CLASS OF 1966 | 2021–2022 | WINTER ISSUE

We held our 55th Reunion of the Wesleyan Class of 1966 on Zoom. There were two sessions—the evenings of May 27 and 29—both totally enjoyable. Twenty-three of our classmates attended. Tom Broker, Larry Carver, Rick Crootof, Gif Lum, Dan Lang, David Luft, Dave McNally, John Neff, Sandy Shilepsky, and Sandy Van Kennen attended both sessions. Essel Bailey, Jack Beeler, Pat Curry, Jeff Evans, Paul Gilbert, Jack Knapp, Peter Monro, Barry Reder, and Bud Smith joined us on the first night. Bill Fehring, Steve Giddings, Tom Richey, and Hardy Spoehr tuned in on the second. Both nights were laced with good and often moving accounts of lives well lived, humor and good fellowship reigning. Jack Knapp, thinking about his grandchildren, opened with a question that resonated with everyone: What kind of education will equip the young for a future with so many challenges, any one of which would be enough for any generation? Essel, who sits on the Wesleyan Board of Trustees, talked about Wesleyan’s strategic plans to provide that education. He also caught us up with his staff’s remarkable success in dealing with COVID in his long-term care facilities, two cases among 1,600 living there. His venture in viniculture, Knights Bridge wine, is going well.

Professor Broker and his wife, Louise, are still conducting their important research on human papillomaviruses, and Tom has taken up racewalking. My account of not being prepared for Wesleyan, my struggles in the first few years, opened up e-mail discussions with Jack Beeler and Jack Knapp, the latter recalling “my first class on the first day, a lecture in philosophy that was part of the integrated program. The instructor, a newly minted assistant professor whose name I have forgotten, walks in, mounts the podium and begins with words I will never forget: ‘I assume you all know the difference between a priori and a posteriori reasoning.’ I stared dumbly into space for a moment and then wrote in my notebook ‘Jack, you’ve made a big mistake. True story; I used it in several commencement addresses.” Dave McNally recalled his class on November 22, 1963, and spoke movingly of having ALS. Dave’s mentioning of Martin Luther King Jr.’s visits to campus sparked a conversation, many chiming in. Laughter flowed from Sandy Van Kennen’s ongoing story of becoming an entrepreneur of marijuana. Gif gave a harrowing account of his wrestling with cancer and a splenectomy, the good news being that he is on the mend. Bud Smith’s life is chock-full of good things, a wonderful marriage of 50 years, golf, fishing, and writing—he recently being the winner of the Midwest Review of Fiction Award. Sandy Shilepsky, while keeping up with mathematics, has taken up pickleball. Really! He also talked about his and his wife’s plans to move to a cottage in Charleston’s Bishop Gadsden Episcopal Retirement Community (Paul Gilbert is planning on moving there as well). Dan Lang and his wife are keeping up their extensive gardening, having made their fifth trip to the Artic. Dan continues to teach one course at the University of Toronto. Barry Reder and his wife, Annie, also avid gardeners, live on an acre and a quarter outside San Francisco. Barry, recovering from a bad bout with strep, is enjoying family life, loves golf. The peripatetic Peter Monro continues his epic hikes. His work on carbon pricing to address climate change is gaining traction. John Neff, who moved to Winston–Salem in 2001, is keeping busy giving talks and completing a work on the watercolors of A.R. Ammons. Rumor has it that with COVID restrictions lifting, he has a date.

Rick opened our second session by paying tribute to those in our class who have died since the 50th Reunion, 2016: Michael Botein; Robert Killheffer; William Hauser; Alton Flanders; John Harter; Roland Crowl; John Baxter; Henry Lufler; George “Rick” Churchill; Thomas Francis; Richard Mastronarde; and Peter Spiller. Rick, who knows nearly everyone in our class, had words for all. Others chimed in with memories, Hardy on Thomas Francis, a football teammate and one incredible athlete who still holds the Wesleyan record for the hammer throw. John Neff shared a story that shed light on the enigmatic person Richard Mastronarde apparently was.

Then David Luft, Steve Giddings, Bill Fehring, Tom Richey, and Hardy Spoehr spoke of their lives, their memories of Wesleyan. David evoking Wesleyan’s liberal education as an ideal that has guided him; Steve recounting his 25-year career as a Foreign Service Officer with USAID, his three children, and heart surgery; Bill recalling a class with David McAllester and an evening and night spent in the presence and incense of Ravi Shankar; Tom, in that slow, beautiful, Georgia accent, recalling his early studies in philosophy, his becoming a lawyer, his volunteer legal work, his family being a Wesleyan one—his brother Russ (’63) a graduate along with Tom’s two sons; and Hardy telling us a startling story about hitchhiking back to Middletown in the night and being picked up by none other than President Butterfield. The discussions, the back and forth, were poignant and humorous.

      Bill took away another valuable experience from McAllester’s class. Attending an African American Church at McAllester’s suggestion, he learned to play the tambourine. Years later, while working in the South, he used his music skills to connect with the community; this would go on to help him in working with African Americans on environmental stewardship. In a recent update, Bill writes: “Bianca and I continue to survive the pandemic by being careful. Now that we’ve both been vaccinated, we’re looking forward to a bit more freedom with other vaccinated friends. I spend much of my time hiking, flying my plane, and taking photographs. Until the pandemic I was teaching wetland biology, birding, and photography at a local preserve . . . I have visited with Rick several time over the last few years to attend Orioles spring training games or photography outings.”

     Tom Pulliam, who was down the hall from me on Foss Hill our freshman year, has lived in San Francisco since 1971. He has “just completed an undefeated season coaching my grandson’s U12 rugby team . . . have had an awful lot of fun with sports in my lifetime (including 48 years playing rugby that began at Wesleyan and four national championship teams), but nothing has given me more pleasure than helping these kids learn rugby skills, then watching them go out and execute them beautifully against much larger opponents. Aside from that, retired from law practice several years ago and find being a grandpa and rugby coach vastly better than trying cases around the country . . . daughter, husband, and four kids live about 5 minutes away . . . son and his girlfriend live about 20 minutes away . . . having them all so close makes life very, very enjoyable . . . especially during this past, exceedingly strange year. We really never missed a beat, spending lots and lots of time with the family. Married 51 years to Alice, still living in the one and only house we’ll ever own.”

In response to Tom’s update I wrote in part: “Though we shared the same floor on Foss Hill as freshmen, I did not know of your prowess in rugby and wish I had, those four national championship teams being impressive. My most vivid memory of you was one evening when I was going to take a shower around 10:00 p.m., having just finished a paper for our English class. I asked how your paper was coming along: ‘I haven’t started it yet.’ I got a B; you received an A.” This exchange sparked these memories from Tom:

“I remember freshman year on Foss Hill. We had quite a bunch on that hall with poor Jim Dresser trying to keep us in order—Jimmy Byrne, Steve Murphy ’68, Don Berger (my roommate) and assorted others. Yes, my work habits were not something to be proud of. The first paper I wrote freshman year I finished days early then proceeded to revise and revise to make it perfect—it earned me a C+. I decided then and there that I could do that well by writing papers the night before they were due and did exactly that the rest of my four years. I was very fortunate things worked out as they did.

“Coach Don Russell made a huge difference in my life. After playing freshman basketball for him, he made me a starting second baseman on the baseball team over a highly recruited teammate. I think he appreciated my determination (inherited from my mom). I ran into him in Oregon where I was traveling with my wife and little kids. There was some NCAA event at the same place we were staying; had a wonderful time talking with him. I went on to have a lot of fun playing baseball for years, then won some slow-pitch softball championships in San Francisco as a pitcher of nothing but knuckleballs, which danced in the San Francisco winds.

“Hiking is good, especially where you have sights like that in your photo—country like that is good for the soul. My family lived in Golden, Colorado, a few years. I loved waking to the sight of the Rocky Mountains, worked doing remodeling construction in the summer there, including building a cabin in Tin Cup, in the mountains. Loved it and would have done that instead of practicing law if it had paid as well. Got back to the Rockies years later, playing a few times in the Aspen Ruggerfest, winning a memorable championship in 1976 in the mud against a rep side (i.e., all star team) from Southern California. Very good to rekindle old Wesleyan memories, Larry.”

     Clark Byam “will have 49 years with same firm in September and am retiring at end of year. Had first year of law school right after graduation from Wesleyan then went into naval aviation in summer 1967 and came back to Hastings Law School in 1970 to complete last two years of law school. Now enjoy golf, following stock market, and hiking in hills where I live about 5.5 miles per day. Stay healthy.”

“I am doing well,” Robert Rockwell writes, “but we are delighted the mask business is about to go away as is everyone. Retirement is calming but we miss in-person activities, don’t we?  We mourn for our classmates and their families who lost members. There must be quite a few, certainly some fellow ’66ers. We extend a collective embrace to them. All is well here and trout season proceeds apace—the ultimate in social distancing. Lots of reading and the like this past year. But it’s time to start gathering again, and I wish a great summer to all.”

And this update from Barry Thomas, about life in rural North Carolina and his and Connie’s work in Burundi. “Here in the mountains of North Carolina, life seems to be rather quickly getting back to ‘normal.’ Although still a bit cautious, I am relying on the vaccine and the herd immunity which seems to be taking hold, at least, in this neck of the woods. The county in which I live has not recorded a new case of COVID-19 for some weeks. There are two existing cases who are in residential care. I became part of a research study soon after the pandemic hit and am doing a blood check by mail each month that determines if my antibodies (from the vaccine) continue to be active. It is an interesting process.

“In Burundi, great progress is being made on the construction of two school modules, each with two classrooms, for the preschool that began operating in open and temporary facilities in March 2020. Work began on the first module the end of May and then on the second module last week. The expectation is to have the new buildings available for classes and 112, four- to six-year-old girls and boys in September. The project also includes latrines and a kitchen.

“It has been very interesting and invigorating for us to get a sense of the commitment by the parents in the community to the project. Although there is a project manager with engineering credentials and a crew of ‘professional’ masons doing the brickwork, we are employing community people, men and women, on rotating two-week shifts to do the heavy-lifting type work. It provides an opportunity for local people to earn some cash income. One will see women with babies strapped to their backs working with hoe and shovel in hand. This little project is injecting significant energy into this subsistence-based community, and we hope the preschool experience will help launch these little kids onto a track leading to a better future.

“The challenges of covering operating costs (teacher salaries, classroom materials, security, etc.) lie ahead, and we hope to be able to electrify the new facilities in a next phase of development. The solar installation that is planned would provide the first electricity in the Butanuka set of villages with about 30,000 people.”

CLASS OF 1966 | 2021 | ISSUE 1

My class on the rhetoric of great speeches is studying some of the speeches and sermons of Martin Luther King, Jr., which brought back memories of King’s three visits to Wesleyan during our time. In our 50th Reunion biographies, I found under “fondest memories”: David Barlett: “Meeting Martin Luther King, Jr.” Larry Carver: hearing “Martin Luther King, Jr., speak”;  Rob Chickering: “Having lunch with Martin Luther King at the College of Social Studies”; Pat Curry: “Another special memory was of having lunch with Martin Luther King at the College of Social Studies”; Frank Gegwich: “I vividly remember the evening that Martin Luther King, Jr., preached at the chapel and I became aware of the Civil Rights Movement”; David McNally: “hearing Martin Luther King, Jr., speak on campus and then having the opportunity to spend the rest of the evening with him in Downey House”; John Neff: “Speaking with Martin Luther King, Jr., Julian Bond, and other Civil Rights leaders who came to CSS and Wesleyan thanks to John Maguire was sobering and transformational”; Jeff Nilson: “listening to speakers like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”; Bud Smith: “I was impressed with Dr. John Maguire for collaborating with Martin Luther King, Jr., and bringing him to speak in the chapel, an unforgettable evening”; John Stremlau: “The most memorable was meeting Dr. King, Jr. at Wesleyan”; Randolph Wedler: “hearing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., address the student body twice”; Doug Werner: “visiting with Martin Luther King, Jr., in the choir room when he preached at Wes.” King’s influence and example live on.

 Great to hear from Roy Bruninghaus. “Hard to cover 55 years in a note,” Roy writes, but he does just that. “Went to law school after Wesleyan and dropped out after the first semester to take a teaching position in Virginia. Six years later attended graduate school at UNC-Chapel Hill. Got an M.Ed. and then took a position with North Carolina state government. Fifteen years later joined IBM and retired in 2007. Kept busy after retirement by joining a charter school board and a condo board in Plymouth, MA. In 2016 moved to Southern California to be near my oldest son and his family. Served on two condo boards since then. President of my current condo board. I have four grandchildren in Texas and three grandchildren here in California. Trying to stay healthy and avoid the virus has cut down on my travel…we use technology to stay in touch. Just before the pandemic hit, I did get back to North Carolina where my youngest son still lives. Still have family in Plymouth, so will be traveling again, when this mess is over.”

 I had heard rumors that Jack Knapp and his wife had exchanged urban for rural living, and Jack writes: Reports of our move are accurate. COVID tipped the balance for Carla and myself away from urban living in Chicago toward the quieter climes of rural New Hampshire. We are now spending the summer in a rustic cottage in the foothills of the White Mountains and the rest of the year in the village of Wolfeboro on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in a rental found for us by Rick Crootof’s wife, Linda. After long years of the hustle and bustle of urban living and all the noise, the calm of our new locations is so refreshing. As I write, there’s a gentle snow falling on Wolfeboro, giving the village a Dickensian aspect. Every convenience is within a walking distance with ambulances and sirens being replaced by birds tweeting and skates slicing across ice ponds. It’s somewhat like Boccaccio fleeing Florence when faced by the specter of the Black Death. Unfortunately, nothing of the quality of the Decameron will result. I have, however, been active on the literary front, writing a biography of Arthur Mitchell, the first black Democrat ever elected to Congress, that I’m now shopping to publishers. Mitchell is an interesting study: born in Alabama, he moved to Chicago as a “carpetbagger in reverse,” seeing the city’s first congressional district as the only place where a Black could be elected to national office in 1934. He was a very controversial figure in the House for eight years, representing the interests of disenfranchised southern blacks. It’s a project that has taken me five years, but kept me young, or at least imposed a discipline that helps me remember where I put the keys.”

 Meanwhile, the inestimable Rick Crootof and Linda “are back in Sarasota, staying an additional 6 weeks in NH for my perceived safety despite Linda’s grumping about the cold and dark. 3/4 cord of wood went into my wood stove in November, as we used it for extra heat to be comfy watching Netflix. Normally I only use the stove for ambiance in May and October. All the theater, mu and ballet that we enjoy in Sarasota is not happening, but we can be outdoors and playing tennis. Both of us are in league play (I am on two teams and Linda one), and almost all USTA tournaments were canceled, but I did play in one last week, winning a 1st round match 6-1, 6-1, but losing to the #3 seed next 6-4, 7-5. My pacemaker does not go high enough to sustain either long points or serious training for endurance, so after being ahead 5-2 in the 2nd set, I ran out of gas. There is another tournament in a few weeks but it is 60+ miles away and would require either going through rush hour Tampa traffic or staying overnight, so I am delaying entering.” The inimitable Hardy Spoehr writes: “On the beach, it remains sunny and gradually visitors are returning to graze in the sands! We’re all fine and like you have had our first “jab” with the second one coming in a week. Joyce has become a bit of a bridge fanatic and so life goes on.” And the incomparable Barry Thomas gives this update: “We have been experiencing a rather unusual night and now day with freezing rain and ice here is the mountains of North Carolina. I suppose it relates to the weather system that has wreaked havoc in Texas and other places. I am not aware of any big problems in this neck of the woods.

 Our work with children and families in Butanuka, Burundi, a community of rural villages, continues. The generous support we have received from some of our classmates has been extremely gratifying and very helpful.  There has been some noteworthy progress in Butanuka. Although about half of the more than 400 children that started our daily porridge program a year ago were determined to have emerged out of a malnourished condition at the last semi-annual check by health authorities, the number of children and pre and post-natal mothers coming for a cup of porridge has remained in the 400 plus range. As people learn about the program, they come from longer distances.

Tomorrow morning Connie, along with two of ten early childhood education colleagues she has organized, will present the first of six workshops for a group of eight teachers, four assistants, and the program supervisor, who are being trained to staff an expanded preschool program. The workshops are being presented “virtually” with the support of a Department of State grant just recently received. Beginning in March we will begin a funding campaign to accumulate funds to build a preschool facility with four classrooms. Initially, here will be two modules, each with two classrooms. There will also be a playground in the courtyard between the two modules. We already have about half of the $35,000 project cost in the bank so we have a good base on which to conduct the campaign for the remaining amount. We call this Phase Three of the preschool development program. The number of four to six year old girls and boys being served will double to 112. The buildings, especially when electrified, will also serve many other purposes.


Although it quickly becomes clear that it is a struggle for high school girls to remain in school, our scholarship program with forty-five girls is going well. These rural girls are having opportunity to meet with young women who have graduated from high school and, even, university and are pursuing various career tracks for improving income. There are lots of ideas to expand this and other community programs. The challenge for the small staff in Burundi is to identify funding sources and submit grant applications. One application for funding to support electrification of the new preschool buildings was submitted today. I think we should have a good chance at a favorable response to this one. I have had my two Moderna shots and Connie is scheduled for her first shot next week. We keep busy with the Burundi activity but are both ready to emerge from the pandemic.”

 I end with a profile in courage, David McNally writing: “Michelle and I are enjoying life thoroughly, and do not even mind the near-total social isolation imposed by the coronavirus. We spend as much time as possible at our log house in very rural West Virginia (nearly 3 miles off the nearest paved road), a perfect antidote to the noise and congestion of northern Virginia. The only fly in the proverbial ointment is that I have an uncommon variety of ALS known bluntly as “flail arm syndrome,” which over time renders the arms and hands useless. This started two years ago, but fortunately the rest of me has not been affected to date. 80 years after Lou Gehrig died of it, there is still no treatment much less cure for ALS. But I enjoy every day, and especially my forever love, Michelle.”

 Courage, good humor, and character, the David we have come to know and love. Think good thoughts for David and Michelle.

CLASS OF 1966 | 2020 | ISSUE 3

Two hundred and thirty-two of us graduated on that Saturday, June 5, 1966, 20 pursuing careers in academe, many of those still going strong. Claude Smith, author of eight books and co-editor/translator of two others, has a new book out, Mists on the River by Yeremei Aipin. This collection of Khanty folktales, which Claude helped to translate and edit, his attempt “to keep Siberian literature alive,” introduces “children of all ages to the animal persons of Siberia, among them, Cuckoo Mother, Paki the Bear, and Sandpiper.” David Luft’s new book, The Austrian Dimension in German Intellectual History: From the Enlightenment to Anschluss, will be published this spring. David is “working on two other books: one on Czech intellectual history and one called Modernity’s Shadows: The anti-rational from the nineteenth- to the twenty-first centuries.”

And we have lawyers among the Class of 1966; perhaps few, if any, however, match Clark Byam’s “48 years with same law firm,” Hahn & Hahn. Clark has decided “to go of counsel in 2021.” His “main interests at this point are investing in the stock market, managing some charitable trusts I’m trustee of and trying to improve my golf game and hiking in the hills where I live,” which is Pasadena, California. 

COVID-19 is part of all of our lives, Hardy Spoehr sending an “Aloha” to all from Honolulu and writing that “the beaches are still deserted and the fish and ocean folk are loving it . . . so many turtles. We’re in the midst of our second lockdown in an effort to stem raising levels of COVID-19.” And Zoom has become a part of our lives as well, Harold Potter writing: “Zoom has been a welcome addition to ways to stay connected during the pandemic. Bill Machen, Joe Pickard, Stan Healy, John Howell and I and our spouses have been holding weekly or biweekly cocktail hours fairly regularly on Zoom. . . . It appears that everyone is retired and aging quite gracefully.” Harold adds this good news: “Lee and I do have another grandson, Trevor, born on June 3rd.” 

Barry Thomas also shares some good news “regarding our community support and development work in Burundi. Today we received notification that Dreaming for Change, USA, has been approved for 501 (3)c status by the IRS. This should inject some new energy into our fund raising to support the daily cup of porridge program, the preschool, and the scholarship program for high school girls. . . . . Oh yes, D4C has received a grant from the U.S. Department of State to implement a COVID-19 education and WASH program in the community.”

More good news from Rick Crootof. After successfully having both knees replaced this past winter Sandy Van Kennen “came for a visit yesterday [July 23]. Kittery is only an hour or so from Wolfeboro, so he drove his 1996 Volvo with 263,000 miles (the odometer stopped working he claims!) on a perfect weather day. The air and water temps were both 82 degrees. We had lunch of Linda’s pizza on the deck, and then we got two foam mats and spent two hours in the lake, paddling to the other side, and mostly drifting back with the wind. The knee recovery has gone well, Sandy’s legs are straight again, and he is taller and thinner, looking great, and his usual happy and optimistic self. If you want to see our hero swimming again, here’s the link.

In closing we celebrate the life of Peter “Pedro” Spiller, who died on May 30, 2020, in St. Augustine, Florida. Peter had won his battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but it had left him weakened, and he fell prey to sepsis. I did not know Peter well, but envied his dashing good looks and admire his successful and adventure-filled life. Hardy Spoehr writes: “Pete was an avid paddler and when he and his wife Debbie visited us a year or so ago, we all went paddling together. My cousin was his paddling buddy.” David Griffith recounts: “Peter Spiller was my classmate in CSS. He was a gentleman, truly, easygoing and seemed always to be smiling. I always thought that Peter had a wonderful hidden and powerful intellect, but I honestly don’t think he was seeking to achieve as much as to learn and to enjoy his life. Peter never lost his charm or his sense of humor.” As Rick Crootof poignantly puts it: “That something could take down a guy who could canoe 450 miles in northern Manitoba or Ontario and run 150 mile ultramarathons in Costa Rica in his 70s is disheartening.” Here is a link to Peter’s obituary.

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