YAM Notes: March/April 2022

By Scott Sullivan

Oh, my cronic weariness! Just when the plague seemed to be winding down, its little brother came along and infected everybody and his sister. Here in Orleans Parish, we are wearing masks to church, synagogue, barbershop, and Bourbon Street. We can’t be sure that Mardi Gras will happen on March 1—but you will know the answer by the time you read these words.

Enough then of whining. We do have some nice news (mostly from when the pestilence was waning) and, as usual, a lotta deaths.

Nice news Number One: On November 18, Bob Morgan organized a class lunch in the Tap Room of the New York Yale Club. A resounding just-like-the-old-days success. Attending were Bob, Class Secretary Tim Hogen, Treasurer Steve RikerHoyt and Margot SpelmanHarvey and Kathy SloaneVic and Sarah KovnerRon Lamey, and Ed Holohan. A second similar lunch was held December 9 with eight participants.

Peter Duchin, our class’s Jay Gatsby and its answer to Lester Lanin, has been up to lots of stuff, principally authoring a new book (his second). Entitled Face the Music: A Memoir, the work explores Peter’s extraordinarily glamorous childhood as a ward of millionaire ambassador Averill Harriman. (Duchin’s mother died when he was young and his father, jazz pianist Eddie Duchin, was constantly traveling.) It recounts his lifelong search for the characters of his real parents, his jolly Yale days, and his sensational rise to become New York’s top society bandleader. It tells of his several marriages, including one to actress and author Brooke Hayward. A final section recounts the author’s horrendous battle with COVID, which he contracted in March 2020. Hovering near death, he remained hospitalized for months, on a ventilator for seven weeks, and in recuperation for more than a year. The book is a must-read, a bargain at $23.49 on Amazon.

Duchin has also contributed a number of swinging records by his band, Duchin Entertainment, to our class website’s treasury of nostalgic airs of the 1950s and 1960s. The site has also acquired a recording of Midnight at Carnegie Hall, from November 30, 1957, featuring our recently deceased classmate Chris Porterfield and his 13-person jazz band in a classic performance of all our old favorites. Both Duchin and Porterfield—and many, many more—are a must-listen at zero dollars on the Internet.

Jim Goodman, a Chicago-based classmate who actually graduated in 1959, has made an enormously impressive documentary film about climate change and how to mitigate it. With his wife Annie and help from a professional TV producer, he turned a decades-long obsession with the future of the planet into a splendid 40-minute movie called The Power of Us. Nominated for an Emmy and already distributed to thousands of schools across the globe, the film dramatically records eroding icebergs, terrifying floods, and forest fires, and offers copious advice (in clear, simple language) about saving water, recycling garbage, and generally nurturing our ecology. Characters include various experts and a bunch of college students active in climate-saving projects. Production values are of the highest; the plot is gripping and fun. Don’t fail to Google and watch this small masterpiece on PBS. It’s all the more amazing as the work of a couple in their 80s. The price—zero—is also right.

A brief note from New Haven informs us that the current holder of the 1958 Scholarship is Phoenix Dalto, class of 2023, from Tomkins Cove, New York, a resident of Timothy Dwight College majoring in political science.

And now for the necrology; we have lost beloved mates since last issue, and learned belatedly of one more loss.

Maurice Holland, dean of the University of Oregon Law School, died January 5, 2020, at his home in Eugene, Oregon. He earned a master’s and doctorate in history at Harvard then a law degree at Harvard Law School. He was an ardent student and teacher of the English common law. He taught law at Harvard for three years; for 13 years he served on the faculty of the University of Indiana Law School, three of those years as acting dean. In 1986, he moved to Oregon, where he taught and acted as dean till 2008. He was a much-respected mentor, a golfer, and a pipe smoker.

Ben Gottlieb, who was the feisty and very talented photo editor of the Oldest College Daily on my board, died September 4 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. No obituary is available for him, but he did earn a law degree at Harvard and practiced throughout his life.

Dr. Charlie O’Donovan, a marvelous family doctor of the old school, died in Baltimore November 6. He was a classmate of mine at Gilman and a dear friend. Like his father and brother before him, Charlie took his MD at Hopkins; he interned at Vanderbilt, served two years in the Army Medical Corps, and spent the rest of his life lavishing his expert medical skills and gracious bedside manner on thousands of patients. He treated each of them with the kind of personal, humane concern that has become all too rare these days. Colleagues, nurses, and patients praised his technical expertise—“He never met a bug that he could not kill.”—and his extraordinary conscientiousness. Charlie enjoyed two happy marriages: to his college sweetheart, Gail, and after her death to Eleonora. He was active in Baltimore social life, loved gardening, and was a marvelous human being.

Bill Truslow, who shared membership with his twin brother Bob, died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on December 4. Bill expressed the wish to avoid a lengthy obituary, so a few lines will suffice. After three years in the Navy, he took his law degree at Harvard, practiced with the firm of Davis, Polk and Wardwell in New York for three years, then moved back home to Cambridge, where, as brother Bob puts it, he “developed an illustrious trust and estates and trustee practice with a fascinating portfolio of clients.” His fine writing skills honed at the Yale Record were refocused into fashioning legal prose that in its clarity and cogency was actually a pleasure to read, and his care and concern for his clients was unsurpassed. He served as a director or chairman of numerous nonprofit boards.

John Shannon also died December 4, in Birmingham, Alabama. He made his career at Golden Enterprises, a potato chip and snack food producer in Birmingham, from which he retired as vice president of accounting.