Donald Carswell ’50, NBC executive and leader of numerous community organizations in his native Brooklyn, died on March 25 of leukemia. He was 75.
Carswell received both his bachelor’s and business degrees from Harvard.
At Harvard, Carswell was an editor of the Crimson and was most well-known for his op-ed, “Beating the System,” that detailed how to do well on Harvard exams without really studying. The Crimson has run this op-ed every reading period since its debut on June 12, 1950. The op-ed won Carswell the Dana Reed Prize in 1951 for excellence in undergraduate writing and provoked a seething “Grader’s Reply” in 1962.
Carswell later went on to spend 36 years at NBC Television, working his way up from financial trainee in 1956 to senior vice president for finance in 1979. Carswell retained this post until 1990 when he assumed the title of Chief Financial Officer. He retired from NBC in 1992.
During his time at NBC, Carswell oversaw the budgets of numerous popular television shows, including “Cheers,” “The Cosby Show,” and “Seinfeld.”
Carswell was also a leading member of the Brooklyn community. He served on the board of Caledonian Hospital from 1960 until 1982 when it merged with the Brooklyn Hospital Center. Carswell then continued his board membership and joined the board of the Brooklyn Hospital Foundation.
Carswell was also a Trustee of the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, which honored the contributions he made during his ten-year tenure at a ceremony on April 3.
In addition, Carswell assisted in the establishment of Brooklyn Community Access Television, which aired the public awareness program “HealthWatch” which he helped create and write.
Furthermore, Carswell served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, NY, his alma mater. Under his leadership, Poly underwent unprecedented growth, according to Vincent J. Vigorita, who will succeed Carswell as Chairman of the Board.
“He was a remarkable person because he provided all this community service while never really seeking any personal pretension or accolades,” Vigorita said. “Anyone that knew him knew he was a man of great humor.”
Carswell is survived by his wife, Lois ’53; a daughter, Anne Carswell Tang; two sons, Alexander and Robert Ian; a brother, Robert; and four grandchildren.
–ALEXANDER H. GREELEY
Robert White Creeley, Poet, Editor
Robert White Creeley, a respected and innovative poet known for his brevity and unique use of phrasing, died on March 30 of complications from pulmonary fibrosis at a hospital in Odessa, Texas. He was 78.
Creeley was admitted to Harvard University in 1943 but left to become an ambulance driver in India for the American Field Service during World War II. Though he dropped out shortly before his 1947 graduation, he taught poetry at Harvard during the summer of 1972. He had also been invited to speak at this year’s Harvard Phi Beta Kappa ceremony.
“[Creeley’s relationship to Harvard] was more of a love-hate relationship,” recalled Louisa Solano, the owner of the historic Grolier Poetry Book Shop on Plympton Street—a place Creeley frequented as an undergraduate.
Solano said she knew Creeley well and was greatly distressed by the death of such a “warm” and “compassionate” man.
“I feel that the world of poetry has been shaken by his death,” Solano said. “The pantheon of modern poetry—[Allen] Ginsberg, Creeley, and [Phillip] Levine—is slowly passing away.”
Friends noted that Creeley was known for his emotional and intellectual techniques and his surprising resistance to revisions—claiming to have written his poetry intuitively rather than through a process of rewriting and revising.
Ruth Lepson—a poet and teacher who says she views Creeley as her mentor—recalls how he was often asked how his ideas flow so easily onto the paper.
“‘When you are swimming in the ocean you can’t control it,’” Lepson recalled Creeley saying.
“Spare as his poems are on the page, their large-heartedness is everywhere apparent,” said Stephen R. Williams ’06, noting the great respect and care he has for Creeley.
Lepson also discussed the ups and downs of Creeley’s life.
“Happily and sadly are perhaps the two words he wrote most—always seeing two sides,” said Lepson. “I’ve never seen such a happy-sad person in all my life.”
Writing and editing more than 60 works, Mr. Creeley received numerous honors for his efforts—including a Guggenheim fellowship, Yale University’s 1999 Bollingen Prize in Poetry, the Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award, two Fulbright fellowships, and a National Book Award nomination.
He was also a former chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
He was involved with Modernists like William Carlos Williams, the Beats, and then the Black Mountain poets like Olson.
Creeley taught for 25 years at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
Creeley is survived by his wife, Penelope, his first and second wives, Ann MacKinnon and Bobbie Louise Hawkins, and by his eight children.
–ANDREW R. MOORE
Rafiq Hariri, Former Prime Minister
In an incident that sparked an international diplomatic flare-up, the former prime minister of Lebanon—a benefactor of the Kennedy School of Government (KSG) and an opponent of Syrian involvement in Lebanon—died on February 14 when a massive explosion ripped through his motorcade in Beirut. He was 60.
According to the Associated Press, police reported that 14 were killed and 120 injured in the blast.
Rafiq Hariri amassed a large fortune in Saudi Arabia, where he created a construction company that became one of the largest in the Middle East. He used this money to support a variety of causes, including education and the rebuilding of Lebanon.
In 1992, Hariri established the Rafiq Hariri Professorship of International Political Economy at the KSG, which is currently held by Professor Dani Rodrik.
Hariri also established the Hariri Foundation in 1979. This foundation, dedicated to providing educational opportunities for Lebanese scholars, has provided funds to help students at the Kennedy School studying Lebanon.
Wissam Yafi, a 2002 KSG graduate, did research in the summer of 2000 on development in Lebanon since the end of its civil war. His research was funded by the Hariri Foundation, and Hariri helped him gain access to government officials and records.
“It’s just a great shame that the leader who was behind it was killed in such a fashion,” he said. “I was very impressed with the man.”
Yafi predicted that Hariri’s death would not be the end of his legacy.
“You just don’t kill Hariri’s vision; you build on it,” he said.
David J. Thompson, the public relations coordinator for the Hariri Foundation in the United States, said the foundation will continue to promote Hariri’s mission of education.
“The whole [Hariri] family is dedicated to the cause of Lebanon, and especially to building up its human resources through education,” Thompson said. “I anticipate that dedication will not change.”
In a message posted on the KSG website, Dean David T. Ellwood ’75 called Hariri “a distinguished member of the Kennedy School’s extended family” and expressed sadness over the death of “one of the most influential and most forward-looking leaders in the Middle East.”
“His philanthropic activities have benefited organizations and individuals around the world....The Kennedy School has greatly benefited from Mr. Hariri’s generosity,” Ellwood wrote.
–EVAN H. JACOBS
Stanley J. Korsmeyer, Professor, Researcher
Stanley J. Korsmeyer, a pioneer in the field of cancer research and a beloved professor at Harvard Medical School, died on March 31 of lung cancer. He was 54.
As director of the Program in Molecular Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Korsmeyer was best known for his ground-breaking research in “programmed” cell death, known as apoptosis.
Korsmeyer’s work involved the study of patients with human follicular B cell lymphoma. He discovered the Bcl-2 gene, which prevents the natural death of cancer cells.
Most recently, Korsmeyer and his colleagues were trying to manipulate apoptosis to force cancer cells to self-destruct, according to a press release from the Dana-Farber Institute.
At yesterday’s service, former director of the Dana-Farber Institute and friend David Nathan said Korsmeyer’s “sacrifice and personal impact changed all of our lives.”
Korsmeyer received his M.D. in 1976 from the University of Illinois in Chicago. He served as chief of the Division of Molecular Oncology at the University of Washington and eventually joined the Dana-Farber Institute in 1998.
A non-smoker, Korsmeyer was diagnosed with lung cancer in the winter of 2004. According to Edward J. Benz Jr., Dana-Farber’s president, Korsmeyer continued working until just a week before his death.
During Korsmeyer’s illness, Benz said, “He had two priorities: his family and the people who worked for him.”
David Nathans, former director of the Dana-Farber Institute, said Korsmeyer’s list of accomplishments is “simply too long to cite,” but they include election into the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Bristol-Meyers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Cancer Research.
Described as an “omnivorous” worker, Korsmeyer was admired by many for his generous spirit and kindness.
Ley recalled their shared childhood in rural Illinois, and the “principle of excellence” for which Korsmeyer stood, even as a child.
David Hockenbury, now an Associate Professor at the University of Washington, said, “I was last in his lab twenty years ago...I’ve been in touch ever since.”
“Stan was different,” said friend and colleague Stephen Sallan. “Uniformly, 100 percent loved by all of us.”
Korsmeyer is survived by his wife, Susan J. (Reynard) Korsmeyer, sons Jason Louis and Evan John Korsmeyer, and parents Willard and Carnell Korsmeyer.
–KRISTIN E. BLAGG
Ernst Mayr, Biologist, Professor
Evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr, often called the “Darwin of the 20th century,” died on Feb. 3 at his retirement community in Bedford, Mass. He was 100.
Mayr, who was born in Kempten, Germany, in 1904, was a member of the Harvard faculty for over half a century. He joined the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) as Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology in 1953 after holding a position at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He was also curator of Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology from 1961 to 1970.
Mayr was most renowned for his work in the field of evolutionary biology; he integrated Darwin’s theory of natural selection and Mendel’s theory of heredity to form the neo-Darwinist evolutionary synthesis that is still widely accepted today.
Although Mayr retired from his official professorship in 1975, he retained an active position in the world of science right up to his death last week. He published his 25th book in August last year, just a month after his 100th birthday. He also contributed to over 660 scientific papers in his lifetime.
“He never retired,” Mayr’s daughter Susanne Harrison said. “Technically he may have, but he always had five or six projects on his agenda. He never got to the point where he said ‘That’s enough’ and sat back to enjoy life–for him enjoying life was doing what he did, writing and researching.”
His late colleague at Harvard, Dr. Stephen J. Gould, once described the neo-Darwinist synthesis as “one of the half-dozen major scientific achievements in our century,” according to the New York Times.
Mayr also pioneered the study of the history and philosophy of biology, areas previously neglected by other biologists.
Mayr displayed signs of his future passion at a young age. At age 10, he could correctly identify species of local birds simply by hearing their calls, according to an obituary published in Bloomberg News.
Though he had planned to follow in family tradition and become a doctor after receiving a medicine degree from the University of Greifswald in 1925, a desire to travel led him to abandon medicine, according to a Harvard News Office press release. He then completed a doctorate in Biology at the University of Berlin just 16 months later.
After receiving his doctorate, he embarked on research expeditions through New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, where he was able to prove what Darwin did not—that new species arise from the geographical isolation of populations. This led to his definition of species as “an interbreeding population that cannot breed with other groups,” the press release said.
Scott V. Edwards, a student of Mayr’s and his successor to the Agassiz professorship, remembered his first encounter with his mentor. It was prior to his own overseas research, when Mayr told him to “write, write, write.”
“His dedication to excellence and productivity set a high standard for all biologists,” Edwards said.
Mayr won the Balzan Prize in 1983, the International Prize for Biology in 1994, and the Crafoord Prize in 1999. He donated most of the money from these lucrative awards to Harvard institutions such as the Museum of Comparative Zoology and the Nature Conservancy.
He is survived by two daughters, five grandchildren, and 10 great grandchildren.
–ALEXANDRA C. BELL
Kenzo Tange, Architect, Lecturer
Kenzo Tange, the face of 20th-century Japanese architecture, rebuilder of the city of Hiroshima after it was destroyed by an atomic bomb in 1945, and one-time Harvard lecturer, died on March 22 of heart failure at his home in Tokyo. He was 91.
Tange, winner of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1987, lectured at Harvard in 1972 in the Graduate School of Design (GSD) and also received an honorary doctorate from the University.
He was best known for his bold merging of Japanese and Western aesthetic values and innovatively creative forms. Prime examples of these principles are his internationally-renowned twin stadiums for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and St. Mary’s Cathedral in Tokyo. The redesign and reconstruction of Hiroshima after the atomic bombing which devastated it in 1945 was his first professional commission, and is still among his most lauded work.
Tange also attracted worldwide attention for his ambitious—and ultimately unfulfilled—plan for the development of Tokyo. He was commissioned to design for many foreign countries as well, among them Singapore, Kuwait, Italy, Australia and the U.S.
Eduard Sekler, Professor of Architecture Emeritus at GSD, who met Tange at the last meeting of the International Congress for Modern Architecture in 1959 and had remained friends with him ever since, commended Tange’s achievements.
“I consider Kenzo Tange one of the greatest architects in the second half of the twentieth century,” he said. “He has certainly been a trail-blazing figure for Japanese architecture.”
Tange was born in Osaka, Japan, and did not originally intend to become an architect, but rather showed an interest in astronomy. However, once he was exposed to the designs of Le Corbusier as a youth, there was no turning back.
He moved seamlessly from student to professor and then professor emeritus of architecture at Tokyo University and was greatly involved in teaching and lecturing his whole life.
“He educated a whole generation and became a model for them,” said Sekler. “There was always Kenzo Tange to measure themselves against.”
Tange also received the Royal Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1965, the medal of honor of the Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts, and the gold medal of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1966, among others. He was also an honorary Fellow of the AIA.
He is survived by his second wife, Takako Iwata, and their architect son, Noritaka.
–ALEXANDRA C. BELL
Sheldon White ’51, Psychologist, Professor
Professor Sheldon “Shep” White, a developmental psychologist known for his contributions to the field of childhood cognitive development, died of an unexpected heart failure on March 17. He was 76.
White, the Lindsley Professor of Psychology Emeritus, served on the faculty since 1965. He was chair of the Psychology Department for five years and retired from Harvard in 2001.
White was most famous for his research on how children learn.
In the 1960s, he helped develop several government programs for children, including Head Start and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
He also helped create the television program “Sesame Street.”
White’s colleagues and students praised him for the way in which he approached his profession.
“Professor White was the model of a scholar. He attacked important problems with an incisive mind and a sense of history. He was an elegant model for what a university faculty member should be,” said Jerome Kagan, the Starch Research Professor of Psychology.
In an original research paper, widely referred to as the “Five to Seven Shift,” White outlined the dramatic cognitive changes that happen to children between the ages of five and seven.
“White showed how childhood development is a product of schools and society’s design,” said University of Illinois Psychology Professor Philip Rodkin, a former doctoral student of White’s.
“At a time when so much work is oriented toward genetics and neuroscience, he was one of a small number of people who inspired me to see that the context, the situation, and the places that are built for kids can be as powerful as anything in the world,” said Rodkin.
Other studies by White focused on educational policy, the ethics of educational practice, and the history surrounding childhood development.
Rodkin commended White’s skepticism of his own field of study.
“In an amazing display of courage, [White] acknowledged that the work on the study of children wasn’t adding up to much...He shifted away from micro-analytical studies, becoming more interested in the study of the whole child,” he said.
White, a New York native, graduated from Harvard College in 1951, received his M.A. from Boston University in 1952, and earned his PhD at the State University of Iowa in 1957. After completing his doctorate, White taught at the University of Chicago before coming to Harvard.
“When people came in to talk to him, whether it be students, faculty or staff, he didn’t just go through the motions of paying attention to them. Academia is not filled with good listeners, and he was one,” said Maher.
Rodkin also noted White’s devotion to his students, recalling when White ate dinner with Rodkin and Rodkin’s grandmother.
“I was able to connect a personal part of who I am with my professional future, which is what [White] embodied as my advisor, and it is something I’ll always treasure,” said Rodkin.
White is survived by his wife Barbara, his two sons Andrew and Gregory, their respective wives Elizabeth and Amie, and his three grandchildren Olivia, Alexander, and Jonathan.
–CAROLYN A. SHEEHAN
Robert C. Wood, Policymaker, Author
Robert C. Wood—academic, policymaker under U.S. presidents John F. Kennedy ’40 and Lyndon B. Johnson, and institutional leader (notably of the University of Massachusetts system)—died on Friday at his home in Boston of stomach cancer. He was 81.
Wood earned a masters of public administration, a masters, and doctorate in government and political economy at Harvard, after completing his undergraduate work at Princeton. According to his wife, Margaret, he taught government courses at Harvard from 1954 to 1957 and his students included now-Sen. Edward M. Kennedy D-Mass.
While running for the presidency, John F. Kennedy sought Wood’s advice on urban issues and Wood wrote a campaign speech for him in 1960.
In 1958 he wrote “Suburbia, Its People and Their Politics,” one of the first books about the problems of the American city, according to his wife. He wrote several more books about government and urban welfare throughout his career, the last published in 1993.
In the 60s, while a member—and later chairman—of the Political Science Department at MIT, Wood led the task force in the Johnson administration that created the Department of Housing and Urban Development and served as the department’s first undersecretary. He helped create the Model Cities Program, which directed federal funds towards needy neighborhoods; and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which prohibited discrimination in real estate transactions. He also chaired the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in 1969 and 1970.
A “great part of working with him was that he was so involved with the country that you felt that whatever you said might make a difference,” said Jody Fisher Williams ’56, for whom Wood served as thesis adviser. She later worked under him at MIT and at the Harvard-MIT Joint Center for Urban Studies, where Wood was director from 1969 to 1970.
From 1978 to 1980, Wood served as superintendent of Boston schools during the Boston desegregation case. Marcy M. Murninghan EDD ’83—another thesis advisee of Wood’s and later a staff associate in his administration—said Wood was fired in 1980 when members of the committee that elected him “did not like that he was changing the culture of the system.”
“I learned so much from working with him as he tried to navigate through those shark-infested waters,” Murninghan added.
From 1970 to 1978, Wood was president of the University of Massachusetts system.
“He could work in the world of academia and the world of public life....he had big ideas about what going to make world a better place, and the political savvy to bring that to life,” said Murninghan.
“He was a wonderful teacher of undergraduates,” said Margaret Wood. “He urged students to go into public service, and many of them did.”
He was not only inspirational to his students.
“My father just believed that every person he came across counted and he taught me, as a new politician, that remembering people’s names is much less important than taking the time to get to know them,” said State Sen. Margaret Wood Hassan D-N.H., one of Wood’s daughters. “[He] taught us all that being smart was never enough, it was being good, too.”
–NINA L. VIZCARRONDO