Alumni Notes: May/June 2023

This blessed period of post-Covid normalcy appears to have inspired many of us to get out and about, some to quite distant places. In January,  Randy Ney, the co-organizer of our last reunion and proprietor of an upscale travel business in Houston, sent pictures of a colorful foursome outfitted in local headgear in India — eight people who, on closer inspection, turned out to be Chris and Jim Cowperthwait,  Eleanor and Charles Nolan, Joan Frates and Ed Barth, and Randy and his wife Lea. Randy thought it pretty amazing “that at our respective ages we’ve been able to pull this off. ” I was indeed impressed, but no less so by a  letter from John Wellemeyer, who with wife Louise and identical twin sons Douglas and James traveled to Egypt during winter break, visiting the pyramids, the Valley of Kings and Queens, Luxor and Alexandria — more or less the whole Egyptian nine yards.  Douglas graduated from Yale last spring;  James will have graduated from Columbia by the time you read this.

John and Louise both had Covid last summer, and, having survived, resolved to  keep in shape, exercising three or four times a week and letting the dog exercise them.  There’s a lot about self-maintenance in the mail I get these days, no surprise given that remaining upright at 85 is no trifling matter.  Ed Bloomberg writes of “trying to maintain an aging body with water aerobics and a personal trainer;”  Dyer Wadsworth, following several falls, undertakes hour-long walks in which he carries a cane but only “where I am not likely to meet any social friends.” In our Yale days, Dyer was among the brilliant characters who put out the Yale Record. Drollery intact, he recounts several warning signs that lifestyle changes were in order, not least the fact that he “snapped off the side mirror on my Mercedes three times this year due to wandering attention or spatial perception difficulties.”  (I too have found a cane useful, mainly to ward off the four-legged assassins tethered loosely to their leashes who keep trying to trip me up on the sidewalks of New York; I confess also to having decapitated a couple of side mirrors, requiring artful blame-shifting at the Avis return.)  Meanwhile, Dyer chugs along nicely in Sarasota, sustained by Beverley, “estate manager, relationship counsel and posture coach and so much more for the past 60 years.” And now, it seems, the designated driver.

Our last column recounted the unfortunate saga of Maitland Jones, a distinguished professor of organic chemistry at Princeton who was fired from his post-retirement teaching job at New York University after students complained he was too demanding and gave out unfairly low grades. We wondered whether this might not be an isolated event, and almost immediately another classmate, Karl Norton, wrote to say that it definitely wasn’t. Karl, who gained a doctorate after Yale, was a rising star in the University of Colorado math department in the 1960s when he was sandbagged by similar complaints and by a spineless dean. He said the episode devastated his career; he found marginal jobs in the private sector, won several temporary fellowships, touched down briefly at Colby, but nothing lasting.  There have, however, been upsides: a successful second marriage, a home in Maine, two Yale graduates (Valerie ’87 and Jennifer ’89) and a cathartic book, “Betrayal 101: A College Saga,”  based partly on his unhappy experience in academia,  and available on Amazon and IngramSpark.

The roll call for this issue begins with the passing in February of John Holbrook, who lived across the hall in Saybrook  and whose wedding in Washington to Edie Murphy I attended.  A graduate of St, Bernard’s and St. Paul’s, John was a thoroughly admirable person, friendly, open, and, unlike most  of us, relentlessly devoted to good health  (I remember him doing chin-ups on a door frame or bar he’d rigged up in the hall). He rowed on the crew, was elected to Skull and Bones and remained devoted to Yale, taking a lead role in organizing our 25th Reunion. In later life, after three years in the Marines, he practiced architecture and developed real estate, but his greater passion was religion. Combining his various enthusiasms,  he served as vice president of the Episcopal Building Fund, and chief financial officer of the Chosen People Ministries. His 50th Reunion essay consists almost entirely of passages from the Bible.  Utterly without artifice, he was a man of faith.

Ed Brown sent notice  early last year of the death in March, 2022, of his TD roomate, John Bettenhausen, which information I carelessly misplaced. Born in Hazleton, Pa., in 1937, John came to Yale on a scholarship and, following graduation,  joined Price Waterhouse,  where he worked for 40 years. Married to Barbara Morgan in 1969, he lived mainly in Manhattan and the greater New York  area before retiring to the quieter life of Chester County, Pa. which put  him within easy reach of Hazleton and his youthful haunts.

Another Pennsylvanian and scholarship student, Jonathan Russin, died on December 31 in Washington, following a stroke.  His was an extraordinary journey, spanning many countries and cultures. His law partnership was among the first Washington firms to establish multiple offices abroad — in Latin America, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the former Soviet Republics.  Their mission was to advise companies and NGO’s on how to flourish in unfamiliar and sometimes hostile settings. Accompanied by his wife, Toni, whom he married in 1962 upon graduating from Yale Law School, Jonathan lived abroad for much of his life. Raised in the Russian Orthodox Church, and long fascinated by Russia, he  opened the Moscow office in 1996 and stayed until 2013, when  Putin’s authoritarianism became depressingly heavy-handed.  Phil  Kopper summed him up nicely in an email: ” An interesting, successful and productive life, representing new or young businesses in third world countries in order to build  democratic economies and institutions.”  In addition to Toni, Jonathan leaves four sons and a host of friends at St.  Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Washington.

George Hatch died in February in St. Louis. Born in Pittsburgh, he won a Fulbright and doctorate in history at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1972, and then embarked on a lifelong career teaching Chinese history and East Asian studies at Washington University in St. Louis, with a strong focus on the Sung Dynasty. Named professor emeritus in 2003, George also translated books on Chinese art by Japanese scholars. He leaves his wife, Grace, a daughter and a son Michael, who said his father took “greatest joy from developing and mentoring his students.”

Another post-Yale Fulbright, Bob Reitter, died last October in Hartsdale in suburban New York, where he spent most of his adult years.  His profession was  market research, but, much like John Holbrook, as he grew older he  became deeply interested in religion,  in his case his ancestral Judaism. He learned to read the Hebrew Bible and joined a Reconstructionist congregation in White Plains. All this could well have been forecast by his youth. Born to an assimilated Jewish family in Budapest in 1937, he and his parents survived the Nazis by hiding at different places throughout the city, eventually emigrating to New York City in 1947. He may have been the only Holocaust survivor in our class  He is survived by his wife Douglass and two sons from his first marriage to Rose, who died in 1993.

Dick Fahy died in December in Fort Worth, leaving Mary Ellen, his wife of 61 years,  and three children. Dick came to Yale from Fairfield Prep, stayed on for a law degree in 1962, then  embarked on  a long career in the airline industry, working for Pan Am and American, where he was  involved in the development of the Sabre computer reservation system and rose to Associate General Counsel after American relocated from New York to Dallas-Fort Worth in 1979.  In the 1990s and early 2000s he  practiced law and served on several travel-related commissions in Washington,  but eventually returned to Fort Worth. He  served as president of both the Northern Virginia and Fort Worth Optimists clubs. The clubs could have been named for him. He was among the cheeriest and happiest people I knew.