YAM Notes: July/August 2016

By Bill Sargent

55th Reunion

Under the guiding hands of reunion chairman Paul Downey and with a lot of help from the AYA and university staff, our 55th has come and gone. The attendee total was 270, including 156 classmates (just over 20 percent of our living members) plus 114 guests. Attendees were presented with a tantalizing number of places to visit, including the spectacular new School of Management building, Evans Hall; the famous Newberry Organ at Woolsey Hall; a “Renaissance Bus Tour” of New Haven; and a tour of the Grove Street Cemetery. A multitude of presentations included planning and construction of the new colleges, Murray and Franklin, the future of Yale libraries, and the future of China.

Events specific to our class included a talk by classmate Charlie Hamlin, which raised issues related to what he called our “common destination” of death. But he wanted us to find a “good death,” free of the physical and emotional pain that often accompanies end-of-life today. Following, on a much lighter tone, was a lecture on how the Beatles developed one of their songs, “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Scott Freiman ’84 has lectured widely on the Beatles and had traced 25 takes of the song (many of which he played), from its infancy with a single guitar to its full development, where electronic techniques were used that made it a work that could not possibly be played live. Other presentations involving class members included one featuring John Paoletti, art history professor emeritus at Wesleyan, and John Walsh, director emeritus of the Getty Museum, who discussed and contrasted Rembrandt and Michelangelo; and a discussion of the current national political scene by Dan Simpson and Dan Henninger, deputy editor and columnist from the Wall Street Journal. In still another presentation Professor Paul Kennedy, author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, discussed some of the major problems facing the next US president.

Also noteworthy was President Peter Salovey’s address to the alumni. He did not specifically discuss his controversial remark, “We failed you,” but he did note that it was important that students must expect to be uncomfortable at times and that they must learn to “speak out” to those who made them uncomfortable and to those with whom they disagreed.

After 20 years as class cochairmen Ed Cantor and Frosty Smith will be succeeded by Jamie McLane and Maysie Starr, widow of Tat Starr. Attendees of the class meeting also approved Lou Allyn (webmaster), Andy Block, Paul Downey, Sherwin Goldman, B Lee Mallory, John Pearce, Ross Reynolds, Mike Samuels, Bill Sargent (secretary), Vince Teti (treasurer), Joan Thomas (widow of Bob Thomas), and Al Townsend as members of a newly formed executive committee responsible for class affairs.

Many were deeply touched by the memorial service in memory of those classmates who had died since our 50th reunion, particularly by the two remembrances presented. Sadly, there is only room for a small portion of these remembrances.

Charlie Hamlin said, “I thought it fitting that someone as anonymous as me, a back street shadow, stands up here to try and shine a light on those who are gone. I decided to speak about one classmate who left us as a metaphor for a collective commemorative: Mike Pyle died this past year, quietly, from complications of brutality. What a paradox. A gentler man I hardly knew. Mike was larger than life at Yale, but he never made us feel small.”

Ed Cantor spoke, “We are here to honor those who have gone before us. Our thoughts turn to classmates, but also to spouses, family, and friends. I speak to you as one who has lost a spouse. During the next several years, if it hasn’t already happened, about half of us will be put in the position of being a caregiver—usually for a spouse who is enduring a long-term illness.” Ed went on to offer words of advice, “Be a strong advocate for your loved one. The medical system breeds a mass of confusion, heartlessness, and frustration. All too often, you encounter regulations and protocols that make no sense and physicians who care about the surgery but forget about the quality of life that follows.” Likening the support of a loved one to a journey, Ed asks, “At the end of the journey, will you be able to look in the mirror and say ‘I did the best that I could have done’?”