Yale University

Class Notes

January/February 2006

by Chris Getman

I received a long e-mail from Tony Lavely describing his ordeal during Katrina, both in Biloxi where he was at the opening of a Ruth's Chris Steak House on August 27, and then upon his subsequent return to New Orleans against the traffic, and his and Wanda's ultimate evacuation. He also describes the difficult decision of relocating the corporate headquarters from New Orleans to Orlando. His full comments are on our website. Jim Bowers also wrote about being in Baton Rouge, being bracketed by Katrina and Rita and dealing with the huge inflow of refugees, FEMA workers, and volunteers. Jim's comments are also on the website. Fortunately, both Jim and Tony are doing well, and both remark about the great resiliency people exhibited during these difficult times. I urge you to read their comments.

Paul Balser continues to be active in Ironwood Manufacturing Fund, which recently invested in two companies. The first manufactures glass for the Acela and subway cars, but most importantly it produces bulletproof glass for military vehicles. His second company is a steel service center.

I had the great pleasure to go to an Angels game with John Heintz and his daughter Kelly, a 2002 graduate of Pierson. The entire Heintz family, with the exception of Molly, who's in TD, came to the Yale-San Diego football game, as did Herrick Hunt.

Speaking of Pierson, Jethro Lieberman writes that his daughter Jessica was married last February to William Benjamin Jaffe, an assistant attorney general for the state of New York. Jessica is working on her PhD dissertation on mideast politics and is fluent in Spanish and Hebrew and becoming so in Arabic. Why does that not surprise me?

Speaking of Liebermans, we here in Connecticut are extremely grateful to the venerable senator for the important role he played in keeping the Groton submarine base open. The proposed closure would have been disastrous for the state. Good job, Joe.

Howard Gillette has just published Camden After the Fall: Decline and Renewal in a Postindustrial City. It was released on November 18 in conjunction with a conference and associated website. Larry Speidell writes: "Last year I got lucky when I was able to summit Denali. This year I got even luckier when my daughter Sunshine had a baby girl, Reagan, and daughter Monique had a baby boy, Christopher. Yale applications will be underway."

There was a two-day symposium November 5-6 celebrating 100 years of Native American students at Yale and the legacy of Henry Roe Cloud, the first Native American to receive a Yale degree. At a private dinner the first two Henry Roe Cloud medals, or Native Alumni Achievement Awards, "for a Native alumnus/a of Yale who has achieved professional distinction and made outstanding contributions to the community, state, or nation," was presented to Sam Deloria. He's in good company: the second award, presented to one who has enriched the lives of Native Americans, went to former president Howard Lamar.

There was a nice story in the New Haven Register about Bo Huhn, who wrote a 180-page story called Beau Dog, the Tiger, the Mongoose and the Prophet: a Grandfather's True Story, a mystery/comedy which he mailed one page a day to each of his 11 grandchildren. By the time the project was fully underway, there were 20 recipients. With a client like Bo, one wonders why our postal rates keep going up. Anyone who would like a copy ($24.00) can call Bo at (203) 453-2872.

It was nice to hear from Alan McFarland who wrote, "My talented wife KT is running for the U.S. Congress from the 14th district in New York (the gerrymandered twice-old Silk Stocking district). If anyone wants to help a liberal Republican, let us know. I am her chauffeur, but have promised to help her find funds for this effort and to find votes of all kinds." I always thought Farley was a big wheel.

In late September, 54 midshipmen from Norway came to visit Washington, DC, to learn about the White House, the Congress, and the Supreme Court, all very topical at this writing. Prior to leaving, they were briefed by Rutgers professor Angus Gillespie on the federal court system and the appointment of judges. Hoyt Wilson wrote Terry Holcombe that he's still ranching in Oregon, despite the toll that it has taken on his body. All Wilsons are doing well. He promises to attend our 45th.

Dennis Lynch has retired from active money management at Lynch and Mayer, but he's keeping active running the portfolio of Meridian Hospital in Hanover, New Hampshire. Denny and Anne Marie have a house in Hanover where they spend a lot of time, and Denny continues to compete on a national level in 65-and-over tennis.

Jay Huffard is spending as much time as possible in Vail and logged an enormous number of ski days last year. He and his son Josh have formed Consor Capital LLC to invest in startup companies primarily on leveraging technology as the key aspect of their business model. Josh graduated from Yale in 1992 and he and Jay have been investing together in more than 20 companies over the last ten years. I thought we were supposed to be slowing down as we age gracefully. Not so with Jay.

Again I remind you to sign up for our mini-reunion in Chicago from September 28 to October 1, and to come to our class dinner/ Yale-Princeton hockey game on February 25.

It's been fun being your temporary scribe. I'm glad for his sake that Tony will be back at the helm for the next issue.

Notes from Tony Lavely concerning Katrina

Chris Getman, pinch-hitting for Tony Lavely in writing these notes, received a long email from Tony which he edited for brevity in the published class notes. Here's Tony's email, in its entirety.

Notes from the Gulf Coast
November 4, 2005

First, I want to thank Terry Holcombe and Chris Getman for pinch-hitting in this column for the last two issues. Thanks also, to classmates who called and e-mailed expressing concern and support in the aftermath.

On Saturday, August 27th, I was welcoming guests for the pre-opening celebration of our newest Ruth's Chris Steak House in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. The room in which I dined that night is now thirty feet under water! As the weather forecasts grew more ominous that night, I awoke early on Sunday morning to return to New Orleans, where Wanda was already boarding up our new home. I was the only car driving into New Orleans that morning, facing thousands already evacuating. Following hurried and minimal preparations, we finally started to evacuate mid-afternoon and began the bumper-to-bumper 17-hour drive to Houston.

On Monday, we watched the TV news and were momentarily encouraged until we heard about the levee breach in the 17th Street Canal. Since we were doing major renovation to our historic home in Uptown, we were living in a first-floor apartment about twenty yards from the canal levee! Fortunately for us, the breach was on the other side, so our apartment only took on about a foot of water.

Wanda and I returned on Labor Day, when officials opened the city for twelve hours. It resembled a war zone, complete with armed troops at every major intersection. We got most of our temporarily belongings out of the apartment. My company made the difficult decision to permanently relocate our Home Office to Orlando, Florida, so Wanda and I will settle there. As a newly-public company, we decided it was critical to act quickly to maintain company operations.

We will miss New Orleans greatly. As others have observed, this began with an unpreventable natural disaster, but it quickly exposed civic planning and engineering failures. Government services at every level ― local, state, and federal ― toppled like dominoes, and a complete breakdown in social order ensued. I remain optimistic for the recovery of my beloved New Orleans, with its rich culture of ethnic and racial diversity, food, music, and joie de vie. I will be assuming my duties for the next issue of YAM, so please send me news and information about yourself and classmates.

Notes from Jim Bowers concerning Katrina

Here is the report by Jim Bowers that Chris referred to in the class notes.

Baton Rouge was lucky. We were on the weak side of the close storm (Katrina) and pretty far away, although on the bad side, of the other (Rita). Still it blew pretty hard here for a couple of days and I had a weekend's worth of work picking up all of the deadfall in my yard. We are now the largest city in the state. About a million people had to flee the New Orleans area and only a couple of hundred thousand have returned. Roughly another hundred thousand are still here and it is estimated that most of them will be staying. You will have no difficulty imagining what happens when you hold the size of a city's road net constant while doubling the number of vehicles. The principal adaptation we've had to make is leaving a lot earlier to get wherever it is we want to go and get there on time.

The real story is about the strength of informal networking in our culture. Of the million or so evacuees, only about a quarter ended up being housed on the floors of churches, high school gyms, and other shelters. Within hours there were no vacancies in hotels, apartments, even nursing homes, for miles. Home sales went up 10-fold. Even more significantly, well over half of all the households in the city became houses for friends, acquaintances, displaced New Orleanians, rescue workers, and others with whom the hosts may have had only distant connections. We, for example, started off housing a displaced judge with whom we are friends. Our kids are grown and away, and their college friends ― some who work for various NGOs and are aware we have spare bedrooms ― called our kids for reservations when they couldn't find hotels for their teams coming to town on their charitable missions. When that parade of visitors began to dwindle, our youngest daughter took a job with FEMA and discovered she had co-workers from faraway cities who were living on cots in a huge circus tent, showering in the back of 18-wheeler shower trucks, eating in mess halls. She began to bring them home for a private bedroom, bathtubs and home cooking. Things began to return to normal in our household around Thanksgiving. There is a secretary at the school who took in 11 people, her relatives. When their parents weren't home with them, the relatives picked up the kids next door and brought them along when they were ordered to evacuate.

The huge volunteer effort probably had its earliest start here. Everybody I know began immediately culling their closets and attics for unneeded clothes, bedding, furniture, household items, etc. Truckloads were being informally distributed almost immediately, not only by the Red Cross but by every church congregation and civic organization. Lucy and I volunteered and manned an emergency hot-line phone bank connecting people with whatever public and charitable resources became available. It is my impression that this kind of response went on country-wide, maybe even world-wide. The bottom line is that the markets and individuals helping people with whom they could network actually were the shelters for more than three-quarters of the people displaced. Watching the news you get persuaded that there was a massive failure of state and federal governments. Nowhere is credit being given to the millions of small voluntary actions by millions of individual citizens (not merely Louisianans either) for shouldering the vast majority of the load, but shoulder it they all did.

The State faces a very uncertain economic future. Something like 20% of all of its economic activity used to be conducted in New Orleans which has now almost entirely disappeared for the near term. The political structure which did not use its flood control budget to build adequate levee systems has still not been reorganized, and nobody feels confident that this disaster will not recur. I guess the excitement for the next year or so will be in watching to see whether even in the wake of this dramatic event which affected everybody, we can fix our problems so that the Big Easy can be recovered. My fellow Louisianans are all hoping against hope that the federal government will pay the cost of the repair and rebuilding even though we have just participated in a course of history where little of the effective action was governmental, but rather the results of the fine individual character traits of their neighbors and fellow citizens.