Amherst College In Memory Notice

Dan Israel

Note: this is the complete version of the Amherst Notice which was prepared by Neale Adams.

Daniel H. Israel
1941 - 2011

Daniel H. Israel, 69, died on Sunday, February 6, 2011, in Boulder, Colorado. He had been battling cancer for a year and a half.

His wife Carol L. Grasse said that he died peacefully. Following a memorial service on February 20 in Boulder, his ashes were scattered at the foot of the Rocky Mountains at a place where he had often hiked.


Dan was born in 1941 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania to Dr. Harold L. Israel (Amherst 1930) and Dorothy (Harris) Israel, one of five children. He attended Nether Providence High School in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, about 15 miles west of Philadelphia. He was quarterback on the football team, the Bulldogs, and a co-editor of the school newspaper.

At Amherst Dan majored in English. He played football for two years, then rugby, along with ice hockey and lacrosse. He pledged Theta Delta. He graduated from Amherst in 1963, and after earning a master’s degree in government studies at the University of Pennsylvania, he entered the University of Michigan law school, graduating in 1967. The next year – primarily to avoid the Vietnam draft – he taught at the University of Washington in Seattle, and then practiced federal tax law at the firm of Roberts and Holland on Wall Street for two years.

In 1969, a close friend, Jonathan B. (Skip) Chase, encouraged Dan to join him in moving back west to Boulder, Colorado, where Chase was a founding director of Colorado Rural Legal Services. Both Dan and Skip enjoyed practicing law, playing rough on the rugby field and serving people who truly needed their help. Dan saw Colorado as a place where he could offer legal service to people who needed it, and enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle so he made the move. In the early 1970s, Dan began working for the Native American Rights Fund, a non-profit law firm providing legal assistance to Indian tribes throughout the country.


He represented several tribes over a span of four decades with passion and devotion. He contributed to the advancement of federal Indian law in the areas of water rights and protection of tribal natural resources. He was best known for his defense of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s hunting and water rights during a 30-year long fight over a reservoir project in the southwest corner of Colorado.

The Animas-La Plata water project was approved a few years before Dan arrived on the scene. It was to involve a big dam that would deplete a wild river, flood a wildlife corridor, and lead to large scale development where the Ute’s lived. Largely due to Dan’s legal battles over the years, the project was scaled down to one-third the size first proposed, and four-fifths of the water from the project will go to Indian tribes, including the Utes, in the Four Corners area when it is finally completed in 2012.

Even after receiving a diagnose of leiomyosarcoma of the abdomen, a rare form of cancer, Dan continued to do legal work. He helped about ten people with their application for disability payments the month before he died, his wife said.

Dan married four times; his first three marriages ended in divorce. His first marriage was short, to Judy Lawrence. In the early 1970s Sheila Fortune came out with him to Colorado where they married and had a daughter, Sophia (Gold), in 1974. In the 1980s he married Elizabeth Forsythe; they had three children, Rachael, Adam, and Eli. In 2005 his partner became Carol Grasse, a nurse; they married in 2009.

Besides his children, Dan is survived by siblings Stephen, Edith and Emily (Raphael-Greenfield); another brother, Philip, predeceased him. He left two grandchildren, Hannah and Bo Gold.

Dan requested that memorial gifts be collected and formed into a scholarship fund. The scholarship will help a deserving low-income tribal member or Hispanic rural high-school graduate from the four corner region attend Amherst College. Checks made out to daughter Sophia Gold can be sent to 1440 Lanes End, Villanova, Pa, 19085.


At the memorial service, Psalm 23 was read in Hebrew and English, and the Kaddish said. Following the scattering of ashes, at a celebration of life his wife Carol was presented with a native Pendleton Wool Blanket by representatives of the Utes.

In a note written a couple of weeks before he died, Dan said that during his illness, “I have managed, at long last, to cleanse my soul, myself, of its powerful but fictitious beliefs in the inevitability of personal catastrophe.”

In another he wrote to a old friend, “I am about to cash in my chips ... I have been fighting sarcoma cancer since Oct. of 09, it’s in my lungs and there are too many to take out. But I have no complaints; four neat kids; an interesting legal career... and have become a terrific bump skier and singles tennis player. Take care. Dan.”

- Neale Adams