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John P. Sawyer, Jr.

Died: May 19, 2016

I am still in shock that we graduated 50 years ago and that I have been married 48 years, have two grown children and five grandchildren. As with most of us, I have had my share of health issues, but today I am doing well, working, playing golf, and singing in the church choir.

A test to determine if we continue to be engaged with the world around us: What are we doing now to leave the world a better place for the next generation? What have we studied, that is not work related, in the last two years? How do we interact with our children and grandchildren? Do we have a spiritual life? What do we do for fun? Do we still engage in competitive sports or games? (Bridge and chess — not checkers — count as competitive. Monopoly with grandchildren between 6 and 14 is competitive.) Golf counts if there is a trophy or money involved and every stroke counts.

Hard to believe that this is the tenth Reunion I will have attended. I have met so many classmates that I did not know as an undergraduate. What an interesting group of men! I look forward to seeing all of you and making a few more friends.

For those of you who are interested, I have written a general essay (it really should be titled “Random Musings” ) as well. The essay was written to encourage discussion, not division. I would hope in our remaining years we can advocate for solutions to the many problems our society faces. To do that we must be able to discuss them without rancor or presumption about the other person’s good will. While I highlight issues like polarization, and refusal to deal with facts and money in politics I also highlight what gives me hope for the future. There are some signs of progress. It is like seeing the first signs of vegetation after the eruption of Mount Saint Helens. What can we do to help solve these problems as we leave the workplace and have time to engage in the broader issues facing our society?

For our society to navigate these rapid changes, we have to be able to have serious discussions based on facts. Those with a financial stake in the outcome of those discussions should participate, but should not be able to put a thumb on the scale. A polarized society will be less able to deal with these issues. Refusal to accept facts as facts will prevent the development of acceptable solutions. We must restore a sense of community where we all share in the solution and where we are working for good solutions. That will require communication and compromise. Compromise cannot be a four-letter word. Please read my musings and let the discussion begin.

I will see you at the Reunion.

Robert Ulery remembers:

Despite our mutual expectation that we would connect again at the 50th Reunion, John fell ill on a trip to California to see his daughter and family and died of complications from a heart medicine May 19 of this year.

John had come to Yale as I did from the Midwest and the state just south of mine. We met in Wright Hall and Branford and more significantly in the Glee Club, when he joined us in junior year as we prepared for the great and unique adventure of the World Tour of summer 1965, for which he served with Bernie Schachtel as one of the two tour managers. Known affectionately as “Sarge” for his take-charge manner, he was vital to the success of a very complicated 10-week concert tour of the western US, Hawaii, Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore, Thailand, India, Russia, and Sweden.

After we graduated, he was a pilot in the Navy in the Far East, and while training for that he met and married the wonderful Susan Dreyfus, who had the charm and strength to complete his education as a human being and accompany him in his varied career, while developing her own practice as a social worker. He went to law school in his home state, where he became interested in city planning, then went to Harvard School of Design for a degree in that, worked in Boston for Mike Dukakis and then as a consultant, and was soon back in New Haven as Development Administrator 1980-85. They then moved to Winchester MA, where he worked in community services and real estate development, including senior retirement facilities, and lastly as president of Back Bay Strategic Advisors. They raised two fine children, and have been active singing and touring with the Yale Alumni Chorus and in their church choir.

I know that I have prized our long friendship in part because of the difference in our personalities and way of dealing with the world, a difference that the experience of singing together turned into harmony. I have been with John and Susan in many of those places and experiences, and I can attest that his statements in our various reunion books give a good sense of the vital and proactive person he has always been.