Deceased June 6, 2008
Robert Sherman Treat, age eighty-two, of Putney, VT, died peacefully in his sleep at home surrounded by his family on June 6, 2008. He died from complications of congestive heart failure.
Born on March 5, 1926, in New York City, Bob attended Rye High School and Brunswick Country Day, graduated from Staunton Military Academy, and joined the US Marine Corps in 1944. During WWII, he served on the aircraft carrier Bon Homme Richard in the Pacific Theater.
In 1946, Bob started at Amherst College, graduating with a BA in history in 1950, on the GI Bill. A deeply moral person who fought for racial and social justice all his life, at Amherst, he was instrumental in getting his fraternity, Theta Delta Chi, to drop racial and religious membership restrictions. He spent summers working on the Navaho reservations at Four Corners, AZ, and with Hispanic communities in southern California. After college, Bob attended Union Theological Seminary and Columbia Univ., where he received an MA in history.
Following graduate school, Bob taught history and was director of admissions at the Gunnery, a secondary school in Washington, CT. In 1954 he met and married Mary Lou, with whom he shared his commitment to social justice and had many travel adventures and a big family. In 1955, they moved to Putney, VT, where he taught history and was director of admissions at the Putney School until 1964. Continuing his activism, Bob participated in protests at a Woolworth store in Brattleboro to protest segregated lunch counters. His experience at Putney School transformed Bob’s educational philosophy for the rest of his life.
From 1964-69, Bob was headmaster of the Barlow School in Armenia, NY. In 1964, he and Mary Lou traveled to Alabama and participated in the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, an experience that they never forgot. After a sabbatical in Spain from 1969-70, Bob served as executive director of the Thames Science Center in New London, CT. In 1972, he returned to teaching. He taught history and political science at Northfield Mount Hermon in Northfield, MA, from 1972-93, where he also headed the history department for many years. Bob was awarded an Independence Master Fellowship and traveled for six weeks throughout Europe, visiting sites connected with his course “Ideology and Revolution.”
Bob and Mary Lou retired in 1993 to their beloved Putney where they renovated their future home. In the final days of his life, Bob frequently mentioned his pride at becoming a “true Vermonter” as well as his love and appreciation for his family. Retirement gave him the time and opportunity to become even more involved as a volunteer and activist. Bob headed the Putney Town Democratic Committee for ten years and also served on the State Democratic Committee.
Bob devoted himself to reforming the criminal justice system both nationally and in Vermont, advocating all his life against the death penalty. In Vermont, he served on reparative justice boards for eleven years. He delivered food for the Brattleboro Drop-in Center for twelve years and also served on its board. Bob was very active in the All Souls Unitarian-Universalist Church in West Brattleboro. He was a member of the American Civil Liberties Union and worked all his life to improve the lives of others.
Bob had a love of nature and the outdoors which he shared with Mary Lou and his children. In 1954, Bob and Mary Lou visited Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, for the first time. He built a summer home with hand tools on an old foundation at the very end of the road at Sight Point, Cape Breton, overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where the extended family continues to spend summers.
Bob leaves his wife of fifty-four years, Mary Lou Strassburger Treat, of Putney, VT; and children Sharon Treat of Hallowell, ME; Roger Treat of Westminster, VT; Carolyn Treat of Portland, ME; Rory Treat of Brooklyn, NY; and Jessica Treat of Sheffield, MA. Bob’s family will miss his sly sense of humor, his generosity, friendship, and steadfast support.
Ed Rowen ’50