Linus Travers

TRAVERS, Linus Professor, Chorister and Humanist. Linus Travers, 84, died at home in Milton MA, on November 8, 2020. The son of Blanche and Henry Linus Travers, Linus grew up in Wellesley, MA. In his early years, Linus consumed books and radio programs voraciously, developing a lifelong love of the written and spoken word. His father, a pioneer in radio and television, was the first in his family to attend college on scholarship at Brown. Linus inherited from his father a commitment to educational equity, a basso profundo voice, and a dazzling sense of humor.

As a camper and a counselor at Camp Pinnacle in Lyme, NH, Linus discovered his passion for teaching and for the natural world. Cooking over a campfire prepared him to become the family chef extraordinaire. Theater productions established his fascination with live performance. Camping trips taught him to always leave the campsite better than he found it.

As a student at Deerfield Academy and Yale University, “Poke” honed his agility with language through sardonic one-liners and lightning-quick retorts delivered with a poker face. While he obtained his BA in English Literature, he dedicated much of his attention to the Yale Glee Club, the a cappella groups The Duke’s Men and The Whiffenpoofs, Fence Club, and Pundits (a group of campus wits). He stayed on at Yale for an MAT, a year of serious study and practice teaching.

Linus served in the Navy aboard the USS Randolph, an aircraft carrier stationed in Norfolk, VA from 1959 to 1963. As Public Information Officer, Linus managed the press during the astronaut recovery missions. During the Bay of Pigs, he decoded the message not to provide air cover, which he rushed to the bridge as the aircraft were revving up their engines. He was on the bridge during the Cuban Missile Crisis when a Russian “fishing vessel” fired a shot across the bow, an incident that was not then publicly revealed.

Linus then joined the Naval Reserve and stayed in Norfolk, teaching English at Old Dominion University and working for the Norfolk Ledger Star as theater critic and copy editor. At the local theater he met Margaret Strauss, his wife of 56 years. They returned to the Boston area and while Margaret finished her BA at Wellesley he began his PhD in English Literature at Boston University.

He taught at Boston University, Pine Manor and Boston State College, before taking administrative roles at Southeastern Massachusetts University (UMass Dartmouth) as the Publication Coordinator and then Director of the university’s foundation. Linus returned to the classroom there as a respected and beloved professor of English. He particularly enjoyed teaching students who were the first in their families to attend college, and many of his students kept in touch long after graduation.

Alongside his academic work, Linus taught hundreds of people to stop smoking. As an alumnus of the Smokenders program, he became a highly successful program instructor in the UK, Canada and across the US. He also taught fundraising courses for fundraising professionals.

Linus took pleasure in bringing people together, often through song. He helped found the Boston Saengerfest Men’s Chorus and its a cappela group, Sound Investment, serving as beloved compére and board member for many years. He served on the alumni boards of the Yale Glee Club, Yale Alumni Chorus, The Duke’s Men of Yale (now Doox of Yale), and The Yale Whiffenpoofs, and actively encouraged alumni support of the transition from male to all-gender for both The Doox and The Whiffenpoofs.

He had a talent for reconciling differing opinions in his service as a Trustee of Deerfield Academy, member of the Yale Board of Governors and President of the Yale Club of Boston. He chaired several reunions for his Yale class, interviewed undergraduate applicants, and produced an annual choral weekend in Milton that often honed the repertoire for the next international trip of the Yale Alumni Chorus. In 2017, in recognition of his extensive service to the institution, he was awarded the Yale Medal.

Most passionate about his family, Linus’s life was largely shaped around supporting Margaret’s law practice and his children’s education. Linus and Margaret loved their house adjacent to Milton Academy, opening it to their children’s classmates and friends over many decades. He imparted his love of nature at the family summer home in the woods of Maine. He was the best teacher his children ever had, inspiring them to pursue careers in education.

As lung cancer and the complications of treatment progressed, Linus heard from hundreds of friends and former students. Many shared that he had believed in them before they believed in themselves, that he recognized in them a talent or passion they did not yet know they had, and that he had inspired them as a teacher, writer, or humanitarian.

Linus lives on in the hearts and memories of his family – his wife Margaret, children Jonathan and Julia, their spouses Tripti Thomas-Travers and Richard Rickert, grandchildren Samir, Arnav, Joseph, Douglas, and Lucy, and nieces Emily Malone and Anne Rowland – as well as countless students, friends, and institutions.

The family requests that any donations in his honor be made to an educational or music-related organization of your choosing. George F. Doherty & Sons, Wellesley.

Published in Boston Globe from Nov. 14 to Nov. 15, 2020.