Alumni Notes: May/June 2020

I sit here typing on Sunday, March 15, grateful to have made it under the wire — the wire imposed by this freaky virus — to attend a small luncheon at Mory’s four days ago in honor of Stan Flink, class secretary for ’45W, and a mere stripling of 95, and the publication of his latest book, “Due Diligence and the News: The Search for a Moral Compass in the Digital Age.” It is a wonderful history of the press in America, and the threats to its First Amendment freedoms over the years, with particular attention paid to a whole new nest of problems (some of them self-inflicted) presented by the fragmentation of the media and the erosion of old journalistic values brought on by the internet. It should be required reading in every high school and college.

The lunch was arranged by Dave Mackenzie and Joel Schiavone and included three other luminaries from the class of 1958, Scott Sullivan, my predecessor at the Yale Daily News, Dave Greenway, a distinguished foreign correspondent and senior editor at the Boston Globe, and Dick Harter, Phi Beta Kappa, attorney and now a neighbor of Stan’s at Evergreen Woods. Stan’s son Steve, a well-known tennis writer, was also there. I made the roundtrip to New Haven via Metro North, finding Grand Central ghostly quiet during rush hours at both ends of the day. I have since sworn that that will be last association with public transit in New York City until this dark cloud is lifted.

Books are my theme today, to the extent there is one. Over the years we have marveled at Dick Posner’s staggering output, and more recently at the fecundity of the late Herb Hallas, as well as Frank Porter’s fictional dissection of the legal business, Semper Fee, and Winston Lord’s “Kissinger on Kissinger, Reflections on Diplomacy, Grand Strategy and Leadership,” which, he reports, is being published in German, Russian and Chinese editions. Now comes John Macauley Smith’s “Curious Events Occurred on the Way to My Funeral,” a rollicking autobiography of a free spirit and the ups and downs of an eventful, nonlinear life as a cub reporter in Kentucky (and pal of Hunter S. Thompson’s), adventurer, college teacher, local television entrepreneur, farmer, father, husband (twice) — and that’s only so far. The author is happily esconsed on eight Oregon acres; the book is on Amazon. Waiting in the wings is the finished manuscript of “Jazzman”, C. Davis Fogg’s fifth book, a fictional portrait about the exhilarating jazz scene in the early 1950, which many of us will remember. The protagonist is Lance Williams, a very good trumpet player, as Davis was in his undergraduate days and presumably still is, and is filled with portraits of real-life musical legends.

Then, inevitably, there is Dick Rhodes, who by now has written or ghosted two dozen or more books, one of which, “The Making of the Atomic Bomb,” won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987. Dick recently came through town with his wife Ginger, and although we missed connections, he filled me in via email on his present project, a biography of the eminent biologist/entomologist Edward O. Wilson, an old friend of Dick’s who turned 90 last June and is still writing books himself. One of E.O. Wilson’s valued colleagues was Yale’s Evelyn Hutchison, a giant in his field whom some classmates will remember as a regular visitor to the Elizabethan Club for tea, where Dick often found himself in late afternoon. Meanwhille, he and Ginger, a practicing clinical psychologist, found time to spend three days at Yale in February, lecturing and speaking to classes and a Master’s tea, he about nuclear history, she about her work evaluating political asylum seekers for the immigration court. “It was great to see the new colleges,” he writes. “Our alma mater looked both renewed and thriving, and the students were outstanding.”

Also through town, before the coronavirus cleaned the place out, was Dyer Wadsworth, who hosted me and Don Watson at a magnificent dinner at the Union Club. Dyer has stepped back a bit from his managerial duties (turning them over to his daughter) at the Barringer Crater Company, a family-owned enterprise dedicated to the preservation and public enjoyment of one of the world’s great wonders, the Barringer Meteorite Crater near Flagstaff, Arizona. He and his wife Beverly remain active in the Yale Club of the Suncoast, in Sarasota, which they have helped build into a behemoth of alumni devotion. As for Mr. Watson, who continues to receive kudos for his 60th Reunion book of reminiscences, and who has become one of our most faithful historians, he is assembling 150 years worth of Yale Record writers and artists for what he hopes will be a Yale Record 150th Year anthology. There will, of course, be priceless gems therein, including early cartoons and drawings by Yale undergraduates who went on to a larger audience at the New Yorker.

This month’s roll call, in brief: John Kneipple died of respiratory complications last March in Gettysburg, after nearly a lifetime (Landon School, George Washington University) in the DC area, mainly as a government systems analyst.

Phil Brett, who attended St. Paul’s before Yale, where he was a member of Zeta Psi, died in Manchester, Vt., last October. A a fly fisherman, painter, and ardent golfer, he worked his entire career in the elevated world of fine fabrics, at Greeff Fabrics and Stoheim and Romann.

Laurent “Larry” Novikoff Horne passed away in Lancaster, Pa., last July. A graduate of St. Mark’s, Larry celebrated many things — his marriage to Mary, his homes by the ocean in Georgia and New Jersey, his ham radio expertise, his Gatling gun collection — most of all, his 46 years of sobriety and the many people he mentored in AA.

Your responses to my pleas for news have been encouraging and will bear fruit in the next notes.