James. B. Yarnall '49 died March 22, 2009.
He looked as though he had stepped off the cover of a brochure for a classy prep school. Handsome, athletic and education minded, he was just what a scholar-athlete should be. Those of you who remember Jim at that time will know exactly what I mean.
We met as seventeen year olds in the summer of ’44, playing some football and basketball. The teams were called “Amherst Collegians” since the school was in transition from an institution training military personnel to one rebuilding the traditional undergraduate body. Remember the obstacle course? Steel food trays in Valentine?
Jim didn’t make much of being a “Philadelphia Biddle,” but we did know of his Quaker faith, so when Uncle Sam did call, he enlisted in the US Army Medical Department and served two years as World War II was being concluded.
After the army service, Jim came back to Amherst joined Delta Upsilon and the glee club, continued with his soccer and graduated in 1949. His first job was as a “repo man” with General Motors, rather an unlikely career path and hence a short stint, but it provided him with a great array of wild stories. I am sure Jim was the most polite ‘repo man’ to ever serve.
He then began his real career in education as an English teacher and Director of Athletics at the High Mowing School in Wilton, NH and then continued in these same positions at Choate before he settled in 1954 at the University of Pennsylvania where he spent the next 32 years.
At Penn he continued his passion for working with young men and women, traveling throughout the Northeast and Midwest in his initial position as a recruiter for the Dean of Admissions. In 1961 Jim was appointed Director of the Office of Fellowship Information and Study Programs Abroad where he created from scratch Penn’s study abroad programs which now span the globe.
From then until his retirement in 1986, he continued to develop and administer a wide range of programs for both undergraduate and postgraduate studies abroad – one of which was an annual exchange of students between Penn and the University of Edinburgh. He helped guide numerous students each year through the intricacies of the process that leads to becoming both a student in, and ambassador to, a foreign land. Very gratifying and significant work.
After years apart with our business and families, we reconnected again when his son Stephen and my son Kent became classmates and friends at Trinity College. Jim’s major energies in retirement were fly fishing, a sport he had learned from his Father, and which soon took him to various salmon rivers in Canada and one memorable trip to Iceland with Jack Ziebarth (a real pro!) -
And, as you all know, GOLF, to which he was seriously devoted, and at which he was highly skilled. His winter outings in Florida often included classmates Case, Danforth, McKeon, Riefler and Walker. He was an active member of Merion, Pine Valley and Loblolly Pines Golf clubs and it was this last affiliation that permitted us to get together in the winter for an annual luncheon to review the world’s problems and other more personal matters. My place in Vero Beach, Florida is less than an hour from his and it was flattering that he would take any time away from the course for these meetings. Two years ago when he was not at Loblolly, and I called him at home in Pennsylvania, did I learn the sad news that he was battling cancer. We all hoped that he could get back for the reunion and his spirits were strong throughout the struggle.
Alas, it was not to be. Jim passed away March 22nd at the age of 82. He is survived by his wife Phyllis, sons James and Stephen and three grandchildren. A wonderful guy with a great career, he most assuredly will be missed but not forgotten. One of our best.
Gerry Reilly ’49