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Douglas Thomas Yates, Jr.

Died: January 3, 2015

Douglas T. Yates, Jr., son of a public-spirited Park Avenue family, shone from his earliest days at the Buckley School in New York. At Buckley and then at Hotchkiss, he was elected chairman or class president twelve times. After arriving at Yale he played football until a knee injury ended his athletic career. He then devoted time to the Yale Daily News, becoming executive editor. A political science major, he was accepted as a Scholar of the House in his senior year. At graduation he was awarded the Alpheus Henry Snow Prize for “intellectual achievement, fine character, and personality…” Kind and witty, not in the least snooty or arrogant, he was popular throughout our large class, and on graduation was elected class secretary with the task of keeping us all in touch.

Doug was chosen as a Rhodes Scholar from the very competitive state of New York. He was admitted to Oxford’s Balliol College. In three years there, he took an M.Phil. in politics. He also turned vehemently against the Vietnam War. When a Yale classmate came through Oxford after a stint as a journalist in Vietnam, Doug sought him out for a long and loud discussion of how the war was a colossal blunder. Though a product of the Republican Silk Stocking district, he was turning toward the more liberal side of politics.

In the summer of 1967 Doug married Doris Catlin, also from New York’s Upper East Side. They were to have three sons, two of whom went on to Yale, and now five grandchildren.

“Doug loved Yale,” Doris says. It was only natural for him to return to the Yale political science department to get his Ph.D. and then to teach as an assistant professor. An equally important contribution was his service as assistant dean of the new School of Management. Doug was always ready to help, to fill a need. He had special interests in organizations and local government.

At some point, Doug’s class secretary job of writing the class notes column in the Alumni Magazine was taken over by classmates, and, to most of us, he fell out of touch. In the reunion directories there would only be the barest contact information — his address, no news of career or family, no observations on life. The 2001 directory did note that he had founded the Freedom and Democracy Foundation and become an honorary fellow of Balliol. To this memorialist, the informally conveyed word was that he had somehow failed to get tenure at Yale and had taken to drink. His marriage to Doris ended. A Christmas card was returned marked “Address unknown.”

To a classmate, the hope was never extinguished that Doug would make a reappearance, a comeback in the game of life. But, early last year, word came of his death on January 3, 2015. Alcoholism and bipolar disorder, it was said, had done their damage. The immediate cause of death was septic shock, following an intestinal blockage. For the last ten years, he was said to have found some stability with his second wife, Mary Caryl, at a New Haven residence called the Parents’ Foundation, but that wonderful personal charm and lively intelligence were stilled. Now he was gone forever.

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Doug Yates III remembers: selected from his remarks at his father’s memorial service

My father was a very complex man who lived a challenging life. But with complexity so often comes strife and turbulence. He was the consummate scholar and a lifelong thinker, so sometimes I think he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way…

But all those close to him could see there was too much turbulence, too much storm, for one man to weather alone. Yet here was a man too powerful to be sunk outright. After eighteen wonderful years of marriage to Doris, he found new love with Mary Caryl, a woman who began to initiate his return cycle from the outer reaches of New Hampshire to the inner orbits of New Haven and to the great metropolis of New York, two cities he loved so much they represented the loci of his scholarship…

While living his later years in New Haven, my father told me over the phone with a sense of detached wonder that a cleaning woman had accidentally thrown away two completed, book-length, handwritten manuscripts that were on his desk. The sin was halfway understandable, given my father was an incurable slob and the manuscripts were probably written on pages that looked dangerously like trash…

But the point is, he was neither sad nor angry. Neither depressed nor blustery. He just spoke as if he were aware of the kind of cruel events that exist in this world at all times and sometimes for no apparent reason…

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Randy Yates remembers: selected from his remarks at his brother’s memorial service

…Doug was a hero to me. And I don’t think I was alone…A Yale roommate wrote: “We all know that, while Doug had a warm and genuine — and soft — side, he was driven and dedicated to excellence in everything in his life.”

…Probably his greatest and most lasting contribution to Yale was his critical role as assistant dean in the design and creation of Yale’s School of Management. Fortunately, before he died, he had a chance to tour its very impressive new facility…

Nothing hard is easy. So it is to address the tumult that took over Doug’s life.

It was not prizes but diagnoses of alcoholism and manic-depression — bipolar — which characterized the next decades of his life. That star, that light, which had brought such pride and joy, flashed out of control, flaring, a flame so hot it nearly consumed him, and ended up burning, hurting, so many of his friends, his loved ones, his family, and especially those he loved most, his dear wife, Doris, and his beloved boys, Doug, Brian, and Scott.

There were many years of doctors, hospitals, medicines, much pain. Seemingly no solution.

For a while, Doug did find some renewed happiness with his second wife, Mary Caryl…

But he was only able to find some degree of lasting peace, he said himself, living at the Parents’ Foundation, 100 Broadway, his home, his community, for the last ten years, in New Haven.

There, as its director, Roseann, told me, he became a “mentor, a friend to everyone.” She said, “He made a difference in our lives — the kindest, gentlest soul.” He led the men’s group and the current events club, and he even tutored some Yale students. His interest in government and politics never waned…

The light is gone altogether. With God’s help, maybe we can remember the good and come to terms with the rest. Thank God, Mom and Dad were both able to pass knowing that he was living a stable and so much happier life. And most importantly, Doug, the one who lost the most, found his own peace.

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Doug Yates’ thoughts on Spirituality:

Spirituality is like a bird on the wing. It soars and dives gracefully. It is a state of peace with existence.

Spirituality is related to the idea of spirit. It involves an uplifting of the spirit from its prior residence in dark and sad places.

Spirituality involves a summoning of self-renewal. It is a call to arms to replace negative with positive, reinforcing messages.

Spirituality involves at root the recognition that there is a power or powers greater than the self. In directing attention to a voice of peace and hope above and beyond the self, spirituality speaks to the troubled, to the prisoner, to the addict, to the poor and downtrodden.

The message of spirituality is that there is a way up and out of the pit or basement if an individual has an overriding purpose and goal. If one is in touch with heart spirit, one can come to imagine a better, self-fulfilling soul and not a further descent into despair and hopelessness.

Human beings need a vibrant spirit to survive and prosper, and spirituality is the empowerment of that spirit. A human being with a spirit and spirituality will transcend the various traps and dilemmas. Without a reflective soul and energetic spirit, a human being will often be flat, empty, even wretched, devoid of enlivened feeling and worthwhile goals.

Spirituality has connections to religion but it is not an organized, church-bound substance. It thrives out of doors in the fresh air and the sailing breezes of an uncharted sea. But, one with a welcoming port at sunset. Spirituality is finally a journey, not an event. It is simply where you want to go.

Victor Chen remembers:

Warm memories of long afternoons playing tennis on Oxford’s green lawns, followed by curry dinner with lager-and-lime in an Indian restaurant.

George Wolf remembers:

Others in Doug’s wide circles will be able to say more and more eloquently. I knew Doug from our three shared years on the News. Good hearted and wide open, Doug had humanity, a rare quality. He left us too soon

Howard Moffett remembers:

I can’t think of any other way to say it: Doug was simply a class act, in every sense of the word. Whether as colleague or rival, he gave each assignment his best effort, never cut an ethical corner, and consistently brought out the best in those with whom he worked. It’s no wonder he walked away with virtually every honor Yale had to bestow.

Life takes seemingly arbitrary and sometimes cruel twists and turns, and in Doug’s case, they were baffling and heart-wrenching. After a productive early academic career at Oxford, Yale and Dartmouth, and after raising a lovely family with Doris, he struggled with inner demons for much of his later years. He ended up just a few short blocks from Pierson College, making an unheralded but singular contribution to a group of men in New Haven who may not seem to have had much in common with the Doug we knew, but with whom he found and nurtured a common humanity that redeemed all those troubled middle years.