YAM Notes: March/April 2009

As of this writing (late January) 152 classmates have signed up for the 50h Reunion — a good response rate, according to the AYA, especially in view of the fact that the first formal reunion mailing had  not — again as of today — left New Haven. If for some reason the registration package has  not arrived you should email jennifer.julier@yale.edu,

What you have received is Ben Gertz’s annual appeal for Class Dues, which this year are more vital than ever. In addition to underwriting your free subscription to this most excellent magazine, and our Calhoun scholars, the dues  are being asked to help pay for the 50th Reunion Classbook as well as other Reunion-related expenses — not least , financial assistance for those among us who have come upon hard times and need help in attending the Reunion. This  assistance is,  of course,  dispensed anonymously, but it’s something to think about as you stare at your checkbook.

Last year, Don Watson received not one but two awards for his commitment to bringing environmental values to architecture. He received the U.S. Green Building Council’s leadership award for his “vision, leadership and commitment to the evolution of green design and construction;” and the American Institute of Architects’ Presidential Citation for his advocacy of “environmental stewardship”.  Don began experimenting with solar design more than 40 years ago and is now recognized as one of the founders of green design in this country.

A first-ever note from A. Rogers Weed reveals  that, except for a midlife detour to North Carolina, has spent the better part of his post-Yale, post-Navy career in South Carolina, where he worked first for Deering Milliken, mainly in computer design, and then with Associated petroleum Carriers, again creating computer programs. He was obviously way ahead of most of us in the digital world. After retiring in 2002, and after that North Carolina interlude,  he and his second wife, Lynne, returned to Spartanburg. Between them they have six  children.

Bill Shackleford is in his 16th year of retirement, dividing his time between Seal Beach, Calif. and Washington state, happy to have survived prostate cancer and getting ready for a right knee replacement. None of this will keep him from the 50th.

Norland Berk appeared at Mr. Gertz’s monthly lunch at the Yale Club in time to participate in a pre-election straw poll involving, among others, Ben, Charlie Griffith and  Bob Burns, from which Obama emerged victorious by a margin of 7 or 8 to one. As usual, the class of ’59 remains ahead of the curve. Noland continues his psychiatric practice in Roslyn, Long Island,  N.Y.

Austin Hoyt, our  much-decorated producer of award-winning documentaries, and Felicity have moved to a new house on his fishing and hunting camp on an estuary off Buzzard’s May in South Dartmouth, MA., an area he knows well and describes as an “ecological paradise.” He welcomes classmates headed to the Cape and passing through New Bedford.

Thanks wholly to Austin, I now have some information about Tom Johnston, who passed away on Oct. 8 in Perpignan in the south of France. Tom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2005 and, according to his wife Lydia, died from complications in his lungs, from which he had suffered before. Possessed of a  courtly Southern charm and formidable pedigree (he was named for Andrew Carnegie’s brother, Thomas Morrison Carnegie) Tom was extraordinarily gifted for someone as young as we were —   a fine writer, a serious student  of both politics and poetry, and, above all,  an idealist.  He married a striking French woman, Mireille Sigard Musticaccia, the year we graduated, earned a master’s degree in drama at Yale, then migrated to New York’s glamorous social and political scene. He helped run Bobby Kennedy’s New  York office in the 1960’s, and, had Kennedy lived, and had he beaten  Humphrey for the nomination and Nixon in the general election,  Tom may well have wound up in the White House.

History went another way, and so did Tom. He worked in film and television for a while in New York, then moved permanently to Paris in the 1970’s, where Mireille became an author and television figure widely known for her cookbooks on French regional cuisine. Tom continued his work in films, and took a flyer in investment banking. Ever the idealist, he organized a venture in the Soviet Union that he hoped would help the Russians and not just exploit the opening of markets to the west. I lost touch with him, as did a great many  of  his friends and classmates. I’m not sure why. In any case, it was our loss. Mireille died in 2000, and Tom later married Lydia Smith Johnston, with whom he lived in Perpignan.     He is also survived by two daughters, Margaret and Elizabeth. Lydia is reachable at 887 Chemin de la Riviere Jardin de Saint Jacques 66000 Perpignan France.

I am also sad to note the death in October of Francis Langston, in Annapolis, after a six-year battle with primary lateral sclerosis. A member of Phi Beta Kappa at Yale, he attended Harvard Law School and worked for most of his life in information technology — again, ahead of most of us in his appreciation of the possibilities and promise of the digital age. At his retirement he was chief  information officer of the Maryland State Retirement Agency.  He was devoted to the outdoors, particularly skiing and whitewater canoeing, and was active in the Calvary United Methodist Church. He is survived by two sons, Scott and Mark, and by his wife of 48 years, Marcia Lloyd Langston. She can be reached at  2807 Broadview Tterrace, Annapolis, Md.,  21401.