Deceased August 29, 2019

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In Memory

It is with deep sadness that I pen this memorial note for Steve Cadwell, my closest friend from Amherst and a friend to many classmates also. Steve died peacefully at home in Concord, Mass., the morning of Aug. 29, 2019, after a brave struggle against virulent brain cancer (glioblastoma). His last year was spent living fully, creatively and joyously in the interstices between surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy.

I met Steve our freshman year, when we were in adjacent rooms on the second floor of Morrow. We could not have been more different, superficially at least, but thanks to his initiative, we quickly became close friends. In fact, his interest in making friends was one of the most striking things about him. I remember when he told me that his early mornings were given over to long walks through the Town of Amherst, where he met a number of persons whom he got to know quite well. This was shocking news that opened whole vistas of possibility—since I (like most of us, I suspect), never ventured into the town except occasionally to Hastings and the bookstore. Alas, I failed to follow Steve’s example.

Several years after he graduated from Amherst, Steve decided to become a therapist—which was surely the right choice, given his gifts. He earned an M.S.W. from the University of Texas, then returned to New England and began his career working at the Jamaica Plain Community Health Center. When the AIDS crisis hit Boston in the 1980s, Steve dedicated himself to offering support and services to victims of the disease and also to their therapists and care providers. He became a leader in the gay therapeutic committee, returned to Smith College for his doctorate and authored Therapists on the Front Lines: Psychotherapy with Gay Men in the Age of AIDS, which remains a standard reference work in the field. Steve’s special expertise became group therapy for gay men, and he excelled at harnessing the energies of group dynamics to channel healing support and love to many individuals injured by homophobia. It’s fair to say that Steve encountered homophobia at Amherst. Certainly, as an Amherst alum, he played an early and important role in supporting gay activism and self-affirmation among Amherst students who came after us. In 2018, he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Northeastern Society for Group Therapy.

Steve’s adventurous interest in others persisted throughout his life. Wherever he went, he met and befriended people. Like Thoreau, he “traveled widely in Concord,” where he lived with his husband of 32 years, Joe Levine, and their son, Isaac. True to form, every morning before dawn he sallied forth for a long ramble through his neighborhood, meeting and befriending many neighbors. When glioblastoma struck suddenly, neighbors instantly rallied to his side and lent truly loving support to him and to Joe and Isaac through the last difficult 15 months of his life. Among the many tributes to Steve’s character that he received during and after his life, this may have been the finest.

As many of you are aware, to know Steve at all was to know him well. He was remarkably—almost uniquely—open to others; he lived for many things, including art, justice for gay Americans, his family and his clients. But I think we his classmates at Amherst will remember him best for being so enthusiastically interested in making friends and in cultivating and maintaining friendships over the years. In losing Steve, many of us have lost a dear friend.          

Nick Bromell ’72