Class of ’59 reunion gift raises bar

By Gustav Spohn
Director of Communications and Publications

When Ralph Barlow ’59 B.D., ’64 S.T.M. announced what is believed to be the largest-ever one-time class reunion gift to Yale Divinity School on the first day of Convocation and Reunions 2009, he described the gift in poetic terms.

In mourning the death in August of YDS Professor Emeritus James Dittes, Barlow recalled, he thought of the John Donne poem “No Man is an Island” and its themes of interconnectedness and codependence among all human beings.  “Something of me was diminished when Jim Dittes died,” said Barlow.

“I thought, what a tremendous inspiration for our Global Opportunities Fund,” Barlow explained to those in attendance at the Class of ’59 Convocation and Reunions 50th reunion luncheon.  “No one of us is an island.  We are all pieces of the human continent, and that is what we’re trying to lift up and affirm through the Global Opportunities Fund.”

As of the luncheon date, Oct. 12, the Class of ’59 gift totaled $122,860, which included a University match.  Under terms of the Fund, financial assistance will be available to send YDS students abroad for study and to bring overseas students to YDS.

“So that’s what we’re about,” observed Barlow.  “We believe that learning is community and no one is an island.”

He offered special thanks to Peter Hodgson ’59 B.D., ’63 Ph.D. and his wife, Eva, who made a substantial gift to the fund to get it started.  “Had it not been for Peter and Eva, we would not have gotten off the ground,” Barlow said.

Reflecting on the gift two weeks after Convocation and Reunions, Constance Royster, director of development at YDS, said, “This was an amazing class to work with. From the beginning they were determined they would make a difference in the lives of generations of YDS students to come.  Their vision was global. I'm not surprised in retrospect.”

She recalled being with the class when they had a chance to talk to each other about their post-YDS lives.  “I sat in as they went around the room and told their stories of how they spent their lives for the 50 years since graduation. The stories were an extraordinary compilation of lives well-spent in service in every part of the globe and in every state in America."

During the Alumni Awards luncheon on the second day of Convocation and Reunions, Dean Harold Attridge offered special thanks to Barlow, Reunion Gift chair and class agent, as well as other members of the class instrumental in securing the gift: Ken Kuntz, Reunion Committee chair and class secretary, and members of the Reunion Committee:  William Barnes, Tom Duggan, Peter Hodgson, Thomas Johnston, Mary Keithahn, and Don Skinner.