Deceased May 23, 2023

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In memory

“Don’t pronounce the h in Amherst!” I was surprised, when we first met, by the near ferocity of that outburst—one that Tom repeated several times in the early days of our 43 years together—but later understood that it sprang from his deep love for Amherst rather than irritation with me. 

Tom, who died May 23, 2023, in Laguna Niguel, Calif., loved Amherst. “It was my home for wayward boys,” he said. (The College was not yet coed.) One Thanksgiving, he often recounted, he chose not to visit a then-fractured family on Long Island and to stay instead in a safer place: the Amherst campus. 

His was a lifelong love. Tom’s first gift to his first grandchild, Maximus, was an infant-sized Amherst sweatshirt. One of his last purchases, when decorating his home study in Laguna Niguel, was a purple comforter bearing the Amherst logo. A transfer student (from the University of Pennsylvania) on full scholarship, he was forever grateful. 

I can’t possibly recount Tom’s myriad accomplishments in both national and international journalism or his distinguished career in academics. But I can and must say this: Tom often wondered where he’d be in life without the foundational guidance and grace of Amherst. 

We, his family—our daughter, Ashley Keys; son-in-law, Sam Keys; and grandchildren, Max and Mila—will proudly carry the mantle on his behalf.

He presented twice, at his 20-year reunion and then at a 2021 reunion Zoom session. Of that last Zoom session, he wrote in his South China Morning Post column that “our discussion question was: what was the most important political event that has occurred in our lifetime?” His topic, naturally, was the rise of China. 

Andrea Plate