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YAM Notes: September/October 2007

By Gregory A. Weiss

Mike McConnell and his wife, Marilyn, have embarked upon a new, exciting, and challenging adventure: “After nine years at Niman Ranch and two at the Husbandry Institute, and some hard thinking about how best to spend the next couple of years, I have accepted an offer to be country director for the Peace Corps in The Gambia. The Gambia (which changed its name from Gambia a few years back for reasons unknown) is a small (1.4 million people) country in West Africa, surrounded on three sides by Senegal and on one by the Atlantic Ocean. It was carved out along the Gambia River by the British to use as a slave trading station in the nineteenth century and is now independent, dirt poor, and with a democratically elected president who first seized power in a coup. As a friendly Muslim country, it is strategically important to the U.S., and the Peace Corps there is quite large: 100 volunteers and 27 headquarters staff. The program focus is on the environment, education, and health and community development, which lines up with my interests pretty neatly. The minimum commitment for a country director is two and a half years; the maximum, five, if we choose to renew. Our friends at the Sustainable Table have agreed to take over the Husbandry Institute’s Ask for Change! campaign while we are gone (www.askforchange.org). We are keeping our loft in Emeryville for home visits and family use and yes, we are taking our boxer, Babe. We will miss all our friends in the U.S., not to mention the grandchildren, food, and wine, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we just have to do it. We will be able to check our e-mail from time to time (when not on the road), so do stay in touch. And if you’d like to hear reports from the field from time to time, let us know and we’ll include you on our periodic updates.”

Our informants tell us that at his 45th high school reunion in Cleveland in May Tom Barry was named University School “Man of the Year.” His thoughtful acceptance address, “University School in a Flat World,” presented numerous ideas on improving secondary school education in the twenty-first century that would be useful throughout the country. A short note from Tim Wollaeger in June reports, “There is an article in the San Diego paper today from AP which covers the killing of a very large whale in Alaska. It says that it is usually difficult to tell how old a whale is, but this one had an old lance fragment stuck deep in its neck. The fragment was identified by whaling history expert John Bockstoce, who estimated the fragment to be between 115 and 130 years old. An article in the February issue of Barron’s Hedge Funds, which described how the hot places for MBA grads to seek employment are with hedge funds, led off with an interview with Josh Jensen’s son, Duggan, and included a handsome photo of the young man. Duggan apparently ”has his sights set firmly“ on a hedge fund in his home state of California; better, Josh’s friends are saying, to take care of the old man in his dotage.

A recent press release from Stanford University Law School announces that Will Taft has been appointed as the Warren Christopher Professor of the Practice of International Law and Diplomacy. He will be in residence at Stanford this fall teaching Contemporary Issues in International Law and Diplomacy and Foreign Relations Law. He will also join the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford as a visiting scholar. While most recently Will has been in private practice, he has held a number of high-level government positions, including general counsel to HEW, general counsel to the Department of Defense, deputy secretary of defense and, most recently, legal advisor to the State Department, the highest legal position in the department.

James and Joanna Levin ”tardily and proudly announce the marriage of their daughter, Debra Ann Christ, to Eric Shaughnessy this past July 15 in Beaver Creek, Colorado.“ ”Guests,“ reports James, ”were ensconced at the Charter House, with the picture-perfect afternoon outdoor ceremony and appropriate soiree ’til dawn at the historic Saddle Ridge Lodge. Our daughter, Lori, was maid of honor. Nearing the end of my morning pre-wedding mountain-bike ride, I approached a lone rider ahead who looked back and, with his face turning from amazement to a full smile, roared ‘suivez-moi‘—and I did! Five hundred meters further on he pointed toward a woman seemingly suspended high above a three-story steel-and-bungee-cord structure who caught sight of me and yelled ‘Where’s J-o-a-n-n-a’ as she somersaulted then plunged toward earth! Needless to say my college roommate, Harvey Berman, the mystery bookstore entrepreneur, and his wife, Dr. Lois Berman, the noted New York psychologist, unexpected but most welcome, joined in the day’s glorious events.“

”After 25-plus years living in exotic places like Sri Lanka, Morocco, Zimbabwe, and Ecuador,“ writes Sandy Shapleigh, ”we are now in Holyoke, Massachusetts, at 413-315-3701. Reconnections sought!“

Dick Williamson died in June in his sleep from an apparent heart attack while en route to compete in the National Senior Bicycling Games in Louisville. The loss was felt keenly on the campus of Bates College, where the recently retired Dick had taught French for over 30 years and for the last ten was chairman of the Department of Classical and Romance Languages and Literature. The accolades were many and heartfelt. The Bates website described him as ”a charismatic catalyst of the Bates community.“ ”A man of zeal and a master teacher at all levels of French language, literature, and culture, Williamson was, for his colleagues, always . . . consistent and masterful at pulling us into the larger good,” said one of his fellow professors. Dick and his wife, Debbie, took up cycling with gusto at least 15 years ago and competed at a national level. His enthusiasm was reflected in several quotations from his friends: “He was one of the most hardcore athletes around”; “He was in phenomenal shape. He was just incredible and he was an incredibly nice guy”; “He was a very, very happy guy. He was the most upbeat guy you can imagine.” Hynrich Wieschhoff, who attended the memorial service on the Bates campus, was astounded by the outpouring of affection from his family and the hundreds of Bates and other friends who were in attendance. In addition to Debbie, Dick is survived by four children—one of whom, Vanessa, holds numerous Bates swimming records.

Steve Fleisher passed away on May 3 from pancreatic cancer. He was an attorney in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 30 years and most recently served as the senior director of corporate compliance and privacy for Blue Shield of California. Steve’s life was committed to service. He was perhaps best known for his work as general counsel to the Mata Amritanandamayi Center, a humanitarian service organization in San Ramon, California. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Steve also dedicated his legal talents to other worthy causes, including California Rural Legal Aid, Native American Legal Defense, and the California Department of Health Services/Consumer Affairs Division. He is survived by his wife, Marilyn Eto, and his daughter, Rachel. The bad news also includes the death of John Eggleston, who died on May 19 in New York City after a long illness. A graduate of Union Theological Seminary, he served in Lutheran ministry in Brooklyn before working for the Children’s Aid Society, the Metropolitan Opera, and the New York Transit Authority. He also served for many years as music director, choir director, and organist for St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and Chelsea Community Church, both in New York City.