YAM Notes: March/April 2017

By Martin M. Snapp, Jr.

In December Jerry de Jaager posted this tip on the class listserv: “When your next issue of the Metropolitan Museum Journal arrives in the mail, don’t let it just pile up with all those past issues. There’s a great piece in it by Russ Sale, the beautiful product of a lot of years of deep thinking.”

Good advice, because the article, “Protecting Fertility in Fra Filippo Lippi’s Portrait of a Woman with a Man at a Casement,” is a fascinating historical interpretation of the great Florentine artist’s masterpiece that, among other things, reveals a lot of erotic imagery beneath the surface. Randy Alfred calls it “a very scholarly investigation of some very earthy iconography.” Russ says Jerry deserves a share of the credit, “both in finding crucial visual evidence that convinced me that my initial hypothesis about the male figure’s gesture had merit, and for reading the essay at a critical point and giving me sage editorial advice before I sent it off to the publisher.”

If you’d like to read it, e-mail Russ and he’ll send you a PDF. “It’s probably my last art-historical endeavor, since acquiring the illustrations and the rights to publish them cost me over $1,000 out of pocket,” he says. “But the project took me down unexpected historical pathways, which proved to be quite enjoyable as well as a challenge to compose into a meaningful argument.”

Our man in Istanbul, Sefik Buyukyuksel, reports that last April’s Yale Symphony Orchestra concert at Carnegie Hall, featuring his wife, Idil Biret, as the piano soloist (Remember how he had her picture on the wall when we were undergraduates?) was a huge success. “The great hall had more than 2,000 in attendance, and some of our classmates must have been among them. Jim Miller came with eight of his family members. President Salovey made a moving introductory speech before the concert, referring to the proud 50-year history of the YSO. (It was formed in 1965 while we were sophomores.) Idil played Hindemith’s Piano Concerto, which he composed in 1945, immediately after the end of World War II when he was teaching at Yale.

“The second half of the concert was conducted magisterially by our own John Mauceri, ending in a great burst of applause. Idil and I had a most pleasant dinner with John in New Haven the week before. I was deeply moved to learn that both John and I had taken the course Music 50—History of Romantic Music, taught by Prof. Robert Bailey. While music was not my major, this course and that of Prof. George Kubler (Art and Architecture of Pre-Columbian America) and an arts course on iconography taught by Mary Chase were the most memorable of my Yale years.”

By the way, John’s delightful multimedia presentation at our last reunion, “Music and the Movies,” was such a hit, he’s been prevailed upon to give us an encore at the next one. This time he’ll focus on Broadway, from Gershwin to Hamilton. Another star at our last reunion was Karl Marlantes, whose talk about the lessons learned and unlearned from Vietnam will never be forgotten by anyone who heard it. Karl has expanded it into an article in the January 7 edition of the New York Times titled “The War That Killed Trust”. “Before the Vietnam War, most Americans were like me,” Karl writes. “After the Vietnam War, most Americans are like my children.” Chris Kule—aka Former Naval Person—says it has “some truly astonishing critical comments. Karl’s voice needs to be heard.”

Our own piano man, Bob Allison, reports, “In what must surely be attributed to a fit of good luck rather than to talent or diligence, I made a small appearance last fall in a movie starring former Mission Impossible regular Martin Landau. Said movie, titled The Last Poker Game, features Landau as he grapples with the challenges of his wife’s moving into an Alzheimer’s specialty facility where a new love interest may blossom. My bit is as an entertainer, singing and playing holiday songs for the residents of an actual Alzheimer’s residence in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Quite a thrill to sign my first Screen Actors Guild temporary agreement at age 70!”

Sadly, Alzheimer’s has claimed the life of Bill Steele, who died December 17. After Yale he put down deep roots in Connecticut, practicing law for 41 years at Pinney Payne in Danbury, where Marty Rader was his partner. He served on the vestry at St. Paul’s Church in Brookfield and the board of the Burnham Library in Bridgewater. “Bill was extremely proud of his four children and their spouses and deeply endeared to his eight grandchildren,” said his death announcement. “He loved staying apprised of and participating as fully as possible in their evolving lives. Through words and example, Bill embodied love, stability, generosity, and goodness. Always honest, thoughtful, and kind, Bill was well known by friends, colleagues, and clients as a true gentleman.”

“Every word is true,” says Marty. “Especially ‘Always honest, thoughtful, and kind, Bill was well known by friends, colleagues, and clients as a true gentleman.’” In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in Bill’s name are encouraged to: Alzheimer’s Association Maine Chapter, 383 U.S. Route 1, Suite 2C, Scarborough, ME 04074.

And finally, my sincerest sympathy, regretfully belated, to Stu Phillips, whose wife Laura, a registered nurse, died in September 2015 from cancer of the pancreas. “Laura and I met in 1975 at St. Raphael’s Hospital when I was a Yale resident in orthopedics rotating through. She was putting my patients to sleep for surgery as a nurse-assistant,” he writes. “During her life she was also a nurse-administrator, a writer, a tennis champion (USTA #3 in the Southwest), and tireless charity worker. I miss her every minute of every day.”

Such sad tidings, but not unexpected at our age—all the more reason to savor the pleasure of each other’s company one more time in June.