Deceased August 16, 2008
Harry died on August 16 in Redding, CT, where he lived with Betty, his wife of fifty-eight years—yes, since graduation. They lived in a continuing care retirement community where he was well looked after as the name of the place suggests.
Although his last Christmas card mentioned that he had been unwell with some ‘strep’ infections, it was a great shock to hear from Don Mesick of his passing.
Harry was my ‘roomie,’ Phi Gam buddy, great friend, and mentor throughout our college days. We had kept in touch since graduation despite the wide ocean separating our two continents, by correspondence, our occasional visits to the US (the last in May ’06), Class Reunions and Harry and Betty’s two trips to Australia. Harry was my strongest link to Amherst.
Harry was a ‘solid citizen’ in every sense of the word. A quintessential product of Amherst’s liberal arts education, he was devoted first to his family—Betty, four talented children, and four much loved grandchildren. He was also an active supporter of his church and his local community. He sang in the church choir for fifty years, was active in Greenwich town meetings, Greenwich Choral Society, and the Lions Club. He was dedicated to his profession as an actuary with New York Life. In 1986 he became president of the National Life Underwriters Association. After retirement in 1989, he did private actuarial consulting and volunteer tax counseling for the elderly.
His loyalty to his friends was evident in his keeping in touch with the ‘brothers’ while president of Phi Gam. Harry maintained our college bridge interest and played duplicate bridge at the highest level, becoming a Life Master in 1965. Some of the highlights of his life reflected in those annual Christmas greetings included a six and a half week European family trip in 1972, singing to honor Sir Benjamin Britten at England’s Aldeberg Festival (1976), editing and publishing a book about his favorite church minister (1983,) becoming the third person honored by an annual award from the National Underwriters Association (1987), watching son Thomas Woodman make his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1991, and completing a fifteen year study of insureds with multiple medical impairments (1998).
In retirement Harry and Betty became inveterate travelers. They made many trips abroad—to Canada, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and throughout the Pacific area. They covered most of the US in a camper trailer, staying in Elderhostels.
Harry was my mentor at Amherst. I met him during our first week as freshmen in Physics 1. I was having difficulty setting up an experiment when he offered to help. We roomed together in Pratt with John Melin until the end of our sophomore year when Harry moved to Phi Gam where he pledged me as a junior. We shared an old Plymouth jalopy, which reminds me of a hair raising trip with him back to Amherst from New York in a snow storm with faulty headlights. My memories of Harry are memories of Amherst—of going to the ‘flicks’ after supper at Valentine and then hitting the books.
He was a stabilizing and calming influence on everyone with whom he came in contact. After graduation I went to Australia, and Harry and his college sweetheart Betty married. He settled into earning a living with New York Life and raising a family. The world is a better place for the presence of Harry Woodman. My wife, Beverley, my ex-wife Prue, and our children will always think fondly of him. He will remain for me the essence of the warm memories and fundamental values that is the Amherst experience.
Paul Griffiths ’50