Deceased August 22, 2015
Playing golf on a course near his home outside Eugene, Ore., John Fentress was felled by a fatal heart attack on Aug. 22, 2015. John and his wife, Heather, had lived in Eugene since his 2003 retirement from Dalhousie University, where he had gone in 1974 to head the Department of Psychology. Heather and two daughters survive him.
Writing for the 25th class reunion, John recalled his Amherst education lovingly as an excellent base for his subsequent accomplishments. Citing influential faculty, he named coach Ostendarp, Professors Hexter and Brower (biology) and Birney (psychology.) John was clearly already pointed toward the research field he would pursue: ethology, “the biological foundations of adaptive behavior.”
After earning a Ph.D. from Cambridge, he returned to the United States, bringing with him a pet wolf cub named Lupey. John joined the University of Oregon faculty as assistant professor of psychology and biology. His work there concerning vocal communication among wolves attracted considerable attention and led to the offer from Dalhousie. John and the aging Lupey moved to Halifax.
In addition to his university duties, John founded the Canadian Centre for Wolf Research. The Centre, which maintained a wolf pack for 25 years, became internationally known and consulted for its carefully recorded observations. Classmates remember encountering John’s work on TV or in the European edition of the Herald Tribune.
In retirement John founded EthoLife Health Coaching, a move he said “stems from a conviction that one must, in a personalized and supportive way, help others understand the roots of their lives.”
He also worked on a memoir entitled Lupey Journals: Lessons from the Heart of a Wolf. John remembered Lupey as his best friend in the decade they lived together. His tribute was nearly ready for publication at the time of his death.
Charles Husbands ’61