William J. Graham ’45
William James Graham died on Nov. 24, 2020, near his home in Westwood, Mass. He was 97.
Bill graduated cum laude from Amherst in 1948. He had enlisted in 1943 and saw action in Luzon, Philippines, as an infantry officer. After he graduated, he was called back into service and served as the training officer at Camp Gordon, Ga.
Bill met Natalie Stolk at a wedding in 1950; they married a year later and had seven children. Natalie predeceased Bill by 10 months. They are buried together in New London, N.H.
Bill joined Owens-Illinois Inc. in 1953 and worked there for 33 years; by the time he retired, he had managed all key divisions at the company. He was on various professional and civic boards. He joined GW Plastics Inc. as a director in 1983 and remained active until the company was sold in 2020.
Bill was a fierce competitor; sports was a big part of his life and character. He taught himself to play tennis at age 7 and played for 80-plus years. He was captain of the Amherst tennis team and played competitively until he was injured at age 88. At that point, he was ranked number 2 nationally by the USTA. He played golf until he died; he had two holes-in-one after the age of 85.
Bill and Natalie moved from Portola Valley, Calif., to Fox Hill Village in 2012 to be closer to family and to New Hampshire, where they had a family gathering place.
It is fitting that Bill died with The Wall Street Journal open on his lap. He had an insatiable appetite for business and finance (and sports), but mostly he loved his family: Natalie; their seven children; 12 grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; brother Robert ’53; and numerous nieces and nephews. —Susan Graham Fitzgerald
Frederic J. Gardner ’49
Frederic J. Gardner ’49, P’79, G’15, died at home in Boston on Oct. 1. Born April 30, 1925, he lived life at full tilt as a beloved father, husband and friend; a lifelong student of history; an outstanding amateur athlete; and a businessman.
Enlisting in 1943, Fred started his combat tour two days after the Allied Forces landed at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, and ended it on May 8, 1945, in Pilsen, formerly Czechoslovakia. He also fought in the Battle for Brest and the Battle of the Bulge.
He was awarded two Purple Hearts and honorably discharged. He enrolled at Amherst on the GI Bill. “Going to Amherst out of the Army was like getting into a country club with no dues,” Fred noted. “Three square meals a day, with no responsibilities except to pass the exams, with a bunch of congenial people.”
At Amherst, he met his future wife, Sue “Suzy” Hemphill. They married in 1950 and raised five children while Fred ran a small company with his brother. In 1970, Amherst recruited Fred to become director of alumni relations. A devoted alum with scores of Amherst friends, Fred helped raise the College’s profile and endowment significantly.
In 1978, Fred retired from Amherst, and he and Suzy moved to Boston. Suzy died in 1999, and in 2001 Fred met Sherley Smith. They married in 2004, spending two wonderful decades together.
Fred played squash into his 70s, skied until his mid-80s and played tennis until 90. A jazz lover, political junkie and ace bridge player, he possessed a great sense of humor and wit, a lifelong optimism, and devotion to family and friends.
He leaves his wife, Sherley Smith; his daughters, Suzanne, Anne, Katherine ’79 and Laura; his son, Stephen; 10 grandchildren, including Lizzy Briskin ’15; and two great-grandchildren. —Laura Gardner
Herbert L. Kinney ’49
Herbert Leslie Kinney was born April 26, 1922, in Plainfield, Mass., to Ethel Upham and Elisha Stanton Kinney.
He graduated from Ayer (Mass.) High School and enlisted in the Army Air Corps shortly after Pearl Harbor, serving overseas in Europe and reaching the rank of captain.
In 1945, he married high school classmate Sarah “Betsie” Longley and resumed his education. In 1949, he graduated cum laude from Amherst College. The highlight of his senior year came while writing his thesis on human rights, when he was given an interview and had lunch with Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt at Hyde Park. He later received an MBA from George Washington University.
He worked for the Atomic Energy Commission in the division of research on peaceful uses of atomic energy before retiring in 1979, then moved to Long Island and worked for 14 more years at the Brookhaven National Laboratory.
Firmly opposed to war and all violence, he and his wife joined the Society of Friends (Quakers) in 1960. In addition to Friends activities, he was an avid gardener, building rock gardens with each new move, working as a team with his wife in their mutual love of gardening. Herb had a warm sense of humor, which was a help in reaching difficult decisions and a delight on a personal basis.
In 1998, Herb and his wife moved west to California’s Mojave Desert, then to Oregon, to be close to family. In July 2020, they joyously celebrated their 75th anniversary.
Herbert passed away on Dec. 23, 2020. He was preceded in death by his son, Jon, in 1986 and his daughter, Katie, in 2015. Surviving are son-in-law Dave Wash, grandson Jon and granddaughter Galen. Interment of Herb’s ashes will be at the Friends Meeting House Cemetery, Sandy Springs, Md. —Betsie Kinney
Chandler A. Oakes III ’49
Born on July 29, 1927, in Charleston, W.V., Chandler “Chan” Alban Oakes III was the eldest son of Chandler Alban Oakes II and Miriam Logan Oakes, and proud older brother to Col. David Logan Oakes ’50. He was a proud Amherst College alum, remaining engaged with his alma mater throughout his life.
Chan spent his entire career with General Electric. On a management training program, he met his future wife, Barbara Yost, in Fort Wayne, Ind. Chan and Barbara were married on Sept. 18, 1954. They built a beautiful life together with their children—Chip, Dan and Bec. In 1986, Chan retired, and he and Barbara moved to Sacandaga Lake in the Adirondacks, where they lived happily for 35 years.
An avid outdoorsman with an undying love for the wilderness and adventures, Chan loved to travel, hunt and fish with his family and close friends. His annual hunting trip to his beloved Wyoming became a fixture in the lives of his sons and his many companions. He had an insatiable hunger to learn, particularly when it came to history, and spent his life endlessly feeding his mind with books and knowledge. He never met a stranger, had a sharp wit, and was quick to laugh, tell a joke or regale anyone within earshot with a story, usually one his family had already heard several times.
He always paused to appreciate life’s simple pleasures, like a round of golf, a game of euchre or a beautiful sunset.
Most importantly, he was a man who deeply loved his family. He lived every day of his life as a proud and devoted son, big brother, husband, dad, Granpa and father figure to many. Passing away on Sept. 1 at 94, Chan is survived by his wife, children and six grandchildren. —Patricia Oakes
Chauncey L. Williams V ’49
To be honest, I never called him Chauncey but rather Laurey, from his middle name, Lawrence. This was how he was known in Pelham, N.Y., where we grew up and where he was celebrated as an expert jazz pianist who played in several local bands.
He went off to prep school in Ohio, entered Amherst and then, as many of us did, enlisted in the service. He was in the Navy, stationed in Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. His musical talents enabled him to have a disc jockey show called the Kwage Podge. (Think the movie Good Morning, Vietnam.)
By coincidence, his service and mine ended at the same time, and we came back to Amherst and roomed together in Pratt until he joined Theta Xi. After graduation, he earned a degree in industrial design and landed a first job involving plastics. Then, at General Motors’ styling section, he helped develop the 1953 Corvette.
For Boeing, his team designed interiors for the first commercial jet and eventually 707s for 17 different airlines. The company opened an office in Puerto Rico, redesigned an old pier for cruise ships and did an array of projects for many of the Fortune 500 companies.
He married Anne Wall, another old friend from Pelham, and their two sons were born in Puerto Rico. When both sons moved to Seattle, the parents decided to relocate as well. So, after 37 years in Puerto Rico, they moved to Cape Cod, where I visited them; I also hosted them in Vero Beach, Fla. Anne died a year ago, and Laurey passed away on Aug. 19 of this year. He was multitalented, different and very interesting to know. —Gerry Reilly ’49
Raymond P. Vigneault ’50
After a long battle with COPD, Ray Vigneault passed away on Sept. 24 in Houston, at the age of 91.
Ray had been living in a retirement community for several decades before moving to an advanced care facility. During retirement, he read books and newspapers for the blind, volunteered at United Way and was a tax consultant for the AARP.
With the advent of the Internet, Ray periodically provided his friends with a barrage of humorous sayings and philosophical thoughts. He was a deeply religious man.
Raised in Northampton, Mass., Ray was only 16 when he entered Amherst. He joined Kappa Theta and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He then earned an M.S. in chemistry from the University of New Hampshire before going into the Army Chemical Corps in 1953. In 1955 he started at Exxon, where he spent 32 years before retiring. Most of his assignments were in sales management and marketing.
After Exxon, Ray spent a number of years teaching high school chemistry. For 10 years during his career, he found time to ably serve as class secretary.
Ray is survived by his wife of 43 years, Joene; a son, Ray; a daughter, Gabrielle Taylor; three grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Our sympathy goes out to them and others in Ray’s extended family. —John Priesing ’50
Barry G. Whitaker ’50
On Feb. 27, 2018, Barry Whitaker died. He went to the Choate school. At Amherst, he was a member of Theta Delta Chi and played varsity football.
Upon graduation, Barry went into the Air Force. He married Pat Todd in 1951 and had three children: Dana, Todd and Sarah. His field was communications and printing. He was advertising manager for Simpson Lee Paper, part owner of Barnes Printing and then owner of Evergreen Distribution until 1990. After that, the trail gets cold.
We do know that, at various times, Barry lived in Bend, Ore.; Atherton, Calif.; and New England. He is survived by his wife, Luan. —John Priesing ’50
Edward B. Hager ’52
Ted transferred after our junior year and graduated from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis in 1955. He soon blended private practice with an amazing adventure as an entrepreneur.
A fellowship at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital exposed him to medical pioneers in kidney dialysis. As an instructor at Harvard Medical School, he put the pieces together: hospitals lacked facilities to meet the growing demands of patients with kidney disease; private enterprise could create the scale and efficiencies to meet the challenge. Ted co-founded National Medical Care, Inc., in 1968 to provide easy-access kidney dialysis. Its growth rate boomed into a national chain, propelled by the diabetes problem and Medicare eligibility.
Ted took some heat for making money from a medical problem. The Boston Globe ran a 1971 cartoon depicting coins pouring from a dialysis-resembling slot machine. Ted’s rejoinder in Newsweek: “But who should do it—the mailman, the stock broker, the bus driver? With non-profits, there’s no incentive to improve service or keep costs down.”
Ted resigned as chairman in 1980 to run for U.S. Senator from New Hampshire. He got 10 percent of Republican primary votes, close behind John Sununu.
In 1985, he founded Novavax to leverage proprietary recombinant nanoparticle vaccine technology to prevent a range of diseases, now including COVID-19.
Ted died on Oct. 5, leaving his wife, four children and eight grandchildren. —Nick Evans ’52
Malcolm Spencer Brown ’53
Mal Brown was born in Beirut, Lebanon, to missionary doctors; grew up in Buffalo, N.Y.; prepared for Amherst at Nichols School; and majored in philosophy. A member of Phi Alpha Psi, the House Management Committee and the Philosophy Club, he also played squash, soccer and hockey.
Earning his doctorate from Columbia, Mal taught philosophy at several colleges and then for 17 years at Brooklyn College (CUNY), continuing his life’s path as a Renaissance man.
He was a pioneer in integrating computers in humanities research, a scholar on Plato, the publisher of a concordance on Euclid and others, while also pursuing mathematics research. Taking early retirement, he and his new wife, Anne Larsen, moved to the Catskills, where they opened a health food store, farmed (keeping 60 beehives), developed a small hydroelectric facility and, using its power, founded a community public radio station.
After several years, they moved to Hull, Mass., where Mal championed wind power, helped to establish two wind turbines and spread the word to other communities. He made sundials, sang in a choir and taught himself to whittle wood and to play the recorder. Ahead of his times in recycling and driving electric cars, he became a social justice activist, while returning to scholarly work, researching and visiting scholars and ancient manuscripts in Europe.
With a razor-sharp mind, Mal was playful and sly, taking pleasure in wordplay and gentle teasing. Not shy to express his love, he approached all people with kindness, interest and respect.
Malcolm died on Nov. 3 at home in Hull. He leaves his wife, Anne; his first wife, Carol, and their son, Duncan, and daughter, Lydia; his second wife, Virginia, and their daughter, Melissa (Kurt); his brother, Norm ’52; and two grandchildren. He was predeceased by son Greg, daughter Charlotte and a granddaughter. —Anne Larsen and George Edmonds ’53
Charles Arthur Kelly ’53
Charlie died on Aug. 10, leaving a rich legacy of service to wilderness preservation in the vast border area of northern Minnesota and southern Ontario.
As a child in Evanston, Ill., he became friends, through his father, with two key environmental leaders for the area, Ernest “Ober” Oberholtzer and Sigurd Olson. Both of them were vigorous advocates for the protection of the Boundary Waters area. Later, teenage Charlie became inspired on a canoe expedition and later again on frequent visits to Mallard Island, Ober’s wilderness home and education camp.
All this led to Charlie’s service as president of the Oberholtzer Foundation and board member of Quetico Superior Foundation and Wilderness Society Research Foundation and also Gads Hill Center, a Chicago agency providing educational and social services for children and families. He was known for his fairness and objectivity. His wife, Jean, wrote, “He honors listening.”
Charlie prepared for Amherst at Evanston Township High School, joined the Lord Jeff Club, Auto Association, News Bureau and fencing team, and majored in English.
Roommate with Charlie for three Amherst years and again for a time at different Harvard graduate schools, Roger Marshall ’53 also served as best man at Charlie’s first wedding. Roger valued most of all Charlie’s ability to provide good advice to him.
Charlie earned his law degree from Harvard, like his father, and then practiced law in Chicago for 52 years with Hubachek & Kelly and then Chapman and Cutler.
After law school, he received a commission to serve in the Air Force, then continued in the reserve and, remarkably, rose to the rank of brigadier general.
Charles leaves his wife, Jean, and, from his first wife, Frances Kates Kelly, daughters Elizabeth (Jason) and Mary (Stuart) and son Timothy (Julee); 12 grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; his sister, Ann; and three nephews. —Jean Kelly, Roger Marshall ’53 and George Edmonds ’53
Spofford “Cap” Woodruff ’53
Cap was born in Providence, R.I., and attended The Gordon School, Providence Country Day School and Deerfield Academy. Early interruption of college by four years of service in the Navy—in Newport and Boston and on a destroyer—led to his return to Amherst and his graduation in 1957 with a major in biology. A Narragansett Bay sailing champion before, during and after college, Cap was a member of the Sailing Club, the College Athletic Association and Chi Psi. Despite his short time with 1953, he had close friends with whom he stayed in touch, especially John Kunz ’53.
At the University of Rhode Island, where he met his future wife, Sara “Sally” Gifford Petty, he earned a master’s degree in marine biology, leading to a 22-year career teaching biology and chemistry and coaching tennis at Providence Country Day. In retirement, he volunteered as a coordinator and instructor with the Commerce Department’s Marine Recreational Information Program in southern New England.
A move to Middlebury, Vt., to be closer to family also enabled Cap to watch the college’s athletics, to volunteer at the Open Door Clinic and the county Humane Society, and to attend St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.
Cap loved music, playing the bagpipes and singing in an interfaith choir. But he was never happier than when sailing, whether cruising with the family, skippering a big race or crewing on a friend’s boat. He delighted in the tactical challenges and camaraderie of racing and a Sea Sprite with well-trimmed sails. A longtime member of the Bristol Yacht Club and supporter of Save The Bay, he enjoyed acting as a patient sailing instructor and clam-digging guide for his grandchildren.
Spofford died on Nov. 14, leaving his wife, Sally; daughters Jennifer (John) and Elizabeth (Thomas); son Charles (Margaret); and six grandchildren. —The Woodruff family, Buck Greenough ’53 (husband of predeceased sister Jane) and George Edmonds ’53
Jacob B. Baumann ’54
The College has been notified of the death of Jake Baumann on Dec. 2.
He came to Amherst from Ross High School in Fremont, Ohio. As an undergraduate, he was a member of Theta Xi and majored in chemistry. He earned the “A” in cross-country and was on the staff of the Student.
Following Amherst, Jake went on to earn an M.S. and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Michigan.
Jake remained in academics his entire career, initially at Defiance College in Ohio, and then, from 1965 until his retirement in 1999, at Penn State Schuylkill campus. Over the years, he contributed numerous articles to professional journals. He was well liked by students, who evaluated him for his teaching of both inorganic and organic chemistry.
After his teaching career ended, Jake worked part time at World Resources, Pottsville, Pa., in the analytical chemistry laboratory.
He enjoyed oil painting and model building, and, following his retirement, he became an avid traveler. He visited not only his ancestral home in Switzerland but many other European countries and Great Britain.
He was a member of St. John’s United Church of Christ, Orwigsburg, Pa.
Jake was married twice. Both his first wife, Margaret (Watkins), and his second wife, Reine (Eby), predeceased him. His survivors include two sons, John (Hazel) of Richmond, Va., and William (Joseph) of Shady Dale, Ga.; daughter Susan (Drew Corinchock) of Schuylkill Haven; and stepdaughter Susan Ulsh (Dean) of Auburn. Jake is also survived by his six grandchildren: Kyle, David, Olivia, Kate, Kerry and Abby. —Hank Tulgan ’54
Ralph D. “Tad” Powell Jr. ’54
My father was named Ralph Dewey Powell Jr., but before he had an official name, he had already been nicknamed Tad.
Tad Powell was born in 1932; attended Amherst College and graduated in 1954; went on to Boston University School of Medicine, graduating in 1958; and practiced pathology for more than 50 years.
He was father to six of his own children and stepfather to two of Deborah Powell’s children from a previous marriage.
He loved to fish, ski and talk to his best friend, Paul Schliakjer. He loved music, and when he was at Amherst, he and his friend agreed that “this rock ’n’ roll thing is a fad that will never last.” He was a lifelong athlete, rowing in high school and competing on the football team in college (although I learned when I was there that he chose not to play his senior year, in 1953, when the team went undefeated. Oh, well.). He was skiing into his late 80s, overcoming a broken collarbone and a torn ACL to get back onto the slopes. He was very smart and interested in all sorts of things.
When I began considering colleges in high school, I thought that I would really like to be like my dad someday, and he always said that he had a great time in college, so I was strongly considering Amherst, and everything I learned about the school just made me more enthusiastic. It wasn’t until after I had been there for a year or two that I realized I would be graduating in 2004, the year of my dad’s 50th reunion. I always thought that was pretty cool, and as a bonus, we got to go to reunions together after that.
He was kind and gentle and very loved. —Nate Powell ’04
Robert T. Basseches ’55
Robert Basseches passed away on Oct. 10 at the age of 87. He is survived by his wife, Harriet; children K.B., Josh and Jessica; and grandchildren Jacob, Sophie and Adam.
Bob arrived at Amherst with the class of 1955, graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in physics. During college, he achieved both scholarly excellence and a jovial camaraderie with his friends, many of whom remained close throughout his life. Bob was a dedicated member of the Amherst golf team and took up boxing for a brief and bruising period; a knockout punch from the coach abruptly concluded his short-lived boxing career. He was also an avid singer at Amherst and a devoted member of DU fraternity.
After Amherst, Bob attended Yale Law, graduating cum laude and second in his class in 1958. He then married his longtime sweetheart, Harriet, and settled in Washington, D.C., where he clerked for Court of Appeals Judge David Bazelon and Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black.
Bob then joined the law firm Shea & Gardner (later Goodwin Procter), where he practiced for 58 years, ultimately serving as chair of the executive committee. A specialist in administrative law, he became president of the Maritime Administrative Bar Association and chair of the American Bar Association Maritime Transport Subcommittee.
For recreation, Bob bought and operated Sharmans Run Farm, which also served as the family retreat. Some of his happiest times were spent there caring for the herd of Charolais cattle. Bob moved seamlessly from the barn to the art gallery, where he collected Inuit sculpture and Japanese prints. World traveling, sharing flights of single-malt scotch and playing golf with Harriet were also precious moments in Bob’s life.
Bob was a true friend and a caring companion and father. He will be greatly missed. —Josh Basseches ’84 and Jessica Basseches ’91
Robinson G. Hollister Jr. ’56
Rob died Sept. 14, quickly and painlessly, in Needham, Mass., of complications from a fall two weeks earlier.
In high school, he competed in swimming and many track events. Theta Delt at Amherst, he captained the swim team and became New England backstroke champion. Swimming was a lifelong passion. He was a dedicated member of the Swarthmore 1,000 Lap Club.
Rob majored in economics, receiving his Ph.D. at Stanford in 1965, where he met Valerie Dutton. The newlyweds headed to France, where Rob worked for the OECD. In Paris, they developed a love for wine. A Julia Child cookbook forever transformed their culinary lives.
Rob joined the War on Poverty in 1966 with the Office of Economic Opportunity. He played a major role in the design, implementation and analysis of the first large-scale use of random-assignment experiments, previously used in medicine, to assess the impact of public policy. This use of randomized experiments was new and controversial, and Rob became a leading advocate and expert, convincing policymakers and fellow scholars that this approach was crucial for properly assessing the effects of a program. Over the years, he worked on randomized evaluations of anti-poverty, job training, education and child care programs. Today random-assignment experiments are widely accepted by policymakers and economists as the gold standard. Indeed, the 2019 Nobel Prize in economics was awarded to developmental economists using these methods.
Rob joined the economics department at Swarthmore College in 1971, teaching until retirement in 2015. He was known across campus for his “uniform” of shorts and Birkenstocks and widely recognized for his dedication to his students.
With a laid-back personality, a great sense of humor and a love of puns, he refused to be serious when someone was taking a photograph.
Rob is survived by Valerie, two daughters and two grandkids. —Peter Levison ’56
Chauncey Delphin Howell ’57
Like a shooting star, the irreplaceable, irreverent, ironical wordsmith of the class of 1957 has passed from the firmament. Chauncey died after a long illness on Sept. 20.
Chauncey and I were roommates for two years. I knew I was in for a joyful experience shortly after we met, when he gave me and my future wife, Alison, a baby’s potty seat to use as a drink mixer, emblematic of his offbeat personality. Chauncey majored in classics, loved the opera, had a rapier wit, observed people carefully and hated pomposity. We laughed a lot.
Chauncey backed into his career as a TV personality. After college, he was drafted and sent to boot camp in South Carolina. His mates mocked him for lying on his bunk, reading in Latin, while they played cards, read magazines and joked around. They shipped out to Germany, and Chauncey was eager to go, but because he could write well, he spent three years as a company clerk at Fort Jackson.
It is no wonder that Chauncey made a beeline for the bright lights of the Big Apple. He began writing and interviewing for Women’s Wear Daily, even though he was unsophisticated about food and travel. That started his career as a theater and restaurant critic and interviewer on New York media. He interviewed the high and mighty, but he most enjoyed speaking with ordinary people. He was warm, had a flair for languages and told zany stories and anecdotes. He brought out the best in people in a lighthearted, affectionate way. Every day, his Man About Town program appeared on WABC or WNBC. He won five Emmys.
Chauncey’s after-dinner remarks were the highlight of all our class reunions. He was one of a kind, unforgettable.
Chauncey is survived by his sister, Sally, and brother David. —Alan Schechter ’57
William D. Ziegenfus ’57
I am very sad to report on the passing of Bill Ziegenfus, a classmate and fellow Beta. Zig passed away on Sept. 8. He is survived by the love of his life, Liz. He and Liz began a most happy relationship back when they were in middle school, and the union survived 64 happy years of marriage. Zig is also survived by his four children, 11 grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and a sister, Barbara.
While at Amherst, Zig was able to successfully deal with the rigorous pre-med curriculum. He was also able to contribute mightily to the success of the Jeffs’ outstanding baseball team; he was the starting right fielder and cleanup batter during each of his three years on the varsity. In 1959, he and teammates Ted Kambour ’57 and Bob King ’57 were named to the Centennial Baseball Team, which marked the 100th anniversary of Amherst’s first intercollegiate baseball game. In that game, Amherst beat Williams by the unbelievable score of 73 to 32.
Following Amherst, Zig attended Jefferson Medical School and graduated in 1961. He then served as an intern at Philadelphia Presbyterian Hospital. Next, he served for three years as a physician in the U.S. Navy, during which time he and Liz lived in Japan. Zig continued his career as a resident at Thomas Jefferson Hospital and went on to complete a pediatric urology fellowship at Columbia-Presbyterian in New York. He then accepted a position as a pediatric urologist at Alfred I. DuPont Hospital in Wilmington, Del., and concluded his outstanding career as a urologist at Riddle Hospital in Media, Pa.
Zig led a full, productive and happy life. You are missed by many, my old friend. —Bill Donahue ’57
Robert W. Denious ’59
Robert W. Denious ’59 died on Sept. 4 in Bryn Mawr, Pa., survived by his wife, Susan Brown Denious (Smith ’59); three sons, two of whom graduated from Amherst; eight grandchildren, two Amherst graduates among them; and a great-grandson.
Bob attended East High School in Denver. In a reversal of the American migration story, he came east to attend college and stayed east after college and law school, settling in the Philadelphia suburbs to raise his family and practice law. He was a trusts and estates lawyer; his clients were families, many of whom relied upon him as a problem solver, advisor and counselor beyond his technical skills. He embraced the Philadelphia legal tradition of service as a volunteer and board member of numerous charitable organizations.
Bob taught himself to play piano at a young age. Playing by ear, he supported himself in college, working summers in an ersatz saloon—the Glory Hole Bar—in Central City, Colo. He was synesthetic; he saw, for instance, the key of G-sharp as purple. His Phi Gam brothers will remember him at the piano, leading others in song. He loved music of all kinds, but reveled in the Great American Songbook—Porter, Berlin, Gershwin, Kern and Arlen, songs meant to be sung, the louder the better, preferably with drink in hand and feet tapping.
He majored in English at Amherst, and he loved words and language. His time at the College also sharpened his appreciation for the funny side of life and practical jokes. Eyes twinkling, he enjoyed recounting the story of the classmate who carried a mannequin named Irving around campus, or the one who folded himself improbably into a wooden box next to a Pratt fireplace, only to emerge on the unsuspecting in the most startling of jack-in-the-box maneuvers.—Robert D. Denious ’83 and David S. Denious ’86
Bruce F. Duncombe ’59
Bruce F. Duncombe, a teacher and diplomat, died Aug. 3 of heart-related issues, in Gaithersburg, Md., where he had moved five years ago after living in Bethesda, Md., for many years. He had just turned 84.
A graduate of Brockton (Mass.) High School, Bruce was a member of Deke and majored in economics at Amherst.
He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Minnesota in 1964.
He had two careers, first as a professor of economics at Georgetown University and then as an economist, diplomat and historian in the State Department. During his diplomatic career, he first served in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, and over the next 15 years in Egypt, India, Indonesia and Nigeria.
Bruce met Sharon Ann Jorgensen while in graduate school, and they were married in 1961. They moved to Washington in 1963 when Bruce joined the Georgetown University economics faculty, where, along with his teaching duties, he co-authored two books as well as chapters in other economics-related volumes.
While teaching economics to Foreign Service officers at Georgetown, Bruce became interested in diplomatic work and joined the Foreign Service Institute in 1974 in preparation for his overseas assignments. He returned to Washington in 1993 as director of the Office of Investment Affairs and served as head of the U.S. delegation at many international conferences. In his final assignment, in the Office of the Historian, he edited two volumes in the Foreign Relations of the United States series.
In retirement he traveled extensively, organized a trove of 25,000 family photographs, wrote multiple family histories for his children and grandchildren, read avidly and began work on a novel.
Bruce is survived by his wife, Sharon; his daughters, Lesley Gramaglia, Kristin Louise Duncombe and Stephanie Duncombe; and five grandchildren. —Claude E. Erbsen ’59
John W. Frymoyer ’59
Dr. John W. Frymoyer passed away under a sunny Aug. 2 sky, surrounded by his loving family. John pursued his interests with passion. A relative noted, “He definitely didn’t leave any gas in the tank. He ran flat out.”
John initially neglected his Amherst studies but shaped up after meeting Mount Holyoke student Nan Pilcher, the love of his life. They graduated in 1959, married and shared 51 adventurous years, until Nan’s death in 2010.
After John graduated with honors from the University of Rochester School of Medicine, they raised four daughters in Burlington, Vt.—Susan Hodge, Lynn Boynton, Meg Stebbins and Betsey Rhynhart. John delighted in them, four sons-in-law and 11 grandchildren. Ever a romantic, at 80 he fell in love with Gail Poler, moving to her farm in Massachusetts.
John led research in lumbar spine care and developed orthopedic bioengineering. He published 100-plus journal articles and 10 books, including The Adult Spine, a key medical reference. Founding editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, John shared his father’s innovative engineering brilliance. They collaborated on a table device to measure spinal movement, receiving a U.S. patent.
After serving as a professor of orthopedics, John was dean of the UVM medical college from 1990 to 2000. He helped create the UVM Medical Center and was its first CEO. John was a gifted surgeon, personable doc and beloved mentor. Over the years, he built a Lake Champlain home and completed renovations for family and friends.
The son of W.W. “Fry” and Elizabeth, John was raised in Foxborough, Mass., and graduated from Deerfield Academy. Brother Bill is Amherst ’55, and sister Mary was Mount Holyoke ’54, underlining a long family tradition.
A memorial service is planned for July 2022 at the Methodist church in Shelburne, Vt. —Bill Frymoyer ’55
Francis J. Lawler ’59
Francis J. “Fran” Lawler died on Nov. 14 after a prolonged illness.
Fran came to Amherst in the fall of 1955 as part of the Deerfield contingent. At Amherst, he was a member of Alpha Delta Phi who took his fraternity’s origin as a literary society seriously. Fran majored in English. Those of us fortunate enough to read his critiques of the works of various English and American authors and playwrights and his own literary efforts were convinced that Fran would be a novelist. Fran graduated cum laude from Amherst and, to the surprise of many of us, went on to Boston College Law School, where he was an editor of the Law Review and graduated with distinction.
After a judicial clerkship, Fran went on to have a distinguished legal career at the Boston firm of Peabody & Brown, where he was a star litigator.
While Fran may have eschewed a literary career, it is noteworthy that his son-in-law Paul Harding won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2010, a feat of which Fran was very proud.
Fran is survived by his wife of 58 years, Mary Finn, who spent many wonderful hours with us at the AD house; his brother, Bob ’60; three daughters; and five grandchildren. His was a life well spent. —Dan Bernstein ’59
Francis Eric Knight Britton ’60
Our freshman-year Amherst classmate Francis Eric Knight Britton (known then as Frank and later as Eric) died in Paris on Oct. 31. His funeral service was held at Saint-Ouen Cemetery, with a memorial remembrance at the café Brasserie Les Facultés.
Eric’s life story is fascinating but difficult to reconstruct. I may be the only classmate in recent decades actually to sit down in person and talk at length with Eric. That occurred in Lyon, France, on Aug. 3, 2017—a meeting made possible by a dialogue Eric struck up on Facebook that incorporated his emails to Amherst where he commented on administration policies and where those were leading.
On his Facebook page, Eric noted his graduation from Williston Academy, his major in economics and public policy at Columbia University, and his “core curriculum studies” at Amherst. Thereafter, he served in the U.S. Army, taught at Mills College, taught economics at NYU and became an advisor for USAID. He also was a staff consultant at the United Nations, a research fellow at the Ford Foundation, a senior consultant to the OECD and a founder of ECOPLAN, which Eric’s friends describe as a successful and prosperous worldwide consultancy whose heyday was in the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s.
In our 50th reunion book, Eric wrote that his “1993 report for the European Commission, ‘Rethinking Work: New Ways to Work in an Information Society,’ was a widely read and cited ‘thinking exercise’ for managers and policy makers. Communications, ‘distance work’ and aggressive use of the Internet are important components of my work practices.” His World Streets consultancy had worldwide clients. Eric’s Parisian friend Alon Rozen says that, until his death, “he was still consulting for places like Penang, Malaysia, on ‘mobility without individually owned cars.’” He was, in short, a visionary ahead of his time. —Dick Hubert ’60
William J. Hudspeth Jr. ’61
William Junia “Bill” Hudspeth Jr. died of heart failure at his home in Austin, Texas, late last November, with his daughters, Ann Marie Hudspeth and Jenny Hudspeth Stone, at his side.
At Amherst, Bill majored in economics and then went on to earn a law degree at the University of Texas at Austin. After a couple of decades in banking, working his way from cashier to head of a trust department, he founded Austin Trust when Texas laws changed to allow for independent trust companies. So he found his calling, as chairman and CEO of his entrepreneurial creation. Those of us who visited him came away impressed, inspired even, by the vitality of those offices. There in the heart of Austin, Bill’s company, under his leadership, became a community in which he luxuriated in his work and in his associates, and where he remained at his post until shortly before his death.
At Amherst, Bill, a Deke and member of the golf team whom we gradually learned not to call Tex, was well known for his humor, his smile, his quick ironic remarks that were never malicious, his Johnny Cash collection and his pleasure at cards. Bill always conveyed an ease that disguised the hard work he put in when not at play, and over time he became a leading citizen as well as a business leader. He was a member, often an officer, of 20 organizations, ranging from Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Better Business Bureau, the Arthritis Foundation and the Knights of the Symphony, to county and state bar associations.
Aside from his daughters, hunting, fishing and golf were his loves whenever he could get out of the office, and those sports proved in turn the steady catalysts of friendships, for which he showed a lifelong talent. —David Hamilton ’61
Joseph J. Brecher ’62
After a few months’ bout with cancer, Joe died peacefully at home. As Joe’s friends from Amherst to his last days, we wish to complement a lovely obituary from his wife, Inma, and their daughters, Amaya and Lara, available online at amherst.edu/mm/654245. We imagine we are expressing sentiments shared by many.
Joe was one of a kind—his own deeply caring person. He used his mastery of the law throughout his lifetime to protect the natural environment and to advocate for the rights of Native Americans, taking cases to the California Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. Joe collaborated well with other lawyers and legal advocacy groups. He participated in meetings only when absolutely necessary, believing strongly that most meetings are a waste of time. In 1970, Joe co-wrote an environmental law handbook for California Continuing Education of the Bar; one of the first books to tackle what was then a newly emerging field of law, it established Joe as an outstanding environmental lawyer for the rest of his life. He consistently marched to his own drummer—practicing law mostly on his own for over 50 years, refusing to join larger, well-established law firms. He relished taking on powerful companies and their law firms, most often successfully.
Joe was real—no B.S. He had a huge repertoire of jokes, which he loved to dramatize with gusto. The affinity for jokes came from Joe’s profound sense of humor about life and the human condition. He was guided by a huge heart and unswerving commitment to contributing to the just world he believed in. Joe lived his life fully with integrity.
When his death was imminent, he was able to see it clearly without fear or regrets. The clarity and strength of his spirit is very much with us. —Howard Barney ’62, Reid Chambers ’62 and Bill Leland ’62
Stephen A. Langford ’63
Steve died at his home in Danielson, Conn., on Oct. 22. Steve was a lifelong scientist and musician, a proud family man, a friend to many and a warm and loving person. He cherished his time and friends at Amherst and was deeply hurt by his temporary exclusion from our class discussion group following some heated political exchanges, but he was too proud to request reinstatement. He was a physical adventurer and a plain speaker, saying exactly what was on his mind, whatever the social cost. Steve was provocative to the end.
Steve visited our home in Vermont, played music with us and met our neighbors. His instruments were the mandolin, fiddle and viola da gamba, as well as a fine singing voice. On a number of occasions, Steve had encouraging words for me. When I expressed self-doubt, he would assure me that my career, music and family were enough. It might not be too strong to say I loved him for that.
I first knew Steve as a freshman floormate in Stearns, where he challenged me to wrestling matches and shadowboxing—somewhere I got the idea he had been in Golden Gloves—and we socialized a bit with some area college women. I appreciated his knowledge of country music.
In more recent times, he sent me photographs of minerals whose properties he had been studying and writing about—going far beyond my meager knowledge of geology—and sent me music he had arranged and transcribed. His devotion to scientific exploration and his wholehearted embrace of life’s wonders were, I think, a spiritual quest worthy of our College’s admiration. More than that, I miss him, and I wish I had more time to enjoy his company. —Andy Leader ’63
Raymond D. Battocchi ’64
Ray Battocchi passed away on Nov. 4, 2020, due to complications following surgery for lung cancer. He was 78.
Ray was president of his senior class at Thomas Snell Weaver High School in Hartford, Conn. At Amherst, he was co-captain of the football team, an all-New England guard and linebacker, and winner of the Woods-Travis Prize and the “most improved student” award. After graduation, he was drafted by a semipro football team but chose instead to go to law school at the University of Virginia. He served as an elections observer in Mississippi in 1968, while working with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. Along with Terry Segal ’64, he also worked for Tip O’Neill.
Ray argued a First Amendment case, Boos v. Barry, before the Supreme Court, persuading the Court to partially reverse a decision by Judge Robert Bork, who earlier had been Ray’s mentor. (Listen to Ray argue the case: oyez.org/cases/1987/86-803.)
After an eight-year stint with the Department of Justice, Ray spent 24 years as a civil litigator for two commercial law firms (he was a partner in one of them) and then worked as a solo practitioner. He was also a pro bono attorney for Public Citizen. He was very good at what he did: he was named a member of Top D.C. Attorneys and Top Virginia Attorneys by Super Lawyers.
Ray’s younger brother, Ron ’70, said that for him, Ray was “a gift that kept on giving.” Joe Wilson ’64 described Ray as “a genuine, good and thoughtful man, an example of the proverbial ‘force of nature.’ I was grateful to get to know him better over time.”
Ray is survived by his wife, Minda McCabe; sons Adam and Brian; stepdaughters Sarah McCabe and Sandra McCabe; granddaughters Maggie and Kathy; and brother Ron ’70. —Gene Palumbo ’64
Leonard R. Manning ’64
Leonard Reuben Manning passed away quietly on Friday, Sept. 3, at his home in Thompson, Conn.
Lenny came to Amherst as part of the class of ’63. He was co-captain of the freshman football team, but a knee injury prompted him to take a year off before returning to Amherst, where he became president and captain of the undefeated rugby team. At Beta, he was rush chairman and one of the sandwich guys, selling grinders in the dorms at night.
He lived in room “ought,” where everybody was welcome. Many would sit in Len’s prize barber’s chair, admire the buffalo head above the door or ask about the sign that read, “Free Beer Tomorrow.” Everyone was welcome, the laughter contagious, and the advice, if not always helpful, was certainly down to earth.
Len’s lasting image at Beta was as a professor on the topic of “Antarctic Weaponry.” Len, with lab coat and pointer stick, explained his lesson by using a miniature cannon to destroy a refrigerator in the bar room at Beta. After the building was cleared, everyone agreed it was the best lecture of their four years at Amherst.
A history major at Amherst, Len found his calling after a year in law school: the airlines. He absolutely loved flying. He brought an exacting discipline to his job as a pilot, knowing how much was at stake—and that dedication served as an inspiration to his colleagues and to others. He retired as a senior pilot with USAir.
Lenny married his “prom date,” Linda Viner, with whom he had three sons: Luke, who was killed in a tragic accident at age 5; Rafe ’93; and Nathaniel (Deac) ’95. “Captain Len” particularly treasured his grandchildren—Eli, Abigail, Luke, Benjamin and Isla. —George “Homer” Morenus ’64 and Rafe Manning ’93
John W. Buell ’67
John died on Nov. 4. A native of Grosse Pointe, Mich., John summered at his family’s home in Southwest Harbor, absorbing ocean views and his family’s conservative political values. One summer, he worked as a speechwriter for Congressman Gerald Ford.
At Amherst, John was a nearly permanent fixture at Frost, retreating at closing time to “his” carrel (toothbrush in hand). John loved sports and gravitated to Alpha Delta Phi, which housed an assortment of intellectuals and athletes. Senior year, his brothers begged John to lecture in preparation for comprehensive exams in American studies, for which they were woefully unprepared. His impromptu course filled the AD goat room and earned raves—and passing grades on comps for attendees (more than passing for John, whose class standing put him into the Bond Fifteen).
Amherst awakened John to economic and social inequality and led him to a lifelong position on the Left, which he defended with passionate intellect. Unwilling to serve in a war he despised, he curtailed plans for a Ph.D. at Columbia and earned a teaching deferment. Later, he received a Ph.D. in political theory at the University of Massachusetts.
While there, John met Susan Covino, his future wife. They reared three bright, talented children: Todd, Elisabeth and Tim. John was an editor of The Progressive and a popular teacher at College of the Atlantic. He wrote six books and hundreds of articles. A regular column was in preparation when he died. John swam daily and played tennis year-round. A sign for “Buell’s Sports Camp” hung above his garage, expressing his values and his sense of humor.
In his insistence on academic rigor, his lack of pretense, his commitment to social justice and his kindness and generosity, John represented the best of Amherst. We are better for having known him. —Ed Bradley ’67, Jerry Reneau ’67, Susan Buell and George McNeil ’67
Gregory J. Shaffer ’69
It is with sadness I report that Gregory Shaffer, born July 15, 1947, passed away on Sept. 19 at Venice Hospital in Florida of complications from a postsurgical MRSA infection. His greatly saddened widow, Robin Mattison, phoned me with the news after finding my number among Greg’s possessions.
I had the enormous pleasure of meeting with Greg a few times these past several years in Sarasota, Fla. He had such a keen intellect, which he managed to express in a joyous manner. He mixed a profound, peace-affirming sense of the spiritual with the down-to-earth business savvy which he translated into financial success.
Greg was a graduate of Nutley (N.J.) High School and went on to Amherst; Yale; Mansfield College; Oxford, where he earned a divinity degree; and London Business School.
Before moving to Florida, Greg lived for 32 years in England, where he picked up an endearing British accent, which, combined with his superb intellect, made him an even more engaging, classy gentleman. Despite or perhaps inspired by his divinity degree, Greg served as a remarkably effective management consultant for Jaguar and British Heinz as well as an educator on management strategies for many other industries.
Greg expressed his appreciation of worldly affairs with such a good sense of humor that it was always fun to talk with him about current events. He was blessed with a loving, entertaining and inspiring relationship with his wife, the Rev. Robin Mattison, whom he treasured and who supported him unselfishly and unfailingly through several difficult health crises during the last years of his life. Robin is an intellectual tour de force in her own right, and she was a fine match for Greg’s own brilliance. Her grief at his passing is another proof of the persistence of love after death. —Harvey Kaltsas ’69
Jonathan R. Steinhart ’69
Jonathan Ralph Steinhart, of Spokane, Wash., died peacefully on Aug. 7 while hiking in Moscow, Idaho. He is survived by his beloved children, Jordan and Andrew, 17, who were the source of immense pride and joy.
Jon came to Amherst from the Pingry School in New Jersey. He loved Amherst and thrived as a scholar-athlete. He loved the Glee Club; this led to a lifelong passion for singing and many years with the Mastersingers. He excelled at track, setting a record in the 440.
While at Amherst, Jon joined and co-led Amherst Amigos—a group of volunteers from several colleges who spent summers in Mexican villages. Amigos was a transformative experience that opened Jon to a lifetime of service.
Jon completed his M.D. from Rutgers, an M.A.T. from Harvard and an M.P.H. from UW-Seattle. He was board-certified in both obstetrics-gynecology and family medicine and joined the U.S. Public Health Service in 1980, serving Native American communities in Ada, Okla., and Shiprock, N.M., for 30 years before moving to Spokane. Always active, Jon loved the outdoors, sharing that passion with his sons. Like them, he was an Eagle Scout.
Jon had exceptional vitality, service, optimism, curiosity, resilience and faith. As a medical student in Newark, he was accosted and shot. Miraculously, he recovered. Later, having landed a prestigious residency in San Francisco, he had to leave the program, a great disappointment. He emerged from these traumatic experiences more resilient and hopeful.
Jon became deeply involved in the Episcopal Church, but his faith extended far beyond any denomination. He embraced hope and light even in dark times. His life was a fulfillment of the Terras Irradient mission of Amherst and a tribute, in this Bicentennial year, to the College he loved with “eye and mind and heart.” —Dick Aronson ’69
Eric J. Bohman ’70
My father, Eric Bohman, died on Oct. 2 in New Haven, Conn. He is survived by his wife, Lou Ann; their son, Leif ’01; daughter-in-law Erika; and two grandchildren, Annika and Lars.
His classmates at Amherst remember him as “one of the most intellectually gifted in our class” and recall his “gentle wisdom and thoughtful leadership” at a time of campus and national unrest. One classmate wrote, “When Eric arrived … he already understood the history of the Vietnam War and radical democracy. At meetings about politics, his sharp intellect and personal warmth were uplifting. No surprise then that he soon became a leader of Amherst’s SDS chapter.” Another wrote that he arrived with the understanding that, “with all the seriousness, thoughtfulness and commitment to his ideals with which he lived his life … we should all take a break now and then and engage the simple joy of life in light of how transitory it is.” Eric married Lou Ann after his sophomore year. Although he remained committed to the antiwar movement, he drifted away from SDS when factions of that organization began to advocate and practice violence, which he abhorred.
After Amherst, Eric completed a Ph.D. at Yale in American history. He taught at Trinity and then worked selling collectible photographic equipment. He was known for his encyclopedic knowledge of Leica cameras, with clients ranging from amateurs to collectors and professional photographers.
Eric and Lou Ann loved to travel, particularly in Italy. He battled laryngeal cancer and complications from its treatment for 20 years. For his last five years, he could not converse or enjoy the food and wine that he loved to share with friends and family. Still, he persevered and never lost his wit, his intellectual curiosity or his deep love of Amherst. —Leif Bohman ’01
Mark Mangini ’74
Mark Mangini passed away quietly at his home in Astoria, N.Y., on Sept. 5, five months after having been diagnosed with cancer.
At Amherst, Mark was much involved in the theater and music departments, acting in several plays and singing with the Zumbyes and choral groups. After postgraduate work in music at Smith, Mark entered the New York music scene and became one of the most active, respected and surely among the best-loved choral conductors in the region. His repertoire spanned music from the pre-Bach eras through numerous commissions of contemporary works and more standard choral repertoire.
Mark was born on April 1, 1952, in Manhattan to the late Suzanne Scheffer Mangini and Jerome J. Mangini. He is survived by his husband, Paulo Leite; siblings Carla, Mary, Barbara and David; and a host of adoring nieces and nephews.
I will always remember Mark as a loving friend, three years my roommate at Amherst, and someone I could fall into step with instantly even after lapses stretching months, even years. He laughed joyfully and often, but never with malice, and was altogether one of the kindest and most sensitive men I’ve ever known. Never in the least jaded, he always took things to heart.
Mark’s best friend in NYC, Laurie Nelson, who wrote almost all of this obituary, has written further that, though “it is impossible to sum up a life in an obituary, Mark’s was a life well lived, one that ended much too soon, a life that enriched the lives of his husband, family, friends and hundreds, or maybe even thousands, of music students and choral singers. Mark’s musical skills, artistry, compassion and humanity were his gift. We will remember him with love always.” Amen! —Cully Wilcoxon ’74
James M. Orent ’76
A musician, pilot and avid skydiver, Jim passed away on Aug. 25 of cardiac arrest, having just completed a skydiving jump.
Jim grew up in Newton, Mass., and entered Amherst in fall 1972. Freshman-year roommate Joe Burt ’76 recalls that the first thing he saw when he entered their room in James was Jim waving a baton, conducting the music coming from his stereo system. Floormate Bill Dwyer ’76 remembers being impressed that Jim arrived at Amherst with the full score of a symphony he had written in high school.
Jim joined various musical organizations, including the Mount Holyoke-Amherst Chamber Orchestra, for which he served as student conductor. He worked closely with music department faculty, including Lewis Spratlan; graduated magna cum laude; and won the Sundquist Prize for excellence in musical composition and performance.
After Amherst, Jim received a master’s degree from Yale, where he studied conducting. For 29 years, he played for the Boston Pops (performing on a 1790 Helmer violin that formerly belonged to Emanuel Fiedler, father of late Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler). He also served as cover conductor and unofficial backup for Keith Lockhart. Jim occasionally conducted the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and served as music director of the Brockton Symphony Orchestra, the Newton Symphony Orchestra and other Boston-area ensembles.
Composer John Williams, a close friend and mentor, described Jim’s passing as “shocking, sad and terribly painful. … He was a man of many brilliant accomplishments, and he possessed a particularly generous, loving and kind soul and spirit. It is a very great loss, and he will be missed forever.”
Jim is survived by his wife of nearly 12 years, Marianne, and two brothers, Thomas and me. (See Jim’s Boston Globe obituary here.) —Cliff Orent ’72
Russell E. Sampson Jr. ’81
My Uncle Russell passed away on Sept. 18 after battling a lengthy illness. He fought for his life the way he lived it, on his own terms. He possessed a generous heart, an unparalleled wit and a tenacious fighting spirit. He employed those qualities to support and advocate for his three sisters and his many nieces and nephews.
Russell’s fondest memories of Amherst College involved singing in the Glee Club. He particularly enjoyed representing Amherst during the 1979 International Tour, performing in places exotic to him such as Monaco, Tunisia and Jordan. I remember standing outside Morrow dormitory the weekend I attended his graduation. Russell inspired me to study at Amherst, where I met my wife, Sarah. Although Russell and I attended Amherst 16 years apart, I felt connected to him because we shared the same campus, the love of singing in the Glee Club and an appreciation for the opportunities that Amherst provided to us.
Russell worked as a real estate and tax attorney in the Boston area for most of his professional life. He assisted family and friends with tax preparation every spring. He was a private person, but we remember him as an avid Red Sox fan, an amazing cook and a loving brother and uncle. Russell prepared holiday feasts for our family, helped plan numerous weddings and baby showers, and purchased the first suits for his nieces and nephews as they embarked on their professional careers.
On Thanksgiving weekend, we interred Russell’s ashes in a bed of the dried rose petals he had preserved from the bouquets he had received throughout his life. This gesture has ensured that he will be surrounded always by the love of his family and friends. —Michael E. Dunn ’97
Rebecca C. Hantin ’85
I knew how fortunate I was to be placed in Valentine with Becky from the moment I received a three-page typed letter from her before we arrived at Amherst for freshman year. Her wit and energy shone through even before I officially met her, and somehow, I was lucky enough to room with her for the rest of our college years.
Becky wrote for The Amherst Student, played on the volleyball team, wrote brilliantly, studied Russian and political science, graduated, made documentaries for her film degree from USC, did quality control for videogames, taught elementary school for 10 years in Los Angeles’ Watts district, got her degree focusing on geriatrics, taught ESL online and offered enormous help from a distance to her Aunt Barbara. Too many of you know how stressful that can be, caring for elderly relatives, and Becky gave her heart to it, just as she did to every challenge she faced.
I know many of us have special memories of Becky. I remember us running barefoot one winter night to Pratt basement (former offices of The Amherst Student), wearing pajamas (I don’t remember why, except we both were senior editors and that must have had something to do with it); doing our laundry while bopping to the B-52s; so many other things… but most of all, I remember her gentle yet strong encouragement and unconditional love and support throughout our 40-year friendship.
The week before suffering the heart attack that took her from us, Becky texted me: “You know anytime you need me, I’m here.” Carol, Becky’s wife, is quick to assure us that it is true—Becky is here with us, finally free of the stress and worries that took so much from her during the past year. —Pat Oey ’85
Eleanor Leggett Sweeney ’89
Born June 16, 1968, in Philadelphia, El spent freshman year in South 210, rooming with Susan Haney ’89, next door to Debby Applegate ’89 and Sharmi Jacoby Bracklo ’89 and diagonally across from Sarah (Thomas) Maldonado ’89 and Charlotte Walker Cannon ’89. Most of them lived together over the next three years in Pond, Crossett and Moore. Eleanor was a religion major and a leader among her peers at Amherst, including of the then-underground Alpha Delta Phi, of which she was elected president senior year.
She met her husband while living briefly in the Amherst area after graduation. They married on June 13, 1992, and had two amazing, compassionate and talented children. Her large, entertaining family was the cornerstone of her life, and their joy was her joy.
Eleanor enjoyed a long and varied language teaching career, including at Greenwood Friends School, Danville Area School District, Upward Bound and the TRiO program at Bloomsburg University and Pennsylvania College of Technology. She earned an M.A. in TESOL and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from Penn State, where she researched teachers’ use of music to teach languages.
Eleanor loved traveling, but a thriving life home on the farm was even more important to her, and she rejoiced in her dogs, cat, chickens and gardens. Eleanor canned and froze produce, quilted, sewed and wired her own house. She asks those who knew her to please eat some homemade jam, play some music and take care of each other.
Survivors include her beloved husband of 29 years, John Sweeney; her father, John Leggett (Joan); her mother, Cynthia Palmer (Larry); a son, Ian Sweeney (Elizabeth Richards); a daughter, Kathryn Sweeney-Amidon (James Amidon); sister Susan Leggett (Denny Robinson); sister Carrie Leggett (Dave Pangburn); a brother, John Leggett; and extended family and friends. —Bruce Tulgan ’89
Petra E. Mayer ’96
Petra Mayer ’96 died on Nov. 13.
At Amherst, Petra brought curiosity, fierce talent and deep engagement to everything she did: women’s rugby, her studies of history, her love of books and music. Petra’s door was always open, leading to a colorful and elaborate world: her passions for science fiction and fantasy, her beautiful and intricate drawings, her gleefully unapologetic knowledge of the weirdest corners of culture. She had a voice that was just as beautiful for Renaissance madrigals as for 2 a.m. college radio; she was a terrific dancer; she had the best laugh. She didn’t just host a show on WAMH; as chief engineer, she opened radio up and looked inside.
It’s a testament to Petra’s conviction of character that she turned what inspired her at Amherst into a singular career, one that gave her an opportunity to showcase all she had to offer and bring her fascinations to a wide audience. In 1994, she took a summer internship at NPR; after obtaining a master’s degree from Columbia Journalism School in 1998 and a subsequent two-year stint at Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty in Prague, she returned to NPR, where—true to her nature—she took on a variety of positions over the years, as production assistant of Weekend Edition Saturday, as associate producer and director of All Things Considered and lastly at the culture desk, writing about books and video games. Throughout her celebrated career, she was beloved by her colleagues and her listeners alike. She touched the lives of everyone she encountered.
Petra is survived by her parents, Jeff Mayer ’63 and Elke Mayer. —Julia Gray ’96