I hereby award DAVID F. ANDERSON the heretofore unofficial Posthumous Wesleyan Award for Exceptional Service in the Fabulous Person/ Family Man category.
Wait, you say, there is no such award.
Perhaps there should be.
Having matriculated from our alma mater in 1977, I have been blessed with much more than the transformative education I received from Wesleyan. I have at my disposal, 24/7, solid self-esteem, tireless optimism, a quirky sense of humor, and a devotion to making the world a better place.
I got all of this from my Dad, David Fenwicke Anderson, Class of 1950 (Big D as I called him) who died of colon cancer last May (2003) in the family home.
While my father had a respectable career as a small business owner, he was first and foremost a career family man. Once he found an equally bright, caring, competent partner in my mother (Jane Shanahan, Mt. Holyoke Class of 1950), he devoted himself to creating a launch pad of light and laugher for his 3 children who then had the vision and tools to extend his legacy in their adult lives.
My father’s pre-Wesleyan years hardly made him a shoe-in for this type of value structure. He was born in Mussoorie India, the son of two working parents, both Presbyterian missionaries. His parents sent him to a boarding school called Woodstock at 5 years old. (Please note that 5 years old is typically the age when we now send our children to half-day kindergarten.) At 14, his parents sent my Dad to the United States (a new country) to attend Mt. Hermon, another boarding school where he was tasked with getting an education and completing the key tasks of adolescence without any family nearby. In fact he didn’t see his parents for six years after he came to this country. This might be grounds for years of intense psychotherapy but my dad had an unfaltering cheerful disposition. In addition, he met my mom at the high school SAT exams and embarked on a 58-year love affair that he said more than made up for the loneliness that he experienced during those early nights in boarding school.
Somehow my Dad found his way to Wesleyan where, for the first time since the age of 5, he found a ‘home.’ He was educated, guided, and nurtured in countless ways and by countless people at Wesleyan. Most notably, Professor Ted and Marion Banks of Lawn Avenue and the Eclectic Fraternity were key in shaping his Wesleyan experience and igniting a life-long devotion to the university. We cannot say the same thing about Physics which apparently took him a few tries to pass. My father played lots of tennis and squash at Wesleyan, which were sports he went on to enjoy throughout his adult life. He went so far as to credit his love for squash with leading my sister Lisa ’75 to have ‘successful’ squash dates with another David, who has been her husband of more than 20 years.
Wesleyan hardly exited from my dad’s life upon graduation. He brought his lovely bride to every Reunion he could attend throughout their nearly six decades together. He had two alumna daughters to count on for new red and black trinkets and sportswear. Our livingroom hosted countless Wesleyan interviews and information meetings with local high school students. And the annual telethons were always good for a ‘free’ call from my dad wherever we were. Even when my Dad developed Alzheimer’s in the last 10 years of his life, he continued to love our annual visits to the Wesleyan campus where, medical anomaly or not, his memory never failed.
On May 7, 2003, Wesleyan lost one of its most ardent supporters and we lost a great great man. My dad’s successes in other areas of life, such as work, could also be recounted but to be honest, they had much less to do with the state of his heart, mind and soul than did his leadership in our family. And perhaps these successes don’t make my father or others like him, unique but certainly rarely publicly acknowledged for these particular triumphs. Thanks for allowing us to acknowledge him here.