Alumni Notes: March/April 2024

By the time this issue of the magazine hits your mailboxes, registration forms for our 65th will have been made available. If you have yet to check in, and want the most up to date info, go to qrco.de/65th1959. Alternatively, and perhaps less confusingly, go to alumni.yale.edu/reunions/ And if you simply want to hear a real voice, call 203-432-2110 or email reunions@yale.edu. There’s no reason now not to show up in May. Don Watson and company have arranged a great program.

Whatever the reason — sloth, the prospect of a busy drive up the Merritt and a crowd of nearly 50,000 people, the fact that the game was on ESPN in my living room — I missed out on the post-game festivities in Woodbridge, where Bobbi and Charles Griffith entertained a bunch of people at their lovely hillside home following a hugely satisfying victory over Harvard in November. Attendees, most with spouses, included Mr Watson, Ed Greenberg, Al Atherton, Hugo Kranz and others among the usual suspects who enjoyed the Griffiths tailgates throughout the fall season. We are, and we say this every year, greatly in their debt for their hard work and hospitality.

Not a happy list this time, but one full of lives well-lived. The roll call includes two of my Elihu companions. Steve Lefkowiz, a brilliant, reserved and gracious man, passed away in November. The son of New York’s esteemed attorney general, Louis Lefkowitz, Steve never let his pedigree go to his head. After law school, he served as a special assistant to Governor Rockefeller, helped create the Empire State Development Corporation and taught at Columbia Law School before joining Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver and Jacobson as a senior attorney specializing in real estate. In that capacity he had a hand in many of the city and state’s most complicated and significant projects, including the new Yankee Stadium, Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and Hudson Yards on the city’s west side. He leaves his wife Dinah and two children.

John Knott died in January in Ann Arbor, where he taught English and environmental studies to a generation of admiring and appreciative undergraduates at the University of Michigan. John was one of about a dozen Carnegie Fellows who served as teaching assistants at Yale the year after we graduated. Three of us — Ray Clevenger and your scribe, both history teachers, and John, who taught English — shared a house out in Milford on the Sound. At some point in the spring there were just two, when John up and married Anne Percy, also a Tennessean. After earning a doctorate at Harvard, the Knotts migrated to Ann Arbor, where John chaired the English department, wrote books about Milton and the English Puritans, and, in an important mid-career venture, helped create a new undergraduate program in environmental studies. Animated by a love of nature that grew stronger with the years, he introduced his students to the growing field of environmental literature, while personally hiking and canoeing with Anne in Michigan’s wilderness and Ontario’s northern forests. A man of modesty, gentle good humor and quiet conviction, John leaves Anne, four children and a multitude of grateful faculty and students.

On matters of the environment, no discussion would be complete without mention of the passion that Es Esselstyn brought to the subject. Essie died at his Vermont farmhouse in December after a brief struggle with metastatic prostate cancer, leaving his wife, Celina Moore, daughter Jody and son Blake from his first marriage to Micki Bingham, who died in 1999. Essie’s restless life traversed several fields in several states, including teaching and counseling and various business enterprises, but if there was one animating theme it was his deep reverence for the natural world and his belief that, as humans, we had carelessly (and in some ways, almost deliberately) gone about trashing it. He thought we had enough time, but only just enough, to slow and reverse the trajectory of climate change, given the growth of cleaner fuels and alternative energy sources, but he was not wildly optimistic. Essie practiced a simple, self-sufficient and ecologically friendly life in Vermont, and wrote eloquently and movingly, in emails and other formats, about issues that obsessed him. Sandy Wiener and a few of his other friends have collected these thoughts in a little volume that will be presented at our reunion. A fine tribute to a fine man.

Rick Templeton died in November in Bronxville, where had lived since 1993. Rick was as reliable a member of our class as any I knew, attending every reunion as well as nearly all of Ben Gertz’s monthly lunches (now sadly defunct) at the Yale Club. Born in Washington, raised in Miami, educated at the Hill School, Yale and Harvard Business School, Rick’s career took him to Procter and Gamble and Bristol-Myers, followed by several independent investment ventures. A golfer and a jovial, enthusiastic club man, he participated in Christmas pageants at the Reformed Church in Bronxville (I have no idea what role he played, but would have given anything to see it), and helped organize speaking programs at the Harvard Club for the business school. He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Betty Cunningham Templeton, owner of a distinguished gallery in downtown New York, and two sons.

David Morgan, referenced here eight years ago as a semi-retired scientist, turns out (in this moment of Oppenheimer) to have played an important if unsung role in matters of national security at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, where he fetched up in the early 1970s after a doctorate in nuclear physics at Yale and brief stops on the East Coast and in Canada. At Livermore, he devoted himself to nuclear research, the science of matter-antimatter annihilation and rocketry, and was a longtime member of the U. S. Nuclear Emergency Support Team. David died in Pleasanton, Ca., in October. He was predeceased by his wife Arlene, whom he met at the New Haven Public Library, when she was a librarian and he a student, and is survived by three sons.

Yale is widely known for its musical traditions, especially its singing, and was thus the perfect landing place for a Virginia lad named John Jeremiah Funkhouser, whose name when stretched out sounds a bit like a line from a Whiffenpoof song. John sang with the Alley Cats and the Glee Club, played classical piano, and later, as a devoted member of the Yale Alumni Chrous, sang at Carnegie Hall and on two overseas tours, including a concert at the Kremlin. After Yale, he attended medical school at the University of Virginia, served as a ship’s doctor in the Navy, and moved in 1977 to the Cape, where he practiced for many years at Falmouth Hospital and founded an independent urology clinic. He was an active golfer and tennis player. And of course he kept singing, as a member of the College Light Opera Company in Falmouth. John died in November in Falmouth, predeceased by his wife of 50 years, and survived by three sons.