200 Days in the Life of the College

Sunday, April 24

Among the Hill’s storytellers,
a  master of plots and endings

By John Wulf ’12

Most people whistle past the graveyard. Frank Lorenz does something quite different. He gives tours of one.

Each Reunion Weekend and on other special occasions, Lorenz, former head of the Hamilton Archives and a longtime editor of the Alumni Review, leads alumni and other visitors down the red shale path toward the College Cemetery.

Once through the entrance, Lorenz hits his stride, discussing the illustrious alumni who reside in what Alexander Woollcott, Class of 1909, described as “the last Hamilton dormitory.” Lorenz points out the grave of Samuel Kirkland, Hamilton’s missionary founder. He recites the Root family history, giving particular attention to Elihu Root, 1912 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. And finally, when the group arrives between two modest gravestones, Lorenz tells one of his favorite stories about Woollcott, the great wit of the Algonquin Round Table: Woollcott so loved the College that he once paid for a Hamilton student’s medical education. That boy eventually became Woollcott’s cardiologist, lifelong friend and cemetery “dormmate.” Lorenz quips that it’s fitting Woollcott resides along with his friend, for another famous Algonquin wit, Dorothy Parker, once remarked, “When Aleck dies, he won’t go to heaven. He’ll go to Hamilton.”

How Lorenz became so well-versed in Hamilton lore is a story unto itself. Equipped with a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Illinois and following a teaching stint in Potsdam, N.Y., he arrived on the Hill in 1972 to serve as Hamilton’s research librarian and special collections curator. Nine years later, Lorenz brought his distinct style of prose to the Necrology section of the Review and, in 1983, became its full-time editor. Despite his busy schedule, Lorenz maintained his connection with the Archives until his semi-retirement in 2002 — the year President Tobin named him editor emeritus of the Review, for which he still writes. Despite his dedicated service to Hamilton, including more than 1,500 hand-crafted obituaries, Lorenz refers humbly to his relationship with the Hill: “I’ve been here for so long, I almost feel like I’m an alumnus.”

A note to the editor emeritus: It’s time you bury that “almost.”