have been known personally to perhaps a majority of this assembly. He retired in 1969, during the presidency of Dr. Calvin Plimpton, with a final sabbatic leave and twenty-five more years of vigorous, productive, recreative freedom before him. These years he enjoyed with the zest that he brought to all occasions. "Outlive the bastards!" he had been heard to growl in private, when finding himself at odds with one and another of the academic colleagues and administrators of his long day at Amherst from 1927 to 1969. He was an innovator, ahead of his time, always being told by someone that he was wrong. And outlive them he has, in one sense or another, literally or figuratively--and in that style of his, both ambitious and modest, which distinguishes him from any contemporary who may come to mind. Indeed, he promises to live on, justified in the writings of the newest generation of academic educators, who now refer, it appears, to the "era of Theodore Baird"; and who have less chance even than his contemporaries of appreciating just what he was about as a professor of English at this college--an irony not lost on him before his passing.
To undo the distance of twenty-five years of retired life, and more than as many again of the life of teaching, let us turn in the hope of immediacy to the language of a lyric poem. Here is Thomas Hardy in May 1909 remembering the late George Meredith:
Forty years back, when much had place
That since has perished out of mind,
I heard that voice and saw that face.
He spoke as one afoot will wind
A morning horn ere men awake;
His note was trenchant, turning kind.
He was of those whose wit can shake
And riddle to the very core
The counterfeits that Time will break....
Of late, when we two met once more,
The luminous countenance and rare
Shone just as forty years before.
So that, when now all tongues declare
His shape unseen by his green hill,
I scarce believe he sits not there.
No matter. Further and further still
Through the world's vaporous vitiate air
His words wing on--as live words will.
Theodore Baird loved words and the study of five words winging on. It was this love that made him for many years the teacher of a legendary course in Shakespeare's plays, as well as the discoverer of a highly original and fascinating way to teach English composition. "With Shakespeare," he said, anticipating the next thirty years of Shakespeare criticism, "you can bring in whatever you want to talk about; and I do. But what I love is the language." And what he taught, using the text edited by Kittredge, was the living language--not plots, or characters, or themes, or insights into the human heart, not cultural diversity, psychoanalysis, or even the art of theater--but the way words work, or sometimes seem not to work.
As well as the study of words, what Baird loved was the asking of questions. "What do you i1 o when you do History?" he asked the young James Merrill when he announced that he would not major in English. In the questions Baird asked, the answer itself remains somewhat in question and so does not deny the mystery that lies behind what words can say. The art of asking questions, the technique of framing what one has to say, not as instruction or information, but as a question to be considered or entertained--this art, this technique, was probably the most valuable of the several examples he set over three decades for his students and his junior colleagues and their students. Question and answer were certainly the life and soul of English 1-2, the now famous required course in freshman composition which he invented and directed for more than twenty years. Summer after summer, it was he who spent his vacation "by his green hill" composing one of those elegant, fascinating, infuriating sequences of 31 questions plus final essay and final exam assignment. "The assignments" they were known as; and they constituted a very great effort of mental work for those who taught them, as well as for their author. They sit now in the college archives, a dazzling trove for the right archeologist. Even those laborers in the vineyard who resented the discipline and danger involved could hardly help learning something of great value concerning the experience of using words. About his founding part in English 1-2, Baird said, "I would take a general proposition of some kind, or to put it more exactly, I would take a question. The great thing I learned from Collingwood [Robin George Collingwood, the Oxford philosopher of history, nature, and esthetics] was that you had to learn how to ask a question. And the question I asked was, simply, something like this: `What is conflict?' And then I would go on from there and say, `Have you ever felt any conflict?' and `What was it like when you felt conflict?' We had a whole semester on conflict. The word didn't appear day after day, you understand. [What he means by this but does not say is that transposing the chosen word creatively was most important and most difficult, as in any composition.] But there were students in my class who said, `I have never known conflict.' I would like to have somebody tell me what a teacher does when a student says something like that." Listening to these words now, one imagines hearing at this point his great, brief, explosive laugh, "trenchant, turning kind."
It was rarely that he acknowledged a writer, as he acknowledges Collingwood here, as the source of his own thinking and practice as a teacher and scholar. Baird seemed to have sprung, as it were, fully armed, from his own head rather than from the head of Jove. He was well-schooled at Oberlin High School, at Hobart College, and at Harvard University; and before coming here, he taught at Western Reserve University and at Union College, as well as at Harvard. All his life he read voraciously; he quoted often and with acknowledgement, and discussed whatever he happened to be reading with critical gusto; generously he would recommend it to colleagues if he could. But he rarely acknowledged any writer as a mentor or any book as a source of his own ideas. Because his mind and conversation were so unusually interesting and original, and he seemed so often to be right or unanswerable in what he said, one wished very much to know who his mentors might be.
What he acknowledged in Collingwood was a chapter in the Autobiography on discovering the logic of question and answer which can certainly change any thinking reader's habit of mind. And autobiography tended to be the kind of writing that meant most to him. As a young teacher, he discovered The Education of Henry Adams and at Amherst did the surprising thing of making it the sole text for a semester of freshman composition. It was, as he acknowledged, another of the books that changed his mind. There is a famous passage from its first chapter that he would more than once have recourse to:
From cradle to grave this problem of running orders through chaos, direction through space, discipline through freedom, unity through multiplicity, has always been, and must always be, the task of education.
It was Adams' use of "orders" in the plural that appealed to Baird, since the human orders we make are diverse and conflicting, and since, as he put it, "one man's order is another man's chaos." It was a principle that consistently informed the writing assignments he would construct for Amherst undergraduates in all his courses, in Shakespeare, in eighteenth century literature, in modem fiction.
Soon after he arrived at Amherst, Baird put together an anthology of autobiographical selections titled The First Years, "an attempt to provide materials for a course in the writing of English by directing the student's attention to his own resources of experience." Although the composition course Baird would eventually invent made no use of this textbook, or indeed of any texts other than what students wrote, its principle was one he never retreated from: that you could make students care about their writing, not by teaching them "good English"-- the elements of grammar and rhetoric--but by asking them to write about their own lives, a subject that presumably only a very few would claim to be devoid of interest. The First Years contained autobiographical selections from Adams, Gosse, Howells and others, but the writer given the most pages and with whom the anthology concludes is Marcel Proust, the last volume of whose great work had appeared in English the year Baird came to Amherst. In passages he chose from In Remembrance of Things Past Baird found what he called "the perfection of a kind of writing, occasionally hinted at, occasionally well done, in autobiography, but never [before] sustained for so long a time nor with such brilliant success." Such writing was a supreme effort at, in Adams' phrase, running various orders through the chaos of thoughts and feelings of a single mind. On a suitably small scale, the effort might be something the Amherst freshman could be invited to try his hand at.
The energies Baird would direct into his composition course were thus continuous with literary experiences he was having of modern master work by writers who had not yet become objects of academic study. The third modern writer whose example--right down to the most intimate matters of tone and temperament=made all the difference to Baird was the poet Robert Frost, who distinguished between what he called "the grammatical sentence" and "the vital sentence," the latter being what he was after and what any teacher of writing should also be after. Adams, Proust, Frost: are these the true progenitors of a course in freshman composition that was, so the word went round, really derived from William James's Pragmatism, Wittgenstein, Count Alfred Korzybski, or S. S. Hayakawa?
Baird said that one of his secrets in English 1-2 was to make new assignments every year, so that neither he nor his colleagues could rest on what had been done the year before: "I ... never let the other teachers feel that they have done their work before the class begins. The work was always open, the questions were always there, and the answers were just as obscure and fleeting as they ever had been, so that the student and the teacher were on the the same footing. They were both perplexed and they were both putting what mind they could on the immediate problem: how do you tell, how do you put into words such an experience as this?" To this problem he dedicated all his very considerable energy, imagination, and wit.
One way to put the exemplary achievement of Theodore Baird as a teacher and colleague on this faculty forty and more years ago is to say that he was an unusually interesting person who simply refused, under any academic circumstances, to allow himself to be bored, not in class, not when grading student papers, not in the library, not when meeting with students or with colleagues. To refuse to allow oneself to be bored is a very considerable achievement, and one not within just anyone's power or will or authority. This was a refusal, however admirable, made by an ambitious man. But there was also a modest and even mild man who asked for nothing more than to be a professor of English at Amherst College. If a junior colleague talked or otherwise behaved, as it were, professionally, with an eye to academic advancement elsewhere, he would say uncomprehendingly, "But I thought you wanted to be a college professor at Amherst." This was indeed what he himself wanted to be, and what with all his power of mind and personality he eminently was. This explains his very high standing in the regard of generation after generation of students, with many of whom he corresponded faithfully long after they went out into the world, students not only in English but mostly in the college at large, which was his true constituency. This explains his indulgent concern for the college library, which he visited almost daily to the end and of which he was a friend in both lower and upper cases, and for which he ordered in his lifetime a myriad of good books. In the days of dormitory libraries on campus, he built up over the years an invaluable, idiosyncratic collection in Pratt for the general student reader. And finally this explains his relative indifference to seeing what he wrote put into print. He wrote almost as prolifically as he read, and in a very lively style. There are scholarly articles, essays in college and local Amherst history, book reviews, letters, as well as those very interesting course materials, and no doubt more. But he never saw fit to collect any of them or get them published. After all, they are to be found by anyone who seeks them in the collections of Amherst College, and it looks as if they may continue to be read.
The Amherst College that Theodore Baird wanted nothing more than to be a professor at, forty years back has now dwindled into the past, the past the imagination preys upon, as Dr. Johnson said in a sentence that Baird admired. Some of the best things done in Amherst English courses today may be things that Baird once did in his own inimitable way. When he died, he did not leave a wife or a child. His wife of 66 years, Frances Titchener, known to him and their friends as Bertie, a graduate of Wells College and a Doctor in French of Radcliffe who taught for some years at Smith and who made as intelligent, well-read, witty, generous hearted a companion as one could ask for, died some months before he did. We shall not see his like, or hers, again.
G. Armour Craig
William H. Pritchard
Douglas C. Wilson
ANTONIO BENITEZ-ROJO (1931 - 2004)
Antonio Benítez-Rojo liked to cite the French historian Fernand Braudel to the effect that literature and social science, along with other disciplines, ought to mix promiscuously. Certainly Antonio’s professional control of historiography and the social sciences deepened his art, and vice versa. If a person were to ask him about some cultural phenomenon, say the rumba, he would give an answer that was like an epic narrative in itself.
He would explain, warmly and dizzyingly, that in the rumba there is a polyrhythm of an African kind, a choreography similar to that of the yuka (a profane Bantu dance) and even fragments of ritual choreographies of Yoruba and Abakuá origin; there is a Spanish song with rhyme, message and other signifiers that come from Western culture; there is an African chorus and an instrument (the clave) that exists only in Cuba; there is a genealogy erased by the Plantation and some relations with Flamenco which, if they are easy to observe, nobody knows where and how they were established; the principal drum (called caja) was originally a wooden box for salt cod, of Norwegian origin; the drum called a quinto was originally a box for candles whose manufacture was local. For years the rumba was danced exclusively by black people in the cities of Matanzas and Havana. There is not one type of rumba but three. Nobody knows when the rumba started nor does anyone know who named it. Today the rumba is danced by both black and white Cubans. The rumba’s central rhythm, called the clave cubana, was originally Bantu and later extended itself through almost all of Africa. The musicologists have determined that this and other similar rhythms exist within the drummers’ inner selves. The rhythm is a support for the memory (hence poetry’s popularity where people don’t know how to read). The memories of the African griots are sustained by inner rhythm. The fragments of African culture that are conserved in Cuba were able to be transported from Africa thanks to the inner rhythms of the griots and musicians. Salt cod was the common food of the slaves throughout the Caribbean, and then of all poor people. In Jamaica it is prepared as salt-fish, in Cuba as aporreado y frituras, and in Puerto Rico as Serenata. The instrument known as the clave (two short wooden cylinders that are struck together) came from naval architecture (the plantation ports of Havana and Matanzas). The ñáñigos or abakuás worked in those ports (these sects do not exist in other parts of Cuba). The rumba sprang up from these cities. There were periods when the rumba was prohibited by the authorities...
On receiving this kind of an illumination, his friends and colleagues might say: “Oh, I get it,” while standing in awe of the man who knew so much about the Caribbean and could make it available clearly, sharply, rhythmically, like no one else in the world. Other scholars of the Caribbean, when they read him or heard him speak, would say: “That’s what I’ve been thinking; it’s a good thing that somebody has put it down.” As if such knowledge and argument exist in the spirit of the age, or in the language. As if anyone else could have come up with it. That’s the price Antonio may have paid for calling himself a post-modernist. He was a lot more than that.
While still in Cuba, before his long exile in Amherst, Massachusetts, he headed the Center for Caribbean Studies at the Casa de Las Américas in Havana, where he read everything, studied everything, and wrote articles about Caribbean history and society. He then went on, after he had begun to write the short stories that made him famous, to become head of the Las Américas publishing house. Before this, he had held other posts, as an economist in the Cuban revolutionary government. (He was very informative and funny on the impossibility of running a full-employment socialist economy. He said that he had on occasion been called to explain himself before the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, and that the Central Committee had been less cocksure of its own opinions than had the Amherst College Committee of Six when he’s been asked to speak with them)
A long period of quiet labor in these government institutions, plus his international fame as a writer, moved the Cuban government to trust him enough to send him to a writers’ congress in the socialist bloc, where he defected, after some cloak and dagger maneuvers, to eventually join his wife Hilda Otaño in Boston. She had been given permission to emigrate earlier, in search of medical treatment for their chronically ill daughter, María. This clement intervention, which prolonged their daughter’s life considerably, was not the only thing to motivate their emigration. They were political liberals, and admired that strain of North American history and politics. They couldn’t abide the lack of freedom under the Castro regime in Cuba. Many other Cuban exiles, knowing of Antonio’s defection, expected him to endorse counter-revolutionary, right-wing causes, which he would never do. He was against Castro, but politically outside the Cuban exile community. His works were being read all over Cuba in smuggled editions. He became an American citizen.
When Antonio left Cuba for good, in 1980, his novel, El mar de las lentejas (translated into English as Sea of Lentils) was about to be published , but his leaving stopped the publication, and no Cuban would ever read it in anything but a pirated edition. (It was soon published in Barcelona.) All his knowledge of the Caribbean, all the narrative genius that had made him famous everywhere as a writer of short stories, all his reading of the chronicles of Oviedo, Las Casas and others, all that was known of the era, the Spanish empire, the Armada, Philip the Second, John Hawkins and the English Sea Dogs, the epic movement of the Arawaks, the Caribs (Montaigne’s cannibals)–everything that was known and felt by the Europeans of the 16th Century in their endless blind curiosity and avarice, was reinvented by Antonio in this book. The more formal sources combine with his own new and syntactically plastic energy to lend a dreamlike visual clarity to what people thought they knew of the Spanish conquest: the greed, the killing of infidels, the destruction of indigenous culture, the introduction of slavery.
On January 8, 1991, his translator received this typewritten postcard from the man who would be the book’s most famous and influential reviewer in North America:
Dear Mr. Maraniss:
Many thanks for your helpful response. I guess I could have been smarter about the Babtista pun, but everybody else is real and this guy certainly becomes real. I hadn’t realized it was his son (son, or the baptized infant?–not the same) that does him in, so vividly, pinning his lungs to the earth. The book overflows with images that another author would have set a little more space around. Your translation seemed etc. I hope you like the review, if and when they run it. I’m sorry the book didn’t win a prize – it deserves one. My best to Bill Pritchard.
Yours, John Updike
Antonio wrote more books in exile, in Amherst; he wrote the most recent and best multidisciplinary study of the Caribbean (The Repeating Island), a new book of stories (A View from the Mangrove), and another novel. He was an expatriate like Hemingway, Nabokov, Conrad, Cortázar. The latter, an Argentine living in Paris, was one of Antonio’s closest friends and one of his half-dozen peers among 20th Century Latin American writers.
One of Antonio’s favorite things to say, when someone started to lament life’s reversals, was that really we’re not so important: “No somos nada.” It’s easy to imagine him, sitting at El Floridita in Havana with a visiting Julio Cortázar, and one of them saying to the other: “No somos nada, ché”.
Robert Hermann Breusch, Walker Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus, and one of the finest teachers in the history of the College, died on March 29, 1995. Born on April 2, 1907 in the German city of Freiburg, he grew up in a time of great intellectual ferment, darkened by the shadows of war and disruption. We reckon his years at nearly eighty-eight; his friends and admirers we cannot number. Those who knew him will have much to add to what we say here; while, if we have done our work aright, those who did not will wish that they had. His friends called him Bob, and we, who were his friends, shall continue to do so here.
Freiburg is a fine old city in the Black Forest region of Southern Germany, and here Bob spent his youth and came of age. His father was a teacher of science, and Bob and his elder brother (who was to become a distinguished chemist) proved to be apt and eager scholars. Bob went on to pursue Physics and Mathematics at the University of Freiburg, with considerable time spent studying in Berlin, eventually earning his doctorate in Mathematics in 1932. It is of interest to remark that Bob, whom we knew so well, was himself acquainted with such legendary mathematicians and physicists as Hausdorff, Schrddinger, Schur and von Mises.
The thirties were not easy years in Germany, and Bob's excellent work in Mathematics could not secure him a university position. He became a teacher in a boarding school near Freiburg, and at this time he met Kate Dreyfuss, who was to share his life. It was their delight to roam the woods and hills together, and their design to marry. Bob had been raised a Protestant, Kate was Jewish, and Hitler had come to power. Bob's loathing of National Socialism was intense, and Kate's people were clearly in danger. There was nothing for them but to flee.
At this time, the government had no objection to Kate's departure, but Bob's case was altogether different: he could become a useful if unwilling servant of the Reich. Bob had a valid passport, but he was under suspicion; if the authorities supposed that his intent was to forsake the Fatherland, they would confiscate his passport. Bob felt the need of a fallback passport, in case this all too probable event should occur. He liked to tell the story of how one day he went for a walk in the Black Forest with Ernst Zermelo (whose name is familiar to every mathematician). During this walk, Bob feigned the loss of his passport, whereupon Zermelo swore in good faith that the passport had indeed been lost. The ruse succeeded: Bob was issued a new passport, and now he had two. He taught himself the craft of bookbinding and artfully concealed one of the passports in a volume of Mathematics, an item, he rightly guessed, not likely to be examined with close attention. In the event, the second passport was never required.
After much careful planning, involving short forays into Switzerland, where Bob established a small cache of his belongings, the time for departure was at hand. This was in the spring of 1936. Bob and Kate bade farewell to parents (whom they would never see again) and made their way by separate paths into Switzerland, and thence to Paris. In France they parted. Kate sailed to America, where she stayed with relatives; Bob took ship for Chile, where there were faint prospects of employment. (Immigration to the United States on a permanent basis was not possible at this time, the quotas having already been filled.) Bob was well versed in Latin and Greek, but Spanish was a tongue practically unknown to him. But Bob persisted and finally found a university teaching position in Valparaiso. Kate then arrived from America; and they were married in July of 1936. They spent three happy years in Chile, mastering the language and roaming the countryside together.
When the chance to emigrate to America finally came, they took it. Kate knew English, but Bob did not, so one more language had to be added to his repertoire. Their early times in this country were difficult, and Kate undertook various jobs to see them through. In. the passage of time, Bob became an instructor at Shady Hill School in Cambridge, where the schoolboy Robert Romer first encountered the finest Mathematics teacher he was to know.
In 1943 Amherst College was a busy instructional center for Armed Services personnel, and skilled teachers of Mathematics and Physics were in urgent request. To Amherst then he came. The College was not slow to recognize the quality of the man. He was to spend three decades here until his retirement as Walker Professor of Mathematics in 1973.
Bob was a brilliant and highly respected mathematician. His work in Number Theory (especially his insightful new proof of the Prime Number Theorem) is well known, and his name is frequently cited in the literature. Well into his old age he remained an avid problem-solver, and many of his elegant solutions are to be found, year after year, in the volumes of the American Mathematical Monthly.
Bob's many students remember him for his masterful command of his art, but they revere him for something else. He was the finest teacher many of them had known or would ever know. In manner gentle and self-effacing, in matter luminous and thorough, he affected his students in a way not easy to describe. Was it his clarity, his whimsical asides, his deep interest in their progress, his willingness to consider their lapses as his own, his power to lead them through dark places? What was it that left such an imprint on the minds of so many? The enthusiastic project, undertaken by a group of alumni at the time of Bob's retirement, to endow a fund to establish the Breusch prize for the best Senior thesis in Mathematics, is but one of the palpable signs of his influence for good. We cannot know Bob's secret, if secret there was. We can but praise, and so we do.
There is an important thing about Bob thatt everyone wishing to know the man should know. He loved to climb. His eyes were ever lifted up unto the hills, even unto the highest snow-clad peaks. And given the opportunity, his feet were sure to follow. He would climb any mountain that came to hand; he would seek out mountains and climb them too, for the sheer love of it, frequently exciting amazement at his speed and agility. Even an accomplished mountain goat might be excused a twinge of envy upon observing his perilous ascents. Peaks all over the world, from Alps to Andes, became feathers in his cap. He set many a mountaineering record. The more forbidding climbs he undertook alone, but on the easier ascents, such as his annual Spring hike to the top of Mount Washington, engulfed in snow and ice and battered by tremendous winds, he delighted in the company of Kate and other companions. Many a decades-younger friend, with giddy brain and heaving chest, wondered how such things could be. But Bob never pushed (or rather pulled) them beyond their endurance, and cheerfully sacrificed speed to good fellowship. Yes, Bob loved to climb and to share his climbs with others. In the same way, he loved to solve hard problems and to lead his students up the slopes.
Bob and Kate spent many happy years at the College. On a typical evening at home, Bob would pursue his Mathematics or read his favorite authors. (He was fond of Homer, Sophocles, Cervantes, Garcfa Maarquez, and Russell Baker.) Kate would forge ahead with her readings in Russian and Greek, or else she would dream about their garden, wondering what to plant next. Music was always on the phonograph (Beethoven's string quartets moved Bob deeply). In the summer they would travel to Switzerland or the Rockies, where the mountains beckoned them. New Zealand became their home for several years after his so-called retirement. He taught at the University of Waikato, and they climbed the nearby peaks.
Bob and Kate were inseparable, till death with slow but relentless steps finally parted them in 1979. Bob lived alone for some sixteen years, as cheerful as his lingering bereavement would allow. For many of these years he heeded the college's call for help and taught various courses in the Mathematics Department. This was a joy to him and good fortune for a younger generation of students. He still climbed, he still enjoyed the company of friends, he still solved problems with gusto. He even took up the cello, an instrument he loved above all others but had never learned to play.
He was not to be spared the bodily ills old age so often brings in train. His ninth decade witnessed the slow undermining of his robust constitution. He walked the hills, the mountains he climbed no more. Many faculty friends had gone before him; several remained. And other friends he had, among whom closest was Janice Denton, who for years faithfully looked after him and helped him to the very end.
Bob loved the College and gave it his best, nor will he be forgotten by the many whose lives he bettered. As a young man he lost his home but found another. As an old man he lost his Kate, and there was no other. But in death they are not divided.
Professor Elizabeth Bruss died suddenly on May 8, 1981. Liz came to Amherst in 1972 as an assistant professor of English. She had received her bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan in 1967, earning her master’s and doctoral degree there in 1968 and 1972. At Amherst, she taught English literature, men’s and women’s lives, literary theory, and linguistics; she taught as well in the Kenan colloquium and in the ILS course on Race and Sex. She was granted tenure and promoted to associate professor in 1978; from 1979 until her death she served as chair person of her department. She served on numerous College committees, including the Fellowship Committee, the Committee of Six, and the Select Committee on the Curriculum. She participated actively in the Five—College Committees on Linguistics and on Women’s Studies, and at the time of her death was setting up a Five—College study group on literary theory. She served on the editorial boards of “The Massachusetts Review,” “Poetics,” and “Enclitic.” She had held a grant from the Ford Foundation, was a fellow at the National Science Foundation, Summer Institute of Linguistics and at the Aspen—Cornell Colloquium on Choice and Decision, and she had deferred a fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. In 1979, the Johns Hopkins University Press published her first book, Autobiographical Acts: The Changing Situation of a Literary Genre. During 1978—79, she held a Guggenheim Fellowship, working on a second book, Beautiful Theories, an analysis of five major contemporary literary theorists, which was accepted this spring by the Johns Hopkins Press.
These, one might say, are the facts of Liz’s professional life. But Liz herself was always most deeply suspicious when presented with the purported facts. Her academic laurels must be seen not as the essence but as the concrete evidence of a vital presence who, with her integrity, her intellectual, political, and personal commitments, her brilliance, and her generosity, has affected us more, and more lastingly,than her roles as teacher, colleague, or author could ever suggest.
She did so by challenging us to see the world differently. Liz once admiringly referred to Jane Austen as a subversive. Liz, too, was a very special kind of subversive, one who, rather than turning the world upside
down, helped us to see where “right side up,” wasn’t. Where others ordinarily see the way things are, Liz saw the way things are constructed, as systems of meaning, as relations of power, privilege, or partiality cloaked
in the language of universals, as temporary and historically bounded arrange ments masquerading as eternal and inevitable. In her teaching, in her writing, in her interactions with colleagues and friends, she beckoned to others to think with her in this way, to cooperate in penetrating to the deeper meanings below the surface. She challenged us to an effort of deconstruction as the necessary first step towards constructive endeavors.
This quality in Liz was apparent in the formal settings in which she operated: teaching linguistics, working on the proposal for the ILS curriculum, planning the study group on literary theory, writing her books. Yet
it was so much a part of her view of the world that it could be detected in everything she did: in her work helping to organize the Copeland Colloquium on race, sex, and class in American culture; in the advice and expertise she provided others for their courses and their writing; in her participation in planning and performing in the first (and thus far the only) guerrilla theater to have been presented to a meeting of this faculty; in the twinkle in her eye as, in conversation with her, one lapsed into yet another unwarranted assumption.
It was part of Liz’s magic that this fine critical awareness was inextricably tied to deep and strongly felt commitments. She was perhaps too keenly aware of how they are constructed to feel an allegiance to any
institution, but her allegiance to the people within this institution and to the goal of making the most of its possibilities, and theirs, made her give unstintingly of her time and energies.
She was committed to the cooperative pursuit of understanding; although she excelled in all the tasks she undertook alone, she seemed to feel most fully engaged when she could interact with others. Many on this faculty have benefited from her insights and criticisms. When working with others, she shared their enthusiasm for their own ideas while conveying the sense that their sharing with her was essential to her own intellectual life. She lent excitement and insight to the courses she taught with others, and gave sympathetic and helpful hearings to probably more unformed ideas than any of the rest of us would tolerate.
She was committed to creating a society in which men and women, in which people of all races could participate fully and equally, and in which boundaries of class and privilege would no longer stand in the way of the full development of anyone. In the academic setting, these commitments led her to work towards making this a college for both women and men, a task that she saw beginning and not ending with the admission of women students. Thus she participated actively in designing courses examining men’s and women’s roles in society and in literature; served on the Five—College Committee on Women’s Studies, and spoke out publicly and privately on issues concerning sexual equality. As both a student of cultural assumptions and an individual committed to racial equality, she spoke out on issues affecting minority students in the College, helped to design the ILS course on race and sex, and protested College policy on investment in South Africa.
Her encouragement to others engaged in like endeavors was unfailing. Both her intellectual convictions and her generosity of spirit led her to see this striving for equality as a striving for inclusiveness, not just of individuals but of the cultural and group contexts which gave substance, and meaning to their lives. She drew on her personal experience as well as on her wider knowledge in reminding her colleagues and students of the economic inequalities which hampered human development. And here, close to home, her actions revealed that she never forgot that the College included not only faculty and students but staff as well.
There was much more to Liz. Even her faults stemmed from her virtues; she could never say no to any request, and if she did not suffer fools gladly, they rarely knew it. She was, as all who encountered her soon realized, possessed of both a brilliant mind and a warm heart. She did nothing by halves. She spoke extemporaneously not in sentences but in paragraphs. Her wit and her seriousness could emerge simultaneously, sometimes disconcertingly but always effectively. She disdained puffery while preserving her sympathy for the puffer. She always prized a certain zaniness in herself and in others. She was more modest than she had any right to be, but it was all genuine——while few things delighted her more than being able to brag of the achievements of others. She was a model perhaps most in her steadfast refusal to be or be made into a model of anything but integrity, of being true to oneself and one’s principles.
C. Armour Craig
Kathleen J. Hartford
Robert C. Townsend
GEORGE L. CADIGAN (1910 - 2005)
George L. Cadigan was born in Mt. Vernon, N.Y., April 12, 1910, the son of Edward and Christine (Lindblom) Cadigan. He died at his home in Topsham, Maine on December 16, 2005.
His mother, a beautiful woman, born in Argentina, was of Swedish and English descent. His father was of Irish descent. His grandfather fled Ireland after a brawl with English soldiers in a local tavern. Somehow he managed to make it to South Africa and then New York City. George’s father recalled that from hostility and need his father’s underpants were fashioned from a bedraggled Union Jack. Edward and Christine Cadigan had four sons and a daughter. George was the third son.
George Cadigan was raised in Mt. Vernon, N.Y., where he attend high school for three years before transferring to the Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia to be with his older brother, Charles, following their mother’s death. Charles Cadigan was a student at the Episcopal Seminary in Alexandria. George excelled as a student and as a leader of numerous student organizations. At the urging of his brother, who had attended Amherst College, George applied for admission to Amherst.. He met the entrance requirements of four years of Latin or Greek and three years of a modern language and was accepted into the Class of 1933.
George later wrote: “These were beautiful years for me. The faculty was excellent and the undergraduates knew their teachers and each other.” However, these were the years of the great depression. Many students had to leave for lack of funds. George’s father’s business suffered; but with the assistance of scholarships and various sorts of employment, George managed; indeed, he thrived. He was class President in his freshman, sophomore, and senior years. He was a star player on the football team all four years, and was captain in his senior year when Amherst College won the Little Three Championship for the first time in five years. George graduated cum laude. He admired the excellence of the faculty and the range of courses that he was required to take in a highly prescribed curriculum. He never departed from this vision of the College. In a 1966 Baccalaureate Sermon in Johnson Chapel, using the opening paragraph of the College Catalog as his “text,” he stated: “For 145 years this College has been a bulwark against the overspecialization and departmentalization of education and of life. It has maintained a belief that the student counts. His (her) relationships to faculty and other students have priority. It has endeavored to equip her sons (and daughters) individually and corporately, not for personal salvation, but rather for the redemption of a confused world. It has never permitted them to miss the forest because of a flaming bush or a sunny meadow, lovely and seductive though such may be. It is one world, and your college is deeply committed that her undergraduates and alumni be equipped to admit and work with this fact.”
In the Olio from 1933 one of his classmates wrote: “Now George is not one of those things called reformers, but the legion of those who know him are forced to admit, however unwillingly, that because of him there is a change in them for better or worse. So his decision to assume the clerical collar sounds a welcome note. He will succeed there as here. So quake ye halls of fame: an Irishman is on the way.”
George attended the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where “from the beginning,” he writes, “ I felt very much at home. My classes in Church History, New Testament, Old Testament, Theology and Philosophy of Religion seemed to bring a beautiful integration to my liberal arts studies at Amherst. In the medieval sense, theology became the ‘Queen of the Sciences.’” In 1935 he received a Simpson Fellowship from Amherst College enabling him to attend Jesus College in Cambridge, England for a year of graduate studies. Upon returning to the United States, George was ordained to the priesthood and served at Grace Church, Amherst, and as Assistant Chaplain at Amherst College in1936 and 1937, before becoming Rector of St. Paul’s Church, Brunswick, Maine (1937- 42).
While in Brunswick, George and Charlotte Wales Young were married. They had the joy of two children before Charlotte was stricken with flu and died in March 1943. Bereaved, now an only parent, and pastor to families whose children were being “killed in action,” George wrestled with anger, loneliness, and the desire for a shared life of love. Later that year he met Janey Jones—an artist with words and brush. Within months they were married; and in the years that followed they gave birth to two children and shared a long and wonderful marriage. Jane died in 1993.
George’s ministry at St. Paul’s Church in Brunswick (1937 to 1942), at Grace Church, Salem, Massachusetts (1942 to 1948), and St. Paul’s Church in Rochester, New York (1948 to 1959), were marked by significant renewal in the spiritual life of all three parishes. George’s ministry as a pastor, his ability to listen and to lead with a gentleness and understanding became widely known. He was also increasingly aware of the Church’s need for community outreach to address the social and economic problems of an urban society and their political underpinnings. In 1959 he was invited to become the seventh Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, elected on the first ballot to succeed the distinguished Right Reverend Arthur Lichtenburger, who had been elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Such an honor; and yet it would mean leaving New England and being far more distant from the lovely cottage they had built on Kezar Lake in Lovell, Maine. George loved the ponds, lakes and streams of Maine. They were a source of spiritual renewal. He was an ardent and superb fly fisherman. He delighted in quoting John Buchan’s observation: “The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive, but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” Their dismay at the thought of moving west was expressed in Jane’s saying, “My God, George! Missouri is beyond the Mississippi River.”
Arriving in St. Louis, the new Bishop found himself in a city that was discovering how thin the veneer was that masked its southern bearings. The Civil Rights Movement was underway, and resentment on the part of St. Louis citizens was manifest. In October 1963 Bishop Cadigan wrote a Pastoral Letter to the Churches in Missouri.
“My dear people:
Not since the Civil War has the United States been so convulsed by civil disorder and conflict. Up to this time too many of us have been spectators, witnessing in the abstract one of the greatest social revolutions. We have felt comfortingly secure in that such was taking place in Montgomery or Oxford, Mississippi, or Orangeburg, South Carolina. But now it is increasingly in our very midst and we cannot remain uninvolved.. The disobedience to the law at a banking institution tells us, whether we like it or not, that the race issue is not apart from us and compels me at this time to address you in this way.
We are all wrapped up in the bundle of guilt which separates us in cruel and untoward ways from our fellows. Demonstrations have their place in our society and such can be very therapeutic so long as they are consistent with the philosophy of non-violence. Demonstrations will occur repeatedly, before some labor union headquarters, at an industrial plant, or on the steps of the church where we worship. [They will occur] until the sick body of our society is cleaned and made whole.
At this point in time, the cleavage between Negroes and whites is very marked indeed. The understandable hostility of the Negroes is matched only by the increasing bitterness of the whites. It is not inconceivable that disorder and even violence are on our threshold. What can we do, what must we do, to save our community and make meaningful those now almost forgotten phrases of ‘brotherhood’ and ‘children of God.’
Employment opportunity is perhaps the most necessary measure in the whole gamut of civil rights. There are some of us, and many persons and businesses have been working toward this end, who are in a position to employ qualified Negroes in positions of responsibility. The area of open housing, so delicately regarded by some, and so pointedly rejected by others, must serve to free the Negroes from those ghettos in which they are now encased. More strongly than ever do I feel that a Public Accommodations Measure must be passed now, in this State where we live. It is blasphemy to speak of loving one’s neighbor and to refuse him/her a resting place or a cup of coffee in most parts of Missouri. Each of us must urge our respective legislators to stand firmly for a law that will insure, for all, the essentials of citizenship—of being part of the community. Such are but a minimal Christian response. We face no question of either/or. Justice and charity require that social rights be protected by social structures and justice requires also that those who are prejudiced must be shown a better way of living. Both must be done and they must be done in the present situation with equal seriousness and dedication.
There are many sincere persons who will say that this statement is alien to the meaning of the Church. But food, shelter and self respect, and the meaning of persons, are of the stuff of life. Prayer and worship and statements of faith are shibboleths unless they prompt us to act with God, Who came into this world to bring wholeness to all men. I believe you believe this, too. Please pray for me, even as I will pray for you. Do pray also that God’s Holy Spirit will lead us to create with Him a community where Justice and Charity prevail.
George L. Cadigan
The Bishop’s Office.
In the years that followed, Bishop Cadigan would participate in marches on the State Capital on behalf of fair housing and Open Accommodations; send Pastoral Letters in support of Planned Parenthood; call for an alliance with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers by boycotting the purchase of grapes and lettuce and making owners of local markets aware of their reasons; urging the liberalization of an abortion statute; condemning the bombing of North Vietnam. Initially the response of persons in St. Louis was outrage. George received calls from local political leaders, businessmen, and even members of parishes in his Diocese protesting the Bishop’s public actions and statements. Some members of the Cathedral left in righteous indignation. Hate calls, even threats were received. George sorrowed, prayed, and stood resolute. He kept in touch with Martin Luther King, Jr. and brought him to the Cathedral in St. Louis. He supported reforms in the city’s educational system. His effect was such that one member of the Board of Education openly wished that “that Bishop” would not attend meetings, for he could not tolerate the quiet manner in which George addressed issues. Finally, in many quarters, dismay and anger turned to respect. He traveled on peace missions to Israel and South Africa. At the House of Bishops, he argued for the right of women to be ordained to the priesthood and for full inclusion in the Church’s sacramental life to gays and lesbians. In the1970s he was named St. Louis Citizen of the Year by the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Urban League of St. Louis. He was named to the Board of Trustees of Amherst College in 1965, serving for six years, and received the Medal for Eminent Service from Amherst College in 1988.
Upon his retirement as Bishop in 1975, George and Jane returned to Amherst. President John William Ward invited George to be Minister at the College. When George asked what this entailed, President Ward said, “I want you to be a presence.” George did not find this very informative, but since it did not obligate him to a particular schedule and provided him with the opportunity to be in touch with students, George accepted. Indeed, George Cadigan became “a presence.” In the eight years as Minister at the College, he became the friend of many in the community, and through his capacity for friendship was respected and loved. As a fitting tribute to one who loved and served the College so well, The Cadigan Center For Religious Life was dedicated in October 2000.
Mr. President, we ask that the faculty rise for a moment of silence and that this letter be sent to the members of George L. Cadigan’s family.
Respectfully submitted by:
Betsy Cannon Smith
John Pemberton III, Chair
OTIS CARY (1921-2006)
Otis Cary, class of 1943, passed away on April 14, 2006. He was Professor Emeritus of History and served from 1947 to 1992 as Representative of Amherst College at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan. He had a remarkable career spanning prewar and postwar years in Japan. His death signals the passing of a generation and the end of an era. Cary was born in Japan, the son and grandson of Amherst graduates who went to Japan as Christian missionaries. His grandfather was a student with Niijima Jo (Joseph Hardy Neesima), who graduated from Amherst in 1870 and founded Doshisha in 1874.
After attending elementary school in Japan, Cary entered Deerfield Academy and Amherst College. A junior at Amherst when the war started, he joined the U. S. Navy, served at Pearl Harbor’s Joint Intelligence Center, and participated in the Aleutians and Saipan campaigns. Later, he was executive officer in charge of more than 4,000 Japanese prisoners of war in Hawaii. A fellow officer said of Cary, “he was determined to treat prisoners not as enemies but as human beings.” He talked to the POWs about war, democracy, militarism and the Japanese emperor. He supplied them with books and allowed them to set up a school where they taught history, politics and English to each other. When the war ended, Cary went to Japan as a member of the American Occupation Forces. Armed with letters from some of his former prisoners, he found their families and assured them their sons were alive and would soon return home. In the fall of 1945, Cary met privately several times with Prince Takamatsu, one of Emperor Hirohito’s younger brothers. He suggested to the prince that the emperor should shed his military attire, issue his messages in everyday Japanese and mix with the people. Cary’s relationship with the prince continued until the latter’s death in 1987.
Cary returned to Amherst in 1946, completed his undergraduate degree and enrolled at Yale, where he earned his M.A. in American Studies. President Charles Cole in 1947 appointed Cary Amherst’s Representative at Doshisha University and an instructor on the Amherst faculty. Cary revived the prewar relationship between his alma mater and Doshisha University that had led to the building of the Amherst House on the Doshisha campus in 1932. Otis and his wife, Alice, a graduate of Yale’s School of Medicine, lived in the Amherst House with Doshisha students until 1960, when an annex was built which included a residence for the Cary family. They had three daughters and one son. Cary served as the director of the Amherst House until 1980. Assisting him as caretaker of the Amherst House for 27 years was Nakano Isamu, one of the prisoners Cary had befriended during the war. In his 45 years as Amherst’s representative and a faculty member at Doshisha University, Cary taught courses in American Studies, co-founded the Center for American Studies, and served as a trustee of several prominent organizations and centers of learning. During sabbatical leaves in 1950 and 1956, Cary returned to Amherst and taught courses on Japanese cultural history.
As director of the Amherst House, Cary invited many celebrities and scholars to speak at Doshisha University, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson, Marian Anderson, John D. Rockefeller III, Arnold Toynbee, Emil Brunner and others. He also helped organize summer seminars in American Studies for Japanese professors of many universities. At weekly events for students, he spoke not only of America’s strengths but also its shortcomings, and inspired his students to question what they had been taught. “This was the awakening of my intellectual curiosity,” recalled one former student. Many remembered his great sense of humor, his passion for jazz, especially Louis Armstrong, his extracurricular discussion sessions, and his practice of giving nicknames to students to short-circuit the social stratification imposed by standard Japanese forms of addressing others according to age and rank. “His wit and love of Japan,” recalled another former student, “were always evident in everything he said and did.”
President Cole visited Japan for six weeks in early 1953 at the invitation of the Rockefeller Foundation. Cary and Count Kabayama Aisuke (Amherst class of 1889) arranged Cole’s lectures at major universities and Cary served as his interpreter. When Kabayama and John D. Rockefeller III, supported by the U.S. government, established the International House of Japan as part of an effort to encourage intellectual exchange with Americans, Cary was appointed to the Board of Directors of that organization. Cary recommended to President Cole that Amherst College establish two fellowships for Japanese students to study at the College. The Trustees accepted the recommendation and funded the Niijima (Neesima) and Uchimura (Uchimura Kanzo was class of 1887) fellowships for Japanese students to spend two years at Amherst and earn degrees. Cary also recommended that the prewar practice of sending recent Amherst graduates to serve for two years at Doshisha (in effect from 1922 to 1941) be replaced by one-year Amherst-Doshisha fellowships, which took effect in 1958.
In 1968, Dean Prosser Gifford urged Otis Cary to encourage Doshisha not only to support American Studies but also to help with the development of Asian Studies at Amherst. In September of that year, Cary hosted an Amherst-Doshisha conference on expanding relations between the two schools. Dean Gifford and three Amherst faculty members met in Kyoto with Cary and Doshisha representatives and proposed faculty exchange, joint research projects, library cooperation and a junior-year program for Amherst and other American students at Doshisha. The anti-war movement at Japanese universities in the late 1960s and early 1970s delayed the adoption of these proposals. But, with Cary’s urging, Doshisha did provide office space and other logistic support for the Associated Kyoto Program (AKP), the junior-year abroad program which was founded in 1971 by Amherst and Carleton College. Today the AKP has fifteen sponsoring institutions and has sent more than twelve hundred American students to study Japanese language, history and culture at Doshisha University. An agreement in 1976 made it possible for Doshisha faculty to spend a year’s leave at Amherst and for many Doshisha students to study English here during the summers. Otis Cary’s support was essential for the success of these programs.
Cary’s scholarship includes books and articles he authored and edited on missionaries in Japan, American civilization, and events during and immediately after the war. Cary is the author, in Japanese, of several volumes of wartime and cross-cultural experiences including: Nihon Kaigen, Jeepu Oku no Hosomichi, Nihon to no Taiwa and translations into Japanese of Reinhold Niebuhr’s The Irony of American History and The Self and the Drama of History. Especially interesting is his book Atomic Bomb Targeting: Myths and Realities, in which he showed that Secretary of War Henry Stimson personally removed Kyoto from the list of potential targets for the atomic bombs; and War-Wasted Asia, 1945-46, a collection of letters he exchanged with Donald Keene, Theodore deBary (both later Columbia University professors) and others immediately after the war. He also wrote on Kyoto for the Encyclopedia Britannica. Among his honors was Japan’s Order of Sacred Treasure, awarded by the Japanese government in 1987.
Otis Cary retired from Doshisha in 1992 and left his beloved Kyoto in 1996 for Oakland, California, where he spent the remaining years of his life with his family.
Trent E. Maxey
Ray A. Moore
Samuel C. Morse
G. ARMOUR CRAIG (1914 - 2002)
George Armour Craig taught English at Amherst College for forty five years, from his appointment in 1940 to his retirement in 1985. His only interruptions of that teaching career, aside from the usual sabbatical leaves, were his serving as Dean of Freshmen for two years, and as Acting President of the college after the sudden death of Julian Gibbs in 1983. He was born in 1914, a first generation American, son of parents from Glasgow, Scotland. He grew up in Cleveland Heights, graduated from the Hawken School, and came to Amherst as an undergraduate in September of 1933. Fifty years later, when called upon to act as president, he addressed undergraduates in Johnson Chapel and began with a recollection of how things were, back then:
I entered Amherst as a very green freshman from the Middle West, and the Amherst I came into was very different from that which some of you entered last fall. Amherst was a small town with a single policeman and a constable. There was so little traffic that on hot spring days a huge St. Bernard, owned by someone but apparently chiefly at home in the middle of the town, would lie panting in the middle of the crossroads where we now so impatiently wait for traffic lights to tell us to walk.
His experience at Amherst he later generalized into what he saw as perhaps the college's major impact as an institution--that of "taking some of the Cleveland out of the boy." His belief was that exposure to classes, lectures, talk, and above all reading could open one's imagination up to history and a dedicated life of the mind, as it had this boys from Cleveland.
For if Amherst the town in 1933 had its somnolent dog and constable, Amherst College had two men on its faculty who made all the difference to Armour's future life. The first was Theodore Baird, whose extraordinary originality as a teacher of English made itself especially felt in the composition course he was already experimenting with, a course that would, in the postwar new curriculum, become English 1 and in which Armour would be instrumental: teaching it, making up writing assignments for it. English 1 and the weekly, department-wide staff meeting on the next assignment, under Baird's leadership, no doubt informed Armour's thinking very deeply--as it did most participants'. The second teacher was Robert Frost, a very unacademic one whose presence had already impressed itself on Baird. Frost taught no classes, and as Armour later recalled a student hardly "conferred" with him but listened rather to one of the greatest conversationalists since Samuel Johnson. After a long and late evening with Frost (Armour wrote, with himself in mind as a young man) "the student goes home to his room dazzled by the range of the talk, his head full of an excitement he would never forget If the student went again, and he certainly went as often as he could, he would sometimes hear repetitions of parts of other conversations, but the repetition would be fresh in its context and would always be new as evidence of energy, the energy of a mind thinking close to its subjects." It was one form of what Frost himself called Education by Poetry, an activity in which the mind's energies were stimulated and released into expression through metaphor, the saying of one thing in terms of another, which Frost believed to be the essence not only of literature, but of science and religion as well.
Armour was a member of Alpha Delta Phi (known to his fraternity brothers as "Crack") and of Phi Beta Kappa. In the fall of 1937 he began graduate work in English at Harvard, did some teaching in the writing program there, but quickly was called back to Amherst. With the advent of World War II and most of the undergraduates called into service, the college consisted mainly of servicemen taking Army and Air Force programs in pre-meteorology and pre-engineering. But also in English Composition, and it fell to Baird, Craig, and Reuben Brower- the third key member of the department--to provide instruction. Something like 1200 soldiers and flyers took these newly improvised courses in composition, and it was as difficult a task as any of the teachers had faced: "We were not going to short-change them," said Baird, "and we didn't."
Finishing a dissertation in the midst of all this teaching and paper reading must have been even more of a chore than usually, but Armour received his Ph.D. in 1947, his dissertation a learned one on a seventeenth century writer, the Cambridge Platonist Henry More; his advisor the well-known Galileo scholar, Giorgio de Santillana. The dissertation was, among other things, about More's prose style and in it Armour combined his literary, philosophical, and scientific interests and knowledge. For many years afterwards he would teach a course in 17th century poets, Milton and the Metaphysicals, but he began it with a comparison of prose styles: Bacon with Burton; Hobbes with Browne. His approach to literature was very much the reverse of a narrowly aesthetic or "appreciative" one. He loved the poems of George Herbert in particular, and read all poetry closely, in the manner of the New Criticism, but he tended to organize his literature courses as questions in the history of ideas. He taught students about the importance of syntax in poetry and prose; about the dramatic turns and tones of meaning Frost saw as essential to good writing; and about the poet or prose writer as someone addressing an audience by employing a rhetoric. He used to think and talk, in class and out, about the problems of speaking of such concepts as Eternity, and he liked to quote Sir Thomas Browne's question "Who can speak about Eternity without a solecism." His students had to look up the word in their dictionaries.
He had met his wife-to-be, Margaret Ball, in Cleveland days, and they were married soon after her graduation in 1938 from Connecticut College for Woman. The marriage was a source of great pride to Armour. Peggy Craig, who became mother of two children, Jamie and Sara, was a cook, a talented gardener, a good water colorist, a costume-maker for the Masquers' dramatic productions at Kirby Theater, and a fiercely loyal supporter of her husband. She also possessed one of the loveliest smiles, and heartiest laughs on record. They were the handsomest couple in Amherst, no doubt about it, and in 1953 built the house on South East St. where they generously entertained members of the college, students and faculty, and where they lived until 1996 when Peggy died. Armour thereafter moved to Hanover near his daughter in New Hampshire.
Armour's teaching style was, like his appearance, striking, original, more than on one occasion surely impenetrable to the neophyte sitting in his class. This was to be expected in the Freshman Composition course, which asked students puzzling questions that had no easy answers, perhaps no answers. But his dealings with literature were comparably difficult of access. One of his students from the 1960s noted that he figured in undergraduate mythology as "a teacher of hidden truths and strange languages." He had a principled and inveterate habit of not finishing sentences he had begun, but instead staring heuristically out the window of his classroom in the ground floor of Appleton Hall. Students were there, he once declared, to finish the sentences their teachers can't quite see the end of. One of his finest students, the critic and editor Richard Poirier, said that if Armour had a fault it was "that he never lets on that the things he asks of his students are so daring and unique, so beyond anything being done at other places, that then, when you get outside of Amherst, it's years before you discover how original it's made you." When Armour was invited to spend a term at Harvard in 1956, substituting for his old colleague Brower on sabbatical, his course in the 19th century English novel was elected by large numbers of students who were introduced to questions and ways of talking about literature they could never have imagined existed, having been brought up on the safe, historical pieties of Harvard's English faculty.
Probably the most popular course he taught at Amherst was that one in the novel, and from it issued a number of marvelous critical essays--on Jane Austen, Thackeray, Jane Eyre, George Eliot, and Dickens--though never the book he hoped to publish that would have included them. Aside from a handful of these extraordinary essays--some of which he first gave as lectures at The English Institute at Columbia in its heyday of the late 1950's--and an imaginative textbook about literary history, his writing is to be found in scores of speeches, addresses to the college and related bodies, but above all in the beautifully legible comments he wrote in the margin and at the ends of thousands of student papers. He spoke of this paper-reading activity as mind-destroying but in fact it kept his mind fresh, new, always acute.
Among his many services to the college prior to acting as its president for two years, the most important was his presence on the curriculum committee of 1966 that replaced the then twenty-year old new curriculum of required courses with a freer elective system, though with introductory required courses in Humanities, Social Sciences and Natural Sciences called Problems of Inquiry. Armour's major investment in the report was a proposed course for all seniors titled The Composition of Knowledge, in which students would review and try to come to terms with what they had been doing in the preceding three years. The faculty voted down this part of the report, probably its most challenging and rigorous--if admittedly difficult to administer --aspect. But the post-new curricular program in which he really participated was ILS, Introduction to Liberal Studies instituted in 1978. That fall Armour and William Heath from the English department combined with Joel Gordon from Physics and Allen Kropf from Chemistry to offer a course titled "Light." It met in laboratory sections, each jointly led by a scientist and a humanist, and its materials included the phenomenon of light considered first as "traveling in straight lines," then as a system of particles. In addition to scientific discourses on the subject, beginning with Newton's on the spectrum of colors, light was studied as a metaphor found everywhere in literature from the Bible, to Milton, Goethe, Henry Adams and Robert Frost. In "Light," important questions were asked about the relation of observation to understanding, of modem science to the science of Newton, and of the literature of fact to poetry. This ambitious course was repeated, and serves as an admirable example of the possibilities for interdisciplinary teaching at Amherst.
Armour's openness and breath of mind, as well as his moral seriousness, was shown as the college began coeducation. Office space being short in Johnson Chapel, he offered to share his with the first women appointed in English, Elizabeth Brass, and following her untimely death, with other younger colleagues. Wholly without the dig-in-your-heels-the-best-days-are-behind-us mentality that has been known to afflict professors, especially male ones, as they age, he kept vigorously in touch with the new faculty as well as the students during the changes of the 1970s and '80s. As Dean of Freshmen, he showed a humorous sympathy with the trials of new students, never losing his memory of being a very green freshman from the Middle West.
He was a member and longtime faculty advisor of Alpha Delta Phi, but was without sentimentality about the fraternity system. Once long ago he gave a talk titled "Have Fraternities Lasting Values?" and began it by saying "It is perfectly obvious to anyone that fraternities do have lasting values. But the trouble is that precisely those values in them which are lasting, are the wrong ones." With the admission of women to the college, it became necessary to level the playing field one way or another. And he satisfied himself with his usual scruples, that the fraternity ethos had become bankrupt. So when he assumed the presidency in 1983, and with the backing of the Board of Trustees, he determined it was time to abolish fraternities at Amherst. It was an unpopular decision for some students and many alumni who revealed their annoyance that certain "lasting values" were no longer to be honored by the college. As an Amherst graduate and a fraternity man, Armour was in a stronger position to act on this matter than would have been his presidential successor. But it was not an easy ending over which to preside. The courage of his decision was met with an explicit rancor from some students and alumni that spoilt somewhat the finishing achievement of his acting presidency. But Peggy and he enjoyed their brief tenure in what they called "the big house" even as her slow, fatal ordeal of cancer became the measure of their lives.
When Armour retired from teaching, a book of tributes from former students and colleagues was presented to him. By all odds the shortest and most memorable of these was a four-line poem submitted by a true poet, James Merrill of the class of 1947. There is no better tribute a student or a college could have paid to this teacher:
Taught to read close and to forswear the vague
And that no truth endures except in fiction,
A sophomore delivered by Conviction
In Shining Armour thanks Professor Craig.
Joel E. Gordon
Helen von Schmidt
William H. Pritchard
ASA J. DAVIS (1922 - 1999)
On September 28, 1999 historian and teacher, Asa J. Davis died and left this community. Asa was one of the founders of the Black Studies department at Amherst College. He taught here from 1970 until his retirement in 1992. In the fullest sense of the word, Professor Davis was a unique presence on this campus and in the Five Colleges generally.
Asa was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1922 and one could still detect just a tinge of a Tennessee accent in his voice if listening carefully. He was raised primarily in New York City and educated in its public schools. He was particularly proud that he had attended Frederick Douglass junior high school in Harlem. From those experiences in the 1930s he remembered visits to his school by the scholar, W. E. B. Du Bois, and the poet, Langston Hughes. As a student in the thirties Asa first encountered Douglass's Narrative of his slave experience, a book only taught in black schools in those years because it was out of print.
Asa was the product of both America's historically black schools and colleges and of Harvard. As an undergraduate, he attended Wilberforce University in Ohio, the oldest black college in America. While he was at Wilberforce, the flagship school of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of that denomination's bishops was Asa's uncle, Monroe Davis. During part of the time Asa was enrolled at Wilberforce, its president was Charles H. Wesley, a Harvard-trained historian and a major contributor to the growing field of African American history. Asa was a well-connected participant in the religious and intellectual life of Wilberforce, but he learned much in these years about the old adage, "there's no fight like a church fight." Asa's undergraduate years were interrupted in 1943 when he entered the United States Army in World War II. By the time he completed his service and resumed his studies in 1947, both Wesley and his uncle Monroe had come out on the losing side of church battles, and had lost their jobs. After graduating from Wilberforce in 1948 Asa went to Harvard Divinity School where he first pursued a three-year course of studies that provided both a broad background in religious history and an S.T.B. degree, the educational credential required for ordination in many Protestant denominations. Receiving this degree in 1951, Asa stayed on at Harvard to complete a one year Master's program and then worked on a Ph. D., which he received in 1960. Much influenced by the emphasis on classical church history and meticulous philological scholarship then very strong in the study of religion at Harvard, Asa prepared as his dissertation a critical edition of an Ethiopian Monophysite text. As part of this work, Asa also examined the spread of Islam in Egypt, the Sudan, and Ethiopia. The preparation necessary to pursue that project included not only the usual European scholarly languages of French and German, but also a working knowledge of Ethiopic, Amharic, and Arabic.
Moreover, Asa also mastered Portuguese, which became increasingly central to his post-dissertation work. Ford and Rockefeller grants took him to archives in Portugal, Italy, and Egypt, where he pursued the complex early modem history of the Portuguese in Africa, in Ethiopia, and especially in the kingdom of Kongo. Eventually, this interest broadened out to include the whole history of blacks in Lusophone Africa and Brazil. Though he remained primarily an Africanist, his historical interests were very widespread, crossing many borders and ethnicities. He especially sought to understand the broad impact of European colonialism and of human migration on the history of the modem world. His writings ranged from numerous articles on medieval Ethiopia, to essays and translations concerning sixteenth century Kongo, to studies in nineteenth century West African Islam and African-Brazilian abolitionism. At Amherst Asa taught courses on African history, African nationalism, African cultural survivals in Brazil, Latin America and the Caribbean, and African American history.
Asa taught from 1962-1969 at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, where he first met a young art historian, Professor Rowland Abiodun. Asa loved Africa, her people, and the promise he saw in her intellectuals. During his seven year sojourn at the University of Ibadan, Africa's premier institution of higher learning, Asa developed intimate and life-long professional relationships with the foremost African scholars of history, religion and African Studies. They include E. A. Ayandele, the leading authority on church missionary history in Nigeria; the late Kenneth Dike, Professor of history at Harvard (one of Asa's mentors), who became the first African Vice-Chancellor of the Univeristy of Ibadan; and Adeagbo Akinjogbin, one of the preeminent historians of Dahomey, its neighbors, and the slave trade, as well as the founding editor of ODU, The Journal of West African Studies, based at the University of Ife. Asa also contributed to the Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, serving as its assistant editor for three years. Until the time of his death, Asa spoke passionately of his experiences in Africa in the 1960s, the period of transition from colonialism to independence. Being present at the birth of the independence of many African states forever shaped Professor Davis's interests in the story of African nationalism. Asa collaborated with many African colleagues on research projects of mutual interest to Africans and African descendants in the United States and Brazil. Upon his return to America in 1969, Asa taught briefly at San Francisco State University before coming to Amherst.
It is no accident that Asa's early teaching career was in Africa and not the United States. At the time Asa received his Ph. D. from Harvard, there was no special sense of urgency among American colleges and universities to add blacks to their faculties or student bodies. Asa's coming to Amherst was made possible only by the transforming influence on American higher education of the civil rights and black power movements, and this circumstance put a permanent mark on his career here. Arriving at the College in the fall of 1970 as a professor of history and the new chair of a fledgling Black Studies department, Asa's position at Amherst was from the outset challenging and problematical. What one learned from coming up in black schools, from being well-connected in the AME Church, or from having taught in Africa for seven years, was neither quickly recognized nor easily apprehended by most of Amherst. And, if it was Asa the Harvard-trained scholar who seemed more suited to win the respect of his colleagues, it was a match that was never fully made.
Appointed in somewhat irregular fashion, in the midst of an intense political climate, and with significant Five-College participation, Asa was not everywhere received by much of Amherst College with the usual enthusiasm typically accorded a new senior colleague. Nor, it must be said, did Asa's sometimes oblique manner help in overcoming the initial suspicion with which he had to contend. It was difficult for Asa to establish a sustained scholarly conversation with many of his Amherst colleagues. His love for his subjects was an obvious one, as was his zeal as a dogged researcher. Professor Blight also remembers occasions in archives around the country where he looked up to find Asa across the table from him (at the Schomburg Library in New York and the Houghton Library at Harvard), plowing through collections of documents. To most of his Amherst colleagues, however, Asa remained a scholarly enigma.
If at Amherst Asa remained an elusive personality, he quickly built a world of his own in the Black Studies department - and in the larger Five College black community. Here, in ways often not fully seen or appreciated by his colleagues, he was a critically important voice. At the end of his first year at Amherst, in June, 1971, Asa wrote a letter of protest in the Hampshire Gazette, chastizing the Northampton Police Chiefs effort to ban as an "obscene" book the 1960s classic, Manchild in the Promised Land, a work about racism and poverty by Claude Brown. In the letter, Asa wrote with a sure voice: "The obscenity which is alleged to characterize the book," he said, "strikes us as inhering, instead, in the fact that too many people must live the life there depicted, and that ever since the 18th century, the testimony offered by black people concerning their experience in America has been systematically suppressed."
Asa is remembered as an enthusiastic and gracious conversationalist among his former students and colleagues; his kindness won him the devotion of many people. At Asa's funeral in October, 1999 he was remembered lovingly and profoundly by his family, his children and grandchildren, by a friend from his Wilberforce years who traveled across the country to pay tribute, and especially by former students. For many black students who attended Amherst in the 1970s and 80s, they came of age as black history entered the curriculum, and became what C. Vann Woodward once called the "moral storm center of American history." Asa Davis was their pilot in that storm. Such personal testimonials were repeated at a special memorial service in his honor last Sunday, April 2, during Black Alumni weekend here at Amherst College. Clearly, to many black graduates of Amherst, Asa Davis was a special - both real and symbolic - presence in their lives and their learning. After his retirement, ; Asa often held court among University of Massachusetts students at that campus's Student Center, talking about current affairs, race relations, or any historical problem with all comers. Some former U-Mass students testified at Asa's funeral that were it not for his guidance and listening, they would never have finished college. Asa's influence on young blacks trying to make their way in this world of higher education in the Pioneer Valley went well beyond the corner of Routes 9 and 116. Upon his retirement, friends and former students endowed the Asa Davis Prize, which goes to the student each year who writes the best senior thesis in history on Africa or the African diaspora.
Asa is survived by a closely-knit family: his wife Jane, a son, Asa, who lives in Northampton, three daughters, Beryl of Boston, Stephanie of Washington, DC, and Bridget of Amherst, five grandchildren and one great grandchild. Asa Davis's life was a personal odyssey of discovery and teaching, from Tennessee to Harlem, from Wilberforce to Harvard and Ibadan, in African, Portuguese, and American archives, and from the AME Church to Amherst College.
This memorial minute is submitted by Rowland Abiodun, David Blight, Rhonda CobhamSander, and David Wills.
BENJAMIN DEMOTT (1924 - 2005)
Benjamin DeMott taught English at Amherst College for just under forty years, from his appointment in 1951 to his retirement in 1990. It's fair to say that no other English teacher at the college offered such a variety of courses and subjects: from Shakespeare to Contemporary Cultural Studies; from 17th and 18th century English writers to continental fiction of the 20th century; from Ben Jonson to Bruce Springsteen. In each of these courses he kept true to his belief, as declared in one of his essays, that "English" was "the place wherein the chief matters of concern are particulars of humanness--individual feeling, individual human response, and human time, as these can be known through the written expression."
Although a voluble anecdotalist who delighted in laying out comic scenarios in which he more than occasionally figured, Ben DeMott was relatively reticent about his life before Amherst. Born in Rockville Center, Long Island, the son of Gerard and Janet DeMott, his father was a builder and contractor, his mother a practitioner of faith healing ("the bitter child of Christian Science" DeMott once privately referred to himself). After graduating from high school he spent an undergraduate year at Johns Hopkins, then served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1945. After the war he married Margaret (Peggy) Craig; they would have four children. He took his undergraduate degree at George Washington University then went on to Harvard where he completed his PH.D. in remarkably quick time. At Amherst in the early 1950's he taught three courses each semester, serving as a bulwark in the freshman and sophomore staff courses in Composition and in Interpretation of Literature, where he joined such luminaries as Theodore Baird, Reuben Brower, G. Armour Craig, C.L. Barber, and others. What distinguished DeMott from numerous other young instructors who, in those days, were hired to teach the staff courses, and who then, after serving for a few years, were invited to move on, was that DeMott established himself as--in one of his own phrases--a Keeper. The extraordinary effect that he had on students from the beginning showed itself when, having completed his first four years of teaching, he was elected by the senior class to be their speaker at Senior Chapel. In a memorable talk, recently reprinted by the college and titled "Amherst and Other Institutions," DeMott made the case for why, without sentimentalizing the experience of college days, they--the about to be graduates--should feel some sense of loss, since as he put it "you have been for awhile in a place of feelings and of felt connections, and that is how the college should go on reverberating in your imagination." There was no way after such a performance, added to his other achievements, that the man was going to be anything but tenured by the college.
His Harvard dissertation was about some English 17th-century speculative language projects, and his first published article, "Comenius and the Real Character in England," appeared in PMLA with thirty-two substantial footnotes to guarantee its scholarly authenticity. But although early in his career he published a few other "professional" articles, his main inclinations in writing were elsewhere. They could be seen in various short stories he published in little magazines like Partisan Review, and in the quite extraordinary number of essays and review-articles he began in 1957 to publish in Partisan, Hudson, Kenyon and other journals. Not only were these pieces (as he called them) not about English l7th-century writing, they were not, strictly speaking, about "English" as traditionally practiced in the academy. Instead their subjects were, to name a few; Washington politics, New York literary culture, the phenomenon of "sick" humor, the New Math, the Peace Corps, and others. These "pieces" were densely written, exhibiting the twists and turns of a complex mind concerned to explore an underexplored subject as well as committed to entertaining an intelligent reader. This is exactly what they did.
DeMott the novelist made his debut in 1959 with The Body's Cage. This tautly imagined story about a young boy's conflict with a "healer" whom his father brings into the house to care for the boy's ill mother and younger sister, is voiced with subtlety and technical resourcefulness. It rightly received sympathetic reviews and also inaugurated a fertile creative period--1960 to 1971--in which he produced four volumes of essays and a further novel, won two Guggenheim fellowships as well as the E. Harris Harbison award for distinguished teaching, and, to speak of humbler matters, chaired the Amherst English department for three years. The range of subjects in these four volumes of essays--Hells and Benefits, You Don't Say, Supergrow, and Surviving the Seventies, has been noted; their attempt was, as stated in the preface to Supergrow, to imagine "what was going on in the mind, say, of an adversary teacher in Mississippi, or in the mind of a homosexual's neighbors at an eastern watering place." The "arena" in which the worth of such imagining was to be judged, he insisted, was not literary (as in this writer is superior to that writer) but rather, in a word he would use more than once, "dailiness"--"ordinary human encounter, family life experience, the supper table." Although DeMott's name would be mentioned in the 1960's in the company of writers like Norman Mailer and Tom Wolfe, apostles of "the new Journalism," his interests were quite divergent from theirs, whether the subject was literature or the "life" DeMott felt was too often ignored by academic critics and teachers of literature.
This concern to imagine "innerness" can be seen in his second novel, A Married Man; in the countless columns he wrote during the sixties and seventies for journal such as The American Scholar, Harpers, The Atlantic; but most notably, at least for purposes of this faculty minute--in his Amherst classrooms. For some twenty years beginning in the late 1960s, Ben DeMott may well have been the leading critic in the United States of how literature is taught, and how it might be taught. These years coincide with both the heyday of New Critical pedagogy and of what, in the minds of many, was in the process of replacing it, the American domestication of continental literary theory. The sources of DeMott's practice, however, lay elsewhere: indeed, his thinking about the English classroom was largely homegrown, the result of his own evolving experience with Amherst students and faculty. In English 1-2, English 21-22, in the later English 11 and the English Junior Seminar, his sustained weekly participation in staff meetings challenged a generation of younger members. Instead of what he was a master of, the kind of close reading that had notably thrived at Amherst and Harvard, Ben formulated his practice of what--in the title of a 1500-page textbook he published in 1988--he called Close Imagining. The substance of this activity he described in his essay in Teaching What We Do, the volume of faculty essays edited by Peter Pouncey: "In a good class," he wrote, "the efforts of student and teacher bring an imagined human innerness alive." If that formulation makes it sound like what all literature teachers think they are always doing, you may be confident that in DeMott's hands the result was frequently revelatory. To hear him in a staff meeting evoke what lies in a single line of King Lear's very last speech, "Pray you, undo this button. Thank you, sir," was to be instructed as one had never been instructed. The point was not to link, as the New Critics did, the words to similar words uttered by Lear as he tries to clothe Poor Tom on the stormy heath. The point was to arrive, through the give and take of student and teacher, at what precisely are the nuances of feeling in play at such a moment.
He had written in Supergrow that a teacher "should remind himself that most [people] don't know what they feel, hence sometimes feel nothing; and the literature teacher and the writing teacher are [those] whose gifts and sensibilities are means by which others can be awakened to contrarieties and puzzles of ordinary response." Much easier said than done, surely, but doing it well may send readers where they have most need to go. For many, at Amherst and elsewhere, Ben was the most valuable teacher of teachers, whose lesson was always to think for oneself, always to be alert for classroom opportunities to come freshly to representations of human interaction. This is at the heart of his legacy to the College, and it received succinct testimony in a letter from one of his students after his death, recalling classroom moments in which literature was brought to life--moments such as the loneliness of Eben Flood's party of one, Keats's fears that he would die before his pen had gleaned his teeming brain, the fly buzzing in Emily Dickinson's scene of the end. Imagine, that freshmen would be given the credit to gather an inkling for inhabiting such moments of literature conversant in the deeps of life! We saw the deer outside the house about to spring away in Hardy, we felt the heightened erotic tension in Updike of a young husband seeing a young woman up to her angular flat. From simple, confined moments accurately drawn, to ones of more telling and grand theme, we took from life, and learned what learning might entail.
It would be pedantic and solemn in a way Ben DeMott would have scoffed at to enumerate the countless organizations, committees, panels and symposia at colleges and universities on which he served. Once asked to speak to new faculty members at the college, he was encouraged to say something about what, besides grading papers, there was to do on weekends in this small Massachusetts town. To which he replied: New York is that way; Boston that way. Ben was an unconventional academic who never quite fitted in with standard definitions of the professor. This attribute made him a controversial figure but also one of the most invigorating presences at Amherst. As someone said about the philosopher William James, "It was the unacademic" qualities that made him our leading academician." Ben was life-giving.
A former student, Richard Todd, with reference to his professor's spiffy sartorial getup said "He always looked as though he'd just gotten off the train from New York--which he had!" DeMott's schedule of out-of-town appearances wedged in around full-time teaching was astonishing; when he was on sabbatical he worked even harder, in and out of town: Guggenheim selection committees, National Book Awards, ACLS and Arts Counsel grants, gigs at various community colleges, teaching black students in West Point, Mississippi, or at Bethune-Cookman College in Florida. It was work, but for him, as for the man in Frost's poem, the work was play for mortal stakes. Sometimes the stakes weren't quite so high, and some of us have vivid memories of the late-sixties Poker Club, a monthly organization that flourished on its eight or so members figuring out new ways to humiliate and insult one another around the table. DeMott's technique was to show up at this nickle-dime-quarter game, with a fat money clip, placed on the table in plain, intimidating sight. That he then proceeded to bet conservatively and cannily added to the chagrin we felt. There is also the pleasing image of DeMott at the piano, initiating barrelhouse extended solos in the manner of his idol, the great swing pianist Jess Stacy, or--unexpected from him--versions of another idol, the angular modernist Thelonious Monk. Just a few years ago, at the urgings of family members, he produced a CD titled Worthington Breakdown (titled after his residence in the Massachusetts hills) on which he played and sang various classic tunes, most vigorously "I'm a Ding Dong Daddy From Dumas" and, most wistfully, his version of "Don't Blame Me." (The latter may in fact have been a suggestion for this very Minute.)
His retirement in 1990 served as incentive for a sequence of books on, in the language of their subtitles, why Americans can't think straight about matters of class, race or gender. The Imperial Middle, The Trouble with Friendship, Killer Woman Blues, and most recently Junk Politics: The Trashing of the American Mind, are polemics filled with examples from popular culture, the newspapers, TV and the movies. He courageously persisted in the writing of these books through a series of operations, and the fact that they are currently in print (always a matter of importance) is testimony to their reach and the influence they exerted on other minds. In October of 2004 in Harper's Magazine, he published a withering criticism of how in his view the 9/11 commission report defrauded the nation. "Whitewash as Public Service," should be admired as the exemplary act of a public intellectual who, in his reading of the tone and style of said report, was also very much a critic and teacher of its English.
Saying farewell is hard to do without being mawkish or pompous or bureaucratic, so a way to conclude may be to recall some graceful and heartfelt words spoken by Ben DeMott at the conclusion to his speech to the Amherst College senior class in May 1955. They may serve to celebrate the poise of his close imagining, even on such a public occasion. He had been speaking about his belief in the possibilities of personal connections at the institution of Amherst College: And since I claim the belief I am reluctant to conclude with an impersonal salute. I must first face those among you I know--those whose taste and intelligence I have admired, and whose passing grins and waves seemed to me always to express the appropriate measure of comic astonishment that freshmen became juniors then seniors had not yet outlived their first year instructor. To these I only say that even the poet allows that
There is a time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album)
--the moment of idle remembering when names and faces and perhaps someone's joke wells mysteriously up from the past--and that is a moment I shall enjoy.
Pease click on red square to view the Faculty Memorial Minute for Anne LeBeck.
RICHARD M. FOOSE (1915 - 1994)
Richard M. Foose, Samuel A. Hitchcock Professor of Mineralogy and. Geology, emeritus, died November 26, 1994. He was 79.
"Pete", as he was known, came to Amherst in 1963 as a full Professor with tenure, replacing George Bain. He came here with a wellearned reputation for starting up Geology Departments. Pete retired in 1986.
During the decade after he arrived, our Geology Department was indeed revitalized. The department was awarded several National Science Foundation matching-funds grants that resulted in refurbishing old and creating new classroom, laboratory and office space. Grants were awarded for undergraduate research, and it became mandatory for all seniors to do a thesis. In 1965, the department received a fourth tenuretrack position.
Pete Foose organized spring field trips for Amherst students, including many who were not geology majors. These encompassed such varied topics as the geologic history exposed along the canyon of the Colorado River in 1966, and on the coral reefs, the beach erosion, and the bedrock geology of Bermuda in 1968, of Tobago in 1970 and again in 1971, and of Tortola in 1984. Advanced students working under Pete were encouraged to publish their thesis research in professional journals. The most important topics included the buried Connecticut River channel east of Mt. Warner (today an important aquifer), and a Jurassic-age volcanic neck near Mt. Tom.
Pete taught for more than 35 years at the Yellowstone Bighorn Research Association (often called YBRA), the geology field camp in Montana, and encouraged all our majors to attend. Pete was elected Councilor of the YBRA in 1951, and retired two years ago. He was President of YBRA 1985-87, and was the inspiration behind the gift by Dr. Porteus Johnson (Class of '28) to build the "Amherst Cabin". In Town matters, Pete was 10 years on the advisory board of the Lawrence Swamp Technical Advisory Committee for discovering, developing and protecting our drinking water supply.
In his 23 years of teaching here, he was committed to Structural Geology and Geology 11. In addition, though, in the late 1970's, he developed a course entitled "Geology of the Ocean Basins" which caused him belatedly, and perhaps reluctantly, to became convinced of the efficacy of plate tectonics, and in the early 1980's he developed another new course, "Geology and Public Issues" that integrated his 40 years of practical experience in engineering geology with student interest in environmental problems. The latter course was nearly always oversubscribed.
Pete developed his personal relationships with students through frequent invitations to his and Dottie's home; they never forgot a name. She made the best baked alaska ever. On the matter of his dealings with students and their problems, he could be quite rigorous, though always optimistic about improvement, a quality some only came to appreciate after they had acquired greater maturity.
Pete's scholarly focus at Amherst was structural geology, but his 50+ publications include a wide variety of topics. He was an expert on landslides, tunnels and dams, landfills and water resources, surface collapse in limestone terrane, and mineral resources such as iron, aluminum and maganese. He wrote an article (with John Lancaster) on Amherst's Edward Hitchcock. He became enthusiastically involved with a fascinating undersea treasure hunt with Warren C. Stearns (Class of '62), and in order for the team to find the 1641 wreck of the Concepcion, he was instrumental in designing the first hand-held undersea magnetometer.
After graduating in Chemistry from Franklin and Marshall College in 1937, Pete taught Chemistry at Northwestern University for two years, and then joined the Pennsylvania Geological Survey. While at the Survey from 1939 to 1946, he mapped geologic quadrangles, he developed information on the State's mineral resources, he completed a Ph. D. in two years at Johns Hopkins University under the direction of the world class structural geologist, Ernst Cloos, he served as the Pennsylvania Survey's chief of strategic mineral investigations during World War II, he was Geologist for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (7 railroad tunnels were converted to vehicular traffic under his watchful eye), and he was consultant to mineral exploration companies in South Africa and the Ryuku Islands. During this time he also became an authority on predicting landslides. Any one of these assignments would have been a full-time job.
In 1946 he left the Pennsylvania Geological Survey to found the Department of Geology at Franklin and Marshall College. There he assembled a strong group of faculty and over the next 11 years they developed a rigorous program, unusual for its day, of requiring not only a great deal of field work, but also chemistry as background for geological studies. Quoting from Donald U. Wise (one of Foose's students at F & M, who later became a Professor at F & M, and for 21 years has been a Professor of Geology at UMass): "Pete had a very practical approach to everything and instilled a confidence in all of his students that they could do almost anything they set their mind to. He made it almost a religion to look out for his students in terms of jobs and graduate school." While at F & M, Pete spent four years as Geologist for the Military Geology Branch of the U. S. Geological Survey. He won a Fulbright Fellowship to the University of Rangoon, Burma in 1950 and a Ford Foundation Fellowship to Stanford University in 1955-56. And it was in the late 1940's that Pete began a life-long consulting relationship with the Hershey Foundation of Pennsylvania. For more than 42 years he was involved with their problems related to building foundations, sanitary landfill sites, water pollution, and surface collapse. In 1955, he got an NSF grant for the study of structural geology of the Beartooth Mountains, Montana; this resulted in his most quoted publication on the origin of the those mountains.
Though Pete left F & M in 1957, his influence lingered and in the 1980's that school and Amherst were two of the top three colleges in the United States in numbers of graduates in Geology moving ahead to complete a Ph. D. program. The third was Williams.
In 1957 Pete Foose joined Stanford Research Institute (SRI). There he created the department of Earth Sciences, and was its first chair. Most of his assignments with SRI led to study in western Europe, the Middle East, Canada, Mexico, Central America, South Africa, Morocco, central and southeast Asia, the Soviet Union, and the Hawaiian Islands. The exhilaration of travel was a fringe benefit he greatly enjoyed, especially with his wife Dottie. During his time at SRI he was Consultant to the U.S. Department of State, and in 1959 he served as a member of the technical working group at the discussions with the Soviets in Geneva on nuclear testing. In 1960 he testified before the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy in the U.S. Congress. He developed friendships with Soviet geologists that carried through into the 1980's. He left SRI in 1962 and accepted a NSF senior post-doctoral fellowship to study the role of vertical tectonics in crustal deformation at the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule (Swiss Federal Technical Institute) at the University of Zurich. From there he came to Amherst College.
Pete was a Fellow of: the Geological Society of America, the American Geographical Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was distinguished lecturer for the American Geological Institute five times. He prepared more than 50 unpublished _ consulting reports for some 20 corporations in the U.S. and abroad. He was associate editor with the American Institute of Mining Engineers and with the American Geological Institute. He gave the keynote address at a NATO symposium on the "Geology of the Mediterranean Basin" in 1982. In 1984 he was invited to participate in formal meetings of the 27th International Geologic Congress in Moscow, USSR.
Pete Foose brought to Amherst College a wide and varied professional background, as well as a keen interest in the development of undergraduate students. This combination enabled him to attempt to reestablish geology at Amherst on a level commensurate with the College's long and distinguished history of the subject. We salute his distinguished career and his many achievements.
Duane W. Bailey
Edward S. Belt, Chair
Gerald P. Brophy
James G. Mauldon
REGINALD F. FRENCH (1906 - 1996)
Reginald F. French was born in West Lebanon, New Hampshire exactly 90 years ago today on May 23, 1906. One central theme in his life became the desire to explore, to understand, and to preserve his New England heritage. It led him to Dartmouth College as an undergraduate and on to Harvard for his graduate degrees. It also induced him, while a teacher at Amherst College, to pursue a secondary career as an antiquarian, collector, and dealer in antiques. Together with his wife Rachel he bought an old house built in 1780 as the home for the miller who ran the Old Grist Mill located down on South Pleasant Street by the Mill Valley bridge over the Freshman River. They turned this colonial building into a showplace and opened a business there, R. and R. French Antiques.
After a number of serious automobile accidents with fatalities occurred around the bridge, the state decided to straighten out the intersection with East Hadley Road at that point and in the process seized the French's house by eminent domain. Reg and Rachel managed with considerable difficulty to buy back their house from the state, to divide it into two sections, to move them both 100 feet to the west and to reassemble the structure again as their home and their place of business.
As an antiques collector Reg French became an expert in early candlesticks, hearth furniture, delftware and pewter. He wrote many articles on earlyy pewter for the Pewter Collectors Club of America. A close friend once observed that when Reg presents himself for the great feast on judgment Day, if he sees any pewter, he will turn it over to examine the trade mark. Reg also compiled a checklist of the paintings by Erastus Salisbury Field which was published in the Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin.
Reg served as President of the Amherst Historical Society for seventeen years. He was Chairman of the Amherst College Committee which helped to arrange for the celebration of Amherst's Bicentennial in 1959. He was also a member of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association in Deerfield and the Connecticut Historical Society. He served at one time on the curatorial staff at Sturbridge Village. He also was a Trustee of the Amherst Academy - a Board which meets once a year to supervise the assets of an Academy which closed in 1868.
Despite all these intensive pursuits into his New England heritage, Reg French's major concern in his teaching and his scholarship lay in the wider and much more ancient field of Italian literature. He earned his M.A. in Romance Languages at Harvard in 1928, spent the year of 1929-30 studying Italian Literature at the University of Rome, and earned his Ph.D. in Italian Literature from Harvard by 1935.
His first teaching post was as an Instructor at the University of Missouri in 193031. He always took pride in having taught in this first year Charles Singleton who would become the leading Dante Scholar in the United States. Reg followed that by four years at Williams College and two years as an Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska. He came back to New England and to Amherst in 1937 where, along with Geoff Atkinson, George Funnell, Ralph Williams, King Turgeon and Al Johnson he filled out a remarkably harmonious Romance Language Department.
Al Johnson was an early Amherst student of his and recalls:
"As a student of Italian I remember with great clarity and pleasure
the many sessions reading, discussing and enjoying the language, the
thoughts, and the feelings of Boccaccio, Dante, Castiglione, Machiavelli,
Petrarca - even I Promessi Sposi - et al. in Reg's upstairs northeast comer
office in Grosvenor House.
"Reg was casual, but very demanding, always ready to laugh or to ask for a look at the opposite side of the coin under discussion. The classes were always small, even tiny. In fact I think on occasion I may have been the only student, fortunately."
After World War II when Amherst adopted its so-called "New Curriculum" with
its many required core courses in Freshman and Sophomore years Reg French became a
pillar of the Humanities course. Jack Pemberton remembers:
"George Funnell and then John Moore chaired the course. We met every Monday afternoon for an hour or two and occasionally at John's home for further conversations in the evening. Reg was always a lively participant in the discussions and took the lead when we read the Divine Comedy. He delighted in Dante's poetic imagination and the levels of interpretation the poet invited, the sweep and grandeur of the poem, and the subtle, obscure, teasing references, the interlocking rhyme pattern of the terza rima. No translation satisfied him. Hence he read to us the Italian to give us a feel for the language, the interplay of sounds with which the poem was composed. His delight became ours.
"Reg understood the history and rhythms of the Catholic liturgy which he believe provided the ground bass of the Comedy and enabled him to combine meaning and feeling in his analysis of the poem.
"One matter did distress him. The Humanities staff rarely agreed to read beyond the Inferno. 'To permit our students to remain in Hell is to miss the point!' he would declare."
Reg was, of course, a member of the Modern Language Association and served as chairman of its Italian section in 1949. At Amherst he served as Chair of the Committee on Educational Policy in the early 1960's.
In 1930 Reg French married Rachel Clapp who had been trained as an artist. In 1934 they had a daughter, Rebecca, and in 1941 they had twins, Richard and Polly. Rachel French started one of Amherst's most useful institutions, the Grace Church Clothing Exchange in 1948, and she continued to manage it for the next eighteen years. Both of them, in fact, maintained long, close, and active relations with Grace Church.
One colleague has summed up the feelings of all those who knew Reg French:
"He was a gentleman in every sense of the term - poised, easily met, possessing a graceful wit, patient, rarely showing irritation in faculty meetings even when having to report and answer questions as chair of the Committee on Educational Policy."
Ted Greene, Chair
Ernest A. Johnson, Jr., who died last year, was Al Johnson to his Amherst friends and colleagues and señor Johnson (a generic name for a Yankee) to the Hispanic world. He was a Yankee, from New England, who attended Amherst College with the class of 1939. On graduating, he studied at the University of Chicago, where he earned a Master’s degree in Medieval French in 1940. His age and experience situated him in what some (not he) called the greatest generation. He was a flight instructor for the U.S. Navy during the Second World War. In 1947, he received a Rockefeller teaching fellowship, and he went on to study Spanish literature at Harvard University, from which he got his doctorate in 1950. At Harvard, he was a favorite student of Pedro Grases, a Catalonian scholar and man of letters who had been exiled to Venezuela following the Spanish Civil War, one of the many Spaniards given to the New World following General Franco’s liquidation of the Spanish Republic in 1939. Al Johnson, when he retired, became the anonymous benefactor of Amherst College’s Pedro Grases Prize for excellence in Spanish, awarded to each year’s best Spanish student not born into the language. Al hadn’t been born into the language, but he spoke and wrote it perfectly, and he taught Spanish here at Amherst with the greatest fervor for three and a half decades, not just for the sake of the language, or because of its practical importance to the nation, but for the literatures and cultures he loved to write about and to read in the company of our students, before and after the college went coed. If Al had a favorite writer, it was the Chilean communist poet Pablo Neruda., the one who wrote, addressing the air: “...the day will come when we will liberate the light and the water, the earth, and man, and everything will be for everyone, as you are.” Al Johnson was a Republican. He was not notably sympathetic to the social changes that came to the country and the College in the 1960s. He was a past president of the Amherst Rotary Club. He had attended the Boy Scout World Jamboree in Gödöllö, Hungary, in 1933. Yet in some ways he remade himself, in order to be himself, in his later years here: twenty years of going on and teaching at the College after the deaths of his two great friends on the faculty: Murray Peppard, German, and Ed Roswenc, history. At the time of their deaths, in the seventies, when John William Ward was president of the College and Ed Wall the director of admission, the Latino students at Amherst ceased to be primarily children of South and Central American oligarchs, to become what was called American minority youth. Then Al, señor Johnson, a yankee Republican who mixed English words into his elegant Spanish, for pleasure, before the era of Spanglish, taught courses in creative writing in Spanish for those students, the heritage speakers from Los Angeles and the Bronx-- a new thing at Amherst, which helped, as did coeducation, to bring the College, as they say in Spanish, a la altura de las circunstancias, up to the level of the times.
---------- James Maraniss, Donald White, Daria D’Arienzo
In his essay “Teaching Philosophy,” published in Teaching What We Do, a group of essays by Amherst professors, W.E. Kennick considers vulgar uses of the word “philosophy,” as in the pronouncement of a condom manufacturer: “The philosophy is that the issue of safe sex has to be relaxed before people are comfortable enough to buy condoms.” Kennick comments, “This is not what I teach.” Emphatic, with a humor verging on the sardonic, the utterance is echt-Bill Kennick and a wonderful gloss on his decades of teaching philosophy, most of them spent at this college.
He was born in 1923, in Lebanon, Illinois, but after his parents divorced when he was five years old, he and his younger brother moved with their mother to Pittsburgh. His mother entered into domestic service and he, with his brother Robert, were placed in a series of homes, most notably The Ward Home for Children, a Methodist Orphanage where he spent three years. The experience left an indelible mark on him and it may be that his extreme gratitude and appreciation of the educational experiences to come in high school, college, and beyond, had behind them a sense of hard beginnings. “I had to earn my way all the way,” he wrote in a memoir completed near the end of his life, noting also that the shame of poverty was perhaps the dominant feeling of his childhood. No one would testify more passionately to the virtues of the liberal education that was to be his.
In adolescence he discovered the consolations of art, especially the activities of looking at pictures and listening to music. He took free drawing lessons at Carnegie Museum and the Carnegie Institute of Technology, which provided stimulus and preparation for the first-rate painter and draughtsman he would become. He sang in the church choir of the Calvary Episcopal Church, being paid at the rate of three cents a service, six times a week--yielding a grand total of eighteen cents weekly, not to be sneezed at. Although he later left the church, having decided the ministry was not for him, and though he had only scorn for the revisions to the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, he remained, as he called it, an Episcopalian in spirit. His knowledge of the Bible and of theology generally was wide and deep; indeed his own introduction to philosophy came when he read an essay by Étienne Gilson on Thomas Aquinas. He then went on to immerse himself in Aquinas, and would later teach medieval philosophy as part of his survey course in the history of philosophy.
Bill graduated from Peabody High School in Pittsburgh, co-valedictorian, and entered Oberlin College on a full tuition scholarship. During the summers of his college years, he worked in the steel mills--World War II was on at the time--three months, twelve hours a day, seven days a week, sometimes the 8PM to 8AM shift. He would later see this as learning the value of a liberal education the hard way. At Oberlin he made a number of important intellectual and aesthetic discoveries, along with the delights of philosophy. “I think I enjoyed college life more than anyone else ever had,” he has written, adding that he would never understand why students didn’t feel the same. He read the Latin poets--Horace, Catullus, Juvenal and others--having already been enthralled in high school by Virgil’s Aeneid. He studied Greek--Xenophon, the Iliad, Aeschylus--also French and German literature. His entry into modern poetry was effected serendipitously when, one day in a course in The Bible as Literature, his professor paused, looked out the window where the sun had suddenly appeared, and began to recite Yeats’s “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” (“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree/ And a small cabin build there of clay and wattles made”). After class Kennick asked the professor who had written the poem, found out how to spell Yeats’s name, and headed for the library to sign out the Collected Poems. It changed the way he looked at all poetry, no longer “as a dark glass through which we try to make out what’s going on in the world, but as a fabric of words.” Oberlin served his aesthetic needs superbly well, with its conservatory of music where he acquired a large listening repertoire, and the Allen Memorial Art Museum that helped him continue his painting and drawing. (There is a charcoal drawing of his in the museum’s permanent collection.) He studied as well the history of prints and print-making, which was the beginning of his and his wife Nancy’s, impressive collection. He graduated summa cum laude in 1945, the only summa in his class.
His graduate study at Cornell was interrupted by the military where he served in the army medical corps for eighteen months as a clinical psychologist. (He had a comic tale to tell about how this fraud was perpetrated on him and how he gained such a distinguished but inappropriate title.) After the army he took his PH.D. at Cornell and taught briefly at Boston University where he had a memorable schedule: four sections of Introductory Philosophy, three days a week, complemented by two other courses adding up to eighteen hours weekly in the classroom. (Overworked Amherst professors, take note.) In 1949 he married Anna Perkins Howes, who had been his student at Oberlin; they would have three children, Christopher, Justin and Sylvia. Returning to Oberlin he was named permanent head of the philosophy department, but in 1956 accepted a job at this college where he replaced the venerable Sterling P. Lamprecht who taught a once famous course in the history of philosophy. Kennick would teach this two-semester course, from Plato to Kant, with pretty much the same syllabus as Lamprecht, though very much in his own manner.
The course met Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 9AM, usually with forty to sixty students enrolled. Coursework included a number of papers in which the student was asked difficult questions about an argument in Spinoza or Locke and was obliged to construe that argument by showing in careful detail how it proceeded from one point to the next. He regularly handed out to his students a four-and-a-half page single-spaced document he compiled titled “Some Rules For Writing Presentable English,” a cautionary list that has lost none of its relevance. When papers were handed back, Kennick, a very good user of the blackboard, explained the grades he’d given: a very few A’s, a few more B’s, quite a number of C’s, then some unmentionable ones. Students were invited to rewrite papers but guaranteed no automatic assigning of a higher grade. His seriousness as a teacher, sometimes felt as severity, brought out responsive efforts in his students who wanted to be taken seriously, who looked not just for a degree but an education. He also gave courses in aesthetics, in metaphysics, and regularly offered a seminar on the works of Ludwig Wittgenstein. As Kenan professor for two years, he taught courses with younger faculty members, much to their enlightenment and sometimes his own. He served as acting dean of the faculty in 1979-80 and faculty marshal from 1972-1993. His published work includes a number of densely argued essays--titled, for example “The Ineffable,” or “On Solipsism”--and a textbook, Art and Philosophy, containing a generous amount of his own commentary. His 1958 essay, “Does Traditional Aesthetics Rest on a Mistake?,” was one of the more influential and reprinted essays in aesthetics for decades after its publication.
He found the late 1960s and early seventies a period very much not to his taste--“the most dispiriting period of my professional life,” he called it. In the spring of 1972 during the war in Vietnam, there were attempted disruptions of classes on the part of dissident students, six of whom invaded Bill’s class the morning he was demonstrating a particularly thorny philosophical argument, Kant’s Transcendental Deduction of the Categories. Kennick invited the intruders to sit down and listen; they declined; eventually members of the class rose up and suggested the six leave, which they did and class resumed. During those years when, for some faculty, “business as usual” was used as a sneering phrase directed at those who insisted on keeping on doing what they were doing, Bill never wavered from his business of teaching philosophy. He ceased only when, in 1993, he was forced to retire, the last Amherst professor to do so because he had turned 70. This pained him very much, but he returned to teach part-time for a number of years at the invitation of the Philosophy and European Studies departments. Although he was perhaps closest in spirit to the philosopher David Hume, in his retirement he read, for philosophy, mainly Plato, Kant, and Wittgenstein. But his most important reading over those years was in literature: novels, poetry, criticism, biography. He returned to the Classics, specifically to Greek tragedy and to Virgil, both of which he read in the original. With some assistance from his brother-in-law Joseph Cary, a professor of Romance Languages, he translated a large selection of poems from the Italian poet Eugenio Montale, one more testament to his originality as an intellectual.
On the non-intellectual side, Bill Kennick loved parties, loved ballroom dancing, and in the golden age of Amherst faculty parties was a leading participant and organizer. He liked to quote lines from a poem of Thomas Hardy: “O the dance it is a great thing/ A great thing to me.” So was cooking a great thing to him, as more than one person in this room will testify from experience at the dinner table where he and Nancy presided. There were courses at these dinners, and there was carefully selected wine, both red and white, as the course demanded. The accompanying conversation was full of anecdotes, remembrances of things past, various Amherst follies, celebrations of friends and execrations of enemies no longer around. The essence of it all was laughter; the result, exhilaration.
He more than once proposed to himself that he would some day offer a course titled “Fine Things.” Like philosophy, art, music, cooking, dancing, party-giving and party-going, Bill Kennick thought lyric poetry an especially fine thing, so he might have approved of the following short poem by a poet he admired, A.E. Housman. The poem knows that life in its trouble is a serious, nay fatal, matter; also that there is nothing for it but to say a troubled truth with wit and music:
I to my perils
Of cheat and charmer
Came clad in armour
By stars benign.
Hope lies to mortals
And most believe her,
But man’s deceiver
Was never mine.
The thoughts of others
Were light and fleeting,
Of lovers’ meeting
Or luck or fame.
Mine were of trouble,
And mine were steady,
So I was ready
When trouble came.
William H. Pritchard
The students, faculty, and staff of Amherst College and scores of musicians, colleagues, and friends in the Pioneer Valley were profoundly honored to have Mirjana Laušević come to Amherst from the University of Minnesota to serve, along with her husband Tim Eriksen (AC ’88), as the Joseph E. and Grace W. Valentine Visiting Assistant Professor of Music in the 2006-2007 academic year. With her passing in July 2007, we lost a scholar of uncommon distinction and integrity, a teacher of unusual dedication and passion, and a friend of limitless generosity who called us to better ourselves and those around us.
Minja’s impact at Amherst was immediate and far-reaching. As soon as she was among us, her smile, laughter, singing, accordion playing, rapier intellect, and committed scholarship transformed us all. This is how Minja’s students describe her:
It is hard to summarize the impact Minja Laušević had on my life in the short time I knew her. Minja was the kindest, most genuine person I will probably ever know. She was a warm, loving person with a warm and loving smile. And when she smiled at me, I believed myself capable of anything. And when I think about her, I sing louder and with more confidence. Minja is why I love music and why I have somehow retained my faith in humanity, despite trying times. Having her was life-changing and losing her was devastating. But in the short time we had together, Minja managed to teach me how to live. She taught me that it is okay to love unconditionally, even when you’ve known someone for a very short time.
It seems that Minja was a born ethnomusicologist and from her youth held others to the same high standards to which she held herself. When a professor at Sarajevo University in her native Bosnia gave an essay of hers an undeservedly mediocre mark, Minja confronted him with the fact that he clearly had not read her work and demanded that he read her essay, evaluate it fairly, and apologize before the entire University. He did all of this, and Minja received the highest mark. While working as a ski instructor in the 1980s in Ilidža, Minja was brought by a lift operator to a remote village on the other side of the mountain where she encountered a song and dance tradition that was entirely different from anything she had previously known.
In 1988 she received her BA in musicology and ethnomusicology from Sarajevo University, where she worked as an instructor of ethnomusicology from 1989 to 1991. During this time, Minja produced recordings, ethnographic films, and scholarship that testified to the rich, vibrant musical and social world in and beyond Ilidža—a world soon overcome by violence and war in the early 1990s. Amid growing ethnic tensions in Sarajevo, Minja came to realize that it would be impossible to continue her career there. She applied to graduate school at Wesleyan University, where she completed her PhD in 1998.
In the fall of 1999, Minja joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. There she became recognized as a naturally gifted teacher who inspired in her students the same extraordinary love of the world apparent in her scholarship. For example, beginning in 2001, Minja engaged her students in an unusual ethnomusicological project called “A World in Two Cities.” The goal of the project was to create a complete aural map of the diverse musical traditions kept alive by the Hmong, Ethiopian, Sudanese, and Laotian communities living in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Armed with microphones, music theory, and curiosity, Minja and her teams of graduate and undergraduate students roamed the Twin Cities, recording the sounds of an urban landscape teeming with song. At the core of Minja’s project was a basic political and ethical desire. As she put it in a 2003 interview, her project was an effort both “to bridge gaps” and “to understand how music survives.”
All of Minja’s work sprang from her deep humanistic sympathies, moral convictions, and fascination with how and why people make music. After coming to the United States, Minja worked tirelessly to make peace and reconciliation in Bosnia a living reality. Her research combined Eastern European and North American scholarly traditions in innovative ways in her work on the musical, cultural, and religious landscapes of the Balkan region. As part of her collaboration on a documentary television project, for instance, Minja returned to rural Bosnia to ensure that the musicians and dancers she interviewed and filmed received fair compensation for their contributions. And her efforts didn’t stop there. Never afraid to act boldly or to speak uncomfortable truths wherever people were neglected or mistreated, Minja also enabled Bosnian women to create a sustainable livelihood for themselves by organizing ways for them to sell their handicrafts abroad. She helped design and curate the Musical Instrument Museum, which will soon become the premier musical instrument museum in the world and, in 2004, organized a large concert to benefit the victims of that year’s devastating tsumani. All this, of course, Minja accomplished alongside her flourishing life as a performing artist and devoted mother. Whether it was leading shape-note singing with her dear friends in the Pioneer Valley, performing in her critically acclaimed band Žabe i Babe, or making her duly famous chocolate and cherry cakes, Minja led life with tremendous integrity, dignity, and grace, with her beloved children Luka and Anja and her husband Tim always at her side. What joy she brought to her music, her scholarship, and her activism was amplified, and no doubt will be continued, through them.
In 2007, Minja published her pathbreaking monograph Balkan Fascination: Creating an Alternative Music Culture in America (Oxford). She was tenured at the University of Minnesota in 2007, at which point she was internationally recognized as one of the leading ethnomusicologists of her generation. Her gifts to the Amherst community are lasting, and I move that this memorial minute be adopted by the Faculty in a rising vote of silence, that it be entered into the permanent record of the Faculty, and that a copy be sent to Mirjana Laušević’s family.
Ted Levin (Dartmouth College, AC ’73)
Deidra Montgomery (AC ’10)
Peter Marshall, our late John Andrew Moore Professor of Latin and Classics, was a modest man who did not want to be honored through a memorial service. He was more likely to speak of his failure in battling a groundhog in his garden than to tell you that he had just had another book published. In this memorial minute we will honor his wishes by speaking briefly and quietly about our remarkable colleague.
Peter K. Marshall was born in Cardiff, Wales, on July 2, 1934. As a student at Canton High School, he excelled at his classwork and also in chess, and he became a champion of Wales as a competitor in international tournaments. Accepted at Oxford University at age 15, he began his studies there, but soon became homesick and returned to Wales. He received his first B.A. from the University of South Wales, and then moved on to Wadham College at Oxford, where he studied with, among others, Roger Mynors, receiving a B.A. with First Class Honours in 1956 and an M.A. in 1960. By then he had already moved on to the United States and joined the faculty at Amherst College, where, apart from a year at the University of Liverpool, he spent the rest of his career.
When Peter came to Amherst in 1959, he taught a variety of courses in Greek and Latin and also assumed responsibility for a survey course in Roman Civilization that had been offered at the College in one form or another since 1918. On Peter's watch the course was immensely popular, sometimes attracting as many as 240 students, well over 15 % of the student body. Students came to learn about Latin literature and Roman history and their influence on later western civilization, and also to hear Peter's anecdotes about people of all times and places, from ancient Rome to twentieth-century Oxford. His dry wit and tautly dramatic style of lecturing left indelible impressions on four decades of Amherst students. Quite a few have followed his lead in going to Oxford to study or in becoming classicists, or both; one of them, Peter Derow, now holds the chair once held by one of Peter's own mentors, George Forrest, at Wadham College.
Peter typically arrived early for class and strolled up and down the hall outside his classroom in Converse, pausing to say hello to the Economics secretary or to various colleagues in the building. Then his students began to assemble. As they came in, he chatted with them, sometimes about a paper for class, but more often about their weekend, vacation, or families. Peter was a master at this kind of casual conversation, something all too rare in the intense academic world. These genial encounters and the warmth of Peter's interest meant a great deal to people in all parts of our community.
Some of the students Peter came to know well, not all of them Classics majors; he could establish rapport with students of all kinds. For years he served as a house advisor to the Chi Psi fraternity, famed for its bestial style of lobster feasts at which no utensils were provided. Peter's wife Nadia tells the story of Peter's struggle with a lobster claw, finally stepping on it to squeeze out the meat, which resulted in firing the meat across the room and directly into the cheek of a young woman, who promptly slapped the young man beside her. Peter always spoke fondly of these occasions.
Members of the Faculty also got to know Peter through working with him on committees. Peter never enjoyed committee service, but he was good at it, as anyone who ever served with him knows. Whether on the Housing Committee, the Committee on Priorities and Resources, or the various ad hoc and search committees on which he served, Peter was not only awake and attentive, but effective in his contributions; when he was in the chair, as he often was, he ran an orderly and no-nonsense show. His reports to the Faculty were clear, intelligent, witty, and always to the point; they were worth listening to since their subtle humor repaid attention. He also served selflessly in the most thankless labor of all, Faculty Parliamentarian, for eight years.
One labor for the College that Peter did enjoy was his work with the Amherst College Library. He was involved in the Library deeply and in many ways. Not only did he make much use of the Library and expect and encourage his students to do the same, but also treated librarians as partners in the enterprise of scholarship and learning. He was a true bibliophile and a sophisticated collector of books, and from time to time he drew from his collection to make donations to the College; most recently, he gave the early printed editions of Cornelius Nepos which he had used to produce his Teubner edition. Peter's close association with the Library is also reflected in his more than twenty-five years of service to the Friends of the Amherst College Library, as a judge of the annual student book-collecting contest. His experience and savvy in this field were of enormous help to his fellow judges, as well as to the students whose collections he encouraged and admired.
As a scholar, Peter's specialty was textual criticism. Not infrequently he would remind his students and colleagues of the shaky ground lying under some of the texts we were reading; his own work was directed primarily to improving upon that situation. Peter's achievements in this field are extraordinary. His thorough and rigorous investigations uncovered new manuscripts and brought order to the tangle of manuscripts already known. His work has given us editions in all three of the major publishing houses of classical texts: Aulus Gellius, with Oxford, Cornelius Nepos and Hyginus, both with Teubner, Isidore of Seville, in the Bude series, and Servatus Lupus, again with Teubner. It is worth noting that in editing these authors he had to demonstrate his command of a thousand years of Latin; he was interested not only in the classical authors, but especially in the ancient writing on classical authors, which took him through the medieval period. In his last years, he worked particularly on the medieval commentator on Virgil, Servius, and his influence on subsequent work on Virgil; his book Servius and Commentary on Virgil came out in 1998. His last article, on a little-known Servius manuscript written in an Anglo-Saxon hand, will appear in Rivista di filologia e di istruzione classica shortly. He did not live to complete his work on Aeneid 6-8 for the Harvard edition of Servius. Much of Peter's work was intended for specialists, but his first book, a translation of Sir Thomas More's Utopia, became a bestseller.
Peter became an American citizen on November 4, 1993, but he was a Life Member of the Classical Association of Great Britain and he crossed the Atlantic regularly. His work required him to inspect manuscripts in cities around the world and he travelled and lived in various countries during summers and sabbaticals, often with the support of grants, including, in 1980, a Guggenheim Fellowship. He wasted nothing in these opportunities.
He and Nadia always returned from their travels with work accomplished and vivid tales of things they had seen and meals they had enjoyed. Peter's work was exacting and painstaking, but so efficient that he always had time to live a full life.
In the end, it was clear that the life Peter had chosen suited him beautifully. He was diagnosed with a virulent form of prostate cancer in May, 2000, and his doctor advised him that, while he did have hope of successful treatment, he thought that Peter should now be sure to do the things he wanted to do with his life. Peter didn't change a thing. He continued his teaching, his scholarship, his walks with Hector the dog, his travels with Nadia and his life with her in the countryside of western Massachusetts, as these things that he had been doing were, in fact, the things he most wanted to do.
When Peter died last spring, he had been teaching at Amherst for nearly forty-two years. He had had difficulties with his health over the winter break, but had begun the spring semester nonetheless, still eager to meet with his students and continue his teaching. When he had to withdraw after the second week of class, the Department and he had in mind that he would return to his teaching this fall. His last written words were in a book he inscribed and gave to a student whose thesis he had been advising, a book he had bought to help them both in their work together last year. Our colleague, Peter Marshall, lived as fully as anyone can throughout all the time he had, gladly participating in the life of this College and especially in the scholarship and teaching he loved.
This memorial minute is submitted by William Kennick, John Lancaster, Rebecca Sinos, Frank Westhoff, and Donald White.
To be updated soon.
JAMES E. OSTENDARP (1923-2005)
James E. Ostendarp, Professor of Physical Education emeritus, died on December 15, 2005 with his wife and children at his bedside. Jim served Amherst College as head football coach for 33 years. He compiled a remarkable record of 168 wins, 91 losses, and 5 ties while winning the Little Three title thirteen times and fielding two undefeated teams. Jim retired with the fifth best winning percentage among Division III coaches nationwide.
Jim was raised in Baltimore, Maryland, where as a teenager, he was denied a place on his high school football team because he was too small; undeterred, Jim joined an adult sandlot team and he earned a football scholarship to the University of Maryland. World War II then interrupted Jim’s college career when he volunteered as a paratrooper and fought in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. Jim chose the paratroopers because, as he saw it, the most dangerous assignments produced the best leaders. After the war, Jim transferred to Bucknell University where he acquired the nickname, “Smokey,” reflecting his spirited determination. In his senior year, he set the Bucknell single season rushing record of 6.9 yards per carry that stands to this day. In 1950 and 1951, Jim played for the New York Giants; in 1952, he moved on to the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.
1953 saw important changes in Jim’s life. By far the most significant was his marriage to Shirley Reidinger. It is simply impossible to imagine Jim without Shirley; they were truly a team in the best sense of the word. Also in that year, Jim ended his career as a football player and began his career as a football coach when he was named assistant coach at his alma mater, Bucknell. Subsequently, he coached at Williams and Cornell before being named head football coach at Amherst in 1959. With Jim’s arrival at Amherst, the nickname “Smokey” slowly evolved into “The Darp.”
First and foremost, Jim was a teacher. One of Jim’s former players says it well: “He was a professor who happened to teach football.” After his first season at Amherst, Jim realized that his players did not thoroughly comprehend his football system. Consequently, he compiled a collection of playbooks that Jim described as pamphlets. He sent the pamphlets to all team members in June as a summer reading assignment. His players did not share Jim’s description of these materials as pamphlets, however. Instead, they call them treatises; they totaled 150 pages. This was not quite what the players expected from their new football coach. Furthermore, when his players returned in the fall, Jim surprised them with an exam. Jim’s pamphlets illustrate the importance that he placed on what he called mental discipline. Jim taught his players that success could never be achieved by physical prowess alone.
Naturally, Jim wanted to win football games, but he recognized that performance on the football field was not the ultimate goal. All but a handful of Jim’s players ended their football careers with the last game of their senior year. Jim realized that his most important lessons were not blocking and tackling techniques; these would soon be forgotten. Instead, the real lessons to be learned were the importance of responsibility, leadership, loyalty, determination - mental discipline. These were the lessons that served his players so well not only here at Amherst, but more importantly throughout their lives. These are the qualities needed to achieve success in whatever career one chooses. And indeed, Jim’s players achieved great success in a broad spectrum of fields: medicine, law, education, business, etc.
Jim’s attire at Saturday’s football games was legendary. It was easy to spot him on the sidelines. Regardless of the weather, Jim always wore his dark three-piece suit and Fedora. Jim’s approach to the game was also legendary and sometimes frustrated his peers and no doubt Amherst administrators. In 1985, the Amherst and Williams football teams met for the 100th time. ESPN offered to televise the historic event nationally. While the William’s coach, Robert Odell, enthusiastically favored ESPN’s proposal, Jim vetoed it by asserting that “We’re in education. We aren’t in the entertainment business.” While a nationally broadcast game might enhance Amherst’s stature in the collegiate sports world, it would not promote the central mission of the College, education. Jim’s priorities were clear. Athletics are important here because they teach our students the importance of those character traits that are vital for success not only on the playing fields, but also in the classroom and, most importantly, throughout all of life. Jim was a professor dedicated to teaching the most important lessons a student can learn.
When a player joined Jim’s football team, he became part of Jim’s extended family. Jim made a point of knowing everyone associated with his football program whether a first string star, a lowly substitute, an assistant coach, or even a water boy. A player’s abilities on the playing field were certainly important to Jim, but more important was what made the player “tick.” Family was crucial. He wanted to know about each player’s parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, etc. He wanted to know what courses his players were taking, what they were doing on weekends, when they were last home, etc. He gave advice subtly; he had the instinctive knack of providing guidance by posing just the right question with the perfect tone and nuance.
Jim’s extended family was not limited to his players; it encompassed the entire Amherst community. Membership in this family brought both privileges and responsibilities. After the fall football season ended, Jim spent endless hours on the telephone. The vast majority of these calls were not made to recruit high school athletes, however. Instead, the calls were made to Amherst alums. The purpose of the calls was to help graduating seniors secure jobs. Jim’s extended family was at work. One sibling in a position to aid another was expected to help. After all, this is what it means to be part of a family.
Jim’s love of art and music was deep. Frequently, on fall Saturday mornings after the pre-game breakfast, he would visit the Mead Art Gallery. He often showed high school recruits the Mead Gallery before taking them to the athletic facilities. He would interrupt football practice in the late afternoon to focus his players’ attention on the beauty of particularly splendid autumn sunset. A reverence for the beauty of art and music was firmly embedded in Jim’s soul. One could not visit Jim and Shirley’s home without being impressed with the art they had collected and the pride that they took in their collection.
Jim touched the lives of so many members of the Amherst community. Many former students assert that with the exception of their parents, Jim was the most influential person in their lives. Jim maintained a large collection of team pictures. He delighted in flipping through the pictures and talking about his former players one by one. He rarely spoke of their exploits on the playing fields, however. Instead, he proudly told of their accomplishments after leaving Amherst. It was their contributions beyond the playing fields that were important to Jim. This is where the lessons that Jim taught had borne fruit.
There was only one group that stood above Jim’s extended family: his wife and children. Through wins and loses, Shirley was always by Jim’s side. They were not two separate individuals, but rather they were a single unit. Their seven children, Teresa, Jim, Anne, Jan, Carl, Beth, and Heidi, provided Jim with enormous pride. Usually, Jim put on a stoic front, but that facade melted with the mere mention of Shirley or their children.
The last years of Jim’s life tested his spirit when Alzheimer’s extracted its cruel toll. Jim’s character came to the fore, however. Even when he could not walk or talk or recognize family and friends, he found a way to reassure and motivate others with a squeeze of the hand or a pat on the arm. Jim was the consummate professor. He always found a way to teach his lessons.
Peter Gooding, Allen Hart, David Hixon, Tracy Mehr, William Thurston, and Frank Westhoff
Mr. President, I move that this memorial minute be adopted by the Faculty in a rising vote of silence, that it be entered in the permanent record of the Faculty, and that a copy be sent to Professor Ostendarp’s widow.
JOHN PETROPULOS (1929 - 1999)
In the early decades of this century thousands of ethnic Greeks fled religious violence and political instability in the Balkans and Turkey and came to America. Many settled in the old industrial cities of New England, drawn by the easy availability of factory work. There they developed close-knit communities, often centered around the Greek Orthodox church and the dream of a better life for their children. It was into one such comrriunity that John Anthony Petropulos was born on December 19, 1929. His father had arrived in this country in his late teens and had worked in the factories of North Adams, Massachusetts before settling in Lewiston, Maine where he became a policeman. John's mother, also a first generation Greek immigrant, worked in the Bates textile mills.
John attended public schools in Lewiston before going on to Yale where he received his BA magna cum laude in 1951 and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. From there he moved to Harvard, where he embarked on the study of Balkan and Byzantine history under .the direction of Robert L. Wolff. As a young man John was drawn to .the ascetic life of the scholar and theologian and doubted he would ever marry. In fact his life took a very different turn for it was in Cambridge that John met his future wife, Electra Yankopoulos. In later years he loved to tell the story of their first meeting. Attending a lecture delivered by Father Florovsky, the famous Orthodox theologian and historian, he spotted Electra across the room, speaking with the great man himself. John turned to the friend next to him and said "I'm going to marry that woman!" And so he did.
In September, 1958, married only a month, and still in the midst of writing his dissertation, John arrived at Amherst college as an instructor of Balkan and Middle Eastern history, beginning what was to be forty-one years at the college. In the next year Electra's and John's first child, Ansia, was born, to be followed by Stephanie, in 1964, and Anthony, in 1969.
The college to which John came in 1958 was not the place we know today. The curriculum was, at least in the freshman and sophomore years, almost entirely fixed. Humanities 1 and 2 and History 1 and 2 which all students were required to take-summed up the conventional wisdom of the day as to what an educated member of the elite should know. The faculty still socialized in the all-male faculty club. Students had to attend chapel three to five mornings a week, a broadly non-denominational event intended to reflect, as well as to further, a sense of common purpose, but which. retained what some considered to be a discernible Protestant "feel." Some recall an air of old New England privilege that those not bred to that culture could find both puzzling and difficult to penetrate.
This world and many of the ideals that sustained it died a slow and, at times, painful death during the ensuing decades. Growing religious, social, and racial heterogeneity at the college, both on the faculty and in the student body, shifting conceptions of national purpose, as represented above all by the Civil Rights Movement and the opposition to the war in Vietnam, and changing notions about what constituted knowledge, all combined to make the older ways of doing things at the college seem less and less tenable. John understood the pull of tradition, but he was himself an outsider to much that had animated the "Old Amherst" and he came to believe that it no longer spoke to the needs and aspiration of a new generation of students and faculty.
John was, in fact, to be a quiet but key player in creating a different kind of college, one in which faculty club, chapel and common curriculum no longer easily fit. At the core of the New Amherst was to be quality of scholarship and quality of teaching, defined according to national and international measures of excellence rather than more localized, "community" standards. This was to be accompanied by more open and transparent modes of governance, and a far more clearly articulated commitment to equality of opportunity. John would work tirelessly in the years to realize this perhaps never fully achievable ideal
In the meantime he was himself already operating within a larger scholarly ambit., John's book Politics and Statecraft in the Kingdom of Greece, 1833- 1843, appeared in 1968 from Princeton University Press, and immediately won him a position of leadership in the emerging field of modern Greek studies. Over 600 pages long, and, based on close readings of manuscript and printed sources, Politics and State Craft represented one of the earliest attempts to apply up-to-date historical methods to the history of 19`''-century Greece. John's account relied on sensitive portrayals of the main protagonists, an acute sense of the role of social and economic factors, and a complex view of kinship and patronage ties. As Alexander Kitroeff, himself a specialist on the period has written of the book, "The value in Petropulos' analysis.. .lies in the richness of his explanation of how events were driven by the political interests of the major political actors. Those interests ... were rooted in a broad range of competing local, regional, cultural and philosophical outlooks. In methodically recounting how those different outlooks clashed and synthesized, Petropulos presented a wonderfully textured and nuanced picture of early nineteenth-century Greek society. This offered a refreshingly lively sense that earlier studies, which were full of heroes and villains, did not come close to recreating." John's book represented the coming of age of modern Greek history. Beautifully written and closely argued, and paying scrupulous attention to the sources, it has been a model for dozens of subsequent studies of 19th- and 20th -century Greece and is generally credited with being one of the books that created the field.
John was an institution-builder as well as an intellectual. In 1969, one year after Politics and Statecraft appeared, he helped found the Modern Greek Studies Association, devoted to furthering the interdisciplinary study of Modern Greece and the Greek diaspora, and he served as its second president as well as, at one time or another, vice president, acting president, member of the executive committee and convener of numerous editorial boards, committees and symposia. John was also active in the American Historical Association, organizing panels on the problems of refugees, comparative resistance movements and 20th century Fascism, and he was a co-author of two other books on foreign interference in Greek politics and 19th-century Greek politics respectively, as well as an edited collection on the First Greek War of Independence. He also wrote articles on such topics as ethnic cleansing and modern Greek political memoirs, and he delivered numerous highly polished lectures and talks that did not make it into print in his lifetime. Indeed, his personal papers are full of long and short manuscripts pertaining to a projected book on comparative resistance movements during World War II, a general survey of Greek history from 1453 to present, Turkish settlements in the Peloponnese during the eighteenth century, Ottoman tax registers, Greek nationalist movements, and numerous other topics. Many of these are in close to finished shape and efforts are already underway to publish some of it posthumously. Politics and Statecraft appeared in a Greek translation in 1979 and remains in print to this day.
Though best known for his work on Greek history, very early on in his career John began broadening his intellectual horizons. Already by 1961 he had embarked on the study of the Turkish language, and, while he never stopped working on Greece, the rest of his career also saw a close engagement with the history and politics of the Middle East. Himself a product - at long remove - of the ethnic conflicts that have so tragically marked the history and peoples of the eastern Mediterranean, John sought in his own way to mark out the path of reconciliation. As relations worsened between Jews and Moslems in the mid to late 1960s, John began speaking out more publicly in favor of peace, rapprochement, and greater Palestinian self-determination. Often in these years he found himself pitted against his colleague, and, as time passed, his friend, Gordie Levin. Initially far apart politically, as the years passed, partly in response to changing events, and partly due to their deepening mutual regard, their differences narrowed considerably. John and Gordie collaborated in March 1994 in organizing a post-Oslo conference with Israeli and Palestinian journalists, scholars and political figures here at the college. Though a man of deep convictions, John possessed the rare ability to differentiate differences of opinion from considerations of character, to be a true friend to people with whom he could not agree. John was worldly wise, aware of how the world worked, and he seemed invariably to grasp the true motives of historical actors. Yet this often rueful sense of things was fused, perhaps paradoxically, with incredibly scrupulous and decent sensibilities. He possessed the rare capacity to appreciate and even love his adversaries.
In the 1960s and 1970s opposition to the War in Vietnam caused unprecedented upheavals at the college and in the Valley. Like a number of faculty members, John was arrested for civil disobedience at the Westover Air force base. At the same time, in the midst of the controversy about whether or not to close the college to protest the war, he argued strongly in favor of it remaining open and committed to its mission to educate.
Teaching and, along with that, mentorship, were a central part of John's mission in life. Scores of former students responded to the news of his death with testimonials about his seriousness of purpose, his integrity, his generosity of spirit, his passion for teaching, and his enduring influence upon their lives. One, who could speak for many, wrote "through him I got a sense of what it meant to be a scholar: the resistance against easy answers, the delight in the openness of questions, the seriousness of the purpose of it all. He cared for each of us students - that was obvious -- but he cared even more about history and made us want to do so too." Another wrote "[It was John] alone who propelled me to graduate school and to a life of teaching and writing. In that respect his work and spirit remain alive in classrooms across the country."
John served as Dean of Freshman from 1982 to 1985. One of his first projects, in partnership with his wife, Electra, was to embark on a heroic -- some might say quixotic-program of inviting every single freshman and freshwoman to their home for dinner, in groups of twenty at a time, a program that took up virtually every week of the school year. This was not some utopian gesture but, at least in part, an effort to deal constructively with the bitter conflict then raging about the role of fraternities in student life. John himself was strongly opposed to fraternities, because he believed they were inconsistent with Amherst's stated commitment to providing an atmosphere in which all students -not just some-- could learn. In 1984 the fraternities were indeed abolished, and John took an active role in effecting the transition and in trying to create alternative structures that could bear some of the load.
John was an early champion of the women's movement, aware of the subtle as well as blatant ways in which the world needed to change if women were to have the same opportunities as men. He was a supporter, early on, of co-education at Amherst, writing in 1972 in a letter to then president Bill Ward: "Coeducation is not merely part of the larger imperative of justice for the female sex. It is, I am convinced, a vital ingredient in the more comprehensive and indispensable re-education of both males and females, young and old, concerning the proper identity of each." He enthusiastically welcomed women to Amherst as students and faculty, and he was delighted when women faculty members began to be elected to the Committee of Six and to make themselves heard at faculty meetings.
The faculty relied upon John for clear, thoughtful advice when the difficult decisions had to be made, and he could rarely find it in him to say no when demands were made upon his time. John was three times elected to the Committee of Six, serving from 1985 to 1987, from 1989 to 1991, and from 1994 to 1995. During these years a series of policies and programs were hammered out that helped it shed some of the lingering effects of its years as a male-only college and pushing it to develop a more expansive, more multicultural and in many ways more modern conception of the liberal arts and sciences. It is hard to find a new program of the last twenty years or so in which John did not have a hand. These included the Five-College Middle Eastern Studies Program, in which John was centrally involved, the Five-College African Studies certificate, the Five College Latin American and Caribbean Studies Certificate, and the Women's and Gender Studies department. His role on the Committee of Six, and at the college more generally was characterized by extraordinary decency of character, and a rare fusion of lucidity and humaneness. He had an egalitarian commitment to fairness that went far beyond simple words. The emphasis on procedure with which we are sometimes impatient today was at the heart of John's sense of things. He was most concerned to ensure that there was not a "hidden" or "insider" set of rules or standards to which others were not privy. He cared a lot more about getting things done than about getting recognized. His influence was quiet, but it was profound, touching almost every aspect of the life of the college.
Luckily for him John did have a life outside the college. He adored Electra, and both of them were deeply committed to the complicated project of raising children to adulthood. John loved music and art, and the beauty of nature. He worked long hours in his garden, even as physical exertion became more difficult for him. He was appreciative of the traditions of his Greek heritage and wanted to share them with others. His tall, erect figure stood out in the line of the Greek men when he danced, he could move his long legs with grace and precision. (Then he would fold that body up like a pretzel to fit into the little, rattling car he was perversely proud to drive.) No one made better grilled lamb, or better baklava -- the latter an example of John's defiance of traditional boundaries, not relegating the pastry-making to women. He rarely spoke of himself; characteristic of his lack of egotism were conversations with colleagues in which he tended to learn more about their lives than they did about his. He loved the Orthodox Church, its rituals, its songs. He sang in the choir at Holy Trinity with a melodious bass voice. He read extensively in the writings of the Church Fathers, and he worked together with Electra, Don and Allison Lemons and George Shaheen to organize interdenominational Orthodox services at the college.
Toward the end of his last term on the Committee of Six, John began manifesting signs of the emphysema with which he had been diagnosed some time before. In 1997 he began having to carry an oxygen tank and he spent a good deal of time doing rehabilitation. He faced what turned out to be his final illness with cheerfulness and courage. He began phased retirement and cut down his teaching to one course per term. John looked forward to retirement as an opportunity to devote himself to some of the many interests that he had had to leave on the back burner while pursuing a full schedule of teaching, committee work, departmental responsibilities, and the endless demands that go along with being one of the best-known scholars in one's field. All this makes it particularly poignant that he died so suddenly and at such a comparatively young age. He had ambitions to study Italian, and to find out more about classical music. He ordered an immense variety of books, and-started learning how to negotiate the Internet. He began rearranging his notes and papers in preparation for completing his long-awaited study on Greece in the twentieth century. He recommitted himself to one of his other great loves, gardening; he had been to the local garden supply stores on the weekend he died. and had dozens of new plants ready to put in the ground. He took a 'renewed interest in the Orthodox religion and he planned to combine his spiritual and scholarly interests by writing on General Makrygiannes' visions and communications with the divine (Makrygiannes was one of the key figures of the Greek struggle for independence). However in John's final years he also took an interest in Jewish prayer, particularly the Kaddish, and in Islamic mystical traditions. Throughout this he continued, when his health permitted, his usual round of teaching, writing recommendations, keeping up his vast correspondence, offering quiet solace to friends in need. On the night he died he had gone to his office to work, as he often did. He was just coming out of his office, student papers in hand, when death took him.
John touched many people in his lifetime, and testimonials have come from all over the world testifying to acts of generosity in times of great personal trouble or despair. More than one contained the words "I owe him a debt that can never be repaid." The modern Greek Studies association dedicated its 1999 meetings to his memory. Eulogies by his peers called him one of the two or three most important historians of Modern Greece. The University of Athens history and archeology team held a scholarly conference this past February to honor John and the way his work "has opened new roads and exercised a tremendous influence on successive generations of historians."
It has been said that a sudden death is a blessing to the deceased and a burden to the bereaved. And so it has been for his family and his friends and colleagues. In his last published work, a substantial historical preface to a well-known Greek opposition figure's political memoirs that appeared in October of 1997, John quoted with relish a phrase from Milan Kundera's The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, "the struggle of memory against forgetting is the struggle of human beings against power." Another of his favorite phrases, which he must have enjoyed both for the sentiment it conveyed and for its playful use of a central term of Greek Orthodox theology, was "every day is an epiphany." Our friend, our colleague, John Petropulos, lived a full life with dignity, a commitment to peace and social justice, a steady religious faith, and love for his family, his friends, his students, and this college.
This memorial minute is submitted by Peter Czap, Margaret Hunt, Gordon Levin, George Shaheen, and Rebecca Sinos.
Donald S. Pitkin died after a long battle with Parkinson's disease on May 11, 2012. Don was born January 6, 1922. He attended Greenough School in Dedham and matriculated to Harvard, class of 1944. Don interrupted his collegiate studies to join the armed forces, enlisting in the fabled 10th Mountain Division and serving in the Division's engagement with Japanese forces in the Aleutian Islands. As a Second Lieutenant, he was trained as a forward artillery observer and was preparing for the invasion of Japan when the war abruptly ended. He returned to Harvard at war's end and received his BA in 1947 and his PhD in 1954. That year he became an assistant professor of Anthropology at Northeastern University, teaching there until joining the faculty at Amherst College in 1964 as the first professor of Anthropology at Amherst and the founder of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology. Don retired from Amherst at age 70 in 1992.
Don’s initial interest in anthropology was ignited by his reading of Ruth Benedict’s Patterns of Culture as a history major at Harvard. In graduate school his primary influence was Clyde Kluckhohn, who advocated non-Western fieldwork, and Don fully expected to do his field research in some non-literate society. But, as chance would have it, an army buddy persuaded Don to travel with him to Italy the summer after Don's first year of graduate school. The trip was life- and career-changing. In those days, the idea of anthropologists studying European societies was still novel, and to embark on such work was a risky career choice. But Don was determined to do his research in an Italian village, and he became one of the pioneers in the study of peasants there. Indeed, when the American Anthropological Association assembled a panel in honor of these pioneers at the 2000 meetings, Don was among the honorees.
Don’s dissertation focused on a village in the Pontine Marshes in which he lived during 1951-52. There, he studied family relations and land tenure, and the resulting thesis generated a number of important publications, most notably a book and film, both entitled The House that Giacomo Built: History of an Italian Family, 1898-1978 .
This masterwork follows the fortunes of a married couple and their descendants who, in the 1930s, fled the poverty of their native Calabria to settle in the village Don came to know so well. Wonderfully told and rich in personal and cultural detail, The House that Giacomo Built is a tale of deep impoverishment, struggle, and gradual upward mobility across the three generations. Rapid social change had not corroded this family; instead, its members wove extended family ties into the fabric of a rapidly modernizing society. With access to education not available to the older generation, family members were able to achieve a prosperity that enabled everyone to become stronger and the family more cohesive. Modernity, as Don put it, turns out not to be “monolithic.”
Don also concluded that we can learn something worth knowing about love from this family’s story. In contrast to the American idealization of love as individuating and private, Don’s family exemplifies an alternative form of love “as the expression of lives lived collectively in struggle.” Don’s book won two prizes in 1988, both from Italian sources.
Anthropologists have sometimes been criticized for turning their backs on the communities they study once they have completed their research. This was not Don. He kept in contact with village members until the end of his life. In 1999 he was invited to the village for a special “Don Pitkin Day:” he brought his whole American family with him because he wanted the villagers to come to know his kin, as he had come to know theirs.
In his post-retirement years, Don turned from Italy to Germany and to an oral-historical study of a family from the erstwhile German Democratic Republic. In this project Don faced a linguistic hurdle, one which he dealt with by learning German in Amherst classrooms. We are told that he was a diligent student and that he participated in the flow of conversation in the classroom, despite the age gap between him and his fellow students.
Don’s study reveals an extraordinary slice of German life that will deepen any reader’s understanding of Germany’s twentieth-century history. He tells us, for instance, that the youngest of his informants, born in the late 1970s, is somewhat ambivalent about the new Germany: although she does not want to turn back the clock, she feels a sense of community has been lost, one she believes that was a redeeming feature of the GDR.
As rich and illuminating as Don's writings are, it is in the classroom that he felt most fulfilled. He loved teaching and nurturing students. As he reflected on his teaching career, he remembered the excitement of teaching at Northeastern: most of his students were first in their family to go to college. The contrast between the students at Northeastern and those at Amherst was a constant reminder for Don of the inequalities that gnaw at our social fabric.
Don’s teaching was gentle and humane. It was deeply informed by political values, but the strength of Don’s convictions was always well balanced by his respect for any point of view that was intellectually serious, even if it went against his perspective. Although his outlook was relativistic in keeping with the spirit of the kind of anthropology with which he most identified, this never meant that he was without standards. He had genuine political commitments as well as serious pedagogic values. He fought for the former and maintained the latter. Indeed, he was no easy grader. He demanded much from his students, but gave them much in return. They remember him with great respect and affection.
Don was an ideal choice to launch the new Department of Anthropology at Amherst, not least because of his excellence as a teacher and his belief in undergraduate education as an intellectual vocation. Furthermore, his unusually broad anthropological background gave him the knowledge necessary to build a program from the ground up. His was a truly integrative vision of the discipline, and one that he could handle better than many.
With Don’s arrival, anthropology first appeared among Amherst’s course listings in the academic year 1964-65. Don, then an associate professor, was the sole faculty member teaching the subject. Ultimately he built what became the six-person Department of Anthropology and Sociology. With the addition of new colleagues, Don created a series of new and innovative courses over the ensuing years.
Don was committed to two things in his professional life: promoting the unique and crucial role that anthropology plays in helping us understand ourselves and our place in the world, and making sure that members of his Department would play an important position in the broader curriculum of the College. He set an example for his younger colleagues. Many of his departmental courses were highly interdisciplinary both in the materials read and in approach. Moreover, Don was a staunch supporter of the College’s interdepartmental programs, in which he taught on a regular basis. He taught in the Problems of Inquiry program, not only in the social science courses but also in the humanities courses. After the advent of the Introduction to Liberal Studies program, he alternated for many years, one year teaching Race and Sex and the next, Romanticism and Enlightenment, both co-taught with an extraordinary range of colleagues.
Don was an enthusiastic supporter of such interdisciplinary endeavors, and he unstintingly supported the participation in these courses by the new--and untenured--at Amherst. Such teaching, he was sure, made better anthropologists in what was, after all, a holistic social science. He was also sure that such teaching was important to convince sometimes Eurocentric colleagues that sociocultural diversity not only delights, but importantly challenges taken-for-granted assumptions about how the world works.
Don was a gifted teacher and, equally, a gifted mentor. He encouraged his junior colleagues in their efforts to juggle teaching and scholarship, keeping them mindful of what he took to be their first obligation--the education of our undergraduates. He laid a foundation for what quickly became not just a "solid department" with robust enrollments, but a department whose members participated energetically in virtually every curricular innovation in the College's curriculum from 1970 to the present. And in the bargain, he instructed us all in what it means to teach the liberal arts broadly and cross-culturally.
Don married while in college: his wife Emily attended Vassar. Don delighted in telling the story of an early transgression the two perpetrated. In those days undergraduate women were fiercely guarded, and were required to return to their dorms early every evening. At one point Don and his wife decided to flout the rule, and spend the weekend in New York. Late Sunday evening, as Don was heading back to Cambridge, Emily returned to her dorm only to find that Vassar had realized her absence and notified the police. Unbeknownst to them both, they had spent the weekend as objects of a “man” hunt.
Don’s final years were beset by multiple and debilitating illnesses. But he never lost his love of life, and he never ceased living it to its fullest. Don was a deeply committed citizen of the town and of the world. He was an active member of the Council on Aging and Town Meeting. He was one of the earliest and most generous contributors to the Amherst Cinema Center. His home, by design, lay a mere few blocks from the center of town, and even in his final years Don could be seen uptown, participating in the life of the street.
Don resolved to end his days, not in a retirement community, but at his home surrounded by young people. He occupied the lower floor while a live-in caregiver and several others roomed upstairs. One such resident was an artist: Don’s face can be seen in a painting now on display in a major museum. People were always coming and going, some to stay for days, others for months. Don hosted a weekly “salon” at which friends would gather for tea and sweets and conversation. No one ever talked about the Good Old Days or aches and pains: everyone talked about politics, the arts and town affairs.
Late in his life, beset by illness and moving ever more slowly, Don and a friend spent a weekend in New York. At one point they found themselves poised on the corner of a broad and busy avenue: the “walk” light was about to turn red. “If we hurry we can make it,” Don said, and he darted into the avenue, leaving his younger friend hurrying behind in a vain attempt to catch up.
L. Alan Babb
Jan E. Dizard
Deborah B. Gewertz
George S. Greenstein
President Martin, I move that this memorial minute be adopted by the Faculty in a rising vote of silence, that it be entered in the permanent record of the Faculty, and that a copy be sent to Professor Pitkin's family.
CALVIN H. PLIMPTON (1918 - 2007)
Calvin Hastings Plimpton was born in Boston in 1918 and died in January of this year at the age of 88. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy and graduated from Amherst College in the class of 1939, after which he went on to the Harvard Medical School and then from there to serve in the European Theater with the 5th Auxiliary Surgical Group during World War II. After the war, in 1947, he earned a master's degree in biochemistry at Harvard, and, in 1951, the degree of Doctor of Medical Science at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, where he became an assistant dean. Between 1957 and 1959 he was Professor of Medicine, chairman of the department, and associate dean of the medical faculty at American University in Beirut.
In 1960, at the age of 42, he was chosen to be the thirteenth president of Amherst College. He was an unusual choice -- all but unprecedented. A member of a faculty, yes, but of a sort not easily recognized by the faculty of a liberal arts college. After he was introduced to it late in the spring before he took office, the senior professor in the English department said at a meeting with his colleagues that afternoon: "He's seen men die. It'll be interesting."
And indeed it was.
At Amherst, Cal (he was known by no other name) remained a medicine man. He did not just refer faculty members to specialists in Boston or New York; he gave them his own professional opinion. In one notable case, he told the man whose back hurt so much he would stand for the two hours of a faculty meeting what he thought was wrong -- and he was right. A tumor, fortunately benign. An operation. Life went on. He even made house calls. His ownamusing account went like this: "When they get down to the chiro and he's out and the vet's away and there's no raising the Christian Science practitioner, there's still old Plimpton, might as well call on him." He was also a shrewd general diagnostician, famous for his interviews and assessments of individuals' character. Of course those of us whom he hired and/or whom he tenured are not likely to question his insight, but there were other cases. Listening to a Committee of Six discussion of a man coming up for tenure, Cal became increasingly skeptical and then, it seemed, downright bored, as he began to shuffle through some papers. At the time, the man was supposedly spending a year working under professor x at prestigious institution y. Suddenly Cal picked up the phone, tracked down professor x and asked him how the candidate was doing. Never heard of him, said professor x. Case closed.
Cal lived in many worlds. He had been a student of Zen at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons; he passed on what he had learned to the brothers of an Amherst fraternity. He was something of a Chaucerian and regularly attended meetings of a medieval society in New York. He played - by some accounts struggled with - the piano. He was the proud curator of an extraordinary collection of portraits of famous English authors. He spoke four languages and took up a fifth, Arabic, when he went to Lebanon. But for all that, for all the worldliness, he was deeply committed to the students and faculty of Amherst College.
In his years as president, the student body increased from fewer than 1,000 to 1,200, the faculty from about 110 to about 140. A fund drive was, by the standards of the day, phenomenally successful. The music and science buildings were built, as were five dormitories and the Robert Frost Library, its cornerstone laid by John F. Kennedy a month before his assassination. ("The birth of a memory," he said on the occasion of Kennedy's visit.) He wasinstrumental in enriching four-college cooperation by the addition of the fifth - Hampshire College.
And there were the lesser things that are by one reading much more: the move of administrative offices from the Chapel to Converse and the appointment of a Dean of the Faculty (When he came there were only two deans, the dean of admission and the dean, the dean of everything.); the designing, which he oversaw, of the Red - or Cole Assembly - Room to make democratic participation in faculty meetings more likely than was possible in the Babbott Room in the Octagon; the abolition of Saturday classes, and the reduction of faculty members' teaching load from 3/2 to 2/2; and - down to basics - a rise in faculty salaries that set precedent. "He furthered the idea that faculty deserved to live a bit more easily in material circumstances," a former colleague has said. "The result was that many of us who were not rich to begin with experienced for the first time some surplus." When one man came to him for permission to teach a course at Smith, Cal asked him why he wanted to do that. It'd be interesting to teach at another kind of institution, the man said - and I need the money. How much are they going to pay you? Cal asked. Hearing the amount, Cal again picked up the phone (he was no stickler about procedure), called the treasurer and had the man's salary increased by that amount. He said it was his teaching at Amherst that he valued. As we say in the vernacular, what is there not to like?
His expansiveness took other forms as well. The advent of the first woman on the faculty sent shock waves through even her own department. They worried: What if she were to get pregnant? "He was genial and gracious, and had a hearty laugh that gave support and warmth in otherwise intimidating situations," she recalls. "He called me in and told me I could get pregnantand stay pregnant all I wanted." And there was his, and his wife Ruthie's, hospitality, theirs aninformal and open house - spontaneous invitations, food and drink aplenty, the latter so plentifulat Cal's first reception (in Ruthie's farewell words to the faculty) that "there were people hangingfrom the Bulfinch woodwork... .people.. .wrapped like ivy around the Corinthian columns.""Expediency was essential," Cal had warned her before the party. The faculty does not like to be kept waiting. Drinks were thrust upon guests as they arrived, and re-filled before the idea of a refill had even crossed their minds. When the last man "made his precarious exit," Ruthie reported, "Cal turned to me with concern and said, "Ruthie, we're going to have to leave Amherst." "Cal, let's take our time," she replied. Ruthie, his wise and witty counselor.
That time would stretch out for eleven years, years in which there were great changes and strong resistance to change, some of it coming from Cal himself. The "new" curriculum, which had put Amherst on the educational map, was abolished, as was chapel, chapel that was compulsory to this degree: attendance at least two times a week at a session that lasted tenminutes, nine of which were taken up by an address by Cal himself or a faculty member or a dignitary who happened to be passing through. In his first annual report Cal proposed implementing an admissions policy that would be, according to the New York Times, "one of diversity - not bound by traditional norms." This would mean a de-emphasis on "somebody's grades or test scores, or the list of his extra-curricular activities" (imagine it!), would mean reaching out to, among others cited, "Americans and foreigners, boys of all races, of all faiths and even no faith." "Boys," you'll note. Atmospheric pressure to go co-educational was on the rise, generated primarily by the faculty, but Cal would leave it to his successor to navigate those waters. From the same source came pressure to abolish fraternities, pressure intensified by alengthy report on social life at the college. He would resist that too. But whatever the issue, hewanted there to be conversation, a sharing of views, even confrontation if it came to that. He would hold firm for as long as possible; he would lead the way when he thought his way out of a difficult situation was the right way; he would yield to others when he saw the merits of the alternative that they proposed or saw that there was, after all, no other alternative. At commencement in 1970, in what were among the very last words he uttered as president, he said that he thought a leader was best described as a servant: "Perhaps it is a medical background," he said, "but in leading a man to health, or accompanying him on that last one-way journey, the good physician is in many senses the servant."
When what we call "the sixties" arrived, everything about Cal put him - and the College - in good stead: the medical training, the worldiness, the medieval studies, the Zen, even - surely it is relevant - the fact that he was 64" and towered above almost everyone around. He was a little removed, at times distant, and, it seemed, what with his half-smile and slightly raised eyebrows, bemused. "He kept a certain distance from troubles," a colleague writes, "but without indifference." Most important of all, in a summary word, in the words of his faculty dean, Prosser Gifford, Cal "had one great strength - he never took the furor of opposition, lock-outs, sit-ins, etc., personally."
In a preview of things to come, in the fall of 1965, a few students burned the literature that the Committee for Nonviolent Action had brought to campus; a number of other students watched. In chapel that week Cal said, "The silent ones who stand idly by are almost as guilty as those who interfere physically with freedom of speech... .They believe in their own right to search for truth and they want an open hearing for themselves, but they feel under no obligation to lifttheir voices in support of another's claim or to criticize the abuse of their rights." At their commencement in 1969, he told the seniors, "We all recognize that for any kind of progress it is the day-to-day, eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation which is essential, and not any major conflagration." Everyone in attendance knew whereof he spoke, which is to say that with reason they took him literally. That year, as he said at the outset of his address, had been ",some year," some year because there had been confrontations - many of them, prolonged, often acrimonious confrontations - and/but as a result, there were no conflagrations.
There had been conflagrations at campuses across the country, and in the spring of that year it looked as if there would be one at Amherst too. The story deserves to be told in detail. Suffice it here to say that calls for social, racial, and gender justice increased in volume with each month that American troops remained in Vietnam, the war fueling fires on principle but also because students were subject to the draft. There were calls, too, for an examination of Amherst's role in society. How complicitous, how guilty was the College? Issues of campus governance were hotly debated. (Student attendance at faculty meetings? Students consulted in hiring and tenure decisions? Not on your life!) Calls for action took many forms from occupying or trashing buildings to (it was rumored) kidnaping a most distinguished professor who had seemed to incline towards conservative positions and placing him under house arrest. The talk at a mass meeting in the Chapel on Thursday night, May 25th, veered away from threats of violence to a proposal that an Ad Hoc Committee organize a moratorium on all activities the following Monday and Tuesday, a proposal that the faculty accepted on Friday. There ensued two days of meetings (upwards of 1,000 at the one in the Cage) and discussions in which not only students and faculty, but administrators and staff and even trustees took part.
During the proceedings it was suggested, and the faculty approved the idea of sending a letter to President Nixon. One was drafted by Dean Gifford, worked and re-worked by him and Professor Leo Marx through the night; Cal and, eventually, the vast majority of the college community, signed it. Cal was by no means a leader of the anti-war movement, but the letter did not focus on, or even name, Vietnam. It disputed the published conclusion of many in Nixon's cabinet that campus disorders were caused by a small minority of students. To believe that, it said, would be erroneously to believe that there were "no legitimate and important reasons ... for the anger and sense of impotence felt by many students and faculty." "Until political leadership addresses itself to the major problems of our society," the letter said, and then adduced the monies spent "for military purposes," the needs of America's 23 million poor, "the unequal division of our lives on racial issues" - "until this happens, the concerns and energy of those who know the need for change will seek outlets for their frustration." The New York Times reprinted it (as did other publications) and concluded its lead editorial - titled "The Amherst Declaration" - by agreeing that unless these major problems were addressed, "the great mass of America's youth is going to continue to be in a state of ferment - and has every right to be."
In the eyes of Amherst's black students, racial issues were metaphorically too far down the list of concerns. They called for another moratorium; on May 14t' all activities were suspended; after a morning of speeches and an afternoon of discussions, each led by a member of Afro-Am, a white student, and a professor, Ralph Ellison spoke in the Chapel.
At one point during the first moratorium, a student stood up and announced: "If you want to stage a revolution, the College will organize it for you." Yes, it was all, to a degree, theatrical. But had the curtain come down pre-maturely, the reality we would have had to facewas potentially very ugly. "The fact that we have not had any massive physical confrontations is, I hope neither a cause for dismay to you nor a source of satisfaction to me," Cal told the seniors at Commencement. To repeat: "We all recognize that for any kind of progress it is the day-today, eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation which is essential." He went on: "We are not involved in commanding and in ordering... .We are involved in education."
The following year brought the so-called "incursion" into Cambodia and the deaths at Kent State and the mass meetings at Yale and in New Haven in support of the Black Panthers. The tenor of this time around is indicated by a moment during another mass meeting in February. A student stood up and shouted, "We don't trust you President Plimpton, we don't trust you." Ben DeMott has recorded what ensued: Cal "met the fierce charge ... with a steady sorrowful glance, and the words, `I know that.., I know that,' thereafter turning to take another question, and another, for three hours." Black students remained frustrated. In the small hours of the morning, joined by their sisters and brothers at the other valley institutions, they occupied Converse, the Library, Merrill Science Center, and College Hall - occupied, and locked and chained the doors. As an officer of the Afro-Am Society later wrote, Cal "wasn't smiling this time." The faculty met, perforce, in Kirby, and resolved to "address seriously the issues presented to it by the Black community of the Five College area" - whose members had just voluntarily vacated the buildings. There followed, not another moratorium but a cessation of classes (and a grade of Pass, if warranted) for those who wanted to do political work, door-todoor canvassing, for example.
Cal was involved throughout. He was engaged. He led, he allowed others to lead. He presided. Whether immersed or standing just over there to the side, he never blinked.
After that, his eleventh year (he had promised to stay on ten), Cal went to Downstate Medical School in New York as president for seven years and then as a professor for five more. When the president of American University of Beirut was assassinated in 1984, Cal, a member of the board of trustees of the University at the time, agreed to take over.
An oft-told story has it that upon meeting Yasser Arafat Cal - typically - tried to ease the tension. He asked Arafat if there were any thoughts of kidnaping him. "No," said Arafat, "college presidents don't command any ransom." One couldn't be so sure. Shortly thereafter, in a situation that was widely assumed to be one of mistaken identity, the dean of the University's agricultural department, riding in Cal's car, was abducted by the Islamic Jihad and held in captivity for six years.
Of one thing one can be sure: to the College, during what were the most tumultuous years in its history, Cal was invaluable.
HENRY STEELE COMMAGER (1902 - 1998)
Although his name was often mispronounced and misspelled, probably no American historian of recent times was as widely known to the public as Henry Steele Commager. Many had studied from his textbooks, heard his lectures, or seen him interviewed on television. For fellow historians he was a presence. If they had met him, they told anecdotes. If not, they asked questions of those who had. Doubtless, Commager and his ideas will be the subject of future historical study; in fact, the process has already begun.
Although often associated with his Danish ancestry (he had spent a year of graduate study in Denmark and wrote his dissertation on eighteenth-century Danish reform), Commager’s surname traced to French Huguenot ancestors. Born in Pittsburgh, October 25, 1902, and orphaned by age ten, he was reared in Toledo by his Danish-American maternal grandfather. At the University of Chicago, where he earned three degrees (1923, 1924, 1928), he was an assistant to the constitutional historian Andrew C. McLaughlin.
The young scholar never published his dissertation (though it won a prize from the American Historical Association). American history soon dominated his teaching, beginning with his appointment at New York University in 1926. The same was true of his publications, notably The Growth of the American Republic (1930), coauthored with Samuel Eliot Morison, Documents of American History (1934), which he sometimes cited as his most important historical contribution, and Theodore Parker: Yankee Crusader (1936). His articles, particularly frequent book reviews in the New York Herald Tribune, enhanced his reputation as a historian of unusual energy and reach, and he moved to a professorship at Columbia University in 1938.
World War II cast Commager in a new role as intellectual ambassador abroad and public intellectual at home. He consulted, lectured, and wrote for the Office of War Information and the War Department besides holding the Pitt Professorship at Cambridge University in 1942–43. His social commentaries, drawing on historical parallels, appeared in journals of opinion, most often the New York Times Magazine and a magazine for students, the Scholastic. As with his historical writings, his liveliness of style engaged readers, and his confident liberalism reaffirmed the idealism of the war years.
Increasing recognition came after the war. In an enlarged edition, The Growth of the American Republic became for a time the most popular of all college American history textbooks. His book The American Mind (1950) enlivened the then– rising field of intellectual history, and its concept “the watershed of the Nineties” stimulated debate and elaboration. Commager taught abroad in the summer and was Harmsworth Professor at Oxford in 1952–53. Whereas his 1943 volume Majority Rule and Minority Rights had stressed the justice of majority rule in a democratic society, his Freedom, Loyalty, Dissent (1954) declared the need for a free society to tolerate all sorts of dissenters, including Communists. As Neil Jumonville’s forthcoming study shows, Commager in the McCarthy Era was bolder than most intellectuals in making the case for civil liberties, in part because he himself had no radical past to cause hesitation. Not that he was ever a hesitater.
At Columbia some of his lecture courses became legendary, especially his course in American constitutional history, where auditors added to the crowd of enrolled students. Though he supervised fewer Ph.D. dissertations than some of his colleagues, those whose work he guided commented in the Festschrift they issued in 1967: “If he sometimes seemed irascible and cutting, it was because he always demanded the utmost of which we were capable and never confused impersonal professional standards with his personal feelings toward us.”
The 1956 shift of this historical celebrity to a small liberal arts college caused widespread comment. Commager’s move to Amherst, in the long run a distinct success, entailed a somewhat difficult period of adjustment. An urbanite, university-oriented public figure found himself in a small town at a college that prided itself on close faculty interaction with students and collaborative teaching among faculty. Commager’s three-year continuation as an adjunct at Columbia and his heavy schedule of lectures elsewhere caused some collegial irritation. Students in his classes complained that he did not remember their names. Some of us remember a day nearly forty years ago when Henry appeared, a minute late, to lecture to the three hundred sophomores and ten faculty members in American Studies, then a required course. His first words were, “What was I supposed to talk about?” He was told, after which he spoke ex tempore for 49 minutes. He must have stopped for breath, but the performance was breath-taking.
Before long Commager found a modus vivendi in the new setting. He hired student assistants, some of whom became lifelong friends. He offered not lecture courses, but small seminars often focusing on the Constitution and judiciary. Students welcomed the stimulation of his classes, even if there was less colloquy than under the Amherst norm. Colleagues appreciated his bold assertions of the limits of administrators’ power and experienced the charm of his conversation with its sage advice, surprising quotations, and anecdotes about the famous.
Perhaps most important in his adjustment to his new milieu was the role of Evan Commager, whom he had married in 1928. A gifted hostess, an author of children’s books, her gentle wittiness balanced Henry’s ebullient, but sometimes abrupt, social encounters. In time Amherst came to see like home to this peripatetic expounder of ideas. He kept the same residence for over forty years, a South Pleasant Street house to which he added a huge office-study. He suffered blows that brought him closer to others – the death of Evan in 1969 and the onset of impaired vision. In 1979 he married Mary Powlesland, a historian of Latin America with whom he shared various editorial projects and who became a lively presence in the Amherst community.
Commager’s fearlessness in addressing controversial public issues never appeared more dramatically than in his opposition to the Vietnam War. At a teach-in, which by chance directly followed a TV address by President Johnson, Commager eloquently challenged the President’s rationale for the war and argued the inadequacy of his peace initiatives.
The articulate willingness to speak with both historical and moral authority made Commager a favorite of the media. The resulting exposure ranged from pithy quotations in AP stories to extended interviews with Dick Cavett or Bill Moyers. His lectures drew large audiences, and often an honorary degree was part of the occasion. Other honors included election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and awards from the American Civil Liberties Union. Eager to reach a broad audience, he published in Look and TV Guide as well as Daedalus and the Saturday Review.
Commager evinced no interest in the offices of professional associations. If he ever served on an academic committee, he soon came to look on such involvement as a waste of time. At Amherst, he rarely spoke in faculty meetings, but when he did, his British style of address delighted his colleagues.
From 1972 till 1992, though formally retired, Commager continued to teach at Amherst as Simpson Lecturer, a position once held by Robert Frost. At the time he was forced to give up teaching, alumni and other friends endowed an Amherst chair in his honor. His death, from pneumonia, cam March 2, 1998. Although age took its toll, he was able to remain in his own home and could speak articulately, sometimes eloquently, even when he was not sure of his visitor’s identity.
Praiseful friends, and there have been many, found no easy characterization for Henry Commager. To Harold Hyman and Leonard Levy, he was “an implacable rationalist,” but to Allan Nevins, “essentially a romantic.” A believer in progress, Commager embraced dominant national developments of the past three centuries– the Enlightenment framework set by the Founders, the reformist moralism of the nineteenth century, and the stronger central government of the twentieth. But the longer he lived, the clearer it became that he cared most about the first.
DUDLEY H. TOWNE (1924 - 2002)
Dudley Towne joined the Amherst faculty as an instructor in physics in 1952. Half a century later, after 45 years on the teaching faculty and 5 years of retirement, he died at his home in Amherst. With his passing, the college has lost one of its greatest teachers.
Dudley entered Yale in 1941 but two years later he was in the US Army Signal Corps, where he became chief radio operator in Chungking, headquarters of the Chinese Nationalist forces. This began a lifelong interest in China, its culture, and its language (just one of many languages in which he became proficient). In talking about his army days, Dudley was fond of telling how he personally ended WWII. In August 1945 MacArthur wanted to inform the Japanese authorities of the precise procedures for ending hostilities and sent a message to Chungking, instructing Dudley to resend it throughout China, assuming that the Japanese would be monitoring the American transmissions and would forward the message to the emperor. Then, having brought the war to a successful conclusion, Dudley returned to Yale, went on to Harvard where he completed a Ph.D. in theoretical physics, and thence to Amherst.
Throughout his time on our faculty - in introductory courses in physics and mathematics, general education courses such as Science 1-2 (part of the core of the core curriculum), Problems of Inquiry and. ILS, intermediate and advanced physics courses, or senior thesis advising - his teaching was admired by his colleagues and by his students. Elegance, beauty, and intellectual rigor describe nearly everything Dudley touched. "Quality of mind" is a characteristic we attribute to those among us whom we admire - few could match him in that regard.
As one modest example of Dudley's style, here is a simple homework exercise in introductory physics. If an object were released at a distance from the sun equal to the radius of the earth's orbit, how long would it take to fall into the sun? A pedestrian physicist (of whom there are a few, but not, of course, at Amherst) would begin by looking up the values of Newton's gravitational constant and the mass of the sun, then set up a rather nasty looking integral, and eventually grind out a numerical answer. The elegant approach, Dudley's preference, is to realize that in falling toward the sun, such an object would be entering a highly elliptical orbit about the sun, and it is then but an easy step, using Kepler's laws, to calculate the desired time as a certain fraction of a year.
In a 1979 letter to a visitor who was to be teaching thermodynamics, a course Dudley had just been giving, he writes: "Generally we favor emphasizing Physics as `Natural Philosophy', and highlighting the intellectual accomplishments rather than merely how to deal with certain formulas. ... I am unsatisfied with my own understanding of some fundamental matters ... and hope to have a chance to discuss them with you." And, as he goes on to describe his own classes, he interjects: "It must be admitted that I have included some details [of my own approach] for the purpose of bragging about them". Dudley was a good teacher, and he knew it!
And there is a wonderful document titled "Personal Knowledge of the Universe" that he wrote to clarify his own thinking in preparation for an ILS course. It begins: "The following is a list of cosmological assumptions which I accept not merely on the basis of somebody else's say-so, but because the `facts' (observations I have either made for myself, or at least know how to make) seem to support no other conclusion. Proposition I. The earth is approximately spherical and has a radius of approximately 4,000 miles." There follows a page of "Evidence", and then Proposition II: "The stars are very far away compared with the radius of the earth". And so it continues, through 25 closely argued pages, what we know about the dimensions of the universe and how we know it. That was his style - emphasis not merely on what we know, but how we know what we know.
Dudley's reputation for fairness, intellectual seriousness, and clarity of argument was by no means limited to the science departments. In 1961, only nine years after his appointment, he was elected to the Committee of Six, only the 2nd associate professor in the history of the college to be trusted with that responsibility. That was only the first of several times that he was chosen for the Committee of Six, and he served as well on all the other important college committees.
When Dudley first came to Amherst, he created a new undergraduate course on "Waves", a course for which there was no model elsewhere. "Waves"became a central feature of our physics curriculum, and in 1967 he published a textbook, "Wave Phenomena", a book that received rave reviews - and which is still in print and still in use. Unlike some theoretical physicists, Dudley never lost sight of the fact that science is rooted in experiment, and laboratory work in optics was a vital part of the course. The optics lab was his territory, and the wonderful instruments there were his friends. Many of his colleagues and students can remember times when he would summon one of us into the lab to see some beautiful optical effect. Sometimes on looking through a slit or telescope, we might only be able to see our own eyelashes, yet Dudley's enthusiasm for the phenomena was such that we often felt compelled to lie a little bit. Many of us can tell of late night phone calls, when he would awaken us in the early hours with exhortations to go outdoors to observe a curious ring around the moon or a spectacular auroral display, and much of what his colleagues know about the night sky is the result of his patient instruction.
His "Wave Phenomena" book was an instant classic. Owners of the first edition treasure it not only for its content but also for its dust jacket, featuring a beautiful photograph of a diffraction pattern, a photograph taken by the author. But although he was a scholar in the best sense of the word, he was not by any means a frequent publisher. His well deserved Amherst reputation was based almost exclusively on his superb teaching.
And a superb teacher he was, in Spanish as well as in English. He went to Colombia in 1962 to teach for a year at Universidad del Valle. A colleague there recalls a lecture, which Dudley began by quoting from La Voragine, a classic in Colombian literature. He illustrated the book's description of the beauty and colors of the jungle with elegant and lovely demonstrations of polarized light; the lecture was followed by three minutes of sustained applause.
Some of Dudley's ancestors lived in Amherst and nearby towns. Dudley, too, was a part of the community beyond the college. When the Amherst Cinema Center was first being dreamt of, Dudley kept it going with an extraordinarily generous gift. And now, though he had chosen to be an anonymous donor, the Board of Directors has decided to name one of the performance rooms, appropriately, "Towne Hall".
Dudley loved music, he was an actively engaged listener at live performances of all kinds, and he himself, an excellent counter tenor, was a performer. At Yale, he played Mabel in a production of Pirates of Penzance and later, in Amherst, sang with the Gay Men's Chorus and the Da Camera Singers, not to mention his impromptu presentations at Physics Department Christmas parties of some little known songs such as "The Professor's Song", "The EpsilonDelta Love Song" ("For every little epsilon, there's a delta"), and "The Derivative Song".
Dudley was gay, but for his first 26 years on the faculty this was known to very few if any on the campus. For most" of that time, he was at risk every day of being "discovered" and of instantly being dismissed, bringing his academic career to a premature end. Dudley came out in 1978 at age 54, the first Amherst faculty member to do so who did not get fired.
In 1993, Dudley put on his army uniform one more time. The occasion was a gay veterans march on Washington. At that time, Colin Powell (then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) was threatening to resign unless Clinton backed off from his promise to allow gays to serve openly in the military. In the procession, Dudley carried a homemade sign with the legend "Colin Powell is afraid of ME!" Someone took a snapshot of him with his sign, a snapshot of which he only learned when it was made into a postcard and sold, a card which a friend sent him in the mail. In that way his likeness (without his name) has been circulated around the world. It was in keeping with Dudley's sense of integrity that is was for his gayness that he wanted to be known as much as it was for his esteemed reputation as Professor of Physics at Amherst College.
Since his retirement in 1997, he has collected his papers and written essays about various aspects of his life and about the college. Some 16 boxes of his papers (including the postcard and the WWII radio message) now reside in Frost's Special Collections. On most Tuesdays, he has come up to Valentine to have lunch with his colleagues. At first he would walk up the hill from his home on Dana Place. Increasingly in the last year or two, he has needed transportation help, but he continued to enjoy the interaction and the conversation. The night before he died, when a colleague called to arrange for lunch the next day, he said: "I don't feel up to it this week, but I really enjoy these Tuesday lunches. I'll see you next week."
Howell D. Chickering
Joel E. Gordon
Donald S. Pitkin
Robert H. Romer
LUCIUS WEATHERSBY (1969 - 2006)
Driven from New Orleans by hurricane Katrina, organist and composer Dr. Lucius R. Weathersby found a home as guest artist here at Amherst this past September. On March 17, 2006, at the age of 37, he suddenly died. This minute is to express our intense sorrow at Lucius’s death and to record some memorable contributions he made to Amherst and to the larger community in the few short months he was with us.
Despite the difficulty of his circumstances, Lucius arrived at Amherst with his good nature, infectious humor, and passion for music apparently unshaken. Even as his home, job, and community were taken from him, he looked forward, involving himself immediately in teaching and making music in Amherst, maintaining his international musical activities, and developing a new life for himself in his adopted community. In the months before his death, he traveled to Germany to record an album of organ music in tribute to the victims of Katrina and took on the position of Music Director at the South Congregational Church in Springfield. His music- making brought together many strands: an admirable fluency for improvisation, imaginative arrangements of music from his own African-American tradition, a highly personal and directly expressive compositional ethic, and a wide-ranging repertory combining the classical and the vernacular. He believed in and practiced music as an agent of uplift, and his intended audience was no less than the world community.
Lucius was born in Houston and grew up in Many, Louisiana. He was awarded the B.A. degree with majors in music and German from New Orleans’s Dillard University in 1989, the Master of Music degree from the University of Northern Iowa in 1999, and the Ph.D. from Cincinnati’s Union Institute in 2002. He was Assistant Professor of Music and African World Studies at Dillard when Katrina struck. A major figure in the promotion of African-American music internationally, Lucius had lectured at Cambridge University and the University of London and had collaborated extensively in Italy with composer and philosopher Alberto Patron. He had given lectures at Yale and at various chapters of the American Guild of Organists and had published numerous articles on such topics as the origins of African-American music and works by the African composers Felá Sówándé and J. H. Kwabena Nketia. He had served as editor of The Organ Music of William Grant Still. His compositions include widely performed works for organ, brass, chorus, and chamber orchestra. Albany Records recorded his “Spiritual Fantasy: Organ Works by African and African-American Composers” in 2000 and a CD of music for flute and piano by African and African-American composers, in collaboration with flutist Wendy Hymes, in 2001.
At Amherst, Lucius touched down lightly but left a big imprint. He gave personal context to the visit of the Campbell Brothers and their presentation of Black church music, sharing with our students the essential, not decorative, quality of music in the Black religious experience. To a music theory class Lucius gave a lecture on César Franck that went far beyond music theory. In the end, that presentation, filled with his charisma and good humor, was not only about Franck, but about the French organ tradition, the construction of organ pipes, and even cooking as a metaphor for composition. It concluded with Lucius's poignant retelling of the story of Franck's own death, and about the French master's last trip to the organ loft at Saint Clothilde. This memory, of course, has deeper resonances for all of us today. We note parenthetically that, following his return from his recording trip to Germany in mid-winter, Lucius recounted that he “nearly froze” in the organ loft of the unheated but historically important church where the recording was being made, in the midst of one of Germany’s worst cold spells in many years. Typically resourceful, he rounded up several electric heaters, thawed himself out, and completed the recording on schedule. In a composition class he held the students rapt with his plea for them to look beyond their narrow concept of the “ideal” listener, to strive to communicate as broadly as possible, regardless of their individual styles. He gave personal substance to a renewal of the liberating concept of music as the universal language.
In Johnson Chapel early in November, Lucius presented an organ recital of exceptional interest that included his own unique compositions, the works of several little known African-American composers, and pieces by Amherst colleagues Richard Beaudoin and Eric Sawyer. Each was lucidly introduced and woven into a musical fabric of great strength and warmth. He closed the program with an extended improvisation on original themes submitted – at that moment – by two Amherst students. True to his roots, Lucius felt the need to reach beyond the academic community to the music directorship at South Church in Springfield. Here his contributions, mighty as they were on the musical front, extended to his cleaning out the church basement almost single-handedly – a companionable effort, over the miles, with his friends in New Orleans who were doing the same.
Lucius Weathersby’s broad smile and bright eyes drew you in, but what held you were his bristling ideas, his sense of adventure, and his bold humanity. Brief as it was, his time with us has left us changed and better.
I move that this memorial minute be adopted by the Faculty in a rising vote of silence, that it be entered into the permanent record of the Faculty, and that a copy be sent to Dr. Weathersby’s family.