Alumni Notes: July/August 2023

Historically, non-reunion classes have been asked to keep their notes short to make extra room for reports from classes that have gathered in late spring in New Haven, but that still leaves space for a deserved shout-out to the organizers of our marvelous zoom call in March, chiefly class secretary Ed Greenberg and Jeannie Daniel of the Yale Alumni Association, who provided necessary technical help. About 30 classmates tuned in. The main subject was climate change, and our guest expert was Sharon Buccino, the daughter of classmate Robert Buccino. Sharon has worked for almost three decades as an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, mostly in Washington and now in Laramie, Wyo., dealing with land conservation and a range of other environmental  issues. Articulate and good-humored, Sharon addressed  President Biden’s efforts to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, made clear the sometimes harsh realities between campaign promises and governing, and fielded questions from classmates. Es Esselstyn and Sandy Wiener, afraid that the world as a whole is late to the table on an existential threat, were particularly outspoken. But many people chipped in, and the feedback was great, proof that there is a real appetite for other zoom calls down the road. This was a warmhearted session, almost like a virtual reunion. What Ed needs is ideas, and suggestions for speakers. Put your thinking caps on and send him your thoughts.

One participant, Peter Ulrich, wrote later to say he enjoyed the session and to provide news. In 2001, Peter retired as a senior program manager at NASA, where he helped direct major space science programs, including the Pathfinder mission to Mars and the Cassini mission to Saturn. In retirement he launched a new and quite   different career as an artist and teacher of art, mainly online  because of the  pandemic, He hopes to get back to in-person classes later this year but already his website ( has attracted many new students from across the country and the globe.  Peter’s wife of 56 years, Jeanne, passed away four years ago, from Parkinson’s.  Hers was a similar resume: mathematician and portrait artist.

The internet also provided a worldwide audience for Ralph Jahnige’s wife, Joan, who married Ralph shortly after graduation, taught Latin and French in Rye, N.Y., moved with him to Lexington, Kentucky, where she became a pioneer in distance learning, first via satellite,  then the web, with as many as 500 high school students studying Latin online. Joan died last fall, leaving an unusual legacy.

The celestial choir has claimed another Whiffenpoof, Herb Rule, who died in April in Little  Rock. A talented  and wonderfully gregarious person, the son of a Yale man, Herb attended Yale on a   Naval ROTC scholarship, sang in the Baker’s Dozen and Whiffs, returned to  Little Rock,  where he served for half a century in the prestigious Rose Law Firm (among whose partners was Hilary Clinton), was twice elected to the state House of Representatives, ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2012, engaged in in many civic activities and backed progressives causes, including marriage equality. He  gathered frequently over  the years with the Whiffs, and ran our 45th Reunion in JE. He also liked a good time, and,  among other legislative  achievements, helped usher in a law allowing mixed drinks to be sold, for the first time,  in Arkansas restaurants and hotels. He demanded that his wake be “wet,” like an extended happy hour.  Paul Nyhus, a fellow  Whiff, attended the funeral, which he described as full of warmth and southern camaraderie and a ton of colleagues and admirers, plus two ex-wives and his two boys, Nick and Chris.

One other class luminary has also passed away: Sergio Nicolau, near Cuernavaca, Mexico, after a long struggle with Parkinson’s. At Yale, Sergio received a BA and MA in economics, and was a member of  Elihu. He then returned to Mexico, where he rose rapidly in financial circles, serving on the board of the Mexican Central Bank and co-founding the Mexico Fund, an investment company listed on the New York Stock exchange. Like many Mexicans of a certain background, he was an avid horseman, with his own stable. He was also an Anglophile,  and while I cannot personally confirm this, he is said to have gone fox hunting when in London on business. I never saw Serge without a smile on his face. He was a bon vivant and raconteur, approaching everything, in the words of a good friend, with a kind of bemused equanimity  Serge was married twice, and leaves five children.