Alumni Notes: January/February 2020

Once again, special thanks to Bobbi and Charles Griffith for arranging our tailgates at the Bowl, as well as co-hosting (with Ben) the monthly Ben Gertz lunches at the Yale Club. Whether Yale wins or loses, Bobbi’s magnificent spread and the lively conversation that goes with it have made the day happier for a rotating cast that includes Bob and Eleanor Ittner, Ed and Sue Greenberg, Hugo Kranz, George Buchanan, Tony DePaul, the Griffiths and Semples, plus a few local friends and drop-ins from the class of ’58. This year, thanks to our undying support, Yale has won every home game, but as this is written Princeton and Harvard lie ahead.

As is increasingly the case with class notes of our era, this month’s column is devoted almost entirely to classmates who have left us. The roll call:

John Suisman, who died of cancer in September, clearly ranks among our most courageous classmates. Born and raised in West Hartford, where he later built a successful career in metal brokerage and real estate, “Suis” was an English major and superb amateur golfer who captained the Yale golf team two years running. Mike Whitney, a roommate who describes himself as the “odd man out” in a Calhoun suite full of preppies, said that he and John became friends despite growing-up differences. “Suisman — Jewish, social, piano-playing gambler, with no interests in the outdoors save golf courses, NY Times reader, straight liberal Dem all the way. Me — loner, conservative, small asocial family, Abe Lincoln Republican, biker, Marine, forester. No matter — we were friends.”

In 1993, John’s life changed dramatically when he lost both legs in a devastating car accident. As both Mike and the formal obit in the Hartford Courant attest, John did not let this calamity define him; if anything, it redefined him. He threw himself ever more energetically into local causes, worked closely with other amputees, served as president of Mt. Sinai Hospital, kept playing golf from a wheelchair, read widely and did the Times crossword puzzle every day. His dry wit never deserted him, bringing much joy to Kathryn, his wife of 54 years, and his four daughters, all if whom survive him.

Ken Hill died in May in Virginia after a long struggle with Parkinsons. After receiving an MBA from Georgetown, and serving in the Navy, he spent the bulk of his career with IBM, and later ran his own income tax preparation business. Mark Gordon (about whom more in a later issue) alerted me to Ken’s passing, and also sent along a warm reminiscence from Herb Hallas, who graduated with Ken from Loomis Chaffee in the class of 1955, and who described him as “a very smart and inquisitive fellow who also had an engaging personality, the kind of guy that just made people feel better, no matter how low they might have sunk that day.” Ken is survived by Barbara, his wife of 55 years, a son and a daughter..

Craig Llewellyn writes that in October he and Gail went to Green Bay to celebrate the life of his Yale roommate and friend, Jan Duncan, who died in September after a long struggle with a spinal infection that arrived six years ago and left him largely paralyzed below the waist. Jan grew up in Mamaroneck and joined Procter and Gamble shortly after graduation, serving in various P&G outposts in a corporate journey that wound up in Green Bay, where he has made his home since 1968. Jan left the company after 22 years in 1981 and became a partner in Belmark, a local printing firm. He was an accomplished and well-traveled skier — 57 ski areas altogether — and an excellent golfer, avocations that must have made his paralysis all the more frustrating. He gave generously of his time and talents to Green Bay, and is survived by two sons and his wife, Stephanie, who was introduced to Jan more than a half-century ago by Craig and Gail.

Finally, posthumous recognition for two classmates who devoted their post-Yale careers to teaching others.

Kerry Wood, a Palo Alto resident for 40 years, died at his home in Pleasanton in July. During a 40-year teaching career, Kerry, an English major at Yale with a passion for poetry and Shakespeare, plus an MA from San Jose State, presided over classrooms at Menlo School, Robert College in Istanbul, Turkey, Ravenswood High School in East Palo Alto, and, finally, Woodside High School. Born in Long Beach, he was the quintessential amateur California athlete: beach volleyball, high school basketball, tennis. He leaves his wife of 55 years, Sally, and two sons.

Dave Shanno died in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania, the state where he was born (Hazelton) and to which returned after a 41-year teaching career in advanced mathematics. Most of that career was spent in public universities and included stops at the University of Chicago, University of Arizona, University of California at David, University of Toronto, and Rutgers, where he remained for 22 years until his retirement in 2008. The recipient of several academic honors and awards, Dave in retirement was not at all happy with the state of education in America, presenting in our 50th Reunion book a list of complaints including constant budget cuts at public universities, the increasing deployment of low-cost part-time teachers and a “thoroughly disenchanted faculty.” Did he see hope? Yes — at (where else? ) independent institutions like Yale, with their continuing commitment to a broad, demanding liberal arts education.

David leaves his wife of 55 years, Katherine, and two sons.