On October 12, 2012, at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, our classmate, Steve Rosenblum died peacefully, surrounded by his family. He was 71, and for years that he was determined to live entirely on his own terms, he had held at bay the disease that finally overcame him.
After Amherst, Steve attended Columbia University Medical School, graduating in 1967; then interned at what is now Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and did his residency in psychiatry at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. In September 1965, he married Carol Suchman (NYU ’64). It was a picture perfect wedding, and the first time some of Steve’s Amherst friends had ever seen the inside of the Plaza Hotel.
While Steve finished med school and Carol did graduate work in psychology at Columbia, they began to build their family. Karen came in 1967, and Eric in 1968. From 1971 to 1973, the family lived in Colorado, where Steve was a major in the Army Medical Corps and the skiing was good. Then they moved to Potomac, MD, a suburb of Washington, DC. Steve did his psychoanalytic training at the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute, practiced psychoanalysis in Washington, and was elected President of the Washington Psychoanalytic Society. Carol finished her Ph.D. and went on to an important government career she keeps largely to herself. At the time of Steve’s death, they had been married for 47 years.
Steve Rosenblum’s life had many parts. He was a leading member of the Washington psychoanalytic community—a teacher and training and supervising psychoanalyst at the Washington Center for Psychoanalysis, and a clinical professor and coordinator of psychotherapy at the George Washington University Medical School. He loved theater and lectured after performances of the Washington Shakespeare Company. He loved opera, and practiced the piano (but did not play for friends); and he and Carol filled their home with art. He played golf with a passion—he always looked forward to being with Lex Brainerd and Tom Zuckerman on golf’s finest and most famous courses. He minimized his accomplishments and lionized his friends, and if he was wrong on both counts, it was an error of generosity.
Steve was a superb athlete, fast and lithe, and intensely if quietly competitive. He was good at golf, but better at squash—in his thirties nationally ranked and a repeat DC-area champion. He sometime talked with friends about what it took to win—about the force of will when strength and skill were fairly matched and nearly gone, and the outcome was uncertain. He was always willing to explore the issue, as if he didn’t really understand it. But he did.
It pleased Steve to turn seventy—old enough, he said, so no casual reader of the obituary page could say he hadn’t had his share. He was, after all and even in this, a competitor. One day, so long ago that dark humor was easy and life affirming, Steve and Jeff Mayer joked about creating a Class of ’63 last man standing award. Ted Truman, reflecting on the beauties of compound interest, said they should have started sooner. In the end, they didn’t start at all. They continued the joke, though, until the day that Steve announced he wasn’t going to win.
Steve wouldn’t admit it, but he was brave and resilient, and never more so than in his final years. If the burden of his long illness bore him down, he never showed his friends—a thing that must have cost him strength he might have spent on other things. Through hope, despair, and hope again, he kept up the fight. Sometimes his conversations about winning and losing veered to the question of fight or flight. Steve was really fast, so for most of his life—in theory at least—his choice was real. He thought he was a runner. But he died a fighter.
Steve took special pleasure in golfing weekends with his brothers Bob and Paul. He was proud of his children and awed by his wife, and he doted on his grandchildren—though grandfatherhood seemed to take him a little by surprise. In later years, he and Carol divided their time between demanding jobs, visiting their children and grandchildren in Philadelphia and Colorado, and enjoying weekends and holidays at their Manhattan apartment. It’s comforting to imagine them there at dusk, fifteen floors above the street, listening to opera, Steve sipping his single malt, watching lights come on across the city and around the Park.
Carol held Steve’s memorial celebration at one of his favorite places, the Bethesda Country Club. The room was big and filled with people who had shared Steve’s life and loved him for it, gathered with their memories and common sense of loss. One after another, people spoke—a son, two brothers, a cousin, Steve’s colleagues, a golfing friend who talked about how he and Steve were always first off the tee on cool and quiet Friday mornings, with no one waiting out ahead. Each said his or her piece, thoughtfully and from the heart, about what Steve’s life had meant in theirs. And if you’d shown up thinking that Steve’s close friendship had been yours alone, the speeches might have made you jealous. Long before they’d finished, though, you were simply proud to have been his friend.