Deceased November 21, 2019

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In Memory

Amherst was good to me in many ways but was at its best when it paired me with roommate Bill Francisco, who lost a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease on Nov. 21, 2019. Bill had been, while in high school, a professional radio announcer at his hometown (Middletown, Conn.) station. His gifted delivery and experience at the microphone landed him paying stints on WHMP, the Northampton station that built a satellite studio in Amherst, where Bill and I teamed for a regular program.

Radio wasn’t the only outlet for Bill’s talents—he took to the stage, co-writing and starring in our Freshman Show. Bill claimed he was “born at Kirby Theater,” and, in that Amherst setting, he ran the gamut from singing and dancing to Othello’s villainous Iago. So much “the Actor” was Bill that, when his black hair started to go prematurely gray, classmates assumed “he was doing it for a play.”

The Yale School of Drama was Bill’s post-graduate choice, and there he earned the first of two master’s degrees. The second was from Wesleyan, where he gained tenure as a professor in the theater department. Between academic stints, he racked up a remarkable string of varied directorial efforts—opera in San Francisco and PBS documentary films in New York. He directed TV’s venerable The Guiding Light and countless regional theater successes in many venues.

We were lifelong friends. Bill was best man at my 1958 wedding, and my first-born (1960) son is his namesake.

In retirement, Bill kept in touch with many of the actors, now “stars,” who had been his students. He also took up painting and became active in RSVP—Retired Senior Volunteer Program—helping the elderly, many of whom, he remarked, “were younger than I was.” 

Fred Hertz ’55