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Farewell to Fred Stocking ’36

Fred Stocking, copyright

UPDATE from Larry George: Reminding the community that the memorial service will be on August 16th at the Faculty House.

FUNERAL NOTICE — A memorial event for Mr. Stocking will be held on Sunday, Aug. 16, at the Williams Faculty House at the corner of Park and Main streets in Williamstown. This celebration of the great, good gift of life will begin at 11:30 a.m., and a reception will be held afterward at the same location.

Contributions can be made in his name to VNA & Hospice of Northern Berkshire, 535 Curran Memorial Highway, North Adams, MA 01247 or to the Quoddy Regional Land Trust Inc., U.S. Route 1, P.O. Box 49, Whiting, ME 04691-0049. Flynn & Dagnoli-Montagna Home for Funerals, West Chapels, is in charge of arrangements.

Obituary from, in toto: Read more


Farewell to Thurston Greene ’29

Thurston Greene

The Poughkeepsie Journal reports that Thurston Greene ’29 has died at 101 at his Nantucket summer home. He was a long-time resident of Millbrook, New York.

A Harvard-trained lawyer, Greene was one of Thomas Dewey’s original anti-organized crime force, and the last of the group to die — they brought down “Lucky” Luciano amongst others. Greene practiced law until well into his 80s and published a volume on constitutional law at 82.

Rest in peace.

(photo copyright Poughkeepsie Journal)


Farewell to Richard Chapman Acker ’44

Richard Chapman Acker, 86, of New Canaan, formerly of Ogdensburg, has died. Here is his obituary.

At Williams, he was a member of Theta Delta Chi fraternity and various athletic teams including track and field. His love of music led him to the Glee Club, and, according to the obituary, he then “carried his love of singing and music with him around the world: As a member of the Gulberg Flats barbershop quartet in Lahore, in church choirs at Trinity Episcopal Church in Wheaton, Ill., and at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in New Canaan. In New Canaan he was also a member of the Gentlemen Songsters singing group, which brought music to hospitals and nursing homes.”

Acker interrupted his college career to serve in the military, graduating with the Class of 1947. He then earned his M.S. in geology at Brown. He worked internationally, before settling in Chicago, during his long career as a geologist. He moved back east after retirement, enjoying singing and gardening.

Rest in peace.


Sounds of Silence

WilliamstownJazzFestivalDue to budget-cutting at Williams, its major source of funding, the Williamstown Jazz Festival has ceased operation. The annual multi-day spring program had included music, dance, film, and an intercollegiate jazz competition, and was run as a collaboration amongst Williams, the Chamber of Commerce, MASS MoCA, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, with additional venues provided by St. John’s Episcopal Church and the Clark. Some events had free admission; others had an admission charge, but that did not bring in nearly enough to keep the festival going once Williams ended its subsidy.

For more about the festival, go here. (A link at the top of that site opens up a sampling that includes snatches from Williams jazz and gospel choir groups and a faculty jazz group.)

This is a true loss to Williams, to music groups from many colleges, and to Williamstown and the surrounding communities. I am grateful to the people who had the vision to start the Jazz Festival and to those who made it happen every year. My heart goes out to them and to the people who had the difficult task of deciding whether to continue the funding from Williams.

May more abundant times return soon.

(Thanks to Frank for alerting us to the festival’s demise via a post in in Speak Up!)


Unaware of his existence

Did you know that Elia Kazan ’31 was a work-study student? In an essay just published by his friend Budd Schulberg, a description of the college-aged Kazan:

A Greek born in Turkey, and coming to the US as a child, the son of a traditional rug dealer, Kazan was the quintessential outsider. At fashionable Williams College he was the unattractive little guy who paid his way by waiting on tables and doing odd jobs. The aristocratic Williams student body was unaware of his existence. They had no idea that within that unassuming human being so invisible to them was a little dynamo ready to move in and take over. He was like a secret agent placed in the midst of an unsuspecting organisation. He didn’t even go out for dramatic activities. It wasn’t until he got to the Yale drama school, where he met his wife, the aristocratic Molly Day Thacher, that his dramatic instincts were aroused.

Considered not good-looking enough to make it as an actor, he eagerly took on any subservient theatre job that came along. At the Group Theatre’s summer camp, he mostly did the volunteer small chores that kept the community going. Kazan was like a hidden time bomb set to wait its time and then explode. No one had thought of him as an actor – actors looked like Franchot Tone – but I’ll never forget seeing him in Irwin Shaw’s The Gentle People with Tone and Sylvia Sidney. From the moment Kazan bounded on stage, the very able and attractive Tone and Sidney disappeared. It’s been seven decades but I still remember his remarkable impact. He was the little engine that could. There was something fierce about that performance. It wasn’t theatrical. It was organic. He was wound up from the inside.

Remember the art, forget the politics: Budd Schulberg on forgiving director Elia Kazan [The Guardian]


Sad News – The Last of the Trinity Has Left Us FURTHER UPDATED

UPDATES: Here are Professor Pierson’s New York Times obituary, a Faculty Meeting tribute by Prof. E. J. Johnson (who holds the Faison-Pierson-Stoddard chair in art), his Boston Globe obituary, and an obituary written by his family. Here is a column by Fay Vincent ’60.

The College has announced that Art Professor Emeritus Bill Pierson has died. Here is President Schapiro’s statement in full: 

Bill PiersonTo the Williams Community,

I am sad to report the loss of an historic Williams figure, with the death Wednesday of William H. Pierson Jr., Massachusetts Professor of Art, Emeritus, at the age of 97.

An accomplished artist, with an M.F.A. in painting from Yale, Bill introduced studio art to Williams. He instilled a passion for both art and architecture through his teaching here from 1940 to 1973, with an interruption to serve in the Navy during World War II. He was famously a member, along with Lane Faison and Whitney Stoddard, of the “Holy Trinity” that inspired countless Williams students to pursue careers in the visual arts.

His legacy lives also through his distinguished work as architectural historian. He wrote the first three volumes of American Buildings and Their Architects and in retirement rose for many years at six a.m. to make progress on his editing of a seventy-volume inventory and analysis of every significant building in the U.S.

The College honored him with the establishment of the Faison-Pierson-Stoddard Professorship in Art History and, in 2001, with the conferring of an honorary degree.

Bill’s singular curiosity and wit graced our community up to the very end, as he remained a lively presence almost daily at lunch in the Faculty House.

Our thoughts and prayers are now with his family and friends. A memorial service will be held in the Spring.

M. Schapiro

This truly marks the end of an era. 

Rest in peace.


An Inquiring Mind

The Denver Post reports the death of Bob Bucher ’58. The obituary highlights a quality deeply valued by many Ephs and nurtured by our professors: an inquiring mind that inspires others to think.

Bucher, an investment broker, never ran for public office, but he kept up on everything, studied history, worked for Republican candidates, was “enamored” of Abraham Lincoln and never tired of talking about issues.

His 4th of July parties included the usual food and drink plus a thought-provoking question that he wanted everyone to discuss.

He didn’t argue with people, but he closed the discussion with his own thoughts.

“He made us all better citizens” because of the “thoughtful and provocative questions,” said a friend, Cle Cervi Symons of Denver.

Bucher also enjoyed watching guests strike up conversations with strangers and maybe people with whom they disagreed.

This year the question was whether the court system should treat non-citizens who are charged with a crime the same as citizens.

Other questions had been on immigration and whether Supreme Court justices should be term-limited.

Rest in peace.


A gentle man and a peacemaker

Please see this post.


Secondary School Educators

In addition to alumni accomplishments in many other fields, Williams is known for producing leaders in secondary education. I thought of that this morning as I read the obituary for Bruce McClellan ’45, the long-time head of the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey.

The obituary notes that, “During his tenure the school underwent major changes, most notably with a student body that became both coeducational and increasingly diverse. Mr. McClellan was the driving force behind the admission of black students in 1964 and girls in 1987.” In addition, he greatly increased the school’s endowment, enabling Lawrenceville to offer institution-altering levels of financial aid and to provide impressive facilities and curricular offerings.

An outstanding student, a varsity athlete, and a student leader at Williams during World War II, McClellan also managed to serve as a summer warrior: “Between his sophomore and junior years at college, Mr. McClellan served as a pilot in the Army Air Corps and was separated from service in September 1945 with the rank of captain. He saw combat service over Europe with the 8th Air Force and earned the Air Medal with clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross.”

McClellan then went on to take up a Rhodes, and returned to Williams for a year as an assistant dean before leaving to teach English at Lawrenceville, where he became Head Master at 35. His work there would eventually win him honorary degrees from several colleges, including his alma mater.

As with many of the most effective leaders in secondary education, McClellan always kept his hand in as a teacher: “Mr. McClellan continued to instruct English through his time as head master, explaining, ‘It feeds my spirit to teach.’”

Secondary school teachers and administrators labor in something of a backwater, largely unrecognized, and yet providing vital services and having an enormous impact on our whole society’s future. Williams recognizes this with various programs designed to help students who plan to enter the field and with its acknowledgement that “we stand upon the shoulders of giants” in the form of granting the Olmsted Prize for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching at Commencement to four high school teachers who have made a difference to graduating Williams seniors.

Often, more cherished than any institutional award are the thanks of, and being remembered by, former students. Sadly, the mentors of our youth seem to pass away all too soon while we are off pursuing our careers and busy with raising our children. The upcoming Thanksgiving season would be a good time to write a note or pick up the phone to call one of your (or your child’s) former teachers or coaches.



This is the Williams Service Medal from the Great War.

RIP, Ephs.

(click for larger)


Holiday Gift Suggestion

The Williams Outing Club has revised its “North Berkshire Outdoor Guide,” the area trail guide.  The publication announcement singles out two special Ephs, Katie Craig ’08 and Bob Quay ’04 “who in their short time at Williams gave enduring inspiration to many members of the community.” Craig’s art appears on the cover and in the book and I’m sure that the bridge on Mt. Greylock named in Quay’s memory receives prominent mention. RIP, good friends of the WOC.

Wouldn’t this make a wonderful holiday gift for your favorite Eph? And, if you can manage it, how about adding in a 2009 trip “home” with other Ephs to make use of the guide?


In Memoriam: Francis Sayre ’37

From the New York Times:

The Very Rev. Francis B. Sayre Jr., who in his 27 years as dean of the National Cathedral in Washington raised his sonorous voice against McCarthyism, segregation, poverty and the Vietnam War while presiding over construction of the cathedral’s majestic Gloria in Excelsis Tower, died Oct. 3 at his home on Martha’s Vineyard, in Massachusetts. He was 93.

The death was confirmed by Elizabeth Mullen, a spokeswoman for the Episcopal cathedral, one of the most influential religious institutions in the nation.

Dean Sayre, a lanky, elegant man whose grandfather was President Woodrow Wilson, first climbed into the pulpit of the monumental cathedral, in northwest Washington, in 1951. Soon after, and well before the United States Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, he was calling for an end to school segregation.

Discrimination was a recurring theme for Dean Sayre. In a 1957 sermon, as the civil rights movement gained momentum, he urged his parishioners to join the struggle. He invoked the Prophet Elijah’s Old Testament challenge, “How long will ye go limping between the two sides?” Then he said, “That question, chilling in its candor, probes rather painfully; and I’m afraid we’ve been doing a good bit of limping ourselves, and the testing may not be far off.”
In March 1965, Dean Sayre joined the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the voting-rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.

When Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin was railing at purported Communist influence in the country in the 1950s, Dean Sayre was not afraid to denounce him. In a 1954 sermon, he called McCarthy one of a crew of “pretended patriots” and said, “There is a devilish indecision about any society that will permit an impostor like McCarthy to caper out front while the main army stands idly by.”

Francis Bowes Sayre Jr. was born in the White House on Jan. 17, 1915. He was the fourth grandchild of President Wilson and the first-born of the president’s daughter Jessie. His father was a Harvard law professor who later became an assistant secretary of state.

Francis Jr. graduated from Williams College and received his divinity degree from the Union Theological Seminary. He was a chaplain in the Navy in World War II and later had a parish in Cleveland.

Dean Sayre married Harriet Hart in 1946; she died in 2003. He is survived by two daughters, Jessie Maeck and Harriet Sayre McCord; two sons, Thomas Hart Sayre and Nevin Sayre; and eight grandchildren.

In his nearly three decades presiding over the cathedral, the cornerstone for which was laid in 1907, Dean Sayre oversaw phased construction that brought the Gothic structure, known officially as the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, to 90 percent completion. The cathedral’s 300-foot tower — with nearly 400 carved angels soaring on its four turrets and 32 balustrade pinnacles, and 73 bells inside — was completed in 1964.

Dean Sayre retired in 1978. Four years earlier, in an interview with The Washington Post, he said, “Whoever is appointed the dean of the cathedral has in his hand a marvelous instrument, and he’s a coward if he doesn’t use it.”


David Foster Wallace on the liberal arts

From a commencement address given at Kenyon in 2005:

Probably the most dangerous thing about college education, at least in my own case, is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualize stuff, to get lost in abstract arguments inside my head instead of simply paying attention to what’s going on right in front of me. Paying attention to what’s going on inside me. As I’m sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head. Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal-arts cliché about “teaching you how to think” is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: “Learning how to think” really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about “the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.” This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in the head. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger. And I submit that this is what the real, no-bull- value of your liberal-arts education is supposed to be about: How to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default-setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone, day in and day out.


They were leaders

Remembering the end of the Korean war:

July 27 is not one of those days that stirs the American soul like Dec. 7, July 4 or June 6.

We have so many memorable days in our history that forgiveness is appropriate if you can’t recall that on that day in 1953, the guns fell silent along the line of battle in Korea. Three years of killing was at an end. This year, it’s the 55th anniversary of the cease fire, so maybe there’ll be a bit more ink and airtime.

I carry in my mind’s eye recollections of two officers who paid a price while serving their country. Both were fellow second lieutenants – a rank sometimes regarded as below that of private – in the field artillery. I served with both and knew them well enough to say they were among the best, brightest and likable young men you might want to know. And, they were leaders.


First, let me tell you about Nimrod Torkomian. He was one of 200 who were in the initial formation for D Battery, Field Artillery Officer Candidate Class 17 in January 1952. Ninety of us made it to the finish line in June. “Tork” – everyone gets a nickname in the Army – must have stood on tiptoes to get in. He was 5 feet tall, maybe. But he was in superb physical condition, easily meeting the many physical demands placed upon us. He had the barracks wit needed to get through six months of OCS.

After graduation, we spent a few months in artillery battalions stateside before what we thought was the inevitable – orders to become forward observers across the hills of Korea.

Tork wound up as a forward observer with the 555th Field Artillery, an ill-fated outfit if ever there was one. They were overrun not once but three times during the course of the war, often because they weren’t given the protection they needed. Worse, their guns fell into the hands of the North Koreans and Chinese. This is close to a mortal sin for an artilleryman.

In March 1953, the Chinese caught a South Korean infantry unit unprepared and walked all over the 555th. Tork and his forward observer team were isolated at an outpost. They held out until they were out of ammo, and then stuck a white handkerchief tied to a rifle out a firing port. Tork wrote an eloquent essay about this experience, sharing it with all of us at our most recent reunion. It is not a good feeling, he said in a classic understatement, to be marched north when the U.S. Army is somewhere south of you.

The good news is that he survived, was exchanged not long after the armistice and is enjoying life in California.

Other OCS classmates tell their tales of the last day of the war when we get together. For one, it was being sent up on the line when other units were standing down in anticipation of the cease fire. Ma Parker’s son may not make it home in one piece after all, thought Roy Parker, now a lawyer in Tupelo. Another brought his wounded radioman down for help and went back to fire more missions. And so on.

Then there’s James Dorland from New Jersey, who was commissioned just before me out of OCS. We were both assigned to an anachronism, a mule artillery battalion in Camp Carson, Colorado.

When the expected orders for overseas came, Jim’s were for Korea and mine were for Germany. He accepted his with a baffled grin, and I thanked some gnome in the Pentagon for his wisdom in sending me elsewhere, even if there was a twinge of guilt.

Some years after Al Gore invented the Internet, I began to crawl the Web to find out what happened to Jim. It didn’t take long to find out that he’d been shot down over North Korea in March 1953 while calling in artillery fire as an aerial observer. He was first listed as MIA – missing in action – and later that changed to KIA – killed in action. His remains have yet to be returned.

Jim was tall, lean, witty, a graduate of Williams College. He was a quiet leader, dependable, demanding and respected, and I will never forget being his friend and serving with him.


Emily Driscoll: Works at Williams College Museum of Art

From May 31 through July 13, WCMA is showing works by the late Emily Driscoll ’05, an exceptionally talented artist who died last fall. Here is the College’s press release on this well-deserved honor:

Continued well wishes to her family, including her father Dave Driscoll ’73 and her partner Walker Waugh ’02.  Emily’s life was short but her accomplishments and impact were disproportionately large. May she rest in peace. 

If any of you who are going to reunions, are on campus for the summer, or otherwise happen to be in Williamstown and visit the exhibit, we would be grateful to hear more about it.


Hank Payne: Some Remembrances

A very nice obituary was published on Hank Payne in The Boston Globe over the weekend. The part I liked was the fact that he had started taking piano lessons:

“He had this sort of infectious desire to learn that manifested itself in him, and by example in other people,” Johnson said. “I tell people he’s the kind of person who takes piano lessons at 59. He took up piano lessons just like a first-grader. I told that at the graveside service, and a woman walked up after and said: ‘I want to introduce myself. I’m the piano teacher.’ I said, “Was he doing well? And she said, ‘Very well.’ “

Another nice comment was:

“He would have a national search [at Woodward Academy] and could get the very best,” he said. “People would come from wherever they were because they wanted to work for Hank Payne. People loved to work for him because they learned so much, and they loved to work for him because he had such a light touch in terms of management style.”

Other comments I’ve seen over the past several days include:

Nancy McIntire said, “He was a wonderful boss. I liked working with him a lot. He was very accessible. He had a wonderful sense of humor. And he was very, very smart.”

‘Here is this bright, funny, thoughtful guy, great job, broad interests, lovely family; he’s got everything going for him,’ ” said Jane Leavey, the Breman Museum’s executive director.

“I tell people I never in my life met anybody who was that smart who was as modest, self-effacing, fun,” said Johnson, the managing partner of the law firm Alston & Bird.


23 Laps for Adrian

I received the following e-mail due to my affiliation with the Williams cross country team. I hope that anyone in the Concord, MA area would consider attending this event.

Celebrate! Remember! and Honor!
The Life of Adrian Martinez
Monday, April 30th (rain or shine)
7:00 pm Emerson Track, Concord, MA.

Adrian Martinez ’06, who would turn 23 this Monday, April 30th, graduated from Concord-Carlisle High School in 2002 and Williams College in 2006. He was an avid and accomplished runner and athlete who valued family, friendship, and above all else, citizenship.

Friends are invited to participate in ’23 Laps for Adrian’ by walking, running, talking, sharing, and signing a guest book which will be sent to the Martinez family. In addition, donations will be collected for the Adrian A. Martinez Memorial Scholarship Fund, a fund established in 2006 by Adrian’s family to commemorate his passion for learning and distance running.

Read more


Virginia Tech Vigil

Subject: Virginia Tech Vigil

To the Williams Community,

Tomorrow–Monday, April 23rd–marks the one-week anniversary of the horrible events at Virginia Tech. In remembrance of the victims, Williams College Council, in conjunction with Rick Spalding and the Chaplain’s Office, is planning a day of remembrance and a candlelight vigil in which we hope you can all take part.

Read more


Nathan Krissoff ’03 – Plaque in Thompson Memorial Chapel

A temporary bronze plaque honoring Nathan Krissoff ’03 should be placed in Thompson Memorial Chapel in time for the June 10th Annual Alumni Memorial Service.

The traditional protocol, which the college is to be highly commended for following, is as follows:

Only Ephs who have fallen in battle get their names inside the Chapel sanctuary.

With the excpetion of Ephraim Williams himself, the following information is listed for each fallen Eph:

Class Year
Place of Death
Date of Death

Nate’s temporary bronze plaque will read

Nathan M. Krissoff ’03 Iraq December 9, 2006

{Ephraim Williams has the actual battle listed instead of the geographic location of his death, and, obviously, he has no Class Year.}

Facing the back of the Chapel, up on the left back wall is a large stone scroll with the names from the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The right back wall is currently empty.

Nathan’s bronze plaque will be placed on the right back wall. If other names need to be added, each will get his own plaque to be placed on the wall with Nathan’s. When all of the names are known, the plaques will be removed. A stone scroll to match the other wall will be put up, and the names permanently placed in the stone scroll. The temporary plaques will be given to the families.


S. Lane Faison ’29

S. Lane Faison died on Saturday, November 11, at his home in Williamstown, according to an obituary today in The Boston Globe.

While an entire generation of Williams graduates may not know the name — he retired from Williams in 1976 — he was one of the Williams Art History triumvirate (Whit Stoddard, architectural history; Bill Pierson, photography) that educated the “Williams Mafia” at America’s art museums.


Burt K. Todd ’46

Burt K. Todd ’46 died in mid-May. In its opening paragraphs, The New York Times obituary notes,

Son of a wealthy Pittsburgh steel, glass and banking family, Mr. Todd combined the larger-than-life appetites of an F. Scott Fitzgerald hero with the lust for adventure of a 19th-century explorer. His job defied description, although it entailed both the businessman’s art of the deal and the confidence man’s gift of gab.

A dazzling raconteur, Mr. Todd flew airplanes and maintained an impressive collection of vintage cars. He hunted leopards and rhinoceroses and once was treed in Bhutan by a rampaging elephant.

Impulsive, expansive, incurably restless, Mr. Todd might bundle his family into his jet on short notice. His sense of direction was not the best, and they didn’t always wind up where they intended. Wherever Mr. Todd turned up, something exciting was likely: a great story, a new friendship or perhaps a deal involving rum, seaweed or other goods.

Mr. Todd finessed his way into graduate school at Oxford despite having only one year of college; he trekked hundreds of miles through Nepal and was the first American to visit Bhutan, the last of the forbidden kingdoms of the Himalayas.

In short, an 81-year life full of zing.


With a Heavy Heart…

Unfortunately, the class of ’03 received some very bad news recently. I’m extremely sad to report that Shirin Shakir ’03 has died in the prime of her life, many decades before her time.

To all members of the Harvard Law School community:

It is with great sadness that I let you know that Shirin Shakir ’07 died in a boating accident in Peru during spring break. Shirin will be terribly missed. She was a member of Section 4 and an active participant in the Law School Council, the Public Interest Auction, and the International Law Society. I know many of you will join me in sending your thoughts and prayers to Shirin’s family and friends: Dean Ellen Cosgrove will be able to provide contact information soon. We will hold a memorial service at the Law School later this spring to celebrate the life and mourn the loss of a wonderful member of our community.

Elena Kagan

I just feel numb. I wasn’t more than a casual acquaintance of Shirin’s, but the suddenness of her death is especially shocking. My only point of reference is the summer after my sophomore year at Williams when I found out that an acquaintance in my high school class had died after a long battle with scleroderma. With Camille, it was just a question of when.

Here is a picture of Shirin (center) at the Harvard Law Students Audiophiles party less than two weeks ago on 3/21.

I know that all of you will join me in wishing my most sincere and heartfelt condolances to Shirin’s family and friends. I really don’t know what else to say… just that I needed to say something about the life of an Eph in my class cut tragically short.

Update: 2:20 pm.
Sumant Bhat ’03 sends along the link to a forum for postings remembering Shirin at


In Memoriam: Aidan Martin Crane

It was with sudden sadness and shock that I came across the news of Aidan’s passing:

Aidan Martin Crane, October 18, 1991 – March 19, 2006.

Words escape me, as does the futility of words.

In the middle of our Monday morning staff meeting, I had been looking for Rachel Barenblat’s exact words,

“I know how difficult that is for me as an outsider to each situation; I can only marvel at how difficult it must be for you as a parent.”

and I quickly came, again, to Sam’s words,

“Never have I felt a pain so deep, a hurt so overwhelming. That is how it should be, I suppose, when a child dies. But that is not the only thing in my mind…”

In this moment, I am amazed at the pain in my own head, the sudden disorientation and cognitive dissonance, the rush of my mind to many other things, events, happinesses, and profound losses.

What must it be like for Sam?

I can only return to litany, to reciting the Kaddish, and the hope, that all our thoughts and prayers now be with Sam, with Maureen, and with their family.


Merritt ’55, RIP

Travis R. Merritt ’55, former professor of literature at MIT, died a few weeks ago.

“Travis Merritt was a deeply committed professor of literature who ran the Humanities Office for many years where his devotion to Course 21 majors was legion. He was a superb undergraduate mentor,” said Philip S. Khoury, Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.

There is no better indication of the geekiness — and I mean that as a compliment — of MIT than that it numbers the majors and the buildings.

Merritt retired as dean of undergraduate affairs in 1996. At the time, he declared, he would spend more time with his family, travel to the Greek Islands and concentrate on his favorite hobby, creating leaded stained glass.

Within the year, he had become director of the Experimental Study Group, bringing his commitment and delight in MIT to yet another generation of students.

Merritt, like all great teachers, could no more stop interacting with the undergraduates he so loved than he could stop breathing the very air of Cambridge.

The Eph English professors of Merritt’s generation are passing away. Alan Casson ’53 died a few months ago. Are there Eph’s teaching English at places like MIT and USC from classes in the 1980s? I can’t think of any off-hand, but English is not my field, as the saying goes. Any Eph trying to get a job as a professor of English in this day and age faces very long odds indeed.

Condolences to all.

UPDATE: Edited to be less tacky. See comments below.


Parker ’51, RIP

Patrick Parker ’51, former president, CEO and chairman of Parker Hannifan, passed away.

Under Pat Parker’s direction, Parker Hannifin, which was founded by his father in 1918, grew substantially in size, global reach and product breadth: From the ’60s through the ’90s, he guided the company’s expansion into a wide array of hydraulic, pneumatic and electromechanical products solidifying its position as the global leader in motion and control technologies. Now an $8 billion enterprise, the firm had annual sales of $197 million in 1968 when Parker was named president.

Parker was extremely active in charitable activities, but seems to have had little if anything to do with Williams. I can’t find any listing of him on the College website. This might mean that he insisted on discretion in his gifts to the College, but I suspect some other story.

Condolences to all.


Chuck King ’48

Chuck King ’48 died in Williamstown on July 3rd. His obituary in the North Adams Transcript mentions that he worked in finance for Chemical Bank and Merck, and then was a lawyer for a number of years.

However, I knew Chuck from his volunteer work for Williams. He had been both President and Class Agent for his class; he was a Vice Chair of the Alumni Fund from 1997-2002, and had begun another three-year term last year. He was rather quiet — certainly not the most loquacious or the most outspoken member of the Vice Chair Committee — but someone who would make his point-of-view known and then let others speak.

The Williams community will miss Chuck in two ways. First, and perhaps most importantly, he was a nice fellow. Second, Chuck was a member of that small but valuable group of alumni that gives a lot of volunteer time to the college, raising money and creating goodwill. Without such people giving of their time, the college’s outreach and fundraising programs would cost more and probably be less successful.


Sabot Obituary

Thanks to a Williamstown reader for this link to the obituary for Professor Richard Sabot.

Condolences to all.


Professor Richard Sabot, RIP

I just received this e-mail.

EphBlog readers will be saddened to learn that Dick Sabot passed away on Wednesday. He died of a heart attack while exercising at The Springs in Williamstown.

I can’t find confirmation on the web, but I can’t imagine why someone would lie to us. Sabot was a fine professor 20 years ago and, by all accounts, a stand-up guy. He was also kind enough to answer my Williams-related questions on several occasions.

Condolences to all.


Firmin ’38, RIP

John Firmin ’38 has passed away. He led an interesting life.

Mr. Firmin joined the FBI in the summer of 1941, working in Washington, Oklahoma City, New Jersey, and New York City.

Later in life, he shared with his family stories of his experiences tracking German agents and sympathizers.

One of those stories took place shortly before the United States joined the war, when Mr. Firmin was part of a team assigned to the German consulate. The team planted an agent as the building’s incinerator operator.

Once the war started, the Germans carefully bundled up their confidential papers and took them to be incinerated. Because the papers were so tightly bound, the FBI agent was able to get them out before they burned.

Condolences to all.


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