CLASS OF 1976 | 2019 | ISSUE 2

News from classmates covers the range of human experience and emotions, and this word-limited column cannot do justice to them. Perhaps it may cause some of us to reconnect with old friends.

In early April, Susan Avitzour lost Daniel, her husband of 42 years. Daniel held a PhD in pure mathematics from UC Berkeley, worked all his life as an inventor-engineer, and was a devoted husband and father. Susan is grateful to her seven children, friends, and religious community for support during this difficult time.

In June, Barbara Birney will help celebrate the 70th wedding anniversary of her parents Margaret and Robert Birney ’50. Her brother Bob ’81 also plans to attend.

Rob Buccino plans to spend three weeks this summer in France following the women’s world cup soccer tournament and bicycling along the Rhone. He is enjoying semi-retirement fully.

Betsy Eisenmann, a retired RN, exercises regularly and does volunteer work, including at her church’s thrift shop.

Ron Epstein found the memorial for Jon Barlow to be a wonderful opportunity to see classmates influenced by his work. Ron’s daughter is becoming a physician, and he continues to find purpose in palliative care and in the mindful-practice training he does for physicians.

Karen Gervasoni’s daughter is graduating high school and heading to Champlain College to major in film. Karen is downsizing, staying in Kennebunk, and wishes everyone well.

Joellyn Gray’s son Malcom’s movie 21 Bridges opens in late September. It is named for the 21 access bridges out of Manhattan, stars Chadwick Bozeman and is a psychological thriller.

Peter Hansen and his wife, Gail. live in DC and are consulting part-time. They regularly visit their granddaughter in NYC and daughter in Seattle and this spring traveled to Greece.

Byron Haskins just returned from Dublin, Ireland, where he attended the Project Management Institute Leadership Meeting. At the same time, his son Stephen was giving a TED-style talk at a medical conference in Belfast. Check out Byron’s music video hobby on YouTube.

Polly Hays retired from a 34-year career with the U.S. government, mostly with the Forest Service in water resource management. During her last years of work, she also spent much time helping her elderly parents to the end of life. She finds herself enjoying leisurely days at home with friends and family with time to pursue new interests.

Jim Johnson, to celebrate the 15th year of his company and his 65th birthday, threw a free, full-day Bluegrass festival for his community which attracted 2,000 people and featured a farmers’ market and some of the region’s top bands. Jim recently started an organization called Chattanoogans for Responsible Development and has earned himself the names “community activist” and “flaming urbanist jackal.”

Sad to report that, on March 31, Nancy Kathan passed away. After Wesleyan, Nancy earned a fine arts degree from Yale. She was a leader in women’s issues and the arts and for the past 30 years, worked in Philadelphia with several theatre and film organizations.

Thomas Kovar plans to work another five years at the VA and is still doing plenty of music. In late May he performed at Eclectic for the ’79 Reunion.

Chris Mahoney and his wife, Joan, are on their second trip to Israel with plans to see the Galilee, the Golan, Jerusalem, the Negev, Eilat, Aqaba, and Petra.

Dave Eckert retired last year and moved back to Cincinnati. He recently had a hip replacement, his recovery is going great, and he hopes to be back on the tennis courts by mid-summer.

Jaimee Mirsky and her husband Jay retired last summer and are now grandparents to Jordan via their older daughter Joanna.

Nat Needle met for dinner with both of his sons in Worcester, Mass., and gave his first-ever piano recital for his students and their families and guests.

Debra Neuman’s son Josh will receive his master’s in agronomy at Oregon State in June. Debra enjoys her job as the executive director of a Catholic retreat center with a small addiction recovery residence for young men.

Jack O’Donnell’s daughter Maggie ’19 graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Wes this May with a near perfect GPA. Congratulations!

Pam Swing ’75 and Marty Plotkin’s son, Ben, is getting married this fall. Pam is a resident scholar at the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center and co-authored a play about the suffrage movement. Marty is a software development VP at Oracle. He plays the violin and is deeply involved in chamber music.

Gerry Rau received excellent medical care at modest cost from Taiwan’s socialized health care system. Gerry’s authored a textbook for engineering and science students that will be published in August.

Steve Smith and his wife Jean are retiring this summer and celebrating with a long, relaxing cruise.

Craig Tighe and his wife Ann live in San Mateo. Craig is a partner in the Silicon Valley office of DLA Piper where he works with technology startups. Ann is retired from an environmental nonprofit.

Mitchell Marinello |