Deceased April 15, 2016

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50th Reunion Book 


In Memory

Paul Ruxin passed away in San Francisco on April 15, one day after his 73rd birthday, from injuries sustained in an automobile accident. He died peacefully, surrounded by family and friends. His rich and productive life was celebrated at the Newberry Library in Chicago.

Paul came to Amherst from University Heights, Ohio, where he was educated with Michael Pohl ’65 and his bride-to-be, Joanne. We met Paul on our first day at Amherst as cohabitants of Stearns. Paul’s personality was then and remained magnetic, warm, brilliant. He was a great listener and a confident, natural leader. These qualities made him a loyal and valued friend to many for 55 years.

Paul majored in American studies and was a member of the Student Council, SPHINX and Beta Theta Pi.

At the University of Virginia Law School, Paul was a member of the Law Review and Order of the Coif. He enjoyed a distinguished career as a public utility lawyer in Chicago and Cleveland, finally as a partner in the firm Jones-Day.

Paul was a dedicated bibliophile whose hobby became his passion: in our 50th reunion book, he stated that being a lawyer was “only my job, nothing more. …” Paul maintained a large private collection of the works of Samuel Johnson and James Boswell. A Shakespeare scholar, he chaired the board of the Folger Library in Washington, D.C. At class reunions, Paul shared his passion for the look and feel of real books against flat symbols of the electronic age.

In 2007 the College awarded him the Medal of Eminent Service, recognizing his efforts to assist in administration, admissions and fundraising, and especially for his support of the Friends of the Library.

Paul is survived by wife Joanne, son Marc, daughter-in-law Holly, daughter Sarah, son-in-law Adam, five grandchildren and brothers Jim and Bob.

Michael Pohl ’65
Bruce Wintroub ’65

50th Reunion 

Paul Ruxin Joanne and I married three days before commencement, then moved to Charlottesville and law school. In 1968 I joined the law firm founded by Abraham Lincoln's son, in Chicago. Our son and daughter were born there, and I became a partner. In 1977 I joined another firm, Jones, Day, In Cleveland, and in 1996, still with Jones Day, we returned to Chicago. I retired from the practice of law in 2008. The first of our five grandchildren (three now in San Francisco and two now in New York) was born in 2003. This is the generic history of my post-Amherst life. Change some names and dates and places and it could apply to hundreds, maybe thousands, of boys born in 1943. Nothing about it suggests that going to Amherst, rather than Williams or Ohio State, had anything to do with what followed.

Yet it did. At Amherst I learned (as well as I could) how to read critically and to write carefully and to think skeptically (and how that differed from cynically). Those skills made the first year of law school easy, or at least easier than it was for the vast majority of my classmates. Thank you Bill Pritchard and Theodore Baird and Hugh Hawkins and Gordon Levin and many others. I learned the value of friendship, and the ones formed at Amherst have enriched my life. Thank you Lew and Bruce and Sam and Ron and Chuck and Chris and Michael and Don and Jack and so many of the rest of the Class of '65.Amherst gave me a sense of belonging I never had before; it let me take away a sense of community that has only grown over the years, built on shared experiences that created what the Senior Song describes as "...now we're bound by ties that will not sever, all our whole lives through." And it gave me Robert Frost's message, that the "purpose of college is to teach you that there's a book side to everything." And that, perhaps, has meant even more than the other gifts.

Early in my lawyer life I learned that that was my job, nothing more, never would be. Other than my family, books became my real passion. Over the years I built a collection of the works of Samuel Johnson and James Boswell and their circle, with an eye toward creating my own library in which to read and research and find material for writing and speaking and even living.

As time passed books became more than their contents, and I began to learn and think about them as objects that could be poorly or beautifully made, that could be objects of historical value, vehicles for informing the past and the lives and thoughts of not only their authors, but also their designers and printers and binders and, perhaps especially, their prior owners. I found bibliophilic dubs, Caxton, Rowfant, Grolier, Odd Volumes, Association Internationale de Bibliophilie. Now in retirement I find that the book side of life fills mine, as I continue to collect, to study, to write, to speak regularly about Johnson and Boswell and collecting, and even to publish, utterly lacking in academic credentials, but confident enough in the lessons of Amherst to expose the results of my reading and writing and thinking to others interested in this small niche of literature and history.

The "book side" has also given me the gift of participation in institutions that now fill the time no longer devoted to lawyering and not taken by the great pleasures of family. Last June I stepped down after seventeen years on the Board of the Folger Shakespeare Library, the last seven as Chairman; Folger of course being the corporate sibling of Amherst, administered by the Trustees of the College. That splendid place, with its great collection of not only Shakespeare but also early modem material enabled me to learn much more about books and history and literature, and about the world of research and not-for-profit organizations. It introduced me to a world of scholarship and scholars, to a way of thinking about and approaching life that a very large law firm, with very large corporate entities, never suggested. And Folger then led me to other bibliophilic Boards, the Newberry Library and the Poetry Foundation, here in Chicago, and Dr. Johnson's House trust, in London, and library groups not only at Amherst but at the University of Chicago and Case Western Reserve.

Would any of this have happened if I had gone to Ohio State or Williams? Perhaps, if with different groups and people. But i don't know that. What I do know is that it all followed those four years at Amherst, with you, where we were all, as the song says, "boys together."

Paul Ruxin