YAM Notes: November/December 2014

By Marty Snapp

Congratulations to Bill Tift, the newest member of the Whiffenpoofs! “Last October all of us except Mike Kail and Rick Kinscherf got together in Atlanta,” says Tom “Erogenous” Jones. “We had already decided we wanted Bill to become a full member of the Whiffs, so we sang him in and gave him his Whiff nickname. Henceforth and forever, he is ‘Laxa’ Tift.” The Whiffs also chose Tom to be their new Popocatepetl, or business manager, succeeding Peter Bonoff, who died last year.

And my thanks to Bill Mace, who caught an error in the last issue about our four classmates who founded a halfway house in New Haven for mental patients while we were still undergrads—Reece Burka, Dick Glendon, Chuck Lidz, and Bill himself. Trouble was, I misspelled Reece’s name as “Burks,” not “Burka.” I assumed the error was mine, but it turns out the boo-boo was in the original Yale Daily News story in the spring of our senior year, from which I got my information. Sorry, Reece!

Dave Hughes has retired from the music department of London University’s School of Oriental and African studies, where he taught for 32 years. “Combining my folkie roots and my Japanese linguistics studies at Yale, of course I ended up as a Japanese music specialist,” he says. “I’m still involved in numerous Japanese music events, which is what led the UK’s Japan Society to give me their 2011 award for ‘outstanding contributions to Anglo-Japanese relations and understanding.’ Lovely, except that I had to wear a tie to the award dinner—rather non-folkie.”

Steve Witty has been chosen as one of 14 artists in Colorado to participate in the CSArt project, a joint venture of the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art and the Denver Botanical Gardens, for the purpose of bringing together Colorado artists with Colorado art collectors. Steve, who has been taking photographs since he was a boy, also paints and has published poetry in a number of magazines. He and Cheryl live on a small ranch in Chaffee County, where he continues to practice Jungian analysis and clinical psychology near Salida, Colorado, and in Colorado Springs.

Roy O’Neil has written the book and lyrics for a musical entitled Eddie & The Palaceades, which got its premiere at the Midtown International Theatre Festival in New York City. It’s the story of a rock band that once opened for the Beatles, fell into obscurity, and is now determined to save the crumbling theater, the Palace, where their careers began. The composer, Stephen Feigenbaum, is also a Yalie: YC ’11, ’13MusM.

Sadly, we have lost three more classmates: Justin Baldwin, John Olin Campbell, and Tom Morrison. There’s not enough room to write about all three in one column; so I’ll write about Tom now, and if you have any thoughts to share about Justin or John, please send them to me for the next issue.

Tom, who died on July 7 from a debilitating neurological disease, was one of the smartest members of our class. (I believe he graduated second.) And one of the nicest. He, Charlie Corcoran, and Steve Dungan roomed together all four years, first on the Old Campus and then in Calhoun, where David Spiegel joined them for the last three. “I had the utmost respect for him, even though he did not always approve of the women I dated,” says Steve. “His life was cut short far too early, and I am very saddened by his passing.”

There seemed nothing that Tom didn’t excel at. He was the drum major of his high school band and led them in the 1962 Tournament of Roses parade. At his Yale interview he so impressed director of admissions Robert Ramsey, he was admitted on the spot. As a volunteer with the Ulysses S. Grant Foundation, he honed the mentoring skills that were to serve him so well later at UC–Davis, where, as a professor and vice chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, he was a beloved mentor to many young psychologists and psychiatrists at the beginning of their careers. He was also instrumental in developing the department’s postdoctoral program in clinical psychology.

At UC–Davis he met the love of his life, Lisa Farquhar Morrison, whom he married in 1982. He doted on their two children, Chandra and Matt, helping them with homework, playing catch in the front yard, driving them to ballet and karate lessons, spending weekends at Chandra’s Scottish highland dance competitions, and coaching Matt’s Little League team. He adored taking Matt to Giants games in San Francisco and spending hours together looking through their respective baseball card collections (including those from Tom’s own childhood).

He loved mystery novels, cycling along the American River bike trail, family vacations in Ocean City, New Jersey, and Sea Island, Georgia, and watching outdoor plays at the Shakespeare Santa Cruz Festival.

Sadly, all that was cut short by the unexpected development of a devastating neurological condition at age 59. Although confronted by increasing mental and physical impairments, Tom faced them with his usual courage, grace, and sense of humor, marked by his signature vivacious laugh.

“That laugh was infectious, and he took delight in silly things,” says Charlie. “Big Mama (and she was big) dancing in the James Brown television review reduced him to tears of laughter. When his freshman history teacher opined that at some point the Roman Empire had become ‘concomitantly shot to hell,’ he guffawed at the contrast in language and repeated it with delight for his roommates. I loved his company. He was a stimulating friend and a stupendously intelligent man, with a vibrant sense of humor. The world is a sadder and a quieter place without him.”

Donations to the Thomas L. Morrison Endowment may be mailed to Health Sciences Development, 4900 Broadway Blvd., Suite 1150, Sacramento, CA 95820 (Please make checks payable to the UC–Davis Foundation and note ‘In memory of Thomas L. Morrison’ on the check.)