YAM Notes: July/August 2019

By Scott G. Sullivan

First, a significant piece of class business. A second printing is being planned for our 60th reunion book, Volunteering: Personal Stories of Commitment by 130 Octogenarians. Although the volume was distributed at reunion, many classmates have not yet received a copy, and the one in circulation is defective (only 117 essays, not the full 130). If you would like a new copy or extras—at no cost—please help Joel Schiavone’s book committee to calculate the reprint run by ordering now. Email Donald Frank or write him at 32 East 64th Street, NYC.

A couple of social notes.

Last October 18, class treasurer Steve Riker threw a swanky dinner party at New York’s Lotus Club to benefit and celebrate recent advances by the Yale Cancer Center. Photos of the event epitomize both commitment and posh.

On May 9 (your scribe’s 82nd birthday, by coincidence), the Class of 1957 hosted our class for a New York Yale Club dinner featuring entertainment by ’57’s inimitable Bud Trillin and our own reigning humorist, Dick Cavett. A bawdy, bibulous bash was enjoyed by all.

Via one of those odd Internet cross-fertilizations, I have recently been following an extensive music-sharing network involving John Fiske, William (SpikeBragg, Mike Schoettle, Bob Morgan, Tim Brown, Gordon Gerson, John Crossman, and Pete Hufstader, to name but a few. The group exchanges LP recordings from the Golden Age of Swing; their hands-down heroine is Doris Day. Not my music particularly, but it was a hoot to watch so many old pals having such fun, and it incidentally produced a note from Fiske,reminding me that he still works a 60-hour week (as a divorce mediator); that he does not fear death, “only irrelevance”; and that his iMac contains 16,000-plus tunes, of which 1,098 are Frank Sinatra.

By the way, class secretary Tim Hogen reminds me that Vic Kovner is still putting in a full week lawyering for Davis Wright Tremaine in the Big Apple. It would be interesting to hear from any others who are still in harness. As to Tim, who had some medical issues recently, he is back home in Stonington, Connecticut, cured of the serious stuff but complaining bitterly of painful spinal stenosis, which makes him “walk all bent-over, like Schiavone.”

One distinguished mate who has hung up his judicial robes is Bill Fitzgerald, a “private judge” (arbitrator) in Los Angeles for many years. Bill has long been the sparkplug of class alumni activities in Southern California. His group, which meets regularly and features talks by its members, includes Lee Ault, Ron Sohigian, Peter Taft, Mike Schoettle, Spike Bragg, Gordon Gerson, Dick Starratt, and John Crossman. A typical talk might be Judge Sohigian’s account of the Turkish massacre of his Armenian forebears in 1915–1917.

A fascinating newsletter forwarded by David Waterbury describes the tireless work of Wally Inglis and his wife Kay at Wallyhouse, an Episcopal homeless facility (although part of the Catholic Worker worldwide network) in Honolulu. The Inglises serve a hot lunch to Wallyhouse guests every Tuesday and perform countless other tasks—so many that Waterbury comments: “The place should be named for Wally.”

This year, the Class of 1958 Memorial Scholarship was held, as last year, by Eric Hirsch, a sophomore in Saybrook. Eric’s main academic interest is economics, and he is a member of the varsity lightweight crew. After graduation, he hopes to join the Marine Corps, then go on to an MBA and a career in finance.

And now to the roll of the departed. Four more of our friends have gone to meet our Maker.

John Malone, a much-traveled foreign-aid specialist, died in Jacksonville, North Carolina, on January 21. He spent most of his career working for the World Bank in dozens of countries, including Ethiopia, Malawi, and Indonesia. A brilliant graduate of the Hill School, John had a chaotic university life: Directed Studies at Yale, “drunking” out, returning to New Haven, and ultimately graduating from the University of Pittsburgh. He joined AA at age 46, became sober, and spent much of his later life mentoring other recovering alcoholics. In his later years, he was active in western North Carolina politics, child-welfare work, and delivering Meals-on-Wheels to the elderly.

Frank Pierce died March 13 in New York City. After Andover and Yale, Frank served as a Navy lieutenant. Then came a brief career on Wall Street, where he held a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. He retired early and spent the rest of a long and happy life hunting, fishing, horseback riding, and practicing photography, mainly at his home in Chatham, New York. “A true man of leisure,” remarks his friend Phil Ness.

Ralph Birdsey died March 26 in Atlanta. A lifelong Georgian, Ralph took an MBA at Wharton, then returned to his hometown of Macon to help run the family flour mill. After marriage and a hitch in the Air Force Reserve, he moved to Atlanta, where he worked as a financial officer for Conti Commodity Services, then A. G. Edwards & Sons, and finally as a freelance financial advisor. A serious scholar, Frank took a sabbatical from business to do graduate studies in English. He was an ardent fan of Chaucer, Mark Twain, and Flannery O’Connor, and a great music lover with a special enthusiasm for Mozart.

Dr. Myles Behrens, a world-renowned neuro-ophthalmologist, died April 5 in Boca Raton, Florida. After graduating from Yale magna cum laude, Myles moved to Columbia Medical School (like his father before him) and graduated first in his class. He spent his entire career at Columbia Presbyterian, as surgeon, researcher, and teacher, winning every possible award in his specialty. He was a student of the Talmud, and he maintained an interest in literature and the arts, taking undergraduate courses over the years. He had a very large family of children and stepchildren and worked hard at being a good father and grandfather.