Alumni Notes: November/December 2016

Hats off to Charlie Nolan, Larry Pierce, Lee Voorhees, and Bill Wurts for organizing an immensely enjoyable and thoroughly educational (by all accounts) mini-reunion in mid-September and then unveiling, bit by bit, the many wonders of Seattle—from the Space Needle to the breathtaking island-and-seascapes of the Pacific Northwest to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, all interspersed with fine dining, uplifting lectures, and robust companionship.

My special correspondent, Ed Greenberg (who got these fine mini-reunions started many years ago), counted 61 noses, including classmates and spouses, and while it is impossible to list everyone here, the surviving Whiffenpoofs who made the journey and who always enliven the proceedings deserve special mention: Larry Pierce, Al Atherton, Doug Banker, Jim Cowperthwait, Ed Greenberg, Randy Ney, Paul Nyhus, and Herb Rule. Apologies if I’ve left anyone out. Reunion after reunion, these guys make the trip, and we are all grateful.

Having just arrived back from vacation, and being fresh out of discretionary energy, your corresponding secretary was not on the scene, but instead planted himself in the Yale Bowl to watch the opener in the company of Lisa Semple, Herb Hallas, Charlie Griffith, and Tony DePaul, Herb’s college roommate. The best part of the day was Bobbi Griffith’s fine tailgate lunch; the Yale team got blown out—no surprise, given the fact that it had no quarterback to speak of—and Colgate was very, very good. We hope for better.

We suggest two trips to the Internet for new reading matter provided by classmates. One trip will take you to John Holbrook’s recently launched website and blog, John recently sold his cottage in Canaan, New York, to live full-time on Manhattan’s Upper East Side with his wife, Edie. John, who ran our 25th reunion, has practiced architecture at various points in his life, but his central preoccupation for the last quarter-century or more has been the Bible, Christianity, and its application to our lives. The website traces John’s intellectual and spiritual journey, offers reading material (included, right away, a great quotation from C. S. Lewis) and scriptural interpretation, and is open to comments. I recommend it.

The other website is Amazon, where you will find quite different reading, a new mystery by C. Davis Fogg, Murder in Grand Cayman, wherein a New York estate lawyer helps the Royal Cayman constabulary track down the murderer of a multi-billionaire drug addict named Gil Baxter. There’s a Mexican cartel and plenty of financial fraud and underwater violence, just my kind of stuff, and all for $14.99. I have not read it, but this much I can tell you: It’s a whole lot different from the last book of his I mentioned in this column, Team-Based Strategic Planning, which grew out of his long career as a corporate consultant.

This month’s partial roll call:

Joe Barker, the son of one Yale man and the father of another, and one of our most faithful correspondents, died in his hometown of Omaha on April 17, at 79. He prepped at Choate, sang in the Baker’s Dozen, laid no claim to academic excellence—his son says Joe advised him “not to let my studies interfere with my education”—then returned to the family’s successful life insurance business. He was deeply involved in Omaha’s civic life, worked hard to bring the city’s black and white communities together in difficult times, and—still the tenor—sang in the choir of All Saints Episcopal Church until the last week of his life. He was married twice, first to the late Susan Ahlstrand and later to DeDe Ruge, and had five children.

Frank Hodsoll, who led the National Endowment of the Arts under President Reagan, died in July in Falls Church, Virginia. The cause, according to his wife Mimi, was cancer. As a Times obituary on July 31 observed, Frank—the endowment’s fourth boss after Roger Stevens, Nancy Hanks, and Livingston Biddle—was a most unusual choice, as he was the first to acknowledge. After Yale and the Army, he studied law at Cambridge and Stanford and worked at Sullivan and Cromwell, eventually joining the Foreign Service, volunteering on Reagan’s campaign, and becoming deputy to White House staff chief Jim Baker. One day he told Baker he wanted to run the endowment, though he possessed only an amateur’s love of the arts. Why? Because Reagan’s budget chief, David Stockman, had made it clear he wanted to cut the outfit’s funding in half, with an eye to getting rid of it altogether. Frank got the job and steered the agency through both the budget wars and the culture wars of the time, which included a Republican effort to prohibit federal awards to artists’ work that could offend the public. He also worked hard to expand arts education in public schools. He is survived by Mimi, a daughter, and a son.

Christopher (“Kit”) Reed died in Cambridge in July, three years after his wife Jane. Kit devoted most of his professional life to one institution, Harvard magazine, an unlikely destination for a Yale graduate but one that he served with his superb skills as a writer, editor, and manager. He joined the magazine as managing editor in 1968 and became executive editor in 1999. Kit gave new meaning to the word multifaceted. A gardener and landscaper—and as a sideline, a contributing editor to Horticulture magazine—he was also an inveterate collector, of everything from arrowheads to antique guns, for which he had a license. He was also enormously collegial. When he retired from the magazine in 2007, the editors observed: “Had he not written with such humor and grace, and with such wry appreciation for the university’s traditions and foibles, his colleagues would have resented bitterly his calm confidence at the keyboard, no matter how pressing the deadlines.”

I, too, have a deadline; so, until next time.