YAM Notes: September/October 2009

By Rich Banbury

As the last days of May seeped into the first week of June, thousands of proud Americans visited the consecrated cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, the final resting place for those 8,000 brave countrymen who perished on the beaches of Normandy.  Among those who bowed in silence before the awe-inspiring diagonal rows of white crosses were Jim Ervin, Bill Peace, Steve Phillips and Charlie Weymouth.  Bill and Steve are ex-pat residents of England and France respectively.  All former Navy officers, as well as members of Yale’s NROTC program, these four classmates were in two different groups which spent several memorable and transformative days in the grip of history, tempered by the beautiful French countryside and the warmth of local townsfolk.  Just a few days later, our guys having formed a memorial beachhead, President Barack Obama and various European leaders arrived to recognize and honor the 65th anniversary of D-Day.

Any keen-eyed classmates visiting the National Museum of the Marine Corps at Quantico, which opened in 2006, will notice the name of Rob Hanke leading the list of founders inscribed on the left wall of the rotunda.  (The Museum is in Triangle, Virginia, about thirty-two miles south of Washington.)  A retired colonel, Rob’s distinguished career as a Marine pilot includes serving as Top Gun of the 2nd Marine Air Wing, more than 50 missions as a fighter pilot during the Cuban missile crisis, and as a NASA test pilot for the Gemini and Apollo programs.  The Distinguished Flying Cross and the Legion of Merit are among his myriad decorations.  Rob and Lynn currently produce, and in some cases write, plays and independent films through their enterprise Polaris Arts Ltd., which is based in New York and London.  Included in these credits is Orlando, a British feature film co-produced by Rob and Lynn and distributed by Columbia Classics, which received two Academy Award nominations.  Based on a Virginia Woolf novel, Orlando features an Elizabethan nobleman who, bending both time and gender, morphs into a modern day woman.

Peter Goss and John Negroponte, familiar by experience with the corridors of power in Washington, continue as impact players.  Porter authored an influential op-ed piece for the Washington Post defending the interrogation tactics of the Bush administration, during which he took a turn as CIA Director.  A former Deputy Secretary of State, Director of National Intelligence and United Nations Ambassador, John will be teaching both undergraduate and grad students as a Senior Research Fellow at Yale.  This assignment includes joining Paul Kennedy, John Lewis Gaddis, and Charles Hill in teaching Studies in Grand Strategy, the plum international relations course in Yale College.

When John Wilkinson takes some time to get away from it all, there are no half-way measures.  John’s initial destination is a remote cabin in Colorado, and from that command post he treks to the haunts of big horned sheep, mule deer, black bear, mountain lions, and coyotes who sing through the night under luminous star-filled skies.  Even in the land of singing coyotes, John doesn’t quite set himself free from all electronic tethers and confesses to reading the Times every day on the web.

It seems a strange coincidence that two of the best criminal lawyers in the Class both practice in West Haven, about eleven miles from the Old Campus.  I wonder if Bob Mirto and Ed Leavitt, a former prosecutor and Superior Court Judge, should think about joining forces.

In response to my inquiry about secret party venues, Brad Miller ’89 reports that the largest suite in Silliman, known as the Beach Club, was always reserved for five seniors and, although there was nothing secretive about it, the occupants, including Brad, “were required to throw frequent parties in the cavernous common room (about 40 feet square)”.  The ambiance of their spacious lair, on the first floor facing Grove Street, was enhanced by “a mural of a beach scene, complete with palm trees” on one wall of the huge, 1600-square-foot common room.  Brad keeps an eye on our Class notes out of respect for Larry Gibbs, who originally helped steer him from Dallas to New Haven.