Deceased February 24, 2004
We are sad to report that our classmate and friend, Alan Wolcott, was killed in a car crash on February 24, 2004, near his home in Richmond, VT.
Alan was born March 23, 1957, in the Congo, the son of missionaries of the Plymouth Brethren Church. After several years in Africa, his family returned to Sturgis, MI, where he completed high school. He was an outstanding student, an all-state football player, a school record-holder in the pole vault, and a stalwart on the wrestling team.
He arrived at Amherst with an unshakeable faith in Christ and a heart for ministry. Alan majored in biology and considered a career in medicine, but later decided to become a pastor. He defined success in terms of devotion to Christ, service to him and to other people. A favorite quote of his was: “If I were called to be a laborer I would hate to drivel down to being a king.” Alan was a leader in the Amherst Christian Association. He provided wise advice when asked, he had remarkable insight, and he was articulate and respectful in sharing his faith with anyone who was interested.
At Amherst Alan competed in both track and varsity wrestling, the latter being his passion for four years. He recovered from a serious knee injury in his junior year not only to wrestle again, but also to compete in the national meet in his senior year as a team co-captain. His comeback was an inspiration to the team and to his friends.
Alan was independent, single-minded, sometimes stubborn, but always considerate, soft-spoken, and gentle (except on the mat). It is impossible to think of him without remembering his sense of humor. We remember well his quirky, goofy, and frequent laugh. He had a beautiful voice and loved to sing, which he did spontaneously.
After graduation from Amherst, Alan earned a master of divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. He was ordained in the Evangelical Free Church. In 1984, he married Cheryl “Sheri” Johnson in Fargo, ND. Sandy Hull ’78, in seminary with Alan at the time, recalls that Alan and Sheri's first date was at his kitchen table.
One of Alan's dreams was to return to Africa to work as a missionary. At Amherst he always wore a bracelet made of a single elephant hair, which was about as thick as a pencil lead. He returned to Africa only briefly after seminary, but maintained his love for the people he knew there. In 1989, he and Sheri moved to Richmond, VT, where he planted a church and pastored it for ten years. The church finally closed its doors in 1999, but Alan never lost his zeal for his call or his love for the community. He developed his own website at http://www.vt-mustardseed.org, an expression of his care and wit.
Alan's family was central to his life, his happiest times being spent with them. He and Sheri were blessed with three outstanding children: Jeremy, age nineteen; Rachel, seventeen; and Ben, thirteen. He was particularly proud of their musical accomplishments. To support his family, in addition to his pastoral duties, he worked in the Vermont Social Security office where his immediate supervisor called him “one of the best examiners our office has ever seen.” His co-workers affectionately noted that he was “official mentor to no one but unofficial mentor to everyone.”
There are no better words perhaps than those of a son about his father. Jeremy wrote this about Alan shortly after his death: “Very few are granted the privilege of growing up to realize that the man they call father is every bit as much a hero as they had always dreamed.
“...I count myself among that fortunate few.
“...He was somehow still ‘cool” when everybody else’s parents weren’t; he gave us space when we needed it; he got in our faces when we were belligerent, forgave when we were penitent, and was proud when we needed approval. He regularly poked fun at us to give us a sense of humor and to keep us humble. He taught us to pray, and to respect the Bible as God's Word to us. He introduced us to his God.
“...Fundamentally, he was not a better man than anyone else; he was simply a saved sinner through whom God had chosen to make Himself known
“...[that] is the picture that ought to be framed for memory - and the one my dad would himself best prefer.”
We are richer for knowing our friend, and we look forward, with him, to the promise he knew. We are confident that Alan's death, as the psalmist writes, is precious in the sight of his Lord (Ps 116:15). But now, for a season, we mourn.
—Jon Holmlund ’79
—Tom Kalt ’79
—Stockton Wulsin ’79