Jack Quigley

John “Jack” Leslie Quigley, Jr., 64, husband of Barbara R. Cole of Mt. Pleasant SC, died August 25, 2006, of complications from a stroke. Also surviving him are his daughter, Sara, his son, David, his sister, Marijean, his two brothers, Robert and Sam, as well as a niece, nephews, cousins, and their families.

Jack was born on November 10, 1941, in Rochester, NY, son of the late J. Leslie Quigley and Mary Thomas Quigley. His years at Amherst were rich in friendships and marked by an energetic participation in campus life. He was an accomplished competitor on the varsity swim team and a member of the DQ (Double Quartet), for which he wrote creative arrangements. He was a brother in the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity and, as a philosophy major, always game for bull sessions on life’s deepest dilemmas. lt was a common experience to feel that our cynicism had held sway against his idealism, only to feel later that “Quigs” was operating on a higher moral plane.

Tragedy struck in 1964 when Jack, enrolled at Union Theological Seminary, broke his neck while swimming on the Rhode Island shore and became a quadriplegic. Now in a wheelchair, which he christened his “liberator,” he bravely learned to depend physically on others. But not spiritually, for the accident triggered his vocation as an aggressive, competent advocate for social change.

Returning to Union, he helped unionize the seminary service workers, reform the educational curriculum, and lead the cause for physical access for the mobility impaired. After graduation, he went to St. Louis, where he fought for low-rent fair housing practices, carrying its challenges successfully to the US Supreme Court. In the late 1960s, Jack worked in Georgia with a black sharecroppers’ cooperative. Later, he was director of field education for Eden Theological Seminary and a licensed pastoral counselor.

Jack’s efforts led to many awards that reflect the respect and admiration felt by those he touched.

In May 1998, at his 35th Amherst Reunion, he was honored for his life of commitment to the vulnerable and disenfranchised. His friend and roommate, Peter Stine, shared one memory: “In 1973, on my way from Berkeley back to Detroit, I drove to the San Joaquin Valley to visit classmate Jerry Cohen, who was chief attorney for Caesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers’ Union. That summer the Valley was a battlefield: teamster thugs were regularly assaulting picketers, and the day I arrived, two were shot dead. When I reached UFW headquarters at Keene, an armed camp in the mountains east of Bakersfield, you can imagine my surprise when I found Jack Quigley, who had been there for three years, handling the bookkeeping and union finances. Jerry told me that Jack’s work ethic and honesty played a large part in the success of the strikes and boycotts.”

After California Jack returned to St. Louis and underwent training to become a psychotherapist. He spent a period of time serving at VA hospitals helping disabled Vietnam vets overcome their rage about the war. True to form, after several years, he returned to his earlier career of social action. Once retired in Charleston, he joined Circular Congregational Church, where he helped dismantle racist initiatives and supported their Mission Fund’s development of programs for the socially disadvantaged.

Jack’s life was an amazing record of courage and high-mindedness. Who can understand the paradox between his physical impotence and his power as an advocate, his crushing disability and his abiding sweetness? But this was the pattern of his life over and over again. We honor Jack’s life, friendship, and good works and welcome his devoted wife, Barbara Cole, into the fellowship of our Class of 1963 forever, in Quig’s memory.

Laurie Osborn ’63, Peter Stine ’63 and Almus Thorpe ’63