Yale University

In Memoriam

Brian Rapp

Brian Rapp
1964 graduation

On this page are the following writings:

Letter from Rita Rapp
Article from Telluride Times-Journal

Article from The Daily Planet (Telluride)

Article from The Flint Journal

Reflections by George Humphrey '64

Letter from Rita Rapp to friends

January, 1995

Dear Friends,

There is no gentle way to share with you the news of Brian's death. I am sorry for the impersonal nature of this letter, but I am sure you understand that my intention is very personal indeed. I must also apologize for the delay in sending this, but again, I know you understand. Many of you may not have been in close contact with Brian these last few years during his illness and so are less able to comprehend the profound changes he experienced: Let me share some of them.

Brian had a long list of accomplishments in his lifetime. I know that many of you admired Brian for his abilities to do ― to make things happen. In his last months, Brian learned to just be. He learned to give and receive love, the greatest accomplishment of anyone's life. He often described himself as a wounded warrior ― someone whose emotional scars prevented him from living life without fear. As he surrendered into death, Brian wore the cloak of a true warrior. There was no fear. He faced his death fully, with eyes wide open. It was an honor for all who could be with him in his last days. An honor and a great teaching.

Brian began the final process of dying on Sunday, December 18th, when his legs could no longer support him and he was forced to stay in bed. Every day, he grew weaker and weaker, as his body gradually shut down. Brian surrendered to this process gently, without resistance, letting go without fear. He also grew more and more distant, with one foot on the other side, in the world of spirit. (We knew he was undergoing a profound change when he lost interest in football!) His personality fell away like leaves in autumn, leaving only his essential nature behind. His blue eyes grew clear and translucent, like a newborn baby. Love and forgiveness became the only thing of importance to him.

During that week, there were precious moments. Once when he heard me crying, he looked up from his sleep, and asked me why I was crying. "Because I love you so much," I said to him, holding his hand. He looked genuinely confused and asked, "Isn't that reason to celebrate?" At another time, he said that he wanted his body to be a "vessel of light to guide others" who were to follow. I believe he wanted his dying to be a gift to others. As it was for me.

It is no coincidence that Brian died on Christmas day ― a time of rebirth and a time to share our deepest feelings of love and warmth with those we are close to. Every year at Christmas time, I will remember Brian's death as a rebirth of spirit, the spirit that we all share. And I will remember that it is love that makes us whole and bridges the distance between the world of earth and the world of spirit.

On a lighter note, a friend that knew Brian well commented that by dying on Christmas day, he assured himself of a permanent place in his friends' memory. As if that wasn't already true.

We have been supporting Brian's spirit with love and prayers. We are continuing to meditate and pray for him in the next 49 days, through February 12th. Every Sunday (the day he died), we light a candle for him, praying that he will be able to leap through his fear, his delusion of separation and into the divine light of compassion that awaits to embrace him. I believe your prayers and your love for Brian will be heard by him as he continues to make this great transition.

Love, Rita


Telluride Times-Journal

January 5, 1995

Brian W. Rapp 1942 - 1994

Brian Rapp died on Christmas Day. He was 52.

His five-year battle with the AIDS virus came to an end in Santa Barbara, Calif., with his wife, mother and daughter at his side.

His passing was celebrated this week with a ceremony atop Mt. Shasta, and will be further celebrated in the spring with a ceremony on Hastings Mesa.

Although his death was untimely, Rapp left behind a distinguished record in resort management, municipal government and scholarship.

At the time of his passing, he was president of Peak Investments, developers of Old Elam Ranch and The Falls. Prior to that, he served as general manager of Aspen Skiing Co., president of Telluride Ski Resort, and president of both Beaver Creek Resort and Beaver Creek Associates.

In the public arena, Rapp served as assistant county executive in Santa Clara County, Calif. and city manager of Flint, Mich.

He was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at the International Center for Scholars and a Presidential Interchange Fellow with the National Security Council/U.S. State Department.

He held adjunct professorships at Stanford University, University California-Berkeley, and University of Michigan.

He graduated from Yale in l964 with a degree in history and political science, received an M.A. in economics and politics from Cambridge and an M.A. in international economics from Johns Hopkins.

Rapp was born June 19, 1942 in Washington, D.C., the son of Elizabeth Rapp, who survives him at age 82, and Morton H. Rapp, deceased.

He is also survived by his wife, Rita Marie Rapp, whom he married on Hastings Mesa in September 1989. Rapp is also survived by a brother, Cory, of Telluride, and daughter Kaya Elizabeth Skye.

A memorial fund will be established at First National Bank, under the administration of Trisha Maxon.


The Daily Planet (Telluride)

Former resident Brian Rapp dies in Santa Barbara

December 27, 1994

Brian Rapp, 52, whose involvement with Telluride dates back to the early 1980s, died on Christmas morning at his home in Santa Barbara, Ca. from AIDS-related causes.

Rapp is a former Telluride Ski & Golf Co. president, a position he held from 1982 through 1988; and is seen by peers as instrumental in getting the Telluride Regional Airport approved.

"It's a tragedy," said Ron Allred, Telski president and Chief Executive Officer. "I wish Brian could hear the gratitude due to him from all his peers."

Rapp is survived by his daughter Whitney-Skya Rapp, of Santa Cruz, Ca.; his wife of five years, Rita Robinson; brother Cory who lives in Telluride; and his mother Elizabeth, of Santa Barbara, Ca.

"Brian's condition deteriorated badly on the 18th of December, shortly after he'd been visited by (Telski Marketing Director) Mike Hess, (and friends) Mike and Jane Conlin, Uli Sir Jesse and myself," said long-time family friend, Wendy Brooks. "Toward the end of his life, Brian began studying the 'Tibetan Book of Living and Dying' and worked closely with monks at the Santa Barbara Buddhist monastery.

"Brian's passing is being handled in the Buddhist tradition," she explained. "For three days the body is wrapped in white cloth and bathed in sacred oils. The Buddhists believe it takes three days for the soul to leave the body. His body is laying in state at the family home in Santa Barbara.

"Brian was told that once one loses fear, one can have a peaceful transition. He was working with that concentration: letting go of all fear. Apparently he accomplished it."

Mike Conlin, a long-time friend and business associate at Telski, remembers Rapp as "one of the most brilliant people I ever met or knew."

Rapp obtained his undergraduate degree at Yale University, where he was starting quarterback. He was city manager at Flint, Mich., before becoming the manager of Santa Clara County. He was president of Beaver Creek, Co., before coming to Telluride to assume the president position there. He then left Telluride to go to Aspen, where he was director of mountain operations, before returning to Telluride, where he was most recently a developer of the Old Elam Ranch and The Falls subdivision east of Telluride. He and his wife moved to Santa Barbara three years ago.

Rapp succumbed to AIDS five years after it was diagnosed.

"He was a real dear friend who will be sorely missed," said Telski Marketing Director Mike Hess.


The Flint Journal

Unforgettable: When a former Flint city manager left this world, he also left mixed memories

March 5, 1995

Controversial in life, controversial in death, Brian Rapp was nothing if not consistent.

Some recall the former Flint city manager, who died of AIDS-related causes Christmas day at his home in Santa Barbara, Calif., at the age of 52, as a seminal figure in Flint politics, a brilliant Ivy Leaguer whose brief, tumultuous, Watergate-era reign helped forge fundamental changes in city government that benefit residents to this day.

Others remember him as a brash, idealistic pot-stirrer, whose inexperience and blunt, aggressive management style alienated city employees and led to his premature exodus from town.

All agree on one point, though: Brian Rapp, who went on from Flint to manage Colorado's Aspen, Beaver Creek and Telluride, three of the nation's largest ski resorts, was unforgettable.

"He was a brilliant young man, but I don't think he had the ability to manage this city," said Carl Mason, Rapp's chief critic on the city council during his administration, which lasted from December 1971 and ended a few months after his resignation in April 1974.

Rapp came to Flint at the age of 29 with a reputation as a wunderkind: cum laude graduate from Yale, where he quarterbacked the football team his senior year; master's degree in economics from prestigious Cambridge University; first in his class in international economics at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; a Presidential Fellow who designed management systems for the U.S. State Department.

He was brought to Flint to shake up a city in trouble, and wasted no time attacking these problems.

Perhaps Rapp's most lasting impact came from his push for fundamental change in city government.

Rapp felt strongly that the city manager needed broader powers or that the city needed an altogether different form of government.

Chief among his gripes was the civil service system then in place. Rapp argued that the city manager had little or no power to hire, fire, reorganize, compensate or discipline employees. Employees, he believed, had too many protections.

Rapp contended that the top layers of city management should be removed from civil service, and he further proposed a progressive discipline system and other policies that some called sound management and others called "blitzing the bureaucracy."

Employee union members were the most upset. The Flint Police Patrolman Association formed to protest what they called Rapp's attempt to bypass civil service requirements in the hiring of minorities.

City employees complained of poor morale. One called Rapp a "Hitler-type dictator." Bumper stickers appeared saying "Un-Rapp Flint." City Council meetings became heated.

"Poor old Brian Rapp was in the frying pan every Monday night (when the council met)," recalls attorney Carl Bekofske, a Rapp supporter.

Rapp lost favor for trying to overhaul the city's budgeting system, for accusing council members of being interested only in getting re-elected and for making provisional appointments outside the civil service system.

More controversy attended Rapp's belief that the City Charter, which had been largely unchanged since 1929, needed changing. The city, Rapp said, required a new form of government.

At the time, the city manager was hired by the nine-person council. Since he served at the council's pleasure, Rapp felt the city manager lacked authority to shape his vision of Flint.

What the city needed instead, Rapp felt, was a strong mayor form of government, in which the mayor was directly elected by the populace.

"Brian was a very, very strong advocate that a five-votes-rule on any given night for city management didn't work," says Visser. "He felt there must be someone in charge of carrying out mandates."

The idea, Patitucci recalls, was to "get some sense of direction and leadership instead of doing it by neighborhood. The city manager system tends to work in smaller, homogeneous communities."

Rapp pushed hard for charter revision despite the fact that it would put him out of a job.

"Brian did not represent business as usual," Patitucci says. "He represented change. He sacrificed himself for the charter. He said at one time, 'It's more important that this city have the new charter than me.'"

As it turned out, Rapp, his support on the council badly eroded, resigned months before voters, by a 2-1 margin, passed the new charter, ushering in a new form of city government and changing the civil service system.


Reflections on my friend Brian Rapp

by George Humphrey '64

January 27, 2000

Among my very first new acquaintances upon arriving at Yale in the fall of 1960 was Brian Rapp.  Our desire to play football made our meeting inevitable, as I was a center and he a quarterback.  We became friends rapidly and our friendship grew throughout our Yale years.  So much so that while our paths crossed only a dozen or so times after graduation, and neither of us was much at making phone calls or writing letters, the bond between us remained mutually palpable and eternally strong.

When I think of Brian, I remember with great respect not only his intellectual and athletic prowess, both of which were considerable, but also his "can do" attitude, his genuine warmth, his keen sense of humor and his refreshing candor. Furthermore, he was modest, which is always a plus in my book.

Brian and I spoke frequently just prior to our 30th Reunion. He so much wanted to come, but that turned out not to be God's will. And so the last time I saw him was with Rita at our 25th Reunion in 1989, which was also the last time I saw our mutual friend and team mate, Jack Cirie, another truly good man.

So, Brian (and Jack), I will always remember that we never had a cross word between us, and our friendship, forged as it was by shared travails as well as pleasant memories, was such that it never diminished in the slightest in spite of the limited contact we had in our post-Yale years.  Thank you for your support and camaraderie, and may you rest in peace.

Your friend,
George Humphrey