Alumni Notes: March/April 2020

Few of our classmates, probably none, could have derived as much joy from Yale’s dramatic, cathartic victory over Harvard at the Bowl in November than Herb Hallas. For years, Herb and his wife Barbara had reliably trekked from Farmingdale, Long Island to watch every home game (and sometimes, with me and others, away games, such was the level of our screwball devotion). Until one Saturday, exhausted by a brutal struggle against an unforgiving cancer, he just couldn’t make it. On Dec. 30, the cancer finally won out — but not before Herb, in Barbara’s words, had “soaked in every minute of that game, even loved the demonstration on the field, like a final gift to him from the Ivy League Football world.” Which was entirely fitting. Herb was a two-way star on the teams we watched as undergraduates, and in 1958 returned a punt against Penn for 94 yards, to this day the school and Ivy League record for individual punt returns. A graduate of Loomis, Herb led a marvelously varied life after Yale. He edited newspapers and magazines in his native Connecticut, earned advanced degrees from Wesleyan and the University of Connecticut of Law School, taught social studies at Simsbury High for 21 years, later practiced law in Connecticut and New York, In retirement, with a keen eye for local and regional history, and the truths to be found there), he wrote four books on subjects as varied (and heretofore obscure) as William Almon Wheeler, a politician from upstate New York and vice president under Rutherford B. Hayes, the politics of New York State’s north country; the origins of court reporting, and the life and times of Windsor, Ct,, his boyhood home, as seen through the lens of a family newspaper. Herb is survived by Barbara, son Edmond, brother Henry, three grandchildren — and, not least, the fond memories of his many friends.

This month’s roll call includes several others who led energetic lives and never lost their attachment to Yale. Dan Rogers, who graduated from Nichols School in Buffalo, and was a friend and colleague at the Yale Daily News way back when (and a truly jovial person), died of a fast-moving infection on Christmas Day. He had suffered from progressive mobility issues that kept him from our reunion last Spring, though he very much wanted to be there. After Cornell Law School, Dan practiced corporate law in New York City for more than 40 years, living for much of that time in the West Village and in a brownstone he owned near Washington Square Park. When Carol, his wife of 43 years, died in 2004, he moved upstate, and who should reappear in his life but Gretchen Wlison, a widow who had been Dan’s high school sweetheart. Romance bloomed again, Gretchen became Dan’s companion and was at his bedside when he died, along with his children, Danforth and Ninon. They survive him, as do three grandchildren. Apart from his lawyerly skills, Dan was a much-feared bridge player, achieving Life Master status, an opera lover, dedicated sailor, and a member, serially, of the Buffalo Canoe Club, the Larchmont Yacht Club and the Shinnecock Yacht Club.

Dan’s children and Gretchen are planning a celebration of Dan’s life on Saturday, May 16, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m at the Yale Club in New York City.

As I write, a memorial service is underway at United Church on the Green in New Haven for George Buchanan, distinguished architect, citizen of New Haven and Branford, a member of the Baker’s Dozen while at Yale and, for the last ten years of his life, a Whiffenpoof. After graduation from the architecture school in 1962, George established his first practice in Branford and stayed in the business until late in life. He loved what he did. He wrote in our 50th reunion book that while, ideally, he would have liked to have designed the perfect building and sung at Carnegie Hall, he still “got a rush when clients ask me to design a building for them, whether a municipal library, a low-income housing development or a super-fancy bathroom. That pleasure in being asked makes me a poor businessman but a happy architect.” George, who would occasionally join our little knot of football fans on Saturdays at the Bowlbowl, was also a man of many instruments( besides voice), including viola, guitar. banjo and piano. He leaves Josephine, his wife of 57 years, two daughters and two grandchildren.

Herewith an update from fellow Whiff and New Haven resident Alan Atherton: “Whiffmates in attendance were Doug Banker, Ed Greenberg (with Sue), Larry Krakoff and Al Atherton (with Peggy). Other 59ers included Don Watson, Charlie Kingsley (with Gretchen), and our intrepid Treasurer, Ben Gertz. Among scores of George’s friends were several Yalies from other classes….. The remarks were succinct and warm…. I left feeling that George’s family and his extended family were sad but moving on, knowing that George had lived a good life and that he wanted them to continue doing the same.”

I have reserved two more obits for the next column; that’s enough for now. What I’d dearly like to see more of are reports from those of you who are still kicking along. Surely retirement cannot be all that empty. From Bill Liddle comes an example of what I mean. Since retirement from the Ohio State faculty in 2011, he has co-authored books from both Oxford and Cambridge presses, received the Amugerah Kebudayaan Culture Award from the Indonesian government — a prestigious prize given only to top scholars of Indonesian history and culture — traveled with his wife Wanda to Bali and Jakarta, and is plowing ahead with a study of Indonesian presidential leadership since the democratization of the country in 1999. “That,” he says, “is what my teaching and scholarship over half a century has led me to, and so I’m thrilled to be able to focus on it at this stage of my life.”