YAM Notes: July/August 2020

By Marty Snapp

Hi everyone. Well, this isn’t the way we wanted to spend our old age, was it? Nor is this the world we wanted to hand off to our grandchildren. Let’s hope for better days, preferably sooner rather than later.

And we haven’t given up working for those better days, either; for example, Victor Ashe, who will be running for a seat on the Yale Corporation next year, promising more transparency in Yale’s decision-making. Victor was Mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee for 16 years, and from 2004 to 2009 he served George W. Bush as our ambassador to Poland and continued that service under Barack Obama. Currently, he is collecting signatures for his nominating petition. To find out more about him and his platform, it’s all on our class website, Yale67.org.

Jim Peterson recently published two books on economics, Count Down: The Past, Present and Uncertain Future of the Big Four Accounting Firms, and DOA: Can Big Audit Survive the UK Regulators, which you can read more about on the class website, along with his thoughts on how much the situation has changed due to the coronavirus pandemic since they came out.

But how did a deejay at WYBC wind up being an expert in the dismal science? “After all those thousands of hours in the WYBC studios, I was diverted late in our senior spring from an intended path toward journalism by an unexpected invitation from the Yale Law School,” he says. “Life being full of surprises, that led to a decade on Wall Street where I learned that I was not cut out for trial practice, thence to 19 years in the in-house legal group with Arthur Andersen – first in Chicago and ending in Paris as the firm’s senior lawyer in Europe. Early retirement the year before Andersen’s Enron-driven disintegration (no causal relationship between the two) led to solo practice with continuing concentration on the issues of the large accounting firms, and also back to the words business – first with a column in the now-lamented International Herald Tribune, then to Re:Balance, the blog I have written since, and finally to these two books.”

Meanwhile, have you ever wondered what the students who have received Bill Hilgendorf Fellowships did with the money? Wonder no longer. Peter Petkas got a list of the 2018 and 2019 recipients, plus the essays they wrote about their experiences, including interning at a documentary film festival in Lisbon, interning in the combined Political and Economic Section at the U.S. Consulate General in Barcelona, and serving as a political analyst at the U.S. Consulate in Munich. And, yes, they’re all on our website, too, along with a note from Murilo Enrique ’23, the current Joe Briley Scholar, who lives in Silliman. “I am aware of the privilege that allowed me to have this educational opportunity,” says Murillo, “and because of that, I will do everything in my power to put it to its best use. I can only say thank you for the opportunity.”

Unhappily, it’s my sad duty to add another name to our growing list of lost classmates: Peter Ecklund, a modest man with a huge musical talent. Kurt Vonnegut said that one of the chief functions of art is to make people feel better about life. That’s how Peter’s artistry on the cornet made you feel.

Peter died April 8 after a nearly two decades-long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. The list of his collaborators reads like a musical who’s who of the last 50 years: Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, the Grateful Dead, Paul Butterfield, David Bromberg, Gregg Allman, Maria Muldaur, Leon Redbone, Loudon Wainwight, Gloria Gaynor, Vince Giordano and many others.

“Peter was a talented musician who specialized in traditional jazz, particularly Dixieland,” says Bob Jenks, who roomed with him junior and senior year. “He was also a very skilled whistler, and you can listen to him whistle on some of his recordings, like ‘Laughing at Life’ by The Orphan Newsboys, a quartet of which he was a founding member. Peter was a remarkable person with a wonderful, incisive intellect. He also had a subtle, understated sense of humor that often made me laugh out loud.”

“Whenever I remember Peter, there’s a trumpet in the picture,’ says Mike Orlansky. “Maybe I’m hearing his crisp, clear tone coming from somewhere behind me in the Yale Concert Band. Or he’s in a dimly-lit jazz club, picking up a tune from another member of the combo and then passing it on. Or we’re just talking after a concert while Peter holds his trumpet in one hand.

“Peter was a thoughtful and considerate person. He had a gentle, soft-spoken manner, and was well-liked and respected by everyone in the Yale Band, the Yale Symphony Orchestra, and the many other ensembles of which he was a part. People who got to know Peter appreciated his light and whimsical side. He liked to whistle long, complicated pieces, and naturally was quite adept at that. I never heard Peter say an unkind word about anyone. Although Peter has left us, his music and the memories of his friendship remain.”

You can read more about Peter and listen to some of his tunes on our class website, Yale67.org. I’d recommend starting with “Try A Little Tenderness.”