YAM Notes: July/August 2021

By Marty Snapp

Dear friends, I have only bad news to report, and there’s more to come in the next issue. We have lost six more classmates: Bill Schaffer, George McGaughey, Ray Rahn, Rob Buford, Terry Batty, and Stephen Dahl. May their memories be a blessing. I won’t even try to cover them all in one column, even with the added space that our class website gives us, because I want to give them the full honors they deserve. So I’ll talk about Bill and George this time and save Ray, Rob, Terry and Stephen for later.

Bill Schaffer passed away January 16 in Tucson, Arizona of complications from Covid-19,” writes Bill Green. “He had recently retired from the University of Arizona, where he spent many years as a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. He is survived by his wife Tanya, a son Michael, and a daughter Maggie. I will miss him greatly.”

Frank Seinsheimer adds, “In the midst of this pandemic, it seems ironic that the consummate biologist, William Schaffer, was felled by biology. I remember him living, eating and thinking biology. I couldn’t take a walk in the woods with him without him commenting on the fact that the forest was secondary growth. In Senior year Bill was working on his senior thesis, analyzing the size, shape and anatomy of ram horns. He needed to measure the force experienced by the horns when two rams butted each other. One afternoon I drove out and met him at the Yale farm. Who knew Yale even had a farm?

“Bill needed to measure the force of the impact when two rams butted each other for his thesis. He fitted the horns of two rams with pressure transducers. We then put two rams in a pen together. We waited for something to happen. It was like ‘Silent Night.’ All was calm. Then Bill and I each straddled a ram. We faced the rams toward each other. We shoved the rams back and forth a little to excite them. Finally, we got the rams to butt each other. Bill obtained the data he needed for his thesis.”

George McGaughey died peacefully at home on February 28 with his wife Sarah Ott-Hansen, Yale ’82, at his side. He was the Easton Area High School Student Athlete of the Year and attended Yale on a Navy ROTC Scholarship. He served in the United States Marine Corps from 1967 to 1972. As a Radar Intercept Officer, he flew in the F4 Phantom II including a tour of duty in Vietnam in 1969-1970 where he flew over 270 combat missions and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He rose to the rank of Captain. During this time, he married his late wife, Sarah Yelverton. They were the loving parents of twin boys, Michael and Scott.

George attended the School of Law at Case Western Reserve University, graduating with distinction as a member of the Law Review and the Order of the Coif. He began a 40-year career at McDonald Hopkins LLC as a litigator and ethics counsel for the firm. George shared his love of the profession with others as an adjunct professor of trial practice at CWRU School of Law. He was active in the American Civil Liberties Union and was inducted into CWRU’s Society of Benchers.

After his first wife died, George found love again with his wife Sarah Ott-Hansen (Class of ’82). Known for his kindness, thoughtfulness, intelligence, good humor and wise judgement, he is deeply missed by all he met along his path in life, including his high school buddies, college and law school friends, fellow Marines (who called him “Sugar Bear”), legal colleagues and many lifelong and family friends.

“George was an amazing character as well as a dear friend who I now realize was a soulmate,” says Bruce Heintz. “A sweet man with a big heart, he was fun-loving and often displayed a devilish smile. During the semester, George didn’t seem to spend that much time studying, but then two days before a History final, he’d go ‘underground’ and ace the test. I was one of his roommates in Morse along with Joe Fairbanks and Lonnie Nesseler, both now deceased. While George had been a star high school football player, at Yale I considered him a closet intellectual – that is, he wanted to be accepted as just one of the guys, but he additionally possessed a deep intellectual curiosity that allowed him to pursue the intricacies of history, civics, music and more. George was always a great companion, ready at a moment’s notice to head out to Edgewood Pizza late on a Saturday night.”

Rick Taft adds, “The only time I had to hire a litigator to be my personal counsel when I was deposed, I turned without hesitation to George, who treated every issue we encountered in a wonderfully matter-of-fact way. My lingering image of George is the first one I ever registered. He was on an ROTC scholarship and I remember looking out the Morse College dining hall window at his ramrod posture as he walked in full uniform heading for an ROTC meeting up the sloping path from the dining hall across the courtyard. He was clearly going to be a good officer, and I would come to learn he would be a good friend. Thus, he still strides in my memory, strong and gentle.”

George’s wife, Sarah Ott-Hansen, recalls some of his favorite memories of Yale and Morse: “Playing pool with Joe Fairbanks, from whom he learned to love R&B and particularly Sam Cooke; being onstage with fellow Morse road-trippers with Martha and the Vandellas when they played at Vassar; hitchhiking with Kirk Baird ‘66; Morse Football with Bruce, Kirk, and Bob Barth ’66; and learning to love jazz with the unique Lonnie Nesseler. George was the most patient and even-tempered man I have ever known. He talked about his fellow Marines in Vietnam quite a bit. When I asked how he could always stay so upbeat, he said, ‘Any day that no one is shooting at me is a good day.’ Last, but not least, every woman I know who met George and had the time to speak with him absolutely adored him.”