YAM Notes: March/April 2018

By Christopher T. Cory

If you’re near the Baltimore/Washington area before June 24 you should go and swoon over a sumptuous exhibition at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. The 70 objects in Fabergé and the Russian Craft Tradition: An Empire’s Legacy include two of the bejeweled Imperial Easter eggs—part jewel, part intricate sculpture—created by the famous atelier of Peter Carl Fabergé, and a stunning necklace loaned by Benjamin Zucker, whose research helped shape the show. The necklace shows watercolor portraits of the Princess Anastasia and her three sisters, covered by clear “portrait diamonds” cut to let the portraits shine. Benjamin says the faces are “a most haunting and beautiful jeweled memoir” from, of course, a one percent that was overthrown. He attended the opening with Bob Gray, who “has helped me over the years to organize my collection.”

Other museums, other art: the ubiquitous Snugli baby carrier is now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. It was one of 111 “paragons of design” in an exhibition titled Items: Is Fashion Modern?, thereby honoring the sensitivity and creativity of the Peace Corps and Mike “Biggie” Moore and his wife Anne. As early corps volunteers in French West Africa, they were impressed by the slings that parents wore to keep their babies with them and adapted the idea to the US market, selling “two to three million” before selling the business. They are now singing with various choruses in Colorado. The Peace Corps may be less harmonious: last July 5 the New York Times reported that President Trump’s patriotic budget “includes the largest proposed cut to the Peace Corps by a president in more than 40 years.”

It could use help from Steve Susman. His law firm, Susman Godfrey, was intriguingly profiled in the magazine Lawdragon, which flatly declared it “America’s leading trial law firm”: “Pick your metric—money, US Supreme Court clerks, bet-the-company cases, percentage of partners in trial annually—the firm runs circles around everyone else.” The story unhesitatingly says: “Watching Steve Susman in trial . . . you know you are in the presence of greatness.” Look for the text on www.Yale62.org.

In sports, possibly our class’s staunchest fan of Yale men’s hockey, Mike Kane, reported in midseason: “This year we had a young team, long on freshmen and short on seniors and the 25- and 26-year-old Canadians that non–Ivy League rivals such as Clarkson and Quinnipiac stock up on. Coach Allain has been absent at times in his role as an assistant coach for the US Olympic team, which probably does not help in the short term, although it’s a well-deserved honor for him. Yale had a couple of impressive upset wins against higher-ranked teams, notably Harvard and Union, but a greater number of disappointing defeats at the hands of teams they should have beaten.”

Want a role model to recommend to your grandchildren? Look into “the most famous and controversial woman in America a century ago,” as Rudd Platt says. Jane Addams was the Nobel Prize–winning cofounder of Chicago’s Hull House settlement and helped establish the NAACP, ACLU, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Rudd, now an emeritus professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, recently organized a day-long forum on her inspiration and relevance to today’s advocates. Look for his op-ed on the website.

Henry Childs wrote to share his “dismay at our university for ignoring my entreaty that the president’s office and the School of Forestry address the issue of resolving the climate change issue by the (simple?) matter of separating the CO2 molecule into its constituent parts of carbon and oxygen. Any classmates have any ideas?” Jan Greer says he is “fulminating (quietly) against party politics, self-interested politicians, and embarrassing incompetency at the top.”

Your CorSec got a probably predictable pittance of holiday newsletters. Apparently, they’re a waning tradition. Why? It surely can’t be because, as one classmate who requests anonymity said, “In my experience—with some fine exceptions—holiday letters are a drag, usually replete with banal accomplishments of the sender and family (usually including extensive travel), the gist of which is, to use the description of Lake Wobegon citizens, that in the sender’s family ‘all the men are strong, all the women are beautiful, and all the children are above average.’”

Well, like Bill Sullivan. His best holiday news was “the publication of Introduction to Relational Network Theory: History, Principles, and Descriptive Applications, coauthored with Adolfo Garcia and Sarah Tsiang, published by Equinox. It combines neurology, cognition, and linguistic theory and provides a viable alternative to generative linguistics.” He explains a bit more on our website. Or Steve Buck. He stepped down from 14 years on the Foreign Service Journal board but stayed on the board of Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East, continuing to promote travel scholarships for young Unitarians to see conditions on the ground in Israel/Palestine’s occupied West Bank.

Among fellow-travelers, Bill McGlashan and his wife rented and towed a small “teardrop trailer” on a three-week tour of southern Utah, sleeping inside for half the nights and for the other half in lodges or motels. They spent a week with children and grandchildren in the Sacred Valley of Peru and took an organized bike trip up the Columbia River (“Christney on her new electric assist bike”). Larry Prince and his wife spent 21 days in Europe, visiting Normandy, Burgundy, Prague, Bavaria, and Frankfurt. Back in Manhattan, Larry reports getting “far more visitors in our two-bedroom apartment than we ever had in our four-bedroom house in Larchmont!” As of midwinter, that rambling duo Dave and Cindy Hummel had trips planned which “should bring our total country count from 150 to 158.” Bill W. Wheeler stayed put in California, reveling in “beautiful Belvedere” where during the holidays “the boats below us in the San Francisco Yacht Club [were] riding happily at anchor with colorful strings of Christmas lights running up the masts.”

After representing our class at this year’s Assembly of the Association of Yale Alumni, Louis Mackall notes: “I admit to being a bit cynical about Yale puffery, but that melted quickly as I settled in. If you’ve wondered about Yale half a century later, get back for the next alumni get together. You’ll be surprised.”

We have our own “Dead Poets Club”—the 30 classmates who wrote (a record response) to say they liked the encouraging little poem by Noel Coward about memories of departed friends that I put on our website before the winter holidays. If you didn’t see it, check the site or ask me. Let’s continue the exercise: If you have a favorite short poem or few lines of poetry, please send and I’ll compile a little anthology on the site.

Necrology: We are sad to report the deaths of our other Bill Wheeler, William B. Wheeler II, and David N. Dunn, and will post obituaries in due course. Obituaries are now on the site for L. Scott Barksdale, Gus Hedlund, and Peter McDougall.