YAM Notes: March/April 2014

By Marty Snapp

Last July 1, John Mauceri completed seven years as chancellor of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, leading the school through the most challenging financial times in its 50-year history. Among his achievements: increasing the endowment by 60 percent, lobbying both Republican and Democratic leaders in securing special appropriations to build four new buildings, securing funds for a television series, signing an exclusive cooperative agreement with the American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, appointing world-famous deans to run its various conservatories, achieving the cleanest audit record in the UNC System, and a student retention rate second only to UNC–Chapel Hill.

“Since moving back to New York City with Betty—we just celebrated our 45th anniversary!—life has only gotten more gloriously hectic,” John writes. “Concerts in Cologne, Germany, Los Angeles, London, and Vancouver have kept me bouncing back and forth for the past few months, and I have managed to write a steady stream of posts for theHuffington Post. I suppose the most gratifying new project involves composer Danny Elfman and a series of concerts we have been doing together of his music.”

John was recently heard on NPR’s All Things Considered on Verdi’s 200th birthday and on the BBC’s Music Matters on the recent publication of Leonard Bernstein’s letters. He keeps running into Yalies wherever he goes.

“Because Betty and I stayed in New Haven for 15 years after I graduated, there are a lot of people who played in the Yale Symphony, attended concerts in Woolsey Hall, or toured with us to France and Vienna in the early 1970s. Last week, the principal oboist of the Vancouver Symphony, Roger Cole, reminded me that he played with the YSO 40 years ago when he attended the Yale School of Music; and the other night at the Metropolitan Opera, James Meehan ’71 came up to me to say hello. James played the Newberry Organ when we did Scriabin’s Prometheus in 1970 and then played the Bernstein Mass at Yale two years later.” Ed Bass was in the basement of Woolsey Hall for the Scriabin performance, operating the smoke that filled the auditorium for the coordinated lightshow. “Ed never actually heard the concert,” John laughs, “because he was literally under it!”

Meanwhile, members of our 1964 frosh heavyweight crew convened in Philadelphia for a two-day reunion to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their victory against Harvard. “Many tall tales were shared regarding quick catches and pushing our swirling puddles past the rudder post,” reports Narelle Kirkland. “Old oars who attended were John Born, Bob Emmet, Dan Jones, Alec Kerr, Bob Ramage, Ted Swenson, Carter (Pete) Willsey, and me. Contacted by cell or e-mail during the event were Dick Frandeen, Pete Lee, and George Shuster. Coach E. Arthur (Gilly) Gilcreast also shared some phone commentary about our blade work. Lightweight freshmen were represented by Dick (Moon) Munoz, who provided comfort and cocktails. Lastly, we saluted our bowman, Dick Hoffman, who sadly passed away a few weeks prior to the gathering.”

But before Dick died, he wrote two documents. The first was a letter to his crewmates: “In the past couple of weeks my body has taken a sharp turn around a buoy, and I regret that I will be unable to join you in Philly. My spirit will be with you—raucous and full of fond memories. The light is fading, and I have begun my final 500m sprint. For that, I bring the same laser focus that we applied during our Yale crew races. The finish line is fast approaching.

“Two years ago I was diagnosed with dispersed peritoneal cancer—a rare and invariably lethal matrix. Thanks to some deft surgery, I have had good quality of life right up until now. At the moment, all functions are shutting down, but I am at peace. I’ve had a lucky life, and have an amazing wife and friends with me for the final effort.

“One of the hallmarks of my freshman crew experience was the diversity of personalities, and how we were able to blend them into some fast boats, with excellent swing and run. I salute you all. I have clear and fond memories of our camaraderie and of our achievements on the water. As we live on as aging athletes, we are certainly a group where the last lines of Tennyson’s Ulysses apply: ‘To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.’

“Fare forward, my friends, and have a blast at this reunion.”

The second document was his own obituary:

“Richard B. (Dick) Hoffman died September 26, 2013, in Charlottesville, Virginia, after a two-year adventure with peritoneal cancer. Dick retired after 30 years with the National Park Service, where he worked as a wayside (outdoor) exhibit planner and writer. From Florida’s Everglades to Alaska’s Denali, Dick’s park projects led to many adventures, including international assignments in India, Bulgaria, and Poland. After retirement in 2004, he wrote poetry; raced kayaks and outrigger canoes, often partnering with his wife Audrey; and volunteer-tutored refugees in English as a Second Language and GED students in math and English. Two volumes of his poetry are/will be available: Weathering Wilderness (published November 2013 by Birch Brook Press) and Hold You in the Light (expected spring 2014 by Birch Brook Impressions).

“From his Yale days Dick fondly remembered his freshman crew teammates and kept on partying with several lifetime friends and alumni, including Class of 1967’s Ward (Sabin) Lamson, Bruce Brand, Chip Bessey, and Jonathan Miller. Classmates may remember Dick’s direction of a raucous Lysistrata in the Davenport courtyard and his mischievous twinkle.”

Dick is survived by his daughter, Angela Hoffman Geddes; his sister, Sue Hoffman; his stepdaughter, Alison Travers; and his wife, Audrey Dannenberg, who said, “We should all live life to the end with such grace and strength.”

Donations in Dick’s memory may be made to Yale or to the National Park Foundation, 1201 Eye Street NW, Suite 550B, Washington, DC 20005.