Alumni Notes: May/June 2022

It is a rare thing nowadays to see a Yale classmate in the flesh, since so few of them actually live in the Big Apple, so I was delighted in early March to repair with my wife to the Century Association on West 43rd Street for a special exhibit of Reeve Schley’s wonderful watercolors. Reeve was being honored as a “Century Master,” a title bestowed, but rarely, on club members who “have made, and continue to make, significant contributions to the art world both inside and outside our doors.” The walls of the main gallery were filled by seven decades of Reeve’s paintings, with the effervescent and deceptively simple brushstrokes that define his work, their themes and images drawn from his family, the farm where he lives in rural New Jersey, his summers on Murray Bay in Quebec and his extensive travels. His work is truly invigorating, but for me the best part was seeing Reeve himself and his delightful wife, Georgie — Reeve as tweedy and rumpled and as full of restless energy as he was when he was a ferocious member of the Yale hockey team, which is how I remember him, but which fact has probably escaped the attention of his devoted students at the National Academy of Design, where he began teaching in 1981.

Absent actual encounters with classmates, I turn increasingly to our website, which gets livelier by the day (I know I’m getting tiresome on the subject, but I’ll say once again that the site is easily reached by simply googling Yale Class of 1959). Two recent entries give you an idea of what you can find there. One is the transcript of an interview that Winston Lord gave the German magazine Der Spiegel in February to mark the 50th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s game-changing meeting with Chinese leader Mao Zedong, which Winston had helped arrange when he worked with Henry Kissinger in Nixon’s White House. The interview, which examined the present leadership of the superpowers, and was conducted well before Russia’s savage invasion of Ukraine, is both timely and prescient. Read it, and you will find Winston saying flat out that the two most dangerous men in the world are Chairman Xi and Vladimir Putin.

The website also has musical offerings (the Whiffs, for instance). Now, at the invitation of Ed Greenberg, our class secretary, the renowned dual pianists Richard and John Contiguglia have added selections by Max Bruch, Franz Liszt, Rachmaninoff and Percy Grainger, along with interesting and enlightening commentary that accompany each performance. There they are — our own Contiguglia brothers, as Tom Maxey once introduced them, just a couple of clicks away!

An update: Jack Maresca’s new book, “The Unknown Peace Agreement,” about the reunification of the two Germanies and hence the formal conclusion in 1990 to World War II, is now explained and displayed on the Columbia University Press website. It is not yet on Amazon (as of this writing), but an earlier book of his, “Helsinki Revisited”, is still very much there, and its examination of the border-setting process in Europe remains timely in view of the Russian claims on Ukraine.

There is a little other news this month but there are, as always, additions to the roll call. Jimmy Lowe, one of the gentlest and most personable guys I ever knew, and a lifelong Washingtonian, died in the nation’s capital in February. By trade a labor lawyer, he also worked in various government branches including the Agency for International Development, but his main interests involved education and the church. A graduate of St. Albans, and a lifelong member of St. John’s Episcopal, he served on the boards of the St. Marks and Potomac Schools, the College of Preachers and the Washington Theological Consortium, for which efforts he was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters from the Virginia Theological Seminary in 2005. Jim was an active Republican and a delegate to the Republican conventions in 2000 and 2004. He is survived by four children.

Briggs Swift Cunningham III died of natural causes at his home in Kentucky in September. . A descendant of the legendary racing car and sailing family (his father skippered the 12-meter Columbia to victory in the 1958 America’s Cup challenge), and grandson of one of the founders of Procter and Gamble, Briggs graduated with a degree in economics, served four years in the Navy, co-owned a motor sports company and raised Angus cattle and a large family (eight children) in Kentucky. The eight children survive him, as does his wife of 55 years, Beth.

Charles Hart passed away in Chambersburg, Pa., where he had moved after spending much of his career in Kansas, where he was born, and Missouri, where he went to law school and served as an attorney, judge and deacon in the Presbyterian church. He is survived by his wife, the Reverend Pamela Hart, and a daughter.

Bill Essig, Yale ’92, writes to say that his father, also Bill, TD ’59, died last September after a four-month struggle with Stage 4 melanoma. Our Billr grew up in South Bend where, his son says, he made enough money selling ice cream and Notre Dame football programs to pay for his freshman tuition at Yale (talk about back in the day!). After Yale, he served in the army and graduated from University of Chicago law school, thereafter practicing law in Chicago and servIng in the Illinois State government. He is also survived by another son, Peter.

Jim Laird died in December at the home of his daughter in Lincoln, Vt. His obit in the Worcester paper has him graduating from Middlebury, but his name also appears in our class directory and our 50th Reunion book, so it could be that he was with us for a while without graduating (these little mysteries bedevil your corresponding secretary from time to time). He was a highly ranked skier, for both Yale and Middlebury, and tried out for the US Olympic team, He went on to win a doctorate in psychology at the University of Rochester and became a professor at Clark University in Worcester, where he remained for his entire career, at one point running the psychology department. A man for all seasons (skiing, fishing, coaching, restoring houses), he leaves Nan, his wife of 61 years, and three children.