Greetings to all from a steamy NYC! I received the following today from Cilla Whiteman Kellert which was delightful to receive not only because it saves the class notes column for this month but also because it’s a real “feel-good” story Cilla writes:
“During these troubled times, it’s nice to get a story with a happy ending, this one about two ‘74 classmates reconnecting after 40 years. It’s a story of how things sometimes happen for a reason, and how social media is not always a bad thing, and even sometimes a near miracle.
“I was a newcomer to Facebook, but because I run an occasional wedding business at my farm in Vermont I figured I needed to have a presence on social media. I hardly ever posted — in fact, I would get notices that I hadn’t posted in months and that my ‘friends’ would like to hear from me.
“But one day in June 2017 I got one of those Facebook notices about a person you might know, in this case someone who was a mutual friend of my Yale freshman roommate Chris Coffin. The name of this person was Russell Leavitt. I had met Russell about 40 years ago in Roanoke, Virginia, when I founded the Hollins Outdoor Program at Hollins College, my first job out of Yale. Russell was a reporter for the Roanoke Times and the newspaper wanted to do a story on me. Interestingly, Russell and I had been classmates at Yale, but never met there. So Russell and I met at Hollins.
“After two years in Roanoke, I left to return to Yale, this time to attend the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. I remembered Russell fondly, but we lost touch.
“Now back to Facebook. Besides hardly ever posting, I also never ‘friended’ anyone. I had about 12 friends. But since it was ‘meant to be,’ I decided to send Russell a friend request. Before long, I worked up my nerve to comment on one of his posts. I said something goofy, like ‘Hi Russell, Remember me from our Roanoke days? How are you?’ He responded enthusiastically, and we had a short exchange on Russell’s Facebook page, which all his friends could see. After about 7 or 8 exchanges, Russell said he had sent me a private message. I had no clue what this was about. But if you know Facebook (like most people on the planet), there is the Messenger function where one can exchange private messages. I found it and saw Russell’s name. I clicked on it, and then had one of those OMG moments.
“It turns out that Russell had been messaging me for two years, just brief hellos, wondering where I was and what I was up to. I was amazed. Russell’s version is that he messaged me four times but finally gave up since I never responded. Since we weren’t Facebook friends and I had no idea how to navigate the Facebook thing, I had never seen his messages.
“So we ended up exchanging messages for a bit, when Russell finally asked me for my phone number. The first time he called, we talked for two hours. It was like two old friends, with 40 years evaporated. We finally made plans to see each other face-to-face in August at my farm in Vermont. By the end of that week together we were engaged to be married.
“Part of the progression of the relationship was actually found on my computer. I was cleaning up my computer desktop last summer when I found a document entitled “Life Wisdom.” I still have no idea of the source of this document, or how it landed on my desktop. It was as if someone was speaking to me from on high. To this day, it’s still a mystery — and also mystical. Here is what it said:
‘Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets. So, love the people who treat you right and forget about the ones who don’t. And believe that everything happens for a reason… If you get a chance — take it. If it changes your life – let it. Nobody said that it would be easy… They just promised it would be worth it.’
“I’m still amazed how Russell and I found each other. I feel strongly that this wonderful union was meant to be.
“We are getting married this September at my farm in Vermont –I even found a Bluegrass Band from Vermont with two Yalies in it! We are excited that many of our Yale classmates will be joining us: Kathy Slobogin, Bobbi Isberg, Chris Coffin, Lyn Utrecht, and Ben Fitt. From other classes: Chris Vizas ’72, Jesse Garner ’73 (who will officiate at the wedding), Randy Perry ’73, Javade Chaudhri ’75, Dan McDermott ’76, Nancy Young ’76, Nancy Stratford ’77, Jon Sawyer ’78.
And from the class of ’71: Mike Hearn, Al Gobel, Jim Sargent, Chuck Johnston, and Robbie Quinn.”
Cilla, I’m sure the entire class joins me in sending best wishes to you and Russell. Send me a piece of the wedding cake!!!
On a more bittersweet note, I attended a small gathering this morning in memory of Kate Kernan. It was hosted by her brother, Geoffrey, and included family, NYC friends and several members of our class, Fred Peters and Susan Klebanoff. Fred read a moving remembrance of Kate whom he met through the windows of Vanderbilt Hall the first day of freshman year and also read notes from absent classmates Sandy Wood, Peter St. Clair and Kate’s former husband Bob Rubin. The gathering had something of the atmosphere of a Quaker meeting where people spoke or not as they were moved to. I was particularly struck by Susan’s noting that the descriptions of Kate were remarkably consistent especially with regard to her wit, brilliance, and love of art. Ever the psychologist, Susan further remarked that these comments evidenced that Kate was always Kate. I think I knew that, but it was good to hear.
Finally, since everyone in the Class of ’74 participated directly in the beginnings of coeducation at Yale, a new book is being written about that time and how within four years of deciding to accept a limited number of women at Yale, the college moved to a sex blind admissions policy. I know because I was interviewed for the book. My sense from speaking with the author is that it will have a very different slant on how Yale “coeducated” from that portrayed in the recent book, Keep the Damn Women Out which was written by Princeton’s first dean of women. Will keep you posted.
And, once again, we are looking for themes for and volunteers to work on our upcoming 45th. Would love to hear from any and all about how to make this reunion meaningful and fun.
Spring greetings from sunny Rockefeller Center in the heart of midtown Manhattan. Not a lot of news this month but there are some planning issues I would like to raise. But first, the news:
Congratulations to Fred Ayeroff whose daughter was recently married to a talented, hardworking young man at Bessemer Trust. I know this not from Fred but from the young man, who, while located in LA, occasionally completes assignments for old guys like me in NYC. Fred, I expect a blow by blow account of the nuptials for the next issue.
I received a very nice note from Janet Dougherty responding to the sad news of Kate Kernan‘s death. Janet was Kate’s roommate in Saybrook during our junior year, and she was wondering if any kind of memorial service had been planned. As I did not know, I referred her to Fred Peters who remained close to Kate during her life and wrote some lovely words about her in an earlier column. Janet is a professor on the faculty of St. John’s College and I was glad to hear from her.
Ruth Martz writes from New Hampshire that she took a sabbatical from her pastorate at Sanbornton Congregational Church, where she has been since 2011, to spend an “amazing” summer of 2017 “going on retreat and exploring the labyrinth at Notre Dame Cathedral of Chartres.” While Ruth says her French from Yale is rusty, it nonetheless came in handy. Mais bien sur, Ruth!
A long note from Ozzie Taube apparently inspired by an opinion piece by Harold Levy titled “How to Level the College Playing Field.” In the article which appeared on April 7th, 2018, Levy, a former chancellor of the New York City public schools, argues that “elite colleges” should, in a democratic society, be doing more to alleviate the wealth gap in our country, and he articulates his position well. Thank you Ozzie for sending it to me, and I now include the balance of your note:
“I continue to practice Pediatrics (and teach medical students, interns and residents) in a community hospital in Baltimore. Most of my work involves inner city kids and teens, but I continue to work two half days per week as the Medical Consultant at a college health service. The college health work gives me an interesting perspective on our college years. I see a variety of young people – basically healthy teens/young adults with minor illnesses; brave kids with serious chronic diseases who are able to leave home and complete a college education; and, yes, teens who unfortunately are not able to make it through a four year college experience. I am sure we all remember Yalies who didn’t make it to graduation.
“The metaphor that comes to mind is that of the old vaudevillians from the “Ed Sullivan Show” (stick with me, now, and please don’t tell me you don’t remember the “Ed Sullivan Show”): Remember the guy who would keep many plates spinning on high sticks? (Usually with frantic Russian music playing in the background). He had to rush around, making sure that no plates fell to the ground. Going away to college is like that – you have the spinning plate of more academic work; the plate of less teacher oversight; the plate of needing to do your own laundry; the plate of exposure to drugs and alcohol; the plate of being far away from home and of all things familiar, etc. Most young people keep all of the plates spinning – but it’s hard, and some folks can’t do it. What can help is institutional support, and I have fond memories of Yale’s support of its students. I certainly needed that support when I was there! I hope Yale continues to be a supportive, nurturing institution.
“Work-wise, I have begun my descent (as the airline pilots say, when the flight is almost over): I have Fridays off now, and hope to groove on 4 days a week for several years, eventually dropping down to 3 days per week. We’ll see. Yes, I feel very fortunate that I can afford to cut back.
“Well … enough! Hello to old college friends.”
Thank you all and especially you, Ozzie, for saving this month’s class notes.
Before I sign off, allow me to remind you all that our 45th reunion will run from May 30th to June 2nd of next year. I would be very interested in hearing from you about possible content for the reunion as well as your interest in serving on the reunion committee. Please email me directly with your thoughts. Also please bookmark www.aya.yale.edu/reunions on your browser as information regarding the reunion will be posted there as well as on the class website.
Have a great summer!
I am writing as the last and puniest of three Northeasters sweeps through the Big Apple, and, with this wintry March, I become ever more convinced that the earth has somehow tilted on its access to the point that December is now March.
While seasonal disassociation may be the result of climate change, there are other ways the world can tilt and few so troubling as the death of a classmate and friend whose time has come too soon. In this case, it is the loss of Kate Kernan. I will leave the first words on this to Fred Peters:
“My beloved friend Kate Kernan died in New York on February 25 after a brief illness. Kate and I met the first day of freshman year in Vanderbilt Hall. I remember her vividly: waist length curly brown hair held off her face by a kerchief, tortoise shell glasses, and ubiquitous cigarette. She was then as she remained: voraciously well read, mordantly funny and perceptive, and acutely aware of the design and order in everything around her. Kate always had the most artful minimally designed rooms in Saybrook, so her choice of a career in museum work focused around design seemed inevitable. She was a loner and fiercely protective of her privacy, but we remained close for almost 48 years and never failed to make each other laugh.”
Now my turn:
I remember Kate so well from Saybrook where she became part of a little group that included herself, Rich Feinstein, Jim Feldman, Colly Burgwin, Barbara Borst and others (including this scribe) who simply did not believe that the dining hall should close once dinner was over. We would sit over coffee and, yes, often ubiquitous cigarettes, until Mary, the lady who checked us in to the dining hall, flashed the lights six or seven times at which point we would reluctantly depart the dining hall perhaps in search of a room or a table at the Cross Campus where we could continue to discuss whatever we had been discussing. I think it was Kate who first asked: “What would happen if Mary never flicked the lights?” and we were off on an Albee-esque flight of imagination that would inevitably end when Jim would start casting parts and tell Kate she just had to play Mary. I think it was the tortoise shell glasses since by this time Kate had cut her hair. Kate would pretend great offense at this perceived anti-intellectual role. She really wanted to be in the play “The Dining Hall” as a character in which case she would have been played by Bette Davis. Oh those early seventies! I last saw Kate four years ago when I had coffee with her and Sandy Wood. Kate was, well, Kate, and that was just fine by me.
Rick Okie, another Saybrugian, has sent more reminiscences about Jim Feldman, so here goes:
I had the good fortune to room with Jimmy sophomore year and it was an eye-opening experience. Some of my favorite memories:
* We contested a year-long game of 500 rummy, played on the floor of our room in Saybrook. The stakes were “Dinner and a Broadway Show.” Loser bought the tickets, winner bought the dinner, so everybody won. Final score was something like 8000 – 7900.
* Jim’s rubber body: he would lounge in positions that would make a yoga master jealous. He was ultra-flexible and double jointed in several places. During the above-mentioned card game he would frequently lock his legs in lotus position, then put his elbows down on the floor in front of him and peer over his cards. Crazy.
* Jim’s long, slow, stepped-out revelation that he had a car. This took several days. It was back home, at his parents’ in Jersey. It was an American car. A Chevy, in fact. Kind of sporty. Oh hell, it’s a Corvette. A banana yellow Corvette. (This is a good place for a scribe’s comment: I actually remember the license plate on that car)
* Listening to any one of several female vocalists with Jim was a revelation. Could be Merry Clayton, could be Barbra Streisand. He would point out nuances and notes that I would miss – and I’m a musician. The conversation got even better when his pal Michael Gore ’73 was around, which he frequently was. (Scribe’s note: Michael Gore was the younger brother of Leslie Gore and I believe he wrote “Fame”)
Getting to know Jim was one of the most fun aspects of my entire Yale experience. Seeing him again at the last class reunion I attended was equally joyful, though I remember having the sense at the time that he might not be with us too much longer. Sometimes it sucks to be right. Miss ya Jim.
I am also saddened to report the death of Edward Collins in Houston TX on January 15th. Ed spent 34 years in the offshore drilling industry. I have learned that Ed was passionate about fine arts, golf, fast cars and his kitties Tigger and Samba Too. He is survived by his wife of 37 years, Christi Shurden Collins, and by his mother Peggie Louise Collins, both of Houston. I would welcome any remembrances of Ed to be included in a later column. Close friends are always in a better position to comment on a life than I.
We move on.
As is so often the case, the minute I finish my class notes and send them in, I hear from or have lunch with someone from our class. I then have to wait six to eight weeks to note it in my next submission. So it was that immediately upon my completion/submission of notes in early January for the March-April issue of the YAM, I found myself at lunch with Andy Wittenstein, whom I did not know as an undergraduate but of whom I have become a big fan over recent years. Andy reminded me that he had entered our class from Brooklyn’s Poly Prep along with Jamie Stern, met his wife at Cornell Law School, ended up buying and moving into his parents’ home in Brooklyn Heights and had two children who not only attended Yale but also married Yalies. Even with all those connections, the first reunion Andy attended was our fortieth. Mine too. Andy is a name partner in a law firm he founded with the other name partner about five years after law school. And after more than 30 years it still thrives. And so, clearly, do Andy and his family.
I also received a call from Ted Swett who is still practicing law in Washington DC and whose two children also went to Yale. It reminded me that Ted, along with Wendy Wolf (’75) had spent Thanksgiving of our senior year at my mother’s and grandmother’s homes in Connecticut. There were a series of gatherings over the weekend, and Connecticut being Connecticut, there were a lot of Yale grads around, and, for reasons of which I’m not quite sure, perhaps because The Game would occur that Saturday, the three of us found ourselves singing “Bright College Years” on numerous occasions to groups of aged and often inebriated Yale alumni in both Fairfield and Litchfield Counties. We were lucky that Ted had a rich baritone and Wendy a strong alto because I couldn’t sing worth a damn. Anyway, we all ended up at The Game with, amazingly enough, Kate Kernan, where thanks to the performance of our stellar team, we got to sing it again. Good times!
McKim Symington writes that he has retired from the CIA and is enjoying himself volunteering at the National Gallery, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Firearms Museum. McKim also mentions finally meeting Yale’s eminent Greek historian, Donald Kagan, whom he describes as “lucidity and clarity personified.” I always thought those words pertained to Cheech and Chong, but perhaps I was wrong.
Jack Weber’s life is changing with three weddings in just over a year (who paid? That’s life changing!), has sold his company after twenty years of building the enterprise (always looking for new clients for Bessemer, my friend), and is looking forward to retirement, upping his golf game, and traveling maybe even as far as New Haven for a Rugby Alumni Weekend or a football game.
Zack Rogow writes that his co-authored play about the French author Colette, Colette Uncensored, will show in London at the Canal Café Theatre from May 4th to May 12th. The play ran for 6 months in the Bay Area in 2015-17 and was nominated for Outstanding Solo Production by Theatre Bay Area.
Finally, Linden Wise writes that she and husband Scott Wise “are in a two month experiment in retirement in Boca Grande, FL. The draw, in addition to some good friends), was a community theater company which was producing My Fair Lady this spring. Scott joined it and it just gave its last of six performances last night. I am still working at the Met and commuted during this time, but it was a fantastic place to be headquartered.” Linden further reports that sister Ann (’75) and husband Tom Strumolo have gone to St. John (USVI) to help with hurricane relief efforts. I had just received a note from Tom to the same effect and, as a homeowner on that beautiful island, commend them for their good works. I have not been back since the hurricane but have been in weekly if not daily touch with residents of the island and know how bad the devastation was and remains.
Be careful out there!
Greetings to all! Although this set of notes is being written in mid-January, publication will occur in March/April. By that time, I suspect very few of us will consider 2018 a “new year” so I will dispense with any associated salutations and proceed to the business at hand.
We will begin with the small world department. For reasons that need not need be gone into deeply into other than they involved a house, a hurricane and an insurance company, I had occasion to need an attorney in the USVI. I made inquiries and was repeatedly told that one Frank Jackson was the attorney to consult and that he had gone to Yale. The name was more than familiar and I soon found myself on the phone with our classmate, one of the legends of Westfield High, a rival town to ours in Northern New Jersey, and now a legend of the bar on St. Thomas. Frank couldn’t have been nicer. He even told me I didn’t need his services. While I think he was kindly telling me my case wasn’t big enough, I was still delighted to find him. We briefly discussed his practice and his life and then the hundreds of clients beeping on his cell phone caused the conversation to end. But, Frank, if my house ever gets repaired and I get back down to STJ, the conch fritters are on me.
We now proceed to the news of the day. Gilbert Casellas writes:
“In June of 2016, after 20 years serving as a trustee, I was named Trustee Emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania, my law school alma mater. This past November I was given Penn’s Alumni Award of Merit. I continue to travel extensively and challenge Father Time, having trekked the Camino to Santiago de Compostela in Spain as well as the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The knees and joints ain’t what they used to be!”
No kidding about those knees. I’m still recovering from hiking in the Galapagos and that was a year ago. Bob Martin, who recommended the trip to me and Jessica, is, as I write in Antarctica with his wife Cindy and instagramming like crazy. Jessica and I had done the Antarctica trip in 2016 and loved it and the Martins seem to be having a similarly grand experience. I’m just waiting to see a post of them in the Polar Plunge. Talk about a shock to the system!
David Mielke may not be exercising but he is certainly using his mind and dedicating it to dealing with immense drug crisis that confronts so many in our nation. He writes:
“I was the guest this past October on a podcast sponsored by Mad In America, a non-profit organization whose mission is “to serve as a catalyst for rethinking psychiatric care”, believing that “the current drug-based paradigm of care has failed our society.
I teach a Psychology elective at Culver City High School (California) and have become increasingly concerned about how many of my kids come to class with psychiatric diagnoses and taking powerful psychiatric drugs. My conversation with James Moore explores some of the issues that arise when teaching a class that questions the validity of these diagnoses as well as assessing the safety and effectiveness of prescribing these drugs to kids—– when so many of my students are taking those drugs. Earlier this year I was the guest on the Peter Breggin Hour addressing some of these same issues. I don’t know if our policy includes providing links, but here it is: goo.gl/38RVgw.”
David, I don’t know what the policy is either but I’m happy to provide websites and let the individual members of the class decide.
And from the indefatigable Gary Lucas:
“I have a new album ‘The World of Captain Beefheart’ featuring myself with soul singer Nona Hendryx on vocals out on Knitting Factory Records, It came out mid-November last year and is getting all sorts of spectacular reviews http://garylucas.com/www/twocb/twocb.shtml. Anyway, my old Yale friends Steve Hendel ‘73 and Bob Rubin were instrumental in helping me realize the release of this album, and if it’s possible to give the album a shout-out in your column it would be a beautiful thing.”
(NB: I just did)
Gary goes on to tell the story of the first time he, Steve and Bob saw Beefheart’s first NYC show in January 1971 which is really too long to include but which he promises to tell at our 45th. The key point, however (and with only minor editing), is the following
“That night … I was so impressed by all the energy and creativity pouring off the stage, I made a vow to myself that night that if I ever did anything in music I would play with this guy—and I am a very strong willed person. When I got back to Yale I talked him up to everyone, and he came up 6 months later to play at Woolsey Hall, which is how I got to meet him and bond with him—and eventually propose joining his Magic Band. Which I eventually did, beginning in 1980 when I was 28, appearing on his Virgin/Atlantic album “Doc at the Radar Station” as a featured guitar soloist. and two years later on his final album “Ice Cream for Crow” on Virgin/ Epic, as a full band member—which put me on the map as a guitarist, with write-ups in Rolling Stone and Esquire singling out my playing. Anyway Steve Hendel owns the Knitting Factory club and record label who put our new album out, and Bob Rubin acted as executive producer. Talk about 3 amigos! And thanks to guys like Steve and Bob and others I continue on following my heart and artistic destiny.”
Now that, my friends, is a lucky man and his message an apt way to end this column.
I sit down at this time with very little news but many thoughts, and, as, it is the week before Thanksgiving, perhaps you will allow me to share them.
I received a voice message from Charlie Finch asking me to include more information about the late Jim Feldman’s life in music criticism. As I had not seen Jim since the fall of 1974, I had no sense of Jim’s professional career, and despite some extensive Googling, I had come up empty. So I got in touch with Susan Klebanoff, who, as mentioned in the last issue, was a longtime friend of Jim’s and she let me know that Jim “wrote for the Village Voice, among other publications, and amassed a large personal collection of music.” With this information, I was, indeed, able to find references to and some excerpts from articles written in the 80′s and 90′s in the Voice and other publications as well as subsequent references to the effect of his writings on a notable artist’s career. My apologies to any and all who felt my acknowledgement of Jim’s death was incomplete. I will say that, as I am not a journalist but merely a scribe, I can only deal with the information I am given. When, however, someone passes away and Yale has no obituary to send me, I do try to find one. Sadly, in Jim’s case, I could not.
The only direct news I received was from David Stone, who wrote some weeks ago:
“I just got the mailed Sept- Oct print version of the YAM in which my note about my lunch in Charlottesville with the Fallons was printed. Could you possibly put something in the next version re how the lunch took place in June, and my class note was submitted well before the tragic August 11-13 weekend events now generally referred to as ‘Charlottesville.’ Therefore, no reference could have been made to those then-future events. Otherwise, my note may seem like a rather oblivious item to our classmates who I am sure are well aware of what took place here later in August. On a brighter note, the next president of UVa, James Ryan, is Yale ’88.”
I promised David that I would print this note not only because his explanation deserves printing but also because his note illustrates what I have found to be a particularly galling issue around this role: the gap between the time the notes are written and the time they are actually published. Hence, David wrote me about events that happened in June; I wrote them up in July and, by the time they were published, Charlottesville had experienced a national tragedy. David’s fear–that his note about a bucolic pleasure in a then apparently untroubled town would appear insensitive — only arose because of this publication delay.
Frankly, the same thing has happened to me. Recently, I incorporated a note, with what I thought suitably harmless commentary, about a classmate who had appeared in The New York Times. Subsequently, but before my column was published, negative news about that individual emerged. As a result of this news, my including the person in a class note was viewed as unacceptable to a vocal few, an unexpected reaction of which I was recently and directly apprised. It wasn’t fun. It also made me think.
I realize that taking some heat is why Yale pays me the big bucks for this column. I am also cognizant that being a class secretary is also a quasi-public role within the relatively small community comprised of Yale alums, and that the line between good humored inclusion of news of our classmates and the apparent endorsement of any of their activities is a fine one and one which I have tried to walk with some aplomb. Nonetheless, it begs the question, “What is the role of a Yale class secretary and, more specifically, of the secretary for a class that attended Yale during four years of radical change for the college as it attempted to move, however belatedly, into the 20th Century?”
Each time I sit down at the computer (I almost wrote “put pen to paper”), I must be aware that each reader of these notes has led a life since Yale that eclipses by more than ten times the four years we spent there. During that time, each of us has undoubtedly experiences both joys and grief, success and failures, dreams realized and deferred and, dare I write it, “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” I can’t possibly know what these have been, but what I can know is that whatever paths any one of us has walked, and despite the contrary behavior allowed by social media, they are not mine to judge or opine on.
It seems to me that this role demands a sort of “staying above the fray.” So, what I do try to do, is to relate each classmates news in some way that ties it back to our fondly remembered four year home or some common experience in which we may all have shared if only as people alive at this time and walking the planet together. What I try not to do is, especially when relating news of public figures from our class, is allow any of my personal views on their positions, their politics or their other activities color my commentary. This is a social column not a political one, and there is no room in it for ad hominem attacks. And as long as I am writing it, there won’t be.
So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. And as I end this column, written a week before Thanksgiving, allow me to close with some thanks of my own:
To my four children who presented Jessica and me with four new grandchildren since May bringing the total to eleven, my cup runneth over.
To my two youngest grandsons, Samuel Aloysius Wachter (born September 27th) and Samuel Bruce Fraser (born October 1st), you are destined to be known as “the Sams” and for the rest of my life, whenever something wacky happens, I will simply say, “The Sams did it,” and smile indulgently.
To the Yale football team, thanks for beating Princeton and good luck against Harvard, and
To the 20 or so new friends from our class that I have made during the first Tuesday of each month and the five of you who already were, thanks for just showing up. It’s 99% of everything.
I am writing these notes three days prior to my 65th birthday which, since it falls in September, happily follows the dreaded date that many of you will have already experienced. Having received more robo-calls and AARP mailings on this event over the last year than I thought was possible, I will be glad when the day is past. I will be even gladder if the Giants beat the Cowboys which is the only birthday present I need. I have dutifully registered for Medicare Part A but am advised I can defer the latter parts until I actually retire which I hope will be never. First of all, thanks to the fall of Lehman Brothers, I can’t and, second, what would I do? Jessica constantly reminds me that she married me for better or for worse but not for lunch. So the career which began 40 years ago and the commute of 38 years will continue. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Once again, in writing these class notes I am obliged to report the sad news of classmates departing this life, and I never know whether to begin or end my column with such events. Because, however, I knew both of these classmates at Yale and one particularly well, I have decided to start with our shared loss.
Ed Benton passed away in Albany, NY on July 9th, a Sunday morning. Ed came to us from Hillsdale, NY and graduated with a BA in history. After a time in both computer systems and advertising, Ed graduated from Vanderbilt Law in 1981 and joined Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett where our paths briefly crossed before he was posted to Hong Kong. He worked at two more well-known New York law firms before moving upstate and engaging in about everything from corporate general counsel to raising organic beef cattle. He also taught law and volunteered for numerous organizations. His quite lovely obituary, which I was sent, describes him as a lifelong “lover and rescuer of animals” other than, it would seem, beef cattle. Ed is survived by his wife, Malu, and to her we extend our deepest condolences.
Jimmy Feldman died on July 8th after an extended illness. The note I received from Susan Klebanoff, his friend from almost day one of freshman year, notes that he should be remembered for his “wit and love of Yale.” I couldn’t agree more. Nobody was more excited to be at Yale than Jim and nobody loved it more. Although our paths diverged around the time I started law school, Jim, a fellow Saybrugian, was a vital part of my undergraduate experience, and I join with Susan and his many dear friends in mourning his passing and honoring his memory. I still chuckle at his hilarious tales of adventures at Sol & Sol’s Delicatessen in Englewood New Jersey. I always will.
Carolyn Grillo is alive, well and in touch both directly and through Facebook. She recently sent me a clip from Tom Hanks’s Class Day speech at Yale in 2011 which I was lucky enough to see live as it was my youngest daughter’s graduation weekend. It’s a remarkable talk where Hanks offers a choice between “fear” and “faith” that seems very apposite six years later. Carolyn and I are putting our heads together to try to post it on the Yale ’74 FB page, but if you want to see the real 22 minute masterpiece, you can find it on YouTube. Just Google Tom Hanks Yale 2011 and it will pop right up.
Ralph Fascitelli was kind enough to drop me a line after 43 years and I am glad of it. He has been in the Seattle area for almost 30 years, happily married and with two kids living in Southern California. Ralph has been working with startups for many years and even sold his ad agency to WPP. Some weeks ago, Ralph, who is another FB friend, invited me to join a group on FB called “Ceasefire” which emanates from Washington Ceasefire founded in 1983 in that state by a group of “citizens who wanted to reduce gun violence in their communities.” It appears they focus not so much on rhetoric re ownership but on technology based solutions such as “smart guns” or guns that can fire only when activated by an authorized user. Smart guns have been proven effective in reducing gun accidents especially those involving children in the home. The organization’s web page (washingtonceasefire.org) asserts that as many as 10,000 lives could be saved annually through the ownership of smart guns rather than the alternative. I have never owned a gun nor do I intend to, but this seems a very well thought and reasonable approach to me. If you go to the website, you will find Ralph featured prominently as he is the president of the board. Ralph didn’t tell me this. The website did. Service combined with humility seems to be his way. Ralph also says he stays well in touch with roomies Dave Mayer and Darcy Ryan whom those of you who, like me, regularly cheered on the hockey team at the Whale should remember well.
Jane Hammersley McLaughlin writes from San Francisco that she is “enjoying life at 65″ (good to hear). Jane’s son, a West Point grad, is a Captain in the Army (with an Afghanistan deployment) and her daughter is the executive director of a NYC based non-profit, Art’s in the Armed Forces (aitaf.org), so I checked out that website as well. I learned it was founded by Adam Driver who has had a recurring role in the HBO hit “Girls.” I also learned that it brings live contemporary theater to active and veteran families in the US and around the world. Clare, Jane’s daughter, has an equally impressive if not theater based bio. She is a Columbia grad and had an impressive career at MOMA before assuming her current role. As you can see, I have adopted a new policy of including websites for those who cite a commitment to a particular volunteer activity and am happy to continue to do so.
Don Bivens writes from Arizona that he recently received the Walter E. Craig Award from the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education. The award is given annually to the “Arizona attorney who has manifested adherence to the highest principles and traditions of the legal profession and service to the public.” Beyond that, Don is still a litigation partner at Snell & Wilmer in Phoenix and his youngest is heading into junior year in high school. He remains active “for extra aggravation” in Arizona politics having recently served as Chair of the Arizona Democratic Party. That was news to me. I didn’t know there were Democrats in Arizona.
I guess I’m not too old to learn something new! Be careful out there!
I begin these class notes with the announcement of yet another grandchild. My eldest daughter, Emily, gave birth on July 10th to a beautiful baby girl, Campbell, who will be known as “Coco.” Coco joins brothers Luke and Wyatt and six first cousins on our side of the family, the most recent of which Mattie (short for Matilda) was born the day before I wrote my last segment of class notes. That means that I now have nine grandchildren with my younger two daughters due to have boys in late September. As an inveterate soccer fan, I am now determined that they will form their own World Cup team but I have been urged by several classmates that a football team would be equally good. Emily, her husband and her children live down the street from Eli Manning, so, hey, you never know.
Were it to be a football team, one of my first recruits would have to be Brian Clarke, with whom I had a lovely correspondence earlier this summer. Brian spoke candidly about his adjustment to Yale as a freshman and his battle with what I can best term as “impostor syndrome”: the sense that you are not who everybody else seems to think you are and you are bound to be found out. Brian, as you will remember, was a highly recruited athlete, and, in the fall of 1970, was not therefore supposed to suffer from any feelings of self-doubt. That was for the rest of us. Yet he did. And through our correspondence, we agreed that “impostor syndrome” was something we ALL felt. How the heck did we get into a place like Yale? What were we doing there? What if Yale found out that we weren’t as special as it had thought we were? I certainly experienced such thoughts many times over, and in some sense, my biggest success at Yale was that over four years, I determined I belonged, as I hope most of us did. My correspondence with Brian evidences another aspect of the then and now self-reflection that I hope we can share at our 45th. Brian, thank you my friend. Dare I say I will never forget “Merle the Pearl?”
It’s time for another quick “classmates in the news” vignette. This month’s focuses on Marc Kasowitz who has been described in the New York Times and pretty much everywhere else as “Donald Trump’s personal lawyer.” Now that’s gotta be one tough job. I haven’t seen Marc since graduation, but I remember being in various American History classes with him and thinking him much smarter than I. I also remember him as being very outgoing and funny.
Although I haven’t seen him in more than 40 years, I have followed Marc’s career as he may be the only member of our class whose name leads the masthead of a major New York City based law firm with a broad national litigation practice. The firm has attracted top names in a wide range of litigation specialties including former U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman. Those of us who went to law school know that what Marc has accomplished is remarkable, but he will sorely need that sense of humor over the coming months.
Okay, I got through that one. And I hope on a purely apolitical basis.
A short but much appreciated note from David Stone: Rob Fallon and his wife Melissa stopped by for a very pleasant outdoor lunch in Charlottesville on their way back from visiting their Air Force pilot son and his family in eastern Virginia. After lunch on the UVa Corner (sort of the local equivalent of Broadway or Chapel St), I leveraged my nearly 40 years at UVa to guide the Fallons around the Jefferson designed Grounds. Rob and I not only attended each other’s weddings back in the mid-70s, we also attended Milton Academy together before Yale, and NYU Medical School afterwards. Rob stayed a bit longer at NYU to also obtain a PhD with his MD. Rob is now Professor of Pediatrics (Hematology/Oncology) at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.
David also raised the question of how many people had from our class had attended three straight schools together. I have one: I went to the same grammar school, high school and Yale with Lee Stanton. I also went to grammar school with Fred Peters and Norm Selby, who both went to the same school between grammar school and Yale. At Yale, I roomed with Colly Burgwin and Rich Feinstein. Rich and Colly had attended the same grammar school in Pittsburg and then Colly and I had gone to high school together. It’s a bit of a silly game but fun to play, and, importantly, it allows me to put more names in the column. To that end, I note that one of the people I enjoy following most on Facebook is Carolyn Grillo who recently posted that she had joined e-Harmony with the reasonable expectation that she might meet someone fairly compatible. The list came back with a 100% probability of compatibility candidate who was her ex-husband. And so it goes!!
Okay: I’m done. Hope everyone is having a great summer.
I awoke yesterday morning (May 10) to the furor over the firing of James Comey by Donald Trump and, as I am sure with many of you, my mind flashbacked to October 20th 1973 and the infamous Saturday Night Massacre where then President Nixon fired Archibald Cox leading to the resignations of Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus. Since this is my flashback, as Rocky Rococo might say, I have no intention to indulge in current political commentary but only to stir your ever fading memories of what it was like to be in college at that particular moment in history. The night before, I had attended a production at the Yale Rep during which actors playing the Connecticut National Guard marched in and “seized” the theater. It was very much like “what can’t happen here” was, in fact, happening here. I still get chills thinking about it. By October 1973, the Watergate Investigation had been going on for about 18 months, and, although the Vietnam War was winding down, all of our futures seemed scary at best. Was there life after college when, as Stu Rohrer so aptly put it, “the world had split apart”? It seems there was or else I would not be writing this column 43 years after we left Yale.
Since our last reunion, which in addition to honoring the women of 1974, focused on the theme of then and now, I have spent a good deal of time reflecting on the beliefs I held then, the beliefs I hold now and how the intervening years have affected both. This became a topic of conversation at a recent class lunch where I found myself sitting with Marion Suter, Fred Peters, Sharon Worthing, Stu Rohrer and Al-Noor Jiwan-Hirji. We were discussing the last reunion, so I popped the question, “what shall we do for the next one?” And that’s when Marion posed the question that seem not only to encompass the question I had been asking myself but a much broader one about then and now:
What promises did you make to yourself while at Yale, how have you kept them, how have you not and what promises are left to fulfill?
There followed a very intense discussion of the sort often held in the 70′s that was about as stimulating as any I’ve had in many years (Promise to self: have more!). After lunch I ran back to the office and began making notes for 2019. What you all may not know is that Yale has a pretty strict template for a reunion where the powers that be give you time slots and then “suggest” how you fill them. Your reunion committee rebelled somewhat against this in 2014 (probably because I was the new guy and didn’t know any better) so I am determined to get out in front of this for 2019 and have a proposed agenda when the official planning process starts in about six months. I don’t intend to use this column as a forum for reunion planning, however. Rather, we will use Stu’s Yale74.org website and his facility with email to get your reaction to ideas. We may also use Facebook, so if you haven’t joined the class page, here’s how you do it:
* Join Facebook (it doesn’t hurt)
* Friend me
* I friend you back and then invite you to our class page
Three steps is all it takes. And from the above paragraph, I think you may glean where the theme is going. The goal is willing participation from everyone who chooses to attend.
And now, for the news:
David Mielke writes:
“I guess we’re old enough to use the word ‘still’ when we describe to others what we’re up to, so i can report that i’m STILL teaching psychology and sociology at Culver City High School, recently recognized as the 4th most diverse high school in the country.
As President of the Culver City Federation of Teachers/AFT and a Vice-President of our state organization, California Federation of Teachers, I’m proud to report that our local union is featured prominently in a new book by Ken Futernick, The Courage to Collaborate: The Case for Labor-Management Partnerships in Education. The bottom line: when labor and management work together as partners in our schools, student achievement increases.
On a personal note, I was the guest on the January 18th episode of the Dr. Peter Breggin Hour. Peter Breggin has led a movement to reform psychiatry, questioning the safety and efficacy of ECT and drugs to treat mental health issues and has been a strong, persistent and persuasive voice for understanding and loving people in distress instead of shocking and drugging them.
Peter invited me to discuss some of the challenges involved in teaching a high school class in psychology with a curriculum informed by this point of view. Peter’s site (breggin.com) has archived years of these episodes with some of the best-known members of this reform movement as guests. How I made it onto a list of guests which includes Irving Kirsch and Robert Whitaker is a mystery to me!”
Jim Brennan may no longer hold elective office but he is no less active. Jim writes, “My new post, ‘Education Aid and Tax Cuts’ explains how recent tax cuts are slowing the growth of school aid in NY. You can find more from Jim at jimbrennanscommentaries.wordpress.com or twitter@JimBrennanNY.
And from Sandy Wood “just enjoying retirement with much of my time split between caretaking of two fabulous grandchildren and a feisty 89 year old mother and travel. No place exotic this year but hopes for the future.” Sandy, think Kilimanjaro! Jessica and I are seriously considering as the next “must do” at least while our legs still function.
Speaking of grandchildren, Jessica’s and my eighth was born yesterday to my son, Sam and his wife Casey, a beautiful baby girl who has everything going for her except a first name. Hopefully, by the time this goes to press, they will have come up with one! In the meantime, my three daughters are also pregnant with one due in July (her third) and the other two due in late September (a third and a first, respectively). That will bring us to eleven all of whom are under seven. I’m gonna need a bigger house.
Best to all of you.
Greetings from New York City where it was in the sixties yesterday and where today it is rapidly moving into the 20’s and snowing for Crissakes! Ah well.
While yesterday may have seen the sixties from a Fahrenheit level, for many of us, the 60′s, as in the decade, remain forever part of who we are. Accordingly and fully aware of my own anti-authoritarian impulses, I had to chuckle when our good friend, Peter St. Clair‘s, response to Harvey Kent‘s annual class dues appeal showed up this morning in my inbox. After congratulating Harvey on his ability “as a 64 year old man” to land a new job that “takes him to England and France,” Peter goes on to allow that “$ 100 per year to subsidize rich white guys lunches at the Yale Club” is “absurd.” Well, said, my friend, and would be highly apposite if only it conformed to the facts (seemingly a particular issue in this decade). The monthly lunch, which I organize, is indeed at the Yale Club, is sponsored by the class, but I have noticed that none of the attendees who attend appear either “fat” or “feline,” although quite a few are decidedly female in aspect. At our last lunch this past Tuesday, twenty of us gathered in a much better ratio than our freshman class would predict for what has become, I’m delighted to say, a much looked forward to monthly event, or as Joan Katter recently wrote me, “They’re so popular classmates are sitting on each other’s laps.” Many of us who attend the lunch hardly knew each other back in New Haven, which is part of the fun, but we have bonded over who we have become. The reason the class pays for the gathering (and this option was offered publicly in a prior class notes to every Yale ’74 community across the nation) is precisely so those of us to whom a Yale Club lunch (soup, salad, sandwich or the hot turkey plate: it’s pretty simple fare) might appear an unnecessary or even onerous expense feel free to join the table without wondering “what will it cost?” Try to think of it as a “needs blind” acceptance policy, Peter, and perhaps it won’t either stick in your craw quite so much or push that tongue further in your cheek! By the way, Gary Lucas really likes the hot turkey sandwich. It comes with cranberry, stuffing, and mashed potatoes plus the vegetable du jour. One can almost imagine it being served at the Doodle.
Speaking of Gary Lucas, what a reemergence he has made not only at our communal groaning board but also in the public arena. Stu Rohrer has posted some of Gary’s most recent accomplishments on the class FB page, but for those of you who have yet to discover it, a quick summary is in order. Since my last writing, Gary has played at the legendary Apollo Theater as part of its “Hendrix in Harlem” event, in Mexico City at the Benjamin Franklin Bibliotheca by invitation of the US Embassy (which for all we know may be soon closing) in Shanghai, Budapest, Pisa Havana and at the UN as part its Holocaust Remembrance Day. I really enjoyed the interview Gary did for NPR’s “All Things Considered” (Google it). I hardly knew Gary at Yale, but it’s great to get to know him now. His wit helps light up and already lively crowd at our monthly get togethers.
So does the wit of Barbara Guss. “Babs,” as she is now and perhaps always has been known, recently returned from Antarctica which I was fortunate enough to visit a year ago. Babs’s note to me states:
“Following our beloved class secretary’s lead (she wrote that but I paid her for it), I recently went to Antarctica with Yale Educational Travel. Before heading to the end of the world we stopped in Buenos Aires and ate steak like no other at the Yale Club of Argentina. Once through the bumpy Drake Passage, we entered a place of otherworldly and fragile beauty which I hope we will be wise enough to protect.”
Barb goes on to note that she has visited all seven continents (me too!!) and is thinking she deserves a second Yale degree for all the “stuff” she’s being doing. She notes that this summer, she’ll be in New Haven taking a Yale for Life course on the Enlightenment and invites any and all to join her. Sounds good to me, Babs. Apart from comparing staircases in Rome, my last moment of true enlightenment came while listening to Black Sabbath at 78 speed. Oh Cheech! Oh Chong! Oh Bob Bitchin!
While Babs was in Antarctica, the protection of which is heavily funded by among others National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions, Jessica and I were on our second “Lindblad,” this time to the Galapagos where the sun rises and sets at the same time each day and which, reportedly, Darwin hated. It was some adventure! Straight out of our comfort zone physically, geographically and very much socially. We were with 36 other travelers on a small ship where you actually have to introduce yourself to people you don’t know, ask if you may join them and endeavor to find a commonality that works for all parties. It’s a lot harder to do at 64 than at 18 on the Old Campus but it’s so worth it. It’s also worth it to go to the place that gave Darwin his “aha!” moment. The wildlife is extraordinary, the snorkeling sublime and the endless hiking a test of endurance. We are already planning our next trip: The Arctic? Easter Island and the South Pacific? China? The bucket list gets longer as the days left get shorter. Being on the back nine is humbling.
Other news! Jim Liebman “still hanging in at Columbia Law School,” where he runs a program that brings together “upper level” business, education, law and policy students from universities around the US to spend an intensive semester studying and practicing public education reform. Well done, Jim. And congrats on your daughter’s impending graduation from Yale and the “college f/k/a Calhoun.”
From Carolyn Grillo: “Andrew and Vicki are moving to London in August where she will start a fabulous graduate program … that only accepts 12 people a year worldwide. They will need new friends, a place to live and will welcome suggestions of work Andrew might seek out.” Carolyn is on Facebook so any suggestions can be made by friending her there.
From Paula Ravin: “We’re still bi-coastal and more! Bouncing around from LA to Henderson NV and Boston. Ariel is hoping to buy a home in Tahoe , Shayna is expecting to start a Master’s in Teaching at UC Irvine this summer (ed note: is it still politically correct to obtain a Master’s degree?) and Katrina is expanding a home based business while running after her two kids. Kurt and I spend our time together enjoying the gym, hiking, classic car clubs and sleeping in.”
Tomorrow is Saturday and I would love to sleep in but I have this crazy sheepadoodle who prefers a walk by her adoptive father to a run in the yard. If I make it to 6 AM, it will be a victory.
Keep on keeping on.