In Memoriam

The In Memoriam page is where Amherst College posts notices of the deaths of any current faculty members, staff members, students or trustees, as well as faculty or staff who have retired from the College. Scroll down on this page to see the most recent notices.

Members of the Amherst community are invited to log in and leave comments on each notice, to share memories and honor the deceased.

Mary Catherine Bateson (1939-2021)

Amherst College mourns the passing of Mary Catherine Bateson on Jan. 2, 2021. Dean of the Faculty Catherine Epstein wrote the following about her in a Jan. 5 email to faculty and staff:

... Bateson served as dean of the faculty at Amherst from 1980 to 1983, the first woman to take on this role. Trained in linguistics and Middle Eastern studies, Dean Bateson taught at Harvard and Northeastern, as well as in the Philippines and Iran, before coming to Amherst as dean.
 
Dean Bateson wrote several compelling autobiographies, including With a Daughter's Eye: A Memoir of Margaret Mead & Gregory Bateson (1984) and Composing a Life (2001). The latter volume included some discussion of her experiences at Amherst. These were not easy times for a woman to be in administration at the college. As Bateson wrote of her experience here, "Amherst was still caught in the set of inherited attitudes that defined any woman as an outsider..."
 
Dean Bateson was professor of Anthropology at Amherst until 1987. She then served as Clarence J. Robinson Professor in Anthropology and English at George Mason University until her retirement in 2002, when she moved to New Hampshire. In recent years she published work on how men and women adapt to culture change, and about longevity and lifelong learning....
 
The podcast On Being recently re-aired Bateson's 2015 interview with host Krista Tippett about "Living as an Improvisational Art."
 
Please see this obituary for more information.
 
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Ruth Thornton (1938-2020)

Amherst College mourns the passing of  Ruth Thornton on Dec. 29, 2020. Thornton came to the College in 1980 as the associate director of human resources and served in that position until her retirement in 2002. She returned and worked in several capacities after that, including serving as the College's ombudsperson from 2004 through 2009. She leaves behind many family members, including her son Peter Thornton of Dining Services. 

Please see this obituary for more information.

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David Cetto (1955-2020)

Amherst College mourns the passing of David Cetto on Oct. 21, 2020. Cetto worked as a server in Dining Services starting in 1993 and retired in 2017, but returned to work on a casual basis for two additional years. He was chosen as an honorary class member by numerous graduating Amherst classes.

Please see this obituary for more information.

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Sigrit Schütz (d. 2020)

Amherst College mourns the passing of Sigrit "Sigi" Schütz, senior lecturer of German, emerita, on Sept. 19, 2020. Schütz retired in 2012, but returned to teach for three additional semesters, until the end of 2015.

Provost and Dean of the Faculty Catherine Epstein wrote the following in a Sept. 21 email to faculty and staff:

... Sigi had been battling ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, since June.

Sigi taught German at the college for more than three decades, and her introductory German classes were legendary. She was devoted to her students and remained in close contact with many, long after graduation. An active and beloved member of our community, Sigi was known for her warm and engaging presence, which enriched our campus for many years. I always enjoyed spending time with her at college events, and I will miss her.

Sigi is survived by her husband, Jim, and their two daughters, Christina (Amherst class of 2000), and Anja. There are no plans for a funeral, and Sigi will be interred in the cemetery in her hometown in Germany. Next spring, a memorial will be held in the form of contributions to her beloved garden. The family asks that no flowers be sent....

An obituary will be linked from this page if and when it becomes available.

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Richard H. Dexter (1931-2020)

Amherst College mourns the passing of Richard Henry Dexter on Sept. 9, 2020. Dexter came to the College in 1964 as a custodian in Dining Services, and began working in 1971 as a stock clerk and driver. He retired in 1993. (He was the father of Richard H. Dexter II, who also worked in Dining Services for many years.)

See his obituary for more information.

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Sara Schmitter (1976-2020)

Amherst College mourns the passing of Sara Schmitter on Sept. 5, 2020. Schmitter worked at the College as a custodian starting in 2006.

See her obituary for more information.

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Stanley J. Dlugozima (1929-2020)

Amherst College mourns the passing of Stanley J. Dlugozima on Aug. 22, 2020. Dlugozima came to the College in 1966 as a custodian and worked in that role until his retirement in 1991.

See his obituary for more information.

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Prosser Gifford (1929-2020)

Amherst College mourns the passing of Prosser Gifford, the College's first dean of the faculty, on July 5, 2020.

Current Dean of the Faculty Catherine Epstein wrote the following in a July 20 email to faculty and staff:

... Prosser Gifford served as the dean from 1967 to 1979 and was also a member of the faculty during that time. During his tenure, the college began admitting women, and Dean Gifford helped to increase the number of women faculty members from one at the time of his arrival, to twenty-six by the time he left the college. After leaving Amherst, he became deputy director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and later director of scholarly program at the Library of Congress. According to published obituaries (see below), a private burial will take place. ...

Please see this obituary for more information. 

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Robert B. Bartos (1941-2020)

Amherst College mourns the passing of Robert B. Bartos on May 27, 2020. Bartos came to the physics department as a research technician in 1983. In 2008, he became a laboratory technician and safety monitor. He retired in 2010.

See his obituary for more information.

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Ralph E. Beals (1936-2020)

Amherst College mourns the passing of Ralph E. Beals, the Clarence Francis Professor of Economics, Emeritus, on Feb. 12, 2020. Beals joined the Amherst economics department in 1962. He served as acting dean of the faculty in 1988-89 and as acting president of the College in 1991. Upon Beals' retirement in 2002, President Tom Gerety paid tribute to him at commencement, noting his "highly regarded introductory textbook, Statistics for Economists" and his work in Indonesia as a "leading consultant on natural resources and tax reform."  

Beals' family has provided the following obituary:

Ralph Everett Beals, born Oct. 30, 1936, passed away peacefully on Feb. 12, 2020, near his adopted home in Naples, Fla. Professor Beals was the oldest of the four children of Wendell E. Beals and Gratia M. (Burns) Beals, and spent his childhood in Lexington, Ky., where his father worked as a professor at the University of Kentucky.

Ralph graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1958, then earned his master’s degree at Northwestern University in 1959, and then his Ph.D at MIT in 1970.
 
Aside from his long career as a professor at Amherst College, which included a couple of interim stints as an acting administrator, Ralph spent many years consulting with foreign governments. The brunt of his foreign work was done in Indonesia, a country which both he and his family grew to be very fond of. 

Ralph was both an avid sportsman and fan. He was a lifelong fan of the University of Kentucky, but his adopted Boston Red Sox were his favorite team. That passion is in fact how he ended up living in Naples, as he rarely missed spring training, and fell in love with the area during his spring visits to Fort Myers.

Ralph and his wife, Mildred A. "Mickey" (Hubbard) Beals, also loved to travel. In addition to their many trips to Indonesia, they spent much of their free time seeing the world, and in later years developed a love of river cruises.
 
Ralph was gregarious and was often seen with a huge smile on his face. He was generous in all ways, and always made time for his family, students and special causes. He is sorely missed by his family and friends.  

In addition to wife Mickey, Ralph is survived by his children Jerry Beals of Belchertown, Mass., and Ellen Beals of Amherst, and his four beloved grandchildren, Jared Dalkas, Lacey Dalkas, Jack Beals and Leo Beals.   

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Hilda Otaño-Benitez (1929-2020)

Amherst College mourns the passing of Hilda Otaño-Benitez on May 25, 2020. She came to the College in 1986 and worked as a senior lecturer in the Spanish department until her retirement in 2008.

See her obituary for more information.

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Robert E. Ball (1954-2020)

Amherst College mourns the passing of Robert E. Ball on May 15, 2020. Ball came to the College 1977 as a lead caretaker in Athletics, a position he held until his retirement in 2015.

See his obituary for more information.

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Ray Moore (1933-2020)

Amherst College mourns the passing of Ray Moore, professor emeritus of history and Asian languages and civilizations, on Jan. 7, 2020. Moore joined the Amherst history department in 1965. Upon his retirement in 2004, President Anthony W. Marx paid tribute to him at commencement, noting, "Moore was instrumental in establishing Amherst’s Asian studies program and the Five College Center for East Asian Studies, and he co-founded the Associated Kyoto Program at Doshisha University."

Please see the professor's obituary for more information.

A memorial celebration will be held for Moore on Saturday, March 28, from 2:30 to 4 p.m. in Pemberton Lounge of Chapin Hall.

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J. Tracy Mehr (1928-2020)

Amherst College mourns the passing of Professor Emeritus of Physical Education J. Tracy Mehr on Feb. 26, 2020. From 1965 until his retirement in 2001, Mehr coached hundreds of Amherst's student-athletes in seven different sports, most notably football and men’s and women’s golf, and taught thousands of students as a professor.

For more information, please see this Amherst Athletics article and obituary.

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