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YAM Notes: July/August 2009

By Gregory A. Weiss

We start with two obituaries. Will Rodgers died on March 19 in his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, after a six-year battle with cancer. After earning a master’s degree in management from MIT’s Sloan School, Will spent his career in management consulting, most recently with Hamilton Consultants, which he founded in 1988. What we classmates will remember most, however, is his commitment to our class as co-chair with Bob Brundige of our Alumni Fund fundraising efforts. As Bob recounts: throughout Will’s illness “he has continued to have a very special place in his heart for Yale and our class. He has done an amazing job of co-chair throughout all of this and never wanted to call it quits. . . . Will had a special way of always making whichever of us he was talking to feel good. He was always uplifting and asking how you were doing. As YAF co-chair and agent for our class, Will seemed to relish making calls to our classmates and reconnecting with those he knew and connecting with those he didn’t. He was so proud of our class’s outstanding successes in giving back to Yale.” He leaves his wife, Chris, and four children.

John Blossman died on March 30, also of cancer. A native of New Orleans and resident of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, since 1951, John graduated from Vanderbilt Law School in 1969. Upon graduation, he joined Blossman Gas, Inc., the company founded by his father, and was a leader in the Gulf Coast gas industry for many years. From 1970 to 1972 he took a leave of absence from the company to serve in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam era. He was involved in numerous Gulf Coast organizations and was recently awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the City of Ocean Springs. He is survived by his wife, Courtney; three children; and nine grandchildren.

Alex Williams retired from the Los Angeles Superior Court last September, after 39 years in public service, including 24 on the court. He is now in private dispute resolution practice as a mediator, arbitrator, and discovery referee with ADR Services, Inc. in Los Angeles. He is happy to note that his new job gives him an opportunity rare in Los Angeles: he can walk to work! He says: “I am delighted that I have more time to devote to my terrific wife (Doris) and to my not-so-terrific golf game!” He remains grateful for the support given him by a number of classmates over a decade ago when he successfully defeated an election challenger for his seat on the court. “It is hard to state adequately how touched I was by that support,” says Alex.

Chris Ogden updates us on his recent activities: “As for book projects, I’ve sworn off biography and nonfiction; too many facts to track. But I am having fun with a first try at a novel, albeit not so much that I’m certain it will make it to print. We’ll see. Otherwise, I’ve been writing lectures for delivery on high-end cruise ships where Linda and I try to spend a chunk of the cold months. Started in the ’80s, but in the past year we’ve done two trans-Pacs: to Hong Kong via Hawaii and New Zealand via Tahiti and Bora Bora. Next year, back to southern Africa. Lots of sea days with time to entertain and, ideally, offer up a smidgen of knowledge about regional geopolitics to captive audience passengers. After me, they race out the door to dance class and bingo!”

“I wanted to give you a bit of news about Lura and me,” writes Lynn Harrison, “as we are embarking on another move. As you may know, I was recruited to UMass following Katrina, which almost destroyed LSU and Tulane’s schools of medicine. UMass had some serious quality issues in their cardiac surgery program, and my assignment was to right the ship. I am pleased to be able to say we did that, a great team effort which garnered the Society of Thoracic Surgeons’ highest rating for quality and placed our hospital at the very top of the heap in Massachusetts for management of an acute coronary event (heart attack), second in the entire nation. I have passed on the baton to a talented surgeon, Dr. Stanley Tam, and was contemplating growing older gracefully, when a hospital consortium in south Florida heard about our turnaround and recruited me to try and do it again for them. As it was January at the time and 8 degrees in Worcester (72 and sunny in Miami), I allowed as how I could be had. We move to Miami on April 1 for our newest excellent adventure. Wish us luck.”

Founded in 1930 by an eminent group of bibliophiles, the Yale Library Associates provide support and visibility for Yale’s libraries. Their 40-member Board of Trustees includes Fred Berg, the focus of the “Trustee’s Corner” column in a recent issue of Notabene, the publication of the Yale library. Fred is a lawyer in New York City, specializing in international business transactions. He became a trustee of the Yale Library Associates in 2005 and a member of the Yale Librarian’s Development Council in March. His own library contains historical works, maps, and fiction, including a collection of mystery and espionage novels. A brief follow-up on a recent report of Jim Munson’s retirement and budding acting career: believe it or not, after a successful audition he is now performing in a Chicago production of Moliere’s seventeenth-century comedy, Tartuffe, reciting in iambic pentameter and wearing tights, a wig, and a sword. Amazing!

Over 60 classmates and guests gathered at the Yale Club of New York City on the evening of April 27 for the second annual class dinner. The cocktail reception featured our classmate’s wines with a special tasting led by Cris Strotz and Ted Elliott. Mary Miller, dean of Yale College, and her husband, Professor Edward Kamens, addressed the group about current life at Yale and the extraordinary resources available to today’s very talented student body. In addition to commenting on strong support for the arts and an emphasis on international activities, they both spoke of the deep personal involvement with students that is characteristic of the residential college system at Yale. The principal organizers of the dinner were Tom Opladen and Bill Hammock, who deserve our great thanks for making this annual event such a huge success.