Deceased March 19, 2005
The world lost a Renaissance man, and we lost a good and giving friend, with the passing of Colin Hasse on March 19, 2005. Colin was not an easy man to understand, and one had to get close to him to appreciate his talent, his wit and at times his brilliance. I met him at Kappa Theta fraternity; a more unlikely fraternity brother would be hard to find, and yet Colin was a perfect fit for Kappa Theta.
In thinking about attempting to describe Colin Hasse, I came across a book review that quoted F. Scott Fitzgerald describing writers as “a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person.” Although not primarily a writer, Colin was just such a man. Don Nixon describes him perfectly in writing about their first meeting: “We spent several hours talking over a great variety of subjects, and each of us found satisfaction in how things one of us knew meshed with the other’s knowledge. I tended to know a few facts on a topic. Colin would know its origins and evolutions, allude to some classical reference and bring up the pros and cons discussed in some recent periodical.”
The only Classics major I ever knew, Colin was interested in the entire world. Who else in most of our universes was fluent in Latin and Greek yet: minored in geology, could tell you the ball scores, could fix his own car and camped and hiked and fished the Sierras? Colin was into everything, always willing to chip in and help out. He was both erudite and practical, a serious academician with a deep sense of humor.
Born on Christmas Day 1946, Colin grew up in the hills of Berkeley and went to Berkeley High School. He was an only child and played tennis and camped through the Sierras with his dad. After his Amherst years he ventured back to Berkeley, where he went to graduate school and worked for the University of California in a number of capacities. He was a student intern in the president’s office from 1969 through the early 1970’s and helped form the Graduate Assembly, which has become the vehicle through which the graduate students organize and deal with the university.
Although at Amherst Colin was not known as a heavy dater, he eventually met and married the love of his life, Ann. Ann and Colin set up shop in Berkeley, where Ann, a talented and hard-working lawyer, developed a specialty in transportation law. Together they raised two delightful sons, Andrew and John, both interesting blends of their parents. Andrew has since graduated from the NYU School of film, having had a serious interest in animation and film since high school. John, whom I met when he was 5 years old in a karate class, is a high school student with a competitive drive and apparently an excellent golf game that takes him all over the place playing tournaments.
Don and I remember special times with Colin, camping, hiking and hanging out at Tuolumne Meadows in the high Sierra. From there we would head out above tree line, to the glaciers and rarified air that make the high Sierra such a special place. Talk of our futures, 15-speed dump trucks, Julius Caesar in Gaul, the war in Vietnam, cable cars. We talked about the choices that lay before us, me going to medical school, Colin studying classics and archeology, Don going off to the Coast Guard before graduate school in geology. Don writes, “Colin was awfully good at considering the different benefits that choices could provide in the future and, while sometimes he could get more caught up in the considering than the choosing, he was a wonderful sounding board for his friends.”
Colin spent the academic year of 1975-1976 at the American School of Classical Students in Athens, Greece, in their graduate program. When he completed his C.Philosophy degree in Classics in 1977 or thereabouts, he went to work for the administration at Cal Berkeley. Although we all thought that Colin would some day become an erudite and inspiring professor, the loops never came together for Colin, who always seemed to be looking for the next challenge and the next breakthrough. Over the years he worked as an administrator for the Boalt School of Law and the biochemistry department at Berkeley, then moved to UC San Francisco and the Langely Porter Institute, and became the senior administrator for the Family Practice Dept. at UCSF. Starting in 1994, he worked for several start-up software companies, and he had his own consulting company, Enormous Potential, up until the time of his death.
Last spring Colin succumbed to metastatic melanoma after a short battle with the disease. He was lucid and articulate to the end, always a Hasse hallmark. “Enormous Potential” could describe this talented multifaceted man. He was a great putterer, and his interests spanned the globe. Don Nixon wrote, “There was a (New Yorker) cartoon a few years ago, one of the angels-in-robes-sitting-on clouds genre. Several angels gathered around one who is reading a magazine clearly titled ‘Death Today’ and enthusiastically exclaiming, ‘In just this last year, Thomas Jefferson has taken up Sanskrit and has earned his black belt in karate.’ In spirit, at least, that’s what Colin is doing now; taking on yet more projects and ideas.”
Colin Hasse was an active, fun, likeable, generous, fascinating man. He will be missed.
Thomas J. Smith ’67
Don Nixon ’67