Deceased September 20, 2005

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In Memory

The College recently learned about Richard’s death on Sept. 20, 2005.  He was born in New York City on June 6, 1933, the son of Bernard and Esther Smith, and attended the Walden School prior to Amherst.  At Amherst, Richard majored in psychology.  He was a member of the Lord Jeff Club and was on the staff of the Olio.  In 1957, after graduation, Richard married Barbara Drucker.  They had two children, Eric and Lisa.  They lived in Norfolk, VA, where Richard worked for Drucker & Falk, a real estate management firm.  During the later 70s, Richard was divorced, changed careers, and became an antique dealer and decorator.  In the late 90s, he moved to Miami, where he lived at the time of his death.

The information we have about Richard is limited, for he seems to have had little contact with classmates subsequent to graduation.  Seth Frank writes, “I last saw Dick at our 10th Reunion weekend at dinner with his wife, Barbara, full of conviviality and joie de vivre.”  He also attended the 20th Reunion, and Richard Grunebaum remembers a brief and enjoyable visit with him at the Smith’s home in Virginia around that time.

Seth Frank remembers Dick during our Amherst days as “the quintessential sophisticated New Yorker who could step effortlessly into the role of Sheridan Whiteside in ‘The Man Who Came to Dinner’ and make everyone forget Monty Woolley had ever played it.  Champagne and caviar were as stimulating to Dick as Larry Packard’s lecture on the Battle of Jutland.”  I met Dick during freshman year when we were among a group who were housed in the upper reaches of North because there was not enough space in James and Stearns.  He and I, along with Seth Frank, Dick Grunebaum, and others went on to join the Jeff Club.  I recall a friendly Buddha-like figure with a good sense of humor who marched to his own drummer and was a somewhat ironic spectator of student life.  Although music and the arts had a peripheral place in the Amherst curriculum of that era, Dick spent much of his time in the fine arts department pursuing his passion, painting.

I discovered Dick’s inner strength during sophomore year, when his cool head and decisive action probably saved the lives of a group of us he was kindly ferrying in his car to our homes in the New York-metropolitan area for Thanksgiving.  The car blew a tire on the Merritt Parkway at high speed and started to careen out of control, but he hung on to the wheel and guided us to a safe stop.  Concretely as well as metaphorically, that event was an important part of my college education.

Michael Robbins ’55