Alumni Notes: March/April 2023

I promised in my last notes to provide updates on a couple of items, and here they are. One involves the controversy surrounding Maitland Jones Jr., a classmate who for many years was a distinguished professor of organic chemistry at Princeton and who, in retirement, signed on in 2007 as an adjunct professor at NYU—which was delighted to have a person of his stature until, astonishingly, it wasn’t. Last spring, some of his 300-plus students sent a petition to NYU’s deans complaining, in essence, that the course was too tough and that Maitland was too demanding, and blaming him for their low test scores. The deans never revealed to Maitland the contents of the petition; simply caved in and fired him last October, over the objections of his peers and many other students. This led to front-page stories in the Times and elsewhere.

With the help of Art Kelly, I found Maitland’s email, beginning a pleasant exchange in which he reminded me that we had been doubles partners years ago on the Andover tennis team. He seemed fairly cool about the whole thing. (Maitland was viewed as one of the cooler professors on the NYU faculty.) He noted sympathetically that organic chemistry is indeed hard going, that everyone was frazzled by the pandemic and the remote instruction thus required, and that the time had probably come for him to retire anyway. But as he observed in an Op-Ed piece in the Boston Globe, what’s “overwhelmingly important is the chilling effect of such intervention by administrators on teaching overall,” and, especially, on younger untenured professors, who find their livelihoods and futures “at the peril of complaining students and deans who seem willing to turn students into nothing more than tuition-paying clients.” As for the students, he wrote, “If they continue to deflect blame, they will never grow.” If as I suspect what happened at NYU is not an isolated event, then Maitland, after a lifetime of useful instruction, has provided a valuable lesson for schools everywhere.

The second update involves our talented and seemingly indestructible musical duo, Dick Maltby and David Shire, mentioned briefly last time as “planning another revue.” Indeed they are, and it seems to be moving along quite nicely. In November, Lisa and I spent a fabulous evening at 54 Below, the slightly redone and once-notorious Studio 54 on West 54th Street, listening to perhaps a dozen or more numbers performed by David and Dick’s Broadway pals that, they hope, will form the core of a new show. Dick, subbing for one ill singer, did a couple of turns himself, and was absolutely charming. David and his wife Didi, laid low by COVID, Facetimed the event, and were definitely pleased with the warm reception from a packed audience. “We already have a lot of ideas about what we need to write and rewrite to get to the next stage of the development process,” Mr. Shire emailed me afterwards, to which he added that he was grateful to still be active in his career at 85. More on the musical as we roll along.

Herewith this month’s roll call, slightly abbreviated.

Robinson (RobBuck passed away peacefully in Hartford in December. Rob was best known at Yale as pitchpipe with the Whiffenpoofs, where he was genuinely revered not only for his voice but for his patient instruction to his fellow singers. Rob studied engineering at Yale and got a master’s degree at Georgia Tech, where he met his wife, Clara. He spent his entire professional life as a partner in a family engineering firm, Buck and Buck, founded by his grandfather in Hartford. Among his great passions were his family, sailing, and, of course, music.

Barney Ridder, a member of the powerful Ridder newspaper clan, died in Long Beach, California, in October after a long illness. Barney came to Yale via the Greenvale School on Long Island’s north shore, then St. Mark’s. Afterwards it was all one stop after another in the Ridder empire—newspaper jobs in Aberdeen, St. Paul, and finally Long Beach, where he became business manager of the Independent and Press Telegram. He was a robust sportsman, duck hunting near the Salton Sea, fly fishing in Montana and Tierra de Fuego, tarpon fishing in the Florida Keys, and searching for tuna in one of several tuna fishing boats he owned and designed. He leaves his wife, Elaine, a son, and a daughter.

Kent Hackmann forwarded an obituary of his friend and fellow Saybrugian Jack Killion, who died in New Jersey, where he was born and raised, in November of 2021. Neither I nor the obituary can do justice to Jack’s mindbending career, which began with an MBA at MIT, then the Army, then three years at McKinsey, then a venture capital outfit, raising money for Rolling Stone and a country music magazine, then a hedge fund. Along the way he rescued his father’s plastics extruding business and failing horse farm, raised and raced thoroughbreds, and on and on. For further details, and there are many, I suggest his entry in the 50th reunion book, in which he also thanks his wife (now of 60 years) Judith and his son for their willingness to put up with a serial entrepreneur.

Bob Walton died in hospice care on Long Island in October, with Terry, his wife of 57 years, and children Jenifer and Robert with him. Another eloquent essayist in our 50th reunion book, in which he wrote more about his thoughts than his career, though that was interesting enough. After UVA law school he worked first for a Manhattan law firm, where he was not at all happy, the senior partner being “an abusive SOB” who inflicted psychological damage on many young associates; then for the estimable Whitney North Seymore as an attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he was very happy. Among his office mates was none other than Rudy Giuliani. He finished his legal career as longtime in-house counsel for New York University, retiring for health reasons in 2000, thereafter reading history, sailing, and devoting his prodigious mechanical skills to fixing just about anything, including a 1954 Jaguar XK roadster.

Jack Lindy died at home in Cincinnati in November, leaving his spouse Joanne and five children. Jack came to Yale from Episcopal Academy in Philadelphia and lived in Calhoun—“went out for everything, didn’t make it past freshman year in most”; graduated from Columbia Medical School in 1963; served as a captain in the US Army; and began practicing as a psychiatrist in Cincinnati in 1967. There he started working with Vietnam veterans, and in time became one of the country’s leading experts on the diagnosis and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. He also played piano, composed chamber music, and wrote plays.

The class council held a very general Zoom meeting regarding our 65th reunion, a year or so down the road. There will be one! We have the energy, the money, and a resourceful and energetic chairman in Don Watson. More details next time.