YAM Notes: July/August 2012

By Rich Banbury

Charleston is an American jewel.  No question about it.  Our low country Reunion in March, masterfully organized and executed by Jim Taylor and Charlie Duell, was a sublime success.  I know of no other American city which has done more to preserve its 18th and 19th century architecture than this coastal South Carolina treasure.  The historic district is not half a spoonful of dwellings, but rather hundreds of preserved ante-bellum homes, with mature shade trees lining dozens of beautiful streets and lanes.  The sound of horse hooves are never far away, and the silent pedal cabs are a quaint alternative to fuel-powered taxis.  The preservationists clearly rule Charleston, where Mayor Joe Riley has presided for 37 years.

A dozen or so miles northwest of the center of Charleston one can find Middleton Place, a national historic landmark with America’s oldest landscaped gardens, originally designed and planted in 1741, which was the ancestral homestead of Charlie Duell.  On the first night of this four-day reunion, Charlie and Sallie hosted 94 classmates and partners at the adjoining Inn at Middleton Place, followed by a wonderful performance by Ann Caldwell, emphasizing the music and culture of the African/American community.  A charismatic storyteller, as well as a splendid vocalist and musician, Ann performed later in the week at an eclectic concert downtown, booked as From Gospel to Gershwin.  It was at a convention in Charleston, on December 20, 1860, that South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union.  The tour of Fort Sumpter, in the outer harbor, presented an opportunity for classmates to walk the ground of the first battlefield of the Civil War.  That bloody four-year conflict and its antecedents remain palpable to visitors and dwellers alike.

On the second night, Bill Beadleston and Charlotte Beers welcomed the reunion participants to a wonderful reception at their stunning townhouse and gardens near the harbor.  Far from his roots in Shrewsbury, New Jersey, at least figuratively, Bill is a distinguished fine arts connoisseur and dealer of international acclaim.  In addition to Charlotte’s illustrious business career, and having been the first woman to appear on the cover of Fortune magazine, she served as the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs under Secretary of State Colin Powell.  Her recent book, I’d Rather Be in Charge (Vanguard Press), has been described as “A master class for women who are ready to learn from a legendary business leader how to shatter the glass ceiling.”  The Yale School of Management concurs, having recognized Charlotte with its Legend In Leadership Award.

Leisure time in Charleston allowed freelance explorations in this pedestrian-friendly habitat.  For instance, half a block on Meeting Street from our downtown encampment at the Mills House Hotel was a small eatery with the serendipitous name of Eli’s, where in fact several Elis took their low country breakfast of sweet potato pancakes.

The wonderful weather, fabulous restaurants, excellent events, traditional southern hospitality, and the charm of Charleston all set the stage for the this memorable Reunion, but of ultimate significance was the camaraderie of high-spirited, youthful-thinking classmates and partners, the intangible thread which made this such a remarkable chapter in the story of our Class.

Barry Schaller’s Veterans on Trial has just been published by Potomac Books.  This is a very topical study, addressing the pervasive influence of post-traumatic stress disorder on our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families.  As a respected judge and teacher, Barry has a particular interest in PTSD as a defense or mitigating factor in the criminal court system.  Even though combat veterans have experienced trauma in previous wars, Barry explains why Iraq and Afghanistan provide a context for understanding the deep emotional impact which PTSD can inflict on our veterans.  Certainly the clinical recognition and acceptance of post-traumatic stress, across a range of human experience, is now understood as a serious psychological illness.

The class executive committee which met for lunch at Branford College in April includes relative newcomers Harry Mazadoorian, Arvin Murch, Alvin Puryear, and David Wood.  Our summer fellowship programs continue to select and sponsor outstanding Yale undergraduates for an impressive range of interesting and challenging projects.  Arvin is now chairing the entire enterprise, with Pete Knudsen (Heinz), Chuck Schmitz (Aspin), and Mike Griffin (Branford) leading those dedicated committees.  Fifteen members of our class served on those panels.  Together, the three programs this year sponsored 16 students with total grants of $54,800.  We have taken one step closer to enlisting the class of 1986 as a potential successor to this unique enterprise.  Each of the screening panels this year included one representative of that class, with which we share strong bloodlines through John Wilkinson’s daughter Marie and Duncan Alling’s daughter Elizabeth.  Bob Ackerman, our watchful treasurer, assures that the $58,000 balance in our class account is well sheltered from the vicissitudes of at-risk investments.