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Peter Crichton Burchard

Peter BurchardDied: February 24, 2018, El Cajon, CA

Peter Burchard was born November 23, 1943 in Seattle, WA. His father, Dudley Woodworth Burchard was Yale Class of 1942. He arrived at Yale from Punahou School in Hawaii and was known as “The Punahou Flash” because he held the state records in the 100- and 200-yard dash. He was the only freshman to run his way onto the combined Yale-Harvard track team that went to England to take on the combined Oxford-Cambridge team. A knee injury after sophomore year cut short his running career but left him as the fastest man in any touch football game in the Timothy Dwight courtyard.

He was in a group of nine roommates who stayed together from sophomore year until senior year when they lived in a suite of rooms in the northwest corner of TD’s top floor known as “The Zoo.” Peter is remembered as a wonderful roommate, slyly funny, smart, and willing to discuss almost any subject with passion. (For a remembrance by all nine of his roommates see posting on the Class website.) He was an Anthropology major and a member of St. Elmo, Fence Club, Haunt Club, and the Political Union. In addition to his track exploits he played intramural touch football, soccer, and volleyball for TD. In the essay he wrote for our 50th Reunion he said “I remember little of the lectures I sat through when I got up in time or the reading I did feverishly at the last minute. What I do remember is an assemblage of extremely bright people, knots of whom were drawn together with some sense of common interest and purpose.”

After college his bum knee kept him out of the draft, and he moved back to Hawaii to begin the rest of his life. For a while he worked for Kaiser Industries then got married and moved to northern California. He and his wife had two wonderful sons who gave him great joy. Then, for reasons unexplained, his life trajectory changed. After many years of apparent happiness, the marriage failed. He never found work that engaged him fully.

Age and unexpected health problems stripped him of his great physical gifts until he ended up in a wheelchair. As he said in his essay, that opened gates to Buddhism and Taoism. He continued to take undergraduate courses on the internet, everything from a Yale course on Roman architecture to Buddhism and Modern Psychology to the History of Rock and Roll. He began writing, quirky stories starring his granddaughters, comic pieces, essays on his view of the world. He nourished a strong interest in classical music. He read voraciously and eclectically. Even though he rarely left his home in San Diego, the Internet allowed him to travel the world and to reach out to a host of people from his past. Two of his roommates visited him in his last years and he told them “I am happier now than I have ever been in my life.”

– Benjamin Liptzin

Remembrances by roommates:

Even before the Internet he never lost touch with his roommates. The phone calls would come at any time of the night or early morning. Once when my mother answered the phone at four A.M. and he identified himself, she asked with some asperity, “Peter, do you know what time it is?” “No,” he said, “but I can look.” — David Taylor

But, and this is the key to Peter for me, his presence in my life was, and is, a real gift. It is impossible to imagine the Zoo without Peter. Impossible to settle into a long phone call at 3:00 placed by anyone other than Peter. – Doug Moore.

Peter had a keen wit and a dry sense of humor. In England with Peter during the summer of 1966, driving our rental car, I became confused in a vehicular roundabout, went the wrong way, and almost killed us. Thirty-five years later, he sent me a book on the roundabouts of England! – Steve Gihuley

Peter would often send us notes with a connection to our lives. When I became a Judge in my local community, he wrote an entire treatise supporting my candidacy to the US Supreme Court, as there was an opening at that time. Peter was a very caring person and a good friend to many of us. And isn’t that enough? — Sam Watkins