Rev. Robert C. Lane ’49
After a lifetime of doing the Lord’s work, Bob was called to his heavenly reward last Aug. 14 in Cromwell, Conn.
Bob came to Amherst in 1943, stayed for a short time and then spent two years in the Cavalry. At Amherst he was a math major and member of Alpha Delt. Also a minister’s son, he attended Hartford Theological Seminary to determine if ministry was his calling.
A highlight of his seminary years was meeting his future wife, Fidelia. Married in 1951, they both were later ordained. He served as pastor at three locations: the First Congregational Church in Baraboo, Wis.; the Congregational Church United in Branford, Conn.; and the Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Enfield, Conn, retiring at the end of 1991.
A wise and much beloved counselor, he focused on community service and promoting cooperation between denominations and clergy of different faiths. Much of his work in Enfield was on the delivery of mental health and medical services. Most recently, his efforts with his local church and others had been to welcome and affirm people of all sexual orientations, races and economic status.
Sailing was one of Bob’s great pleasures. He served as dean for church summer camps. He managed to fit in a fair amount of travel, including to the West Coast and the Abacos in the Bahamas as well as to the family cottage in Maine.
Surviving are two daughters, two sisters and three grandchildren. He was predeceased by Fidelia, and by a son, William; a brother, George; and a sister, Charlotte. As I read this over, and as many of you knew, he was truly a man of God who served his faith and his community in a most exemplary manner. Another classmate of whom we can be genuinely proud. —Gerry Reilly ’49
James T. Harris ’51
Jim Harris, 87, died peacefully on July 27, 2016, surrounded by his family.
Jim was born in Montclair, N.J., on March 10, 1929, and attended Montclair public schools, graduating in 1947. He received a B.A. in 1951 from Amherst and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1954.
Jim lived in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y., for 35 years and summered in Warren, Conn. He practiced in law firms in New York City and as a private practitioner in housing for the poor, until his retirement in 1993.
After the death of his first wife, Joan Weidemann Harris, Jim moved to Cambridge, Mass. In 1996 he married Elizabeth Fleming.
Music was always a part of Jim’s life. He was a talented trombone player. He enjoyed the renovation of three houses in which he lived, and making toys for the grandchildren and frames for Elizabeth’s artwork. He was an excellent cook with a Chinese specialty.
Some years ago Jim joined a Witness for Peace delegation with this writer in a visit to Central America during civil war tensions. We met again years later, recuperating in Spaulding Rehab Hospital after serious events in Massachusetts General Hospital.
Jim enjoyed traveling, mostly in Europe with a stop in Denmark to visit his family. In addition to Elizabeth, he is survived by a daughter, Karen Harris Hvenegaard, and her husband, Niels; a son, Christopher Harris, and his wife, Alice Sajdera; a stepdaughter, Anne Flemings Keuper, and her husband, John; a stepson, Peter Flemings, and his wife, Ann; and grandchildren Jesse, Sean, Emily, Christina and Nicholas. He was predeceased in death by his brothers, Peter and John. — Don Sibley’51
William L. Plunkett ’51
William L. Plunkett, born in Los Angeles in 1929, died Aug. 9 after a brief illness. His extended family gathered for a quiet ceremony. He was a graduate of the Los Angeles prep school Harvard Military Academy. His easygoing personality persevered. At Amherst he was a social fellow who made friends easily.
From start to finish, Bill was nuts about cars. As a youth he dreamed of a career designing them. Upon his return to California as an Amherst graduate, however, he was so thrilled with his initial job selling used cars that he lost interest in further technical or business training. After a brief stint selling used Studebakers, he was elevated to general manager of the Studebaker agency. In 1963 he bought a Volkswagen agency in Sunland, which was his principal livelihood for two decades. He seems to have had a flair for bold business moves. In 1981 he dismantled his VW agency building, retaining only the auto leasing part of the enterprise, and built a large apartment complex on the site. Bill had a passion for antique autos—buying, trading, restoring and showing them. His prize was a 1936 Cord convertible.
Bill met Harriet Haake in 1962. They married on Sept. 28 and produced two children: Patricia Louise Plunkett, born in 1964, and William Haake Plunkett, born two years later. Bill retired in 1992. The Plunketts subsequently traveled around the continent by train.
Bill exhibited a conservative and nostalgic side in the pieces he wrote for our 35th and 50th reunions, lamenting Amherst’s decisions to end its role as an all-male institution and to abolish fraternities. On the other side, he wrote that “the New Curriculum forced us to be exposed to ideas and disciplines we might have missed.” —Bill Neill ’51
William J. Peverill ’52
Bill Peverill left us on April 29 after several weeks of decline and discomfort. We all remember Bill’s unfailing and innovative sense of humor and his popularity with friends and classmates as well as his sense of style.
Bill hailed from Des Moines, Iowa, and also ended his days there. He attended Roosevelt High School and then Shattuck School in Minnesota. He spent two years in the Navy as an electronic technician before coming to Amherst. He was a member of the DKE fraternity and chapter president. Bill’s college experience was disrupted when he was called back into the Navy during the Korean War. After his return, he “became more serious,” as he put it, and graduated cum laude in American studies.
After graduation, he obtained an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and worked in the business forms industry for several years, serving as president of the National Business Forms Association and starting his own company, Computer Papers Inc. Later he became a chartered life underwriter and certified financial planner.
He was active in community pursuits in Des Moines, was president of the Des Moines Child Guidance Center and sponsored the Des Moines Metro Opera and Des Moines Art Center.
Bill chronicled events of his life and times on his Amherst Web page, which makes for interesting reading. We remember Bill’s interests and passions, such as the role of women in Mexican history, and his sense of fairness.
He leaves behind his wife, Kathryn; three children: John, Sara Engelbert and Ellen Burnquist; and four grandchildren: Hannah and Will Peverill and Michael and Christopher Engelbert.
Bill lamented the loss of many of his Amherst classmates. His friend Howie Burnett ’52 said, “He will be sorely missed by his many friends and never forgotten!” —Jack Peverill ’55
Thomas B. Whitbread ’52
Tom Whitbread, who died in October, was a man of many passions, of which the three central ones were poetry, music and sports. At Amherst he hosted the radio program “Sunday Night at the Opera,” a half hour devoted his favorite scenes and arias from the greats. He wrote his undergraduate thesis on Tennyson’s poetry under the direction of Reuben Brower, who once asked him, disconcertingly, “Just what is your thesis, Mr. Whitbread?” (In the end the thesis was well-regarded.) At Senior Class Day, Tom served as class poet.
Tom did graduate work in English at Harvard, writing a dissertation on Wallace Stevens. He went on to teach at the University of Texas—Austin, a career that concluded in August, shortly before he died. Although never part of the poetry “mainstream,” he was a fine, somewhat unregarded craftsman. He unfailingly worked in traditional forms, rhyme and stanzas, skillfully deployed to make the most of his unique moral and human qualities.
He was a devotee of Gilbert and Sullivan. On the sports front, he engaged with me in titanic tennis singles duels, and, in the old Boston Garden, we observed Cousy, Heinsohn and the young Bill Russell doing their immortal thing. One of his most affecting poems is about observing a minor league baseball game in Kansas: “Groups of farmers/Sitting and talking and watching, overalled blue,/ Eyed motley.” (“Syracuse, Kansas, Summer ’59”.)
Two epithets in closing, the first an exclamation he was fond of using to display approval, whether of a tennis shot, student paper or pitch-perfect aria:
The second from the Tennyson poem “Crossing the Bar,” where the poet imagines the music of his leave-taking:
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep,
Turns again home.
—William H. Pritchard ’53
Joseph B. Benge Jr. ’53
Joe Benge, whose full and varied life journey began in a Chicago suburb and led to the Canadian wilderness, died Nov. 16 at age 85 at his home in Salt Spring Island, B.C.
At the last, Joe was bedeviled by increasingly serious COPD that literally took his breath away. He used a Canadian law permitting doctor-assisted suicide as the best ending.
Joe’s dear friend, Jill Swartz, said Joe “flew away” surrounded by “love, friends, music and laughter.” She added, “Joe’s life force and curiosity were boundless. His photography has just won the jury prize at the culture centre. A lifelong passion for birds, photography, history, literature, wilderness and music helped bring a wide range of good people into his life. COPD weakened his body, but his good mind, memory, curiosity and spark never faltered.”
Joe was a graduate of Evanston High School. At Amherst, he was a German major and was known for his drumming stints with the Delta Five. Joe continued his education at Northwestern University, earning a master’s degree in German. He eventually took advertising positions in Chicago. The highlight of his ad career was creation of the well-known Maytag repairman series.
Joe changed direction in 1972 when he became a manager for a canoe outfitter near Quetico Provincial Park, in northwest Ontario. He gave numerous talks about the park, asking listeners to write authorities in favor of banning logging and motor vehicles there. The campaign succeeded.
Subsequently, Joe and Jill worked as naturalists in Manitoba parks and spent several years teaching native children in reserves. Finally, Joe was employed by the Canadian Park Service in naturalist capacities in western parks. He retired in 1991 and bought his home on Salt Spring Island between Vancouver Island and the B.C. mainland.
—George Gates ’53
Donald E. Oehlerts ’53
Don Oehlerts, who was with the class of 1953 for our freshmen and sophomore years, died Sept. 21 in Fort Collins, Colo. Don was 89.
Don was a native of Waterloo, Iowa. Just before the end of World War II, he was drafted into the Army and served in Korea with forces charged with the postwar rebuilding of that country.
Upon discharge, Don attended Amherst but left to finish his undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin. He entered the library field, obtaining a degree in library science and later a doctorate in education at Indiana University. He eventually became the dean of libraries at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Upon retirement from Miami, he taught librarianship at Clark Atlantic University in Atlanta for several years.
Don’s obituary in the Fort Collins Coloradoan credited him with “many significant contributions” in the library field during his long career.
Don and his wife, Beth, moved to Fort Collins in 2001. Besides Beth, Don is survived by three daughters, two sons and seven grandchildren. —George Gates ’53
Clifford A. Schmid ’53
Cliff Schmid, a successful banker in the St. Louis area, died Oct. 20 in Naples, Fla. He was 84. Cliff came to Amherst from Webster Groves, Mo., after preparing at John Burroughs High School, a private school in Ladue, Mo. At the College, Cliff was a history major and a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon. He was known to many of us as “Beanie.”
Our classmate Mark Weber recalls that he, Cliff and the late Dick Cutting joined the Navy Reserves during college years and had to attend weekly sessions in Springfield. Mark says he found Cliff “good company.” A memorial note to Cliff’s obituary in the St Louis Post-Dispatch praised his “dry sense of humor.”
After college, Cliff served on active duty as a Navy intelligence officer. The Post-Dispatch obituary said of his business career: “He was a driven businessman, taking the helm of Chippewa Bank in the early ’70s and finally establishing a bank holding company, Financial Bancshares, with his brother Steve in 1980. Together they grew the company to nearly half a billion dollars before selling the firm in 1996.”
The obituary continued: “He loved spending time with his family, boating on Lake Michigan and on the Lake of the Ozarks, collecting wonderful cars, spoiling his children and grandchildren and, of course, he loved his dogs. His laugh, his wit, his kindness and his perspective will be missed by all.”
In recent years, Cliff lived in a condo on Pelican Isle, Naples.
Cliff’s wife, Carol, passed away in 2008. His survivors include two sons, Scott and Colby Schmid; a daughter, Kirsten Wack; and 10 grandchildren.
A funeral was held in the First Congregational Church of Webster Groves. —George Gates ’53
Yo Yuasa ’53
Dr. Yo Yuasa passed away on Sept. 7 at the age of 90. His passing was peaceful and painless and was attended by family members.
The Notice of Bereavement I received from the Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation indicated Dr. Yuasa was medical director at Sasakawa for over 30 years and the central figure in the Foundation’s mission to realize a leprosy-free world. His book, A Life Fighting Leprosy, clearly depicts his commitment, dedication and untiring efforts to bring an end to the millennia of sufferings caused by leprosy.
In 1975, when Yo joined Sasakawa, there were more than 6 million recorded cases of leprosy in the world and it was endemic in 120 countries. Today, it is not endemic in any country and there are only 250,000 cases worldwide. For his achievements as the longtime head of the International Leprosy Organization, Yo received the highest honor in his field, the Damien-Dutton Award. Other recipients include Mother Teresa and John F. Kennedy.
Sadly, very few in our class have any memory of Yo. Fortunately, I was able to meet with Yo and his wife, Dr. Yoku Yuasa, over Memorial Day 2014 and managed to obtain a photo of the two of them beside the oil portrait of Yo’s idol, Joseph Neesima, in Johnson Chapel. I came away impressed with Yo’s life story, his conquest of a dread disease, his close ties with Neesima and the important role his Amherst education played in his success.
I made a promise to Yo that I would do my best to see that the Amherst community be informed of his full life story as it could serve future pre-med students as a template for ridding the world of other diseases. I intend to keep that promise. —Mike Palmer ’53
William G. Gamble ’55
On Sept. 6, 2016, Bill Gamble quietly left this earth in the presence of his extensive, loving family, including his wife of 60 years, Cassie. To say Bill made his mark in life as a caring, compassionate, giving, Christian is to say he was a remarkable person.
At Amherst in the early 1950s, Bill was a member of Beta Theta Pi and known for his quiet intelligence, bright personality, smile and love for his College. After 1955 he proceeded to the University of Rochester Medical School, where he chose general surgery as his profession, retiring some 33 years later.
Bill received his surgical training at the Cleveland University Hospitals of CWRU. During that time he and Cassie (Mount Holyoke ’56) lived in a neighborhood along with Amherst classmates and fraternity brothers John Lewis ’55 and Les Nash ’55 and their spouses, Cathy and Deb. During that period they participated in a mutual babysitting pool, taking care of each other’s offspring for as long as a week or more.
Following his training, Bill and Cassie moved to Edina, Minn., where he began his surgical career. He dedicated his medical life to his patients and surgical students, teaching hundreds of medical students and surgical residents. Bill became known as “the surgeons’ surgeon.”
Bill was a committed Christian, working as a medical missionary to Honduras. After retiring, Bill and Cassie lived in Tenwek, Tanzania, where he founded the Dodoma Christian Medical Center, training locals to provide high-level, compassionate care.
We remember Bill as a bright, caring and dedicated member of our class. Comments from friends and patients to Bill’s obituary bear testimony to a life spent dedicated to human care, compassion, ethics and professionalism. For good reason, we remember Bill fondly. —Les Nash ’55, Dick Wright ’55
Richard P. Slavin ’55
We lost one of our most upbeat classmates on Oct. 10 when Dick died in California. He was born in New Rochelle, N.Y., and prepped at Tabor Academy. At Amherst, Dick was a member of Delta Upsilon, majored in English, worked on The Student, and was in the AFROTC program. That led him to serve three years in the Air Force, advancing to the rank of captain.
Jim Brayer ’55 roomed with Dick senior year and remembers Dick as always being “up,” never “down” about anything. At our 25th reunion in 1980, Dick approached Jim, who did not instantaneously respond with Dick’s name. Dick quipped, “Brayer, you had to reach for my name tag, did you?” That was Dick, always ready to ease us into a lighter mood.
After the service, Dick moved to the Los Angeles area and began a career in the real estate business. Over the years he held management positions with several companies. When I talked to Dick last summer, he was busy working for himself, making commercial loans, using just his computer and telephone.
Dick never forgot his Amherst roots. He was a member of the board of the Southern California Alumni Association for more than 25 years. His keen interest was seeking out prospective Amherst students from his area. He could be found at the Amherst-Williams football game telecasts each November.
In late 1961 Dick met Linda Howard, and they were married in 1963. She relates that Dick was an involved father to their two daughters, Jennifer and Kathy, coaching their sports teams. He would always sing “Lord Jeffery Amherst” each night when he tucked the girls into bed! Just once, he ran the Los Angeles marathon—this to say he did it!
That was Dick—always striving to do his very best. —Rob Sowersby ’55
Robert Carlen ’57
Born in New York City, Bob attended Hunter College Elementary School and Stuyvesant High School. When it came time for college, he wanted to leave the city and be exposed to different cultures and ideas. A family friend told him about Amherst.
The first year was full of difficult adjustments. He considered transferring but was grateful that he stayed. He found some friends, but Bob was never interested in sports or alcohol. He just craved ideas and the discussion of ideas. I think his favorite course was in American studies. After Amherst, Bob went to the NYU School of Medicine. We married in 1968, and we soon moved to Long Island.
Bob practiced tuberculosis medicine for the City of New York. He enjoyed working for the city, which he felt put him in a thoughtful, semi-academic atmosphere.
In the 1970s he contributed to the medical literature his concern that the new public policy favoring periodic medical checkups, which was then believed to detect illnesses in their early stages, was not supported by adequate evidence of improved outcomes and patient well-being. He followed this issue throughout his career.
Bob was a regular attender of reunions and a provocative and appreciated communicator with classmates on Amherst issues.
At 70 Bob retired and spent summer weekends in our cabin on the West Branch of the magnificent Delaware River. He loved the river, long walks and simple rural living. Back at home in Stony Brook, Long Island, he spent his days studying history and reading The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Newsday every day (and I think every page), and the Deposit Courier and Jewish Week every week.
There were no children, but there was always a beloved dog. Sadie the shelter mutt survived him and now brings me great comfort. —Kathleen Carlsson
Giles Wayland-Smith ’57
Following a short illness, Giles Wayland-Smith died at home in Oneida, N.Y., on Oct. 28, surrounded by his family. He had turned 81 the month before and had celebrated his 51st wedding anniversary with Kate Wayland-Smith that summer.
When Giles graduated from Amherst, his father, Robert Wayland-Smith, was treasurer and vice president of silverware manufacturer Oneida Limited. After his father’s retirement, Giles was tapped to take his place in the family firm. However, Giles had different ambitions. Oneida Limited traced its unlikely origins back to the Oneida Community, a Christian communal utopia founded by Giles’ great-great grandparents in 1848. Giles’ own calling, as he discovered, lay more in utopian theorizing than in silverware making.
After earning a doctorate in political science at Syracuse University in 1966, he became a professor at Allegheny College, where he spent the next 32 years doing what he loved most: teaching young people about the importance of social justice. He taught courses in Latin American politics, liberation theology and Marxism.
He founded a local chapter of Amnesty International, and in the 1980s was instrumental in petitioning the Somali government to release an Allegheny alumnus who had been sentenced to death for criticizing the regime. He led a faculty movement pressuring the college to divest its holdings in apartheid South Africa in the 1990s.
When he retired in 1998, Giles returned to his hometown of Oneida, to help build the then-fledgling Oneida Community Mansion House Foundation, a nonprofit museum housed in the original community “Mansion House” dating from the 1860s. True to his Quaker upbringing, Giles believed in the “inner light” of human goodness; he believed that through patient work, the world could be made a better place. He is survived by his wife, Kate; daughters Ellen ’89 and Sarah; and brothers Paul and Robert Wayland-Smith. —Ellen Wayland-Smith ’89
Harold L Scutt ’58
We’ve all heard about, maybe even experienced, the roommate from hell. Hal Scutt was the roommate from heaven. All of us who roomed with Hal recall that he was always cheerful, fastidiously neat and an all-around great friend.
A loyal Psi U, Hal was a member of the Glee Club and an Olio staffer. He was a true believer in the worth of a broad liberal arts education. Hal loved the Fairest College. In his 50th reunion reminiscence, Hal said, “I have been proud to be an Amherst graduate and know that I always will be.”
Our senior year, Hal met Sue Delphos, a Smith freshman, and fell head over heels in love. They raised three children, who brought five grandchildren into a close-knit family. His daughter Betsy described him accurately as organized and unfailingly polite, with lots of diverse interests. She felt really loved by her dad, considered him her “rock” and said, “I never wanted to disappoint that man.”
Even though for Hal family was “by far, the most important part of my life,” he was able to couple that devotion with a successful career. After Columbia Business School, his work involved primarily marketing and advertising, with such firms as General Foods, Lever Brothers and Doyle Dane Bernbach Advertising, where he became senior vice president and general manager. For two years he dabbled in real estate development and in later years carved out a rewarding part-time second career with Student Futures Inc., engaging in career counseling for college seniors and recent graduates.
A genuinely good and outgoing “people person,” Hal enjoyed relationships with a broad array of people of all ages.
Most of all, Hal will be remembered and missed for his exceptionally finely tuned sense of humor and his sunny, upbeat disposition.
Lamentably, they don’t make Hal Scutts anymore. —Fred Greenman ’58
Wilder Kimball “Kim” Abbott ’59
Kim died in Scarborough, Maine, Sept. 14, of complications from neurological disease. He was 78.
A native Mainer, he grew up on a 200-year-old family farm in Rumford and was an active member of 4-H before coming to Amherst, where he majored in American studies and was a member of Kappa Theta.
He was not directly involved in athletics, his daughter, Lucy, told me, but his wife of 57 years, Alice, describes him as “a groupie” of the athletic program at Smith. “He came to see all of my games,” she told me. “They loved him. They adopted him.”
At Amherst he was a member of the college band and became its president. His instrument was the baritone, which he played throughout his life.
Following graduation and a summer in France with the Experiment in International Living, Kim married Alice, whom he had described to his parents as “a remarkable girl.”
Intrigued by Africa, Kim went on to earn a master’s degree in African studies at Columbia University and a Ford Foundation Fellowship to Sierra Leone in 1961.
Joining First National City Bank of New York, he began a lifelong career in international banking that led him to posts in Beirut, Puerto Rico, Monrovia (Liberia), Kinshasa (Congo/Zaire), Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) and New York City, as well as 12 years in London as a member of the bank’s Credit Policy Committee. Retirement at 65 did not sit well with Kim, who joined the Bank of Bermuda, spending four years in the colony.
“He started and ended his career in Bermuda shorts,” Lucy told me in an email. “With the British in Sierra Leone in the early ’60s and in Bermuda after his first retirement.”
He is also survived by a son, George; a daughter-in-law; and two granddaughters. —Claude E. Erbsen ’59
Charles D. Hummer Jr. ’59
Charles D. Hummer Jr. died Oct. 11 of cancer.
Charlie was my friend from seventh grade. He was an extraordinary student, played a mean trumpet and excelled in track and basketball. Charlie supplied the fullback power that enabled our 1954 Swarthmore High football team to go undefeated. For 40 years, five members of that team, “The Gang,” met for a week every summer at his condo in Ocean City, N.J.
Charlie and I often chuckled about our first night in Morrow freshman year. Raised by teetotaling parents, we had never touched alcohol. So, when a mass of inebriated classmates broke the fire door next to our room, we hurried down to the local bar and purchased bottles of rum and coke—the only drink we’d ever heard of––and both got very sick!
Charlie studied genetics at Amherst and was star quarterback of Theta Xi’s intramural football team. His favorite receiver, Bill Pozefsky ’59, recalls they never lost a game.
Charlie married Debbie Ward in 1961, graduated from medical school, served in the Air Force and flourished as a father, surgeon and community leader-politician. He was mayor of Swarthmore and chair of the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine. Active in the Pennsylvania Medical Society and the Pennsylvania Orthopaedic Society, he led the formation of Premier Orthopaedics, a large surgical specialty group. Following his retirement in 2012, his son, Chip ’85, took over that practice.
Despite his pose as a “tough guy,” he was quiet and generous; few knew that he visited sick wards on holidays with gifts for patients who were lonely and often poor. As his daughter Kate recalled, Charlie “derived his greatest joy in life from bringing happiness to others.”
Debbie died of cancer in 1997. Besides his Chip and Kate, Charlie is survived by daughter Mai T. Whitsett and four grandchildren.
—Stuart Bowie ’59
Ian M. Sim ’64
I was saddened to hear of Ian’s passing, particularly as I had recently tried unsuccessfully to contact him after seeing his name appear in the alumni news column of Amherst magazine. I hadn’t heard from him since our ways parted when he left Amherst in 1964.
Although we were not very close, our early lives followed remarkably similar paths.
We first met in Mexico City, where his family moved in the 1950s. He left for Fettes College in Scotland in 1955, and I followed the year after. He was a sort of older brother to me, given the one-year age difference, which at that stage in life seemed an enormous gap. I was impressed by his success on the rugby field and his good fortune with the ladies, who admired his dark good looks and obvious self-assurance.
Towards the end of our school careers, we befriended an American teacher, Monroe Whitney ’27, who convinced us to sign up for Amherst. Ian went there in 1960, and I followed a year later.
At about that time, Ian’s life was turned upside down with the tragic passing of his father and brother in a plane accident in Mexico. The decision was taken with his mother and two sisters to move to the States, where our paths parted and I unfortunately lost contact.
I’m really sorry to see him go.
—Andy Irvine ’65
Joseph E. Compton III ’71
Joe Compton was my best friend. I was at his first wedding (and the one after that); he was my best man; I am proud to be his son’s godfather.
I met Joe during my freshman year. Joe was an insatiable scholar and the person most responsible for my getting an Amherst degree. We enjoyed arguing politics, racism and discrimination and reviewing cold cases and arson investigations. I introduced Joe to the martial arts, which became a big part of his life. He opened my ears and expanded my understanding of the magic called Motown.
Joe told me that, at 12 years old, he had given his life to God. I believed him. He understood that “love thy neighbor” doesn’t mean you have to like everybody. Joe once saved the life of a woman while she was yelling, “Don’t let Chocolate touch me!” He was the kind of guy many parents want their daughters to marry: a protector with a handful of degrees, a lawyer with two black belts and a .357.
Joe served as an urban planner for the cities of Fort Worth and Arlington, Texas, and served a short stint as a firefighter in Arlington. He was an assistant criminal district attorney in Dallas for a number of years before his final employment as an assistant regional counsel for the Environmental Protection Agency in Dallas. Although his marriage to Mattie Peterson ended, he remained very close to his son, Joseph Compton IV, and to his former in-laws.
Despite being physically active as a runner and weight lifter, Joe succumbed to heart disease. He died on Aug. 20. A remarkable man, a warm friend, a great father. —Wil Grandy ’71
Tom Stanback ’72
The College recently learned of the passing of Thomas M. Stanback III. Tom died peacefully on June 29, 2013, in New York City, in the company of close friends and family and listening to his beloved music. Throughout his life he expressed his deep passion for music with his virtuosity on a wide range of instruments. Yet Tom also faced, and overcame, a constant stream of personal and family challenges. He was a loving and supportive husband and father, often sacrificing to help those he loved limitlessly. He also worked generously with music and autism nonprofits.
Music was at Tom’s core, an inseparable part of his being. His widow, Micki, recalls she married him in part because he was a brilliant musician. Tom could play any instrument he picked up. Former Amherst bandmates still marvel at his fluidity with guitar, violin or piano. Kevin Daring ’71 recalls a wonderful guy whose musical talent set him apart, relating that he could perform the William Tell Overture by tapping on his teeth, his cheeks and even his forehead, and adding, “I cannot hear Rossini without lamenting the sheer genius of Tom Stanback.” Micki says, “Tom was hearing music all the time—it’s how his mind worked.” John Paul Jones ’72, who shared a house in North Hadley with Tom, Kevin and Dick Sandhaus ’71 during senior year, never forgot Tom’s encouraging words about his composing and songwriting.
Tom’s gifts to his children, Emily and Charles, evidenced his great love for them. He helped Emily become an accomplished cellist and Charles to walk again after back surgery doctors said would leave him permanently paralyzed.
Gifted musician, loving father and husband, generous friend—Tom is sorely missed by all those who knew him. The music is a little less sweet with his loss. —Eric Cody ’72
Joseph Pullara ’75
The class recently learned of Joe Pullara’s passing in January 2012.
Joe slipped quietly into Amherst at the beginning of our junior year as a transfer from Staten Island Community College. He told me that neither he nor any of his friends and family had ever heard of Amherst until a guidance counselor suggested he apply.
I met Joe through the Amherst Entertainment Committee. He jumped right in to manage security, the toughest and most time-consuming task of all.
I already had a lot of friends, but Joe didn’t have any connections at all, and it never seemed to bother him. He enjoyed his classes. He was a sociology major and a big fan of Jan Dizard.
Joe got me a summer job on Cape Cod after graduation. At the end of the summer I asked him if he wanted to hang out for a few more weeks of partying, but he declined because he wanted to get back to New York to look for a full-time job. He found one as a stage manager at the Shubert Theater on West 44th Street, just when A Chorus Line began its record-breaking run.
Joe spent his whole career with the Shubert Organization. He was the longtime theater and house manager of the Imperial Theater on West 45th Street, which means that shows such as Dreamgirls and Les Misérables, among others, would have gone into orbit on Joe’s watch.
I lost touch with Joe over the years. I knew he got married, but I never met his family. He is survived by his wife of 31 years, Patricia, and a son and daughter, Jason and Jillian. He lived on Staten Island his whole life. He loved fishing, the Giants and occasional trips to Las Vegas and Atlantic City. —Jonathan Davis ’75
Robert E. Erard ’77
I heard of Bob Erard before we started at Amherst. A high school classmate from Reston, Va., recognized his name on the material the College sent us. Her comment was, “This guy is an absolute genius!”—the subtext being that if we were both going to this place, one of us was going to the wrong college.
There has been nothing since to prove her wrong. Bob graduated summa cum laude. Steve Pastan ’77 commented, “Bob and I used to drive together from the Washington, D.C., area to Amherst. … I remember seven hours of nonstop conversation on topics ranging from the hard-core philosophical to inane popular culture. He was the best-educated person I ever met, starting with his Jesuit education in high school. His mind could maintain a dizzying number of contradictory opinions at the same time—Barb ’77, his wife, was the only person who could go the distance in the ring with him.”
After Amherst, Bob got a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan and stayed in the area, becoming a leader in both state and national clinical psychology associations. He also became active in a local theater troupe, appearing in a production of Titanic. Combining both skills, he apparently sang a presentation at a national psychological association meeting. His erudition (Erardition?) was demonstrated in this notes submission:
“But I just discovered that, in the 1953 movie Titanic, Robert Wagner and friends sing a rousing version of ‘Lord Jeffery Amherst’ (sadly, pronouncing the ‘h’). I gather that I am not the first to notice this, but can it be merely a coincidence that they are singing ‘Yard by Yard’ (Williams’ fight song: “Yard by yard we’ll fight our way thro’ Amherst’s line”) as the ship hits the iceberg?”
Our thoughts are with his sons Matt and Nicholas, with Barb and with all of us who will miss him. —Gerry Brown ’77
A. Marshall Pregnall ’78
With great sorrow we report the sudden passing of our classmate, teammate, fraternity brother and friend Alexander “Sam” Marshall Pregnall, on Oct. 22. Although Sam succumbed in seven short weeks to a devastatingly aggressive cancer, those weeks were filled with the love and support of his family and the many friends whose lives he touched. To witness the incredible courage, strength and grace with which Sam and Maribel, his loving wife of 29 years, met the challenges of Sam’s final weeks, please go to www.caringbridge.org/visit/marshallpregnall.
At Amherst, Sam was a biology major. He was a talented diver on the swim team (who could forget his show-stopping full-twisting one-and-a-half?) and a member of the Psi Upsilon fraternity. Sam’s interest in environmental and ecological biology continued throughout his life. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Oregon and joined the faculty at Vassar College, where he became a professor of biology.
Sam was an avid diver (both in Pratt Pool and in more natural bodies of water), hiker and explorer, as well as a certified scuba instructor. He and his family completed dives from coast to coast in the United States, as well as in more exotic locales. From the depths to the heights, Sam also led his family on many hikes, including to all 46 high peaks of the Adirondacks.
We remember Sam with his gentle, broad, somehow knowing smile, often demonstrating his rarer skills, such as tightrope walking along the bleacher railings at Pratt Pool and hanging upside down from his toes on ceiling pipes at the Psi U basement bar. Sam was a very important part of a very important time in our lives, and we will miss him greatly.
Sam is survived by his wife, Maribel; son, Drake; daughter, Hali; and his parents, brother and sister. His full obituary may be found at doylefuneralhome.com. —Chris de la Rama ’78, Mark Parisi ’78
Catherine E. Kerr ’85
Four weeks have passed, and two decades of her living with cancer, yet I still feel stunned to write these words: Catherine Ellen Kerr, whose spirit burned fiercely for 52 years, died Nov. 12.
Cathy and I have been friends since move-in day at Amherst 35 years ago. (We didn’t know it then, but roommates Jon Kranes ’85 and Hawley Truax ’85 were also moving in that day: Cathy’s and my husbands-to-be.)
I was drawn to Cath’s insatiable curiosity, native brilliance and indifference to rules or conventions. One of her early escapades involved bolt cutters, a guitar case and a lofty view from an Amherst landmark. We shared lovely highs: in 1994, Cathy became godmother to Hawley’s and my oldest daughter, Olivia Truax ’16. And harsh lows: as when Cath and Jon arrived at our house just after she received the harrowing diagnosis of multiple myeloma—a deadly cancer that she kept at bay long past medical expectations through an intensive practice of qigong and meditation.
In the wake of this diagnosis, Cathy turned her remarkable mind from the humanities to the sciences. Armed with a coveted career-retraining grant from NIH, she contributed to foundational research at Harvard in the cognitive neuroscience of meditation. In 2011, she established the Embodied Neuroscience lab at Brown University. There she launched a clinical trial to investigate the healing role of qigong in cancer survivors. After delivering a widely viewed TEDx talk, she presented pioneering work on the neuroscience of mindfulness to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Cathy was buoyed by Amherst friends. Jason Kliot ’85, Carmen MacDougall ’85, Ruthanne Deutsch ’83, Kate Silbaugh ’85 and Dan Jurayj ’86 visited in her final days. She died at home with the sun streaming in the window, with her sister Sarah Kerr, Jon, Ira Paneth ’86, Hawley and me at her bedside. —Jane F. Thrailkill ’85
Alissa S. Wilson ’00
Alissa Wilson, an accomplished singer, dancer and international peace advocate whose megawatt smile spread joy to those around her, died quietly from an illness on Dec. 28, 2016.
A native New Yorker whose work empowering communities in the United States and Africa brought her to the American Friends Service Committee in Washington, D.C., she embodied the College’s motto, creatively mixing silliness and seriousness to give light to the world.
That was evident even in what Alissa sometimes wore: a blue tutu. A colleague at AFSC, a Quaker peace organization, says Alissa was the only person he knew who could don a tutu to the office and “make me feel stupid for wearing a suit.”
Nothing about Alissa was frivolous, however. Her joy “wasn’t pastel colored,” says Sam Ender ’01. “If someone can be fierce in their joy, that’s what she was.”
Alissa was born in Manhattan and grew up with her grandmother and mother. She graduated from Ethical Culture Fieldston School, arriving at James full of grace and confidence.
She successfully auditioned for the Bluestockings a cappella group. “[W]hen she opened her mouth I was blown away,” says fellow Bluestocking Deny Soto ’00.
Josh Fischel ’00, who performed with the Zumbyes, recalls her deep, earthy voice as the sound of “blowing over the top of an empty bottle.”
Alissa lived in Marsh her sophomore and senior years and spent her junior year at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. She wrote her political science thesis comparing Myanmar’s democratization process to those in Thailand and the Philippines. “I remember very well how impressed I was,” says her adviser, Javier Corrales.
She attended the Fletcher School at Tufts University, where classmates selected her to speak at graduation in 2005. “You will never regret treating someone as a human being,” she told fellow graduates, “or working with integrity.”
A lengthier version of this remembrance can be found online. —Beth Slovic ’00