William M. Dunn ’75 died May 29, 2011.
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Bill was born in Holyoke, Mass., and lived there throughout his life. When he, and we, arrived at James Hall, Bill had a single room on the third floor. On the sticker that the college distributed so we could post our names on our doors, Bill wrote “Homer Twill”—a sardonic needling of the surrounding earnestness. Then, he didn’t actually appear, under any name, for several days.
Bill seemed always to be arriving or leaving without notice. In a way, he led two lives during college: his Amherst life and his nearby Holyoke life, with family and high school friends. His girlfriend Catherine, whom he married after college, frequently joined him at school and became our friend.
While Bill’s strong intellect appreciated the quality of his Amherst professors, his grounded sensibility took note of the impracticalities and inadequacies of some of them but always with compassion. Bill’s sense of humor and keen faculties of observation also picked up instantly on the foibles, eccentricities or pomposity of classmates but never in a negative or judgmental way; he appreciated characters.
After earning a master’s degree in education from UMass-Amherst, Bill devoted his career to Holyoke’s young people, serving in many positions in the Holyoke public school system, including as high school English department head, academic coordinator and vice principal. Bill was a songwriter, storyteller and poet. Bill was also an enthusiastic student of Holyoke and Western Massachusetts history and wrote often on social justice issues.
Bill leaves Catherine, three children, a grandchild and his parents, brothers and sisters. His family’s remembrance says: “Bill was happiest with his old Gibson guitar, surrounded by friends and family with a tune in his head and a song in his heart.” That does sound like the Bill we first knew all those years ago.
—Larry Gold ’75
—Brien Horan ’75