Alumni Notes: November/December 2022

Here are a couple of worthy additions to the list of those continuing to make a difference in our middle-80s. On Aug. 31, as I reported on our website, but not in these pages until now, Yale broke ground on George Street for a new Neurosciences Center at Yale New Haven Hospital. The center will be built in large part because of the extraordinary generosity of Steve Adams and his wife Denise, yet another milestone in an amazing philanthropic narrative that time and again has rewarded Yale. Steve and Denise gave $100 million to the music school in 2009, which not only freed music students from burdensome tuitions but enabled the class of 1959 to set a new record, as yet unmatched, for 50th Reunion gifts.

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Peter Pastreich has been summoned to rescue yet another cultural institution in San Francisco. During a half-century career in orchestra management, Peter spent 22 years as Executive Director of the San Francisco Symphony, successfully navigating a host of labor, financial and artistic issues, later two years as director of the American Conservatory Theater, strengthening its leadership and MFA program. Now a new and quite different challenge has presented itself: preserving the architectural integrity of the Castro Theater, a quirky, 100-year-old movie palace that has been the home of a dozen film festivals as well as being the cultural center of San Francisco’s sizable LGBTQ community. Developers, it appears, would carelessly modernize it. “I am very fortunate to be still working, and at projects I find fascinating, ” says Peter, whose title is Executive Director of the Castro Theater Conservancy, “and to be still learning.”

An illuminating Times obit about Herb Kohler, Yale ’65, who turned the family bathtub business in Wisconsin into a global, multi-billion dollar bathroom fixtures enterprise, featured quotes from our own John Torinus, whose stewardship of another robust if much smaller Wisconsin company has received mention in this column before. John described the energetic Kohler as being in love with design, which is true of Mr. Torinus as well. With his son, John has greatly expanded the reach of Serigraph, a design company that makes parts for others, including Kohler. John was also a journalist (business editor of the Milwaukee Journal); his essay on entrepreneurship is one of the more compelling pieces in our 50th Reunion book.

This spring and summer plus some catch-up mail brought several additions to the bi-monthly roll call. I knew only one of the departed well, Hoyt Ammidon, who died in August just short of his 85th birthday following a fall and a brief hospitalization at his retirement center near Essex, Ct. He was a good and loyal friend, a great athlete (varsity hockey at Yale), a restlessly curious person whose good looks were matched by his lovely wife Ashley, who survives him along with three children and their spouses. Hoyt, from a distinguished family on Long Island’s north shore, married Ashley the instant he graduated from Yale, served four years in the Marines, where he flew jets, then began a long career in finance that started with Morgan Stanley and ended, many years later, with Berkshire Global Advisers. An adventurous soul, he lived a good life in great places, among them Princeton, Houston, Bermuda, Manchester VT., New York City and Hobe Sound, Fl, where he and Ashley were cast members of the annual members’ musical review. A great loss to me and to his multitude of friends.

I knew Jim Sampliner mainly by reputation and through mutual friends and classmates in and around Cleveland, including Jim Pender, Dave Schneider and the late Bill West. Jim was a topnotch surgeon at Case and the Cleveland Clinic, whose skills were of little use against the relentless cancer against which he struggled for years and which claimed him in August. I recall Jim and the late Herb Hallas deep in conversation about their inexorable ailments at our 60h Reunion. Both were athletes: Herb a football star, Jim a superb soccer player. A prodigious reader, lover of music, gardener, even amateur meteorologist, Jim was married to Betsy for 60 years. Together they produced three children and established the Sampliner Family Surgical Education Fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic, for which the family welcomes contributions in Jim’s memory.

Here are three shorter notices held out of the last issue for space reasons. In each case the information arrived rather late. Lauren (Larry) Williams died in Vero Beach in June of last year. He grew up in Milford, went to Hopkins, and played football and was a member of DKE at Yale. Armed with an MBA from Chicago, he embarked on an astonishingly successful career in marketing at Philip Morris, Miller Brewing and Nutrasweet, where he became president. He retired with his wife Judy to John’s Island, in Vero Beach, in 1993. Together they raised three children. Larry dedicated his energies in retirement to the Vero Beach community and to Judy, who died of Alzheimer’s in 2018.

John Bendler died in May in New Berlin, WI. Born in Waterbury and educated at Taft before Yale, he eventually, via Johns Hopkins, wound up as an expert on microbial genetics and a professor of same at several high schools and colleges in Wisconsin He also taught physics, math and chemistry, became an active member of All Saints Cathedral in Milwaukee, and father, with Elaine, of two children .

Ken Macartney died in Pittsburgh in June. If you haven’t been dizzy for a while, check out his essay in the 50th Reunion book, which charts an amazing course from Buenos Aires, where he was born, to Yale, where he earned scholarship money in the student records office, to a career in retail sales, which took him to Cleveland (Halle Bros), Chicago ((Marshall Field), Pittsburgh (Kaufman’s and Horne’s), Boston (Filene’s) and York, Pa. where he worked for Bon-Ton and decided to retire from stateside retailing. But selling was on his soul: He tacked on another decade or so in retail in South America, selling for American manufacturers. In 2007 he really did call it quits, moving back to York. He and wife Sondra, whom he married while at Yale, had four children, all surviving.