YAM Notes: May/June 2019

By Marty Snapp

Classmates, it’s my sad duty to inform you that Dave Storrs, one of the nicest guys in our class, died unexpectedly of cardiac arrest on March 3. “David was a brilliant man with sterling character and judgment who lived life to the fullest,” said Stewart Greenfield, who cofounded Alternative Investment Group with him. “He is a role model to us of a life well lived. His intellectual curiosity, passion for investing, and dedication to the nonprofits he served will always be a source of inspiration.”

Previously, Dave was president of Commonfund, and before that he was Yale’s first director of investments. At different stages of his life, he was an accomplished wrestler, skier, squash player, pilot, world traveler, and bridge player. His lifelong passion, however, was sailing. In 1961, at age 16, he towed his sailboat across the country to place second in the North American Lightning Championship. Two years ago, at age 72, he won the prestigious US Match Racing National Championship and Prince of Wales Bowl. He was taught to fly by his wife Landon, and before long they were racing sailboats side by side.

On hearing of his death, the Oakcliff Sailing Center posted this on its website: “Match Racing as a discipline doesn’t always lend itself to civility on the racecourse. It is the most aggressive type of racing. Somehow, David always managed to compete as a gentleman. The worst he could muster was a level of frustration, and it was more often than not directed at himself. He will be missed for all the things he did, but probably even more for his positive, supportive attitude toward everyone. He always looked for the positive in people and situations and communicated that to the world around him.”

Family, friends, colleagues, and classmates adored Dave for his patience, kindness, curiosity, and integrity. His social grace smoothed the way wherever he went, making everyone around him feel welcome and respected.

“So sad to lose Dave,” says Andre Ptaszynski. “As a foreign student, I was touched by how available he was to the entire community—always a warm greeting delivered with an easy smile and a reassuring presence, from the first days of freshman year all the way through graduation.”

“David was a good friend and a valued classmate for a very long time,” says Mike Orlansky. “From the outset of freshman year, when we were Wright Hall neighbors, it seemed to me that he embodied all the skills, qualities, and virtues to which Yale students should aspire. He was bright, articulate, self-assured, well-dressed, fluent in French, internationally traveled, a multi-sport athlete, a generous donor, and an able fund-raiser. His handshake was firm, he looked you in the eye, and he moved easily in social circles. David could talk knowledgeably with anyone about anything—and in Branford’s dining hall we often did. His roots in New England ran deep, and throughout his life he was exceptionally dedicated to our class and to Yale. I will remember David Storrs well, and in those memories his predominant color will always be Yale Blue.”

“He was always courteous and a gentleman to me,” says Barry Bardo, who, like many of us, spent freshman year marveling at all the brilliant people in our class and wondering how in the world he ever got into Yale. “Once, in English 25, I made a presentation on Paradise Lost, and it led to a heated discussion about heavenly hierarchies. Dave and I briefly debated the subject, and at the end of it he smiled at me, winked, and said, ‘OK, Barry, let’s say you’re right. You’re smarter than I am.’ Now, both of us knew that wasn’t true, but, as a shell-shocked freshman from a public high school, hearing such a remark from a Pomfret graduate made me feel like maybe I did belong at Yale, after all. I was grateful then and ever since for Dave as a gracious gentleman and friend, and I always looked forward to seeing him at reunions. I have lost a Branford classmate and friend, and our class has lost a very good man.”

“I first met David at AIESEC Yale in our junior year,” says Bruce Fenton. “AIESEC was and remains a university-based international student job/intern exchange program. The concept was that you got a job for a foreign student in the US and then you could go abroad. David was president of AIESEC Yale for the 1966/67 year. During his term it was the most successful AIESEC chapter in the US, which is saying a lot. I felt like he mentored me at AIESEC, even though he would probably not have put it like that. David was a real class act. He is one of the two men outside my family who most impressed me.”

Finally, a personal note. Dave’s death hits me especially hard because we had a falling-out freshman year and didn’t speak for decades. But at our 50th reunion, as everyone was filing out after the Kingman Brewster retrospective panel in Sprague Hall, he sat down beside me and said, “Marty, what really happened all those years ago?”

I told him my story, he told me his story, and as we put the pieces together we realized that it had all been a horrible mistake, that we had totally misjudged each other due to someone misleading us.

We were stunned, then angry, and finally very sad that we had missed out on 50-plus years of friendship. We talked and talked and talked and talked. It felt like 15 minutes, but it actually lasted for hours; we had a lot of catching up to do. We vowed to stay in touch after the reunion (which, I’m happy to say, we did) and parted as true friends.

My last words to him were “Please take care of yourself. Having just gotten you back, I don’t want to lose you again.”

But now I have. Goodbye, my friend.