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.