Don died on September 11, 2014. He was a lifelong resident of Kalamazoo and earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from K. He was a member of the men’s Hornet tennis team and part of the 1956 undefeated squad. He also helped his father, Allen Stowe (a professor of chemistry at K from 1928 to 1957), run the National Junior Tennis Championships for many years. Don earned a master’s degree from Western Michigan University and was a chemistry teacher at Portage Central High School for 37 years. He also was a longtime tennis coach at the school. Don’s extraordinary ability in the classroom was recognized by the American Chemical Society (Kalamazoo Section) with a Science Teacher of the Year Award. Don combined his military service with his love of tennis. He served in the United States Army during the Korean War and led his team to the First Infantry Division Tennis Championships in 1954. Don was involved in Boy Scouts and an active member of the Kalamazoo Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families. He had an avid love of photography and computers and designed the first web page for his church. Don is survived by his wife, Jan, their three children, nine grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
Mary died on December 20, 2014, in an automobile accident. She was born and grew up in Evanston, Illinois. At K she earned her bachelor’s degree in art and studied abroad in Madrid, Spain. In the mid-1990s she moved to Santa Fe, N.M., and worked in various jobs before securing a teaching certificate. Most recently Mary worked for Easter Seals El Mirador as a counselor for intellectually disabled adults.
Russ served in Vietnam during the American war there. He and most of his men survived their service. It was in the United States that he suffered a gunshot wound during a robbery at the motel he owned and operated in Denver. He has since retired and enjoys life fully with his wife Cai Thi and their family. At K, Russ was a terrific runner and a you-can-do-it supporter of others, according to his cross-country teammate Don Schneider ’63. Don and Russ recently reconnected after 50 years. “Russ says he has slowed some,” wrote Don, “but you can reach him quickly via e-mail.”
Theresa received her bachelor’s degree in psychology at K and her M.S.W. from Washington University in St. Louis. She is a Social Work Clinical Leader at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. Theresa became certified as a Treatment Specialist in Diverse Populations and works with the most complex cases within the hospital. She has 10 years of experience in direct practice with mental health and health care, and she has expertise in crisis management, solution-focused therapy, severe mental illnesses, diverse populations and trauma. Theresa has presented at national conferences and webinars discussing innovative social work models for healthcare, and recently she published an article in the journal Collaborative Case Management that introduces a new team-based model for managing difficult cases within a hospital setting. In addition to her social work practice, she has taught undergraduate psychology courses for five years as an adjunct professor. Theresa and Justin Horowitz have been together for 14 years. They have been married for more than five years. They are expecting their first child this fall.
Carol died on June 28, 2015, in Columbus, Ohio, following a brief illness. She earned her B.A. at K in religion and studied abroad in Caen, France. She had recently retired from a 30-year career teaching first grade at Rosehill Elementary School in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. She is survived by her two sons, Kyle and Kurt, and their spouses, Tayah and Christianne, respectively.
Bob and his wife, Sue (Wotila) Brackenridge ’65, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on June 19 with family and friends in Chattanooga, Tennessee. They are still active and healthy, and both attended the 2015 Homecoming in Kalamazoo. They also are planning a Michigan trip in May 2016 that will include stops at the Senior PGA golf tournament in Benton Harbor, the Michigan capitol in Lansing, and the Upper Peninsula. The latter is sure to rekindle memories of Bob’s “Soo to Kazoo in ‘62” cross-country relay with Coach Swede Thomas and Hornet harrier teammates.
Bob died on January 23, 2016. He grew up in Kalamazoo and at K majored in economics and business. After graduation he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, served for 23 years, and retired as a Captain in 1978. He piloted land- and carrier-based anti-submarine aircraft in the Pacific and North Atlantic for 10 years. He was an instructor in warfare tactics at the Naval Academy (Annapolis, Md.) and the Naval War College (Newport, R.I.). Bob was Communications Commander in the Pacific Command during the Vietnam War era. He served as the Air Operations Officer on the USS Hornet for the Apollo 12 recovery mission in the South Pacific. He concluded his Naval career as Commanding Officer of a tactical air control group based in Norfolk, Va.,supporting NATO in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean. He was married to Ellen Jane Brooks for more than 50 years, until her death in 2006. They had two children. Bob married Bonny Turner, who survives, in 2013.
David died on September 20, 2016. He was 77 years old, four days shy of his 78th birthday, and doing one of the things he loved most–taking a walk on a trail. David’s 39-year career at Kalamazoo College began in 1965 and concluded with his retirement in 2004. “Biology is magnificent,” he once said, “and humbling, and goofy. In some sense, biology is best approached with a good eye for silliness, for it is stuffed with paradoxes, irony, and the ridiculous. This aspect of the subject is often the most engaging for non-majors, but it never fails to lead to more sophisticated material. I often used this movement from the ridiculous to the sublime as a teaching strategy in my courses.”
David’s area of specialty was insect behavior, and two important (and related) themes of his teaching and research were seasonality and adaptation. He earned his undergraduate degree in biology from Carleton College and his master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Wisconsin. His research was published in numerous journals, and he received many academic grants during his career.
His work took him to Africa many times. In 1982 he was a Fulbright professor of Biological Sciences at Njala University College at the University of Sierra Leone. In the early 1990s he visited the continent to study locust migrations on behalf of the United States Agency for International Development. His work and study in Africa became the basis for one of his K courses, “Ecology of Africa.” In 1995 he received the Frances Diebold Award for Contributions to the College Community, and in 1998 the faculty awarded him its highest teaching honor, the Florence J. Lucasse Lectureship for Excellence in Teaching. Those awards were related, in part, to the K marine ecology courses he co-taught with the late David Winch (professor emeritus of physics) on site at San Salvador Island and Jewfish Cay in the Caribbean. “On campus,” he said, “the class handled gray rubbery specimens preserved in jars. In San Salvador the students experienced the organisms alive and in color, and observed how they behaved in their habitat. It was like having one’s eyesight restored.”
Near and after his retirement he served during the summers as a naturalist at Fort Abercrombie State Park on Kodiak Island, Alaska. He loved that assignment, in part because of the “really cool truck” he drove, but mostly because of the liberal arts breadth of the work. In addition to naturalist, he worked as the island’s historian (delving into the area’s World War II days, in particular), and he wrote a weekly column for the island’s newspaper. Shortly after his final courses in a K classroom (spring term 2004) David served as “ship’s biology teacher” in a Semester-at-Sea program that circumnavigated the globe, with stops that included Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Myanmar, Kenya, South Africa, Brazil and Cuba. And long into his retirement he often contacted the College with alerts regarding the achievements of his former students, both majors and non-majors.
David always loved the liberal arts, a passion closely related to his academic and research interest in adaptation. He believed that the liberal arts was the best educational model to develop a broader range of reference and a better sense of humor, traits he considered essential for adaptation in careers and life in general.
He died taking a walk, an activity he loved (particularly along an ocean shore) and that he wrote about in his August 29, 2001, column in the Kodiak Daily Mirror, his final column for that summer’s season.
“For me, the last tide pool walks mean that the park season is winding down….[T]idepooling is one of the most unpredictable park activities in which I’m involved. We seem to have a particularly good time when children are along…
“There’s an Alutiq saying that expresses tidal rhythms in terms of using plants and animals as food: When the tide goes out, the table is set; When the tide comes in, the dishes are washed. The saying gets to the same rhythmic renewal that makes me appreciate this kind of field activity so much. I know I can go down to an area where I’ve been dozens of times, and I can be guaranteed of seeing something new and wondrous.”
Today Con is that silence, a life now part of a “mystery at the center” into which words will penetrate insufficiently at best, the way sunlight beneath the surface of a deep ocean shimmers a few meters at most then disappears.
Con died on January 11, 2017. Several weeks previous, his daughter, Jane, wrote that her father had written to her that he planned to “make his exit” after Christmas but wasn’t sure he could endure that long. He endured and then died from complications of cancer and pneumonia. He was 88 years old.
Con earned his B.A. at Oberlin College, his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin. Attracted to “the promise of a college that was willing to try things,” Con was recruited to Kalamazoo College by Larry Barrett, a colleague in the English department and later a dear friend. Con started his career at K in 1962, the first full year of the bold and quirky curriculum called the K-Plan. He retired in 1998. In between, countless students of all majors and liberal arts inclinations fondly recall his literature and writing classes and especially his poetry courses. He wrote 11 volumes of poetry. His latest, Until the Full Moon Has Its Say, he wrote in his mid-eighties, and many of its poems are villanelles, a demanding form Con seemed to execute with ease. Like his friend and colleague Larry Barrett, whom he eulogized in 2002, Con was “in business right to the end.”
His prolificity as a poet sometimes obscured the fact that he was a marvelous writer of prose, author of the genre-bending creative nonfiction piece, Luke Karamazov, and countless essays and chapel talks, often on poets such as John Donne and Galway Kinnell, two he particularly loved, though there are many many more. Con loved to illustrate with poems the ideas he articulated in his prose as if to remind us that poetry (as he once said) can be a brief and invigorating elevation from the “lowly ground” of our inward selves–not that such ground is bereft of beauty and mystery, only that our souls seek a glimpse of something abundant beyond our own inwardness. Con often found that abundance, “a pool of meaning,” in the ordinary.
He was a remarkable teacher, entirely and joyfully at home in the “arches and vaults” of the liberal arts, created when the seemingly separate disciplines lean together and conjoin. He continually sought inspiration for his own work (both his teaching and his poetry) in the subject matters of his colleagues and friends in biology, mathematics, religion, philosophy, physics and psychology, to name just a few. Often he’d audit courses in different departments as grist for his imagination, for example John Spencer’s seminar on Alfred North Whitehead and David Evans’s class on ethology. What he learned in those classes found its way into his poems, intentionally or not. Most of all he loved K students, and the effect on them of the K-Plan: their genius, he wrote, “for combining academic work and off-campus experience in just the way to allow themselves the most dramatic growth.”
In 1995, three years before his retirement, he began teaching night classes in poetry at the Stryker Center. These he continued for some 15 years, and many of his ex-students and members of the greater Kalamazoo community attended. Con helped poets make and publish their poems, and the list of these writers is impressive, including, among others, Susan Blackwell Ramsey, Corey Marks, Gail McMurray Martin, Marie Bahlke, Kit Almy, Gail Griffin, Rob Dunn, Hedy Habra, Marion Boyer, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Jane Hilberry, Amy Newday, and his lifelong student and friend, Pulitzer Prize finalist Diane Seuss. His beloved wife of 60 years, Marion, who died on April 8, 2008, often joined him in these classes.
In an essay he wrote on Galway Kinnell, Con described the opposition between poems and the notion of the final word. Comments on poems we perceive as “right on certain points and wrong on others,” he said. “But no one sees [those comments, even if they are the author’s] as the last word, equivalent to the poem itself. We always assume there is more to be said as the complexities of the poem take different configurations from other readers….Whenever a reading is taken as final, the poem is diminished.”
He managed his classes like that, starting things off, then sitting back to listen and provide space for students’ voices–for that peculiar confluence of text and the texture of readers’ lives, from which arises meaning. “I just need to choose the right books,” he once said. “Then the students notice things about the poems, and they teach each other.”
He was a poet and teacher of the people, deeply involved in the city of Kalamazoo’s Poetry on Buses program during its heyday. Often, with fellow poets (and friends) Herb Scott and John Woods (English professors at neighboring Western Michigan University) among others, Con would bring poetry into public middle schools, somehow managing to engage that always potentially intractable audience into the “best poems,” which Con considered an ineffable harmony of vividness (which the junior high students loved) and wholeness (where, often, the work began). He served as an editor of the Third Coast anthologies of Michigan poets and seemed to be a friend to every writer therein.
In his teaching prime Con’s presence was unforgettable, especially his red hair and ready smile. His limp and the rattle of his bike always suggested some past accident that had had no effect on his love of biking steep grades, celebrating gravity. And why not celebrate the force that holds us in what he called our “borrowed dust” for our short while on earth–the best, the only place for love.
In his last chapel talk (2001), using a line from a poem by Stanley Kunitz, Con said, “I have walked through many lives, some of them my own.” Indeed, Con contained multitudes.
Near the end, when Con was in the hospital, before he came home for hospice care, he said to his daughter, Jane, “I still have some talents left. One of them is sleeping. Another one is laughing.”
So like Con: able to sort by scent the smoke of sleep and laughter. He was, to the very end, the poet of the ordinary’s miracle.