YAM Notes: January/February 2018

By Martin M. Snapp, Jr.

Last February, Mark Chodoff, an eminent surgeon in his own right, posted this note on our class listserv: “Because he will never beat his own drum, I am pleased to let you all know that George Lazarus has been awarded the 2017 Gold Medal for Meritorious Service to Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons and its alumni association. This is the highest honor that the school can bestow, and is, I can confirm, well deserved. To further embarrass George, I am including the citation: ‘George M. Lazarus, P&S Class of 1971, longtime member of the clinical faculty in the Department of Pediatrics at P&S, has devoted his life to caring for the young, serving patients, and mentoring students daily, and in so doing, promulgating the core values of our great medical school. A former director and staunch supporter of the P&S Alumni Association, and of the P&S Club, his service as a longstanding member of the P&S Admissions Committee is legendary. Dr. Lazarus’s annual reception at his home for current and past P&S students interviewed by him is one of the best kept secrets of P&S alumni outreach.’”

To which Dave McCarthy, a cardiac specialist and fellow P&S grad, replied, “No one deserves this honor more than George. I didn’t really know him at Yale, but we met the first day of med school (we lived across the hall in Bard Hall, the student dorm). He has become a good friend, and Linda and I are fortunate to see him and Shelly (and Mark and Abby) at least twice every five years on two reunion cycles. On a personal note, he was very supportive and helpful when my daughter was born prematurely at Columbia and cared for by the head neonatologist, under whom George had served as chief resident in pediatrics.”

At that, the honoree responded, “I cannot tell you how moved I am. Mark is someone I have admired and respected since our undergraduate days. I am so proud to be his classmate, both at Yale and at Columbia. He is a great friend. There is no group I care about more than my Yale classmates. This is a feeling that has been expressed by others on this listserv in the past. That I and many others feel this way says a lot about our class.”

In other medical news, Al Weihl has retired for the second time, having worked ten winters in the emergency department at Vail Valley Medical Center in Colorado. Al previously worked at Yale New Haven Hospital from 1987 to 2006 in the adult emergency department, where he founded the residency training program in emergency medicine. And it sounds like he’s serious about retirement this time: “I’m now dividing my time between Maui (summers) and Vail (winters).” Bob DeLucia has retired from Prudential Retirement as chief economist and founded his own economic consulting firm, Veritas Economics Analysis LLC. “My clients are primarily insurance companies and wealth management companies in the northeast and midwest,” he says. The Family Firm Institute has awarded Dennis Jaffe its 2017 International Award for outstanding achievement in furthering the understanding of family business issues that occur between two or more countries. To quote: “He has been helping business families thrive, developing programs to help financial advisors and wealth managers gain knowledge and skills needed to serve their family clients.”

Finally, it’s my sad duty to announce that we have lost three more classmates: Pete Hazard, Larry Bradley, and Neil Cohen. I’ll talk about Neil next time, but for now I’d like to talk about Larry and Pete. Larry died last year on January 21 in Tucson, Arizona, but he is buried in El Cerrito, California, in a double grave he and his wife, Jana, purchased so they could be buried near her parents. Shortly after their marriage in 1971 they moved to England for a year while he worked on his PhD thesis, then he spent the next quarter of a century teaching English at Butler University before retiring to Tucson. He was much loved by family, friends, colleagues, and students, and is greatly missed. My deepest sympathy to Jana and his adored Irish Wolfhound, Sofie.

Less than two weeks after Larry, Pete died on February 4. A celebrated trial lawyer in Martinsburg and Charleston, West Virginia, specializing in medical negligence and murder cases, he was famous for his encyclopedic knowledge of medicine and understanding of the medical field—to the point where his colleagues called him “Dr. Hazard.” His courtroom skills transferred nicely to the stage, where he starred in many productions of the Kanawha Players. He was a passionate Civil War buff and an avid mountain climber and fisherman. He caught the fishing bug from his grandfather and passed it on to his own children, who would happily get up at the crack of dawn to cast a line with dad. He was also a dedicated volunteer with Manna Meal and Habitat for Humanity. In short, a good man.

“Pete loved to laugh, and you couldn’t help but join in,” recalls Bill Johnston. “His stories made you start to giggle even before he got to the punch line. No overly serious discussion could survive his wry one-liners. It was hard to be depressed in his company. Although he spent his career as a trial lawyer, he also understood practical arts—things that were not taught at Yale, like how to frame a door, or set forms for a concrete foundation, or guide a canoe through rapids. I learned most of what I know about construction from Pete, after he invited me to join him building a house near Martinsburg in 1971. On weekends our construction crew would sometimes paddle through the white-water sections of the North Fork River, with Pete steering from the stern. Pete inspired complete trust. He said what he meant. He did what he promised. There was never another agenda. I was fortunate to meet him at Yale.”