Clair Parkhill Babcock '50, who retired as a division manager after 35 years with the Union Carbide Corp., was born on October 13, 1925, in North Hornell, NY. The son of Howard P., executive secretary of a savings and loan association, and Hazel Walker Babcock, he was graduated in 1943 from Hornell High School. Soon thereafter, he entered the U.S. Army and remained in uniform through the end of World War II. Discharged in 1946, he enrolled at Hamilton that fall. He joined Delta Upsilon, where he acquired lifelong friends, and became a member of the Glee Club. Credited by The Hamiltonian with "both financial insight and athletic prowess," he not only balanced DU's books but also captained the track team. As a broad jumper, he broke the 30-year-old College record held by Richard W. Kaiser '20, with a jump of 21 feet, 8½ inches.
Following his graduation in 1950, Clair Babcock began his career-long employment with Union Carbide as a sales representative. After four years in consumer products sales, he transferred to customer service and then to distribution as inventory control manager. He was manager of physical distribution and business analyst in Union Carbide's Consumer Product Division when he retired in early 1986.
While residing in Pleasantville, NY, in commuter distance from the corporation's Manhattan headquarters, Clair Babcock became active in community and church affairs. He and his wife, Dorothy Hunter Babcock, whom he had wed on August 25, 1951, in Auburn, NY, were ready and willing volunteers. Their winters were spent in Florida and summers at their cottage on Owasco Lake in New York's Finger Lakes region, where Clair presided over annual reunions with Hamilton classmates.
Clair Babcock, a former elder of the Pleasantville Presbyterian Church and dedicated member of its choir, became a choir member of the First Church of Christ in Simsbury after the Babcocks moved to Connecticut some 30 years ago. There he also did volunteer work for the Granby Library and Salmon Brook Historical Society in Granby as well as for Meals on Wheels. Generously supportive of the College, he was ever a welcoming host to visiting Hamiltonians.
Clair P. Babcock died on February 21, 2010, at his home in Simsbury, where he had resided for the past two years. Besides his wife of 58 years, he leaves two sons, J. Hunter and Richard P. Babcock '83; a daughter, Louise Ries; and eight grandchildren and a sister.
Return to Top
Charles Francis Rice '50
Charles Francis Rice '50, a lawyer long engaged in antitrust and litigation matters for the Mobil Oil Corp., was born on August 12, 1927, in Lackawanna, NY. His parents were Leslie H., a pharmacist, and Gladys Miller Rice, a teacher. He grew up in Elmira, NY, where he was graduated in 1945 from Southside High School. After a year of service with the U.S. Coast Guard, "Charlie" Rice enrolled at Hamilton. He joined Delta Upsilon, became its house steward, and represented it on the Interfraternity Council. Credited by The Hamiltonian with "an amazing ability to retain historical detail," he earned his diploma as a history major in 1950.
Soon thereafter, at the time of the Korean War, Charlie Rice returned to active duty with the Coast Guard. He served as a lieutenant (j.g.) until 1953. On December 21 of that year, while a law school student at Cornell University, he was married to Nancy S. Garnaus, a teacher, in New York City.
After obtaining his LL.B. degree from Cornell in 1955, Charlie Rice joined the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division in Washington, DC, as a trial attorney. Two years later, he moved to New York City to engage in law practice with the firm of Donovan, Leisure, Newton & Irvine. In 1961, he began his long career with Mobil Oil as antitrust counsel in its North American Division. During the 1970s and '80s, having been promoted to assistant general counsel, he oversaw the corporation's legal matters connected with significant acquisitions, including the acquisition of International Paper. He retired as assistant general counsel for antitrust and litigation in 1990.
Long a resident of Summit, NJ, Charlie Rice served as a warden and vestry member of Calvary Episcopal Church in that city. His leisure-time interests included an enthusiasm for travel, which he shared with his wife Nancy, and he particularly enjoyed family get-togethers with his grandchildren, for whom he was "grandfather par excellence."
Briefly ill, Charles F. Rice, an ever faithful and generously supportive alumnus, died on November 23, 2009. In addition to his wife of 56 years, he is survived by a daughter, Catherine Gorrell; two sons, John G. '78 and David H. Rice; and seven grandchildren.
Return to Top
Ronald Fleming Sproat '54
Ronald Fleming Sproat '54, a noted television script writer who also contributed librettos to stage productions, was born on November 2, 1932, in Elkhart, IN. The son of James M. Sproat, an attorney-at-law, and the former Lois Elizabeth Fleming, he grew up in Indiana and Ohio, where he was graduated in 1950 from Shaker Heights High School. "Ronnie" Sproat came to College Hill that year from Cleveland and joined Lambda Chi Alpha. Although initially thinking of following his father into the law, he ultimately opted with greater enthusiasm for a career as a writer.
Already having penned short stories while in high school, Ron Sproat majored in English at Hamilton and even hoped to write a full-scale novel as an independent study project. Much to his despair, the faculty committee turned his ambitious project down. He assuaged his disappointment during a junior year abroad at the University of Paris, and returned to the Hill to take over the editorship of The Continental. By that time, according to The Hamiltonian, his tastes had changed "from beer to martinis" and "from Bret Harte to Faulkner." Elected to the journalism honorary Pi Delta Epsilon and winner of the William Duncan Saunders writing prize, he left the Hill with his A.B. degree in 1954.
Ron Sproat went on to graduate study at the University of Michigan, where he won an Avery Hopwood Award and earned his M.A. in English in 1955. After acquiring an M.F.A. in playwriting from Yale University's School of Drama in 1958, he worked in advertising for a couple of years before settling permanently in New York City and taking up script writing for television. He wrote for the United States Steel Hour and General Motors Presents, and his early TV plays included Rachel's Summer and The Great Gold Mountain, both based on works by his mentor, Charles L. Jackson, author of The Lost Weekend.
When the now classic Gothic "soap opera" Dark Shadows was created in 1966, Ron Sproat played a key role in developing its characters, including the "reluctant vampire," Barnabas Collins, the character largely responsible for the mainstream popularity of the series. He continued to write hundreds of episodes for Dark Shadows and occasionally contributed scripts to numerous other daytime series as well. In addition, he freelanced as a magazine and features writer, and most recently provided librettos for musicals produced by the BMI Theater Workshop. They included Back Home, Abie's Island Rose, and Ravenswood.
Ronald F. Sproat died on November 6, 2009, in his Manhattan apartment, of a heart attack. He is survived by his partner of 40 years and frequent musical collaborator, Frank Evans, as well as a sister, Kay Chorao, and three nephews.
Return to Top
Peter Booth Whitcombe '54
Peter Booth Whitcombe '54, an advertising executive who retired as president of the Hart/Conway Co. in Rochester, NY, was born in that city on September 6, 1932. The younger son of Joseph Eagar Whitcombe '16, a well known Rochester news-paper reporter, and the former Helen Niles, Wells College '16, he was also a nephew of Wilcox Langbridge Whitcombe '17. Peter Whitcombe grew up in the Rochester area and was graduated in 1950 from Irondequoit High School. He came to Hamilton that fall, preceded by his brother, David Niles Whitcombe '51. He joined his brother's fraternity, Sigma Phi, of which he would become house president.
Peter Whitcombe soon became active in campus organizations, chairing the Student Admissions Committee and the Social Committee, and serving as business manager for the Publications Board. Elected to the journalism honorary Pi Delta Epsilon and tapped for Was Los and Pentagon, he also became a member of that convivial social band Nous Onze. Majoring in history, he left the Hill with his diploma and warm feelings of affection for the College in 1954. Soon thereafter, on September 1, he was married to his high school sweetheart, Nancy L. Phelan, in Rochester.
That year, while Nancy finished her senior year at Wells College, Peter Whitcombe entered the U.S. Army for his two-year term of enlistment. He later served as a company clerk with the 1st Infantry Division in Germany, where Nancy joined him. Following his discharge in 1956, the couple returned to Rochester, where Peter began his 33-year career with Hart/Conway Co. as an account executive. Named a director and secretary of the regional advertising and public relations firm, he was promoted to vice president in 1969 and executive vice president in 1974. Soon thereafter, he assumed its presidency.
During Peter Whitcombe's tenure, the firm expanded its media scope and grew into a full-service agency more widely known and award winning. National recognition came when a television ad for a local bank, conceived by Peter, captured the advertising industry's prestigious Clio Award. A past president of the Advertising Council of Rochester, he retired from Hart/Conway in 1989.
Fond of the outdoors and both hikers, bikers, and cross-country skiers, Nancy and Peter Whitcombe were founding members of the Crescent Trail Hiking Association, and Peter especially enjoyed hiking in the Adirondacks, with a special penchant for its highest peak, Mt. Marcy, according to his fellow friends of the trail. He and Nancy also spent enjoyable days at their longtime family summer home on Lake Ontario. In general, Peter found pleasure in life's simple pursuits, including gardening around his suburban Rochester home and in the kitchen baking bread.
Peter Whitcombe, known for his quiet reserve and wry sense of humor, was no stranger to Hamilton over the years. Enthusiastically involved in volunteer activities almost since he left the Hill, he chaired Hamilton's first $1 million Annual Fund in 1981-82 as well as the Rochester major gifts effort during the Campaign for the '90's. Eagerly ready with highly helpful advice and direction, he not only led the Annual Fund to new heights, setting new records, but also, as a leader on the Alumni Council, made significant contributions.
Peter Whitcombe, a longtime resident of the Rochester suburb of Fairport, passed away in Rochester on September 26, 2009. Predeceased by his wife in 2006, and his sister Joanne in 1992, he is survived by three sons, Nathaniel B., Michael N., and Nicholas P. Whitcombe; a daughter, Anne E. Whitcombe '81; and three grandchildren as well as a sister, Elizabeth, and his brother David. Memorial services were held at the Mountain Rise United Church of Christ in Perinton, of which he and Nancy were founding members.
Return to Top
Albert Carl May, Jr. '56
Albert Carl May, Jr. '56, a Presbyterian minister who became engaged internationally in adult literacy projects, was born on July 21, 1934, in Cleveland, OH. A son of Albert C., an engineer and manufacturer, and Elizabeth Goehring May, he grew up in the Cleveland area, was graduated in 1952 from Lakewood High School, and came to College Hill from Lakewood that fall. "Bert" May joined Delta Upsilon, played soccer, and lent his baritone voice to the Choir. He reluctantly left the College after two years, returned to Ohio, and transferred to Western Reserve University, where, majoring in history, he obtained his B.A. degree in 1956. On June 29 of the following year, he was married to Frances G. Simon in Cleveland.
Drawn to a religious calling, Bert May proceeded to Princeton Theological Seminary and there acquired his B.D. degree in 1960. His first appointment following ordination was as assistant pastor and director of religious education at the First United Presbyterian Church in Canfield, OH. For 15 years beginning in 1960, he served as assistant pastor or pastor of churches in New York and Pennsylvania as well as Ohio. While pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Highland, NY, he also served as Protestant chaplain of the Highland State Training School for Boys.
In 1976, the Rev. Mr. May was appointed assistant director of Christian Literacy Associates, headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA. In that post for 15 years, he developed international literacy programs, along with primarily Bible-based basic literacy materials in 19 languages to teach adults to read. He continued that work as director of the Peaceful Valley Literacy Council, also in Pennsylvania, from 1991 until his retirement in 1999. Throughout those years he traveled widely and continued to learn, acquiring a Master of Theology in Missionary degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1995. That learning he gladly shared with others, by means of workshops for literacy teachers and the primers he helped develop.
In retirement, Bert May returned to Ohio and took up residence in Tallmadge, near Akron. He continued to enjoy travel abroad and was especially fond of tours by canal boat. He also enjoyed reading historical works and was fond of music. He remained a loyal and supportive alumnus until the end of his life, despite his brief time on College Hill.
The Rev. Albert C. May, Jr. died at this home in Tallmadge on August 13, 2009, following an extended illness. Predeceased by his wife Frances in 2001, he is survived by his second wife, the former Jane Seed Pattie, whom he had wed later that year. Also surviving are his daughter and son, Edith Ophardt, and Carl W. May; four stepchildren and 17 grandchildren; and a brother and sister.
Return to Top
Joseph Glenn Leard '59
Joseph Glenn Leard '59, for many years a highly regarded member of the San Antonio, TX, theater community, was born on September 18, 1937, in Dallas. The son of Warren Ross Leard and the former Ruth Davis, he attended many schools in various states and countries, depending on where his father's business employment took him. "Joe" Leard came to Hamilton from Mamaroneck (NY) High School in 1955 and quickly impressed faculty members as well as Dean Winton Tolles with his imaginative mind, energy, and drive. At first unwavering in his determination to pursue a religious calling as a minister, uncertainty about his future led him to abandon that ambition by his senior year. Married on September 20, 1958, to Sherry Joan Leaf in the College Chapel, he decided, "because of loss of purpose and financial strain," to leave the Hill without a degree in early 1959.
Back in Texas at age 24, married with three children, and dissatisfied with his menial employment, Joe Leard decided to try teaching. After earning a bachelor's degree from Southwest Texas State University and a master's from Texas Tech University, he taught in San Antonio public schools. For a decade beginning in 1989, he also taught in Trinity University's speech and drama department.
A resident of San Antonio since 1972, Joe Leard, known to theatergoers as well as friends as Joe Glenn Leard, became enthusiastically involved in local theater and was a founder of Players company. A fine character actor, he took both numerous and various roles in local theater productions, and also served as a director, stage manager, and set designer. He won awards for his acting as well as scenic design. One of his last roles not long before his death, and his first in a movie, was in the independent film Ravenswan.
The College has learned belatedly that Joseph Glenn Leard died in San Antonio on June 26, 2002, following surgery. He was survived by three daughters and two sons.
Return to Top
David Terrence Sykes '59
David Terrence Sykes '59, a lawyer and nationally recognized authority on bankruptcy, was born on October 24, 1937, in Philadelphia, PA. The son of David M., a candy manufacturer, and Hester Lydia Kliphouse Sykes, he grew up in the Philadelphia area and came to College Hill in 1955 from Cheltenham High School in Elkins Park. Dave Sykes joined Psi Upsilon and later became its house president. He also served as secretary of the student admissions committee. With a future career in the law in mind since high school days, he majored in history and was graduated in 1959. Before law school, however, there was the obligation of military service. Shortly after his graduation, he went on active duty with the U.S. Navy. Commissioned as an officer, he served for three years, most of that time aboard the guided-missile cruiser U.S.S. Springfield, and was discharged as a lieutenant in 1962. That year, he returned to Philadelphia and entered Temple University's School of Law.
After acquiring his LL.B. degree in 1965, Dave Sykes stayed on in Philadelphia to become associated with the law firm of Duane, Morris & Heckscher (now Duane Morris). He would remain with that firm throughout his career. In 1970, he launched the firm's bankruptcy practice and went on to preside for two decades over its growth. From two lawyers the practice expanded to more than 40. Named a partner in 1972, he served as managing partner of the firm, one of the largest in the United States, from 1994 to 1997, and as its vice chairman from 1998 to 2004.
Consistently listed in The Best Lawyers in America and considered "one of the deans of the Pennsylvania bar," Dave Sykes played an important role in numerous bankruptcy cases, representing both creditors and debtors. He established his national reputation in the field by representing a group of lenders in the Braniff International Airways bankruptcy. A charter fellow and past president of the American College of Bankruptcy, he received its Distinguished Service Award in 2008. He also chaired bar association committees as well as the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Bankruptcy Conference, of which he was co-founder.
Within the Philadelphia community, Dave Sykes helped to establish, nurture, and sustain the Consumer Bankruptcy Assistance Project as its co-founder and first president. Founded in 1992, it provided legal services to indigent clients facing bankruptcy and, with more than 200 lawyers as volunteers, served as a national model for such pro bono programs. In recognition of his contributions to the Project, the Philadelphia Bar Association presented him in 2000 with its Fidelity Award. The recipient of several other community service awards, he also contributed to Philadelphia's betterment by chairing the Committee of Seventy, a nonpartisan political watchdog group dedicated to advancing good government.
Considered "a brilliant lawyer" and a mentor and superb role model for his younger colleagues, both professionally and personally, Dave Sykes had a remarkable work ethic and was a tireless advocate for his clients. To friends and colleagues he was "a man of compassion, integrity and good humor who inspired all who knew him."
Dave Sykes, who retired from his partnership at Duane Morris in 2007 and was of counsel to the firm at the time of his death, continued to reside in the Philadelphia area, in Gladwyne, with his wife, Elaine Ward Sykes, whom he had married in 1996. Over the years he could be seen engaging in a game of golf on local courses, and he also was an avid skier who particularly enjoyed family ski trips to Vermont and Colorado. A former president of the Philadelphia Alumni Association who assisted the College with its fund-raising activities, he remained constantly faithful and generous in his support of Hamilton.
David T. Sykes died on February 1, 2010, in Philadelphia, of pancreatic cancer. In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sons, David G. '93 and Matthew C. Sykes '95, from his first marriage, in 1966 to Mary C. (Marzy) Ferguson, and five grandchildren.
Return to Top