CLASS OF 1956 | 2020 | ISSUE 1

Late last year our class suffered two irreplaceable losses: Jack Dunn (August 10) and John Chivers (Sept. 3).

John Chivers was a fellow Chi Psi, renowned at the Lodge for his uninhibited, sometimes zany—but never disrespectful—humor. He was serious, though, about his love of the German language and culture, and became a pioneer of sorts, taking a leave from Wesleyan to study in Germany, long before the semester-abroad became commonplace. Around the campus, John was probably best known for his banjo. Ken Spenser remembers: “Chivers was a great banjo man and entertained the Wesleyan community one fall evening an age ago—which I haven’t forgotten. Great guy.” John, who was self-taught, continued to strum, singly and with his band, throughout his life. He was for 40 years a much-loved teacher of German at the Phillips Academy in Massachusetts. Incidentally, I once heard his name on the evening news. An interviewer asked Norman Schwarzkopf (yes, General Norman Schwarzkopf) if he remembered first hearing about the attack on Pearl Harbor. He answered yes: he was 7 years old, living in Lawrenceville, N.J., and up in a tree in Johnny Chivers’ backyard. Of course he was.

Ken adds, “All is well here, although I’m beginning to think that being my roommate at Wes U might not have been such a good luck omen. Of my seven roommates over the four years, five are gone, and I’m not sure about the other two! Egad!”

Like John, Jack Dunn was an educator—though not a teacher—first as president of Dean College and later at Tufts University, where he served for 20 years in various capacities. He was a valued community activist who left a rich legacy wherever he lived.

Ed Thorndike’s wife, Liz, wrote this: “I attended the Celebration of Life for Jack in Exeter. Some of you may recall that Jack was best man at our wedding on Sept. 8, 1955. It was a wonderful service—lots of music and poetry which Jack and Patti had shared. Ed, unfortunately, has dementia and is living in assisted living. But Wesleyan and Eclectic are still recollections. Ed’s dad and Jack’s dad were classmates at Wes and I think both were also Eclectics. So good that you keep in touch.”

Dick Bauer remembers well that “Jack Dunn and I were classmates and playmates back in the first grade; roommates for two years at Wesleyan. I grieve his passing. Really a lovely human being. One of the great benefits of having roomed with Jack (as well as Dave Cox and Ed) is that I was never tempted by the delusion that I was the smartest guy in the world.”

Personally, I never harbored that particular delusion, but my classes with the same Dave Cox, Frank Cancian, and Russ Snyder ’57 confirmed for me that I might not be even the smartest guy in the room. What’s more, I roomed with Bill Shephard ’54, a physics major, who switched from JWC to Chi Psi during his senior year—much to the dismay of his mentor, Prof. Vernet Eaton, who was convinced that the Lodge’s ambiance would ruin Bill’s academic standing. And he was right: that very semester Bill’s average dipped from straight A to A-minus. As for Russ, what I ruefully remember is that he asked really dumb questions at first, but that by the end he had surpassed everyone else in the class. There may be a lesson there, folks.

Bob Bretcher writes: “I enjoyed a holiday visit with each of my three daughters’ families. Thankfully I’m healthy and plan to stay in my home for my remaining years. In place of flying and tennis, I take walks and contemplate a return to pickleball play. Reading and even some memoir writing keeps the brain healthy.”

From Dick Boyden: “Linda Genest, my companion now of 14 years, and I still follow the ‘travel while you can’ mantra, so we will return in March for our 11th visit to the Mahekal Beach Resort in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, for two weeks in late February. Last May we visited the island of Madeira for a week, followed by three days at San Miguel in the Azores.

“Linda remains active on the board of the Fresh Start organization at the Falmouth Service Center. She is also active on the social committee of her condo association nearby. I’m still persuading my Deerfield classmates and Wesleyan fraternity brothers to ‘give again gladly.’ I remain active in leadership roles with the Orenda Wildlife Land Trust and the Bourne Conservation Trust in the Upper Cape area. St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in nearby Falmouth nourishes my soul with parish life activities and organizations that give me a sense of giving and accomplishment.”

That’s all for now.

George Chien |