Jaysinh Birjepatil, faculty emeritus
“Teaching and learning go together,” said Jaysinh “Birje” Birjepatil. “One learns such a lot from interacting with students.” Retired literature professor, historian, author, poet, actor, director, and lover of knowledge, Birje died on January 18, 2015, in Vadodara, India. He was 81 years old.
Born and brought up in India, Birje studied at Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU) before completing his Ph.D. from Manchester University, in the United Kingdom. He was also a trained actor with certificates from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He served a postdoctoral fellowship at Yale University, then returned to India to teach at MSU, where he served as head of the English department in the 1970s and ’80s, as well as dean of the faculty of arts, before settling in the United States. He taught at Brown University first for two years, then spent 15 years at Marlboro, where he was much admired for his vast knowledge and gentle kindness, until he retired in 2002.
Despite his patient dedication to teaching, Birje also found time to write several literary works, including articles, short stories, and poetry in scholarly journals. He published the novels Chinnery’s Hotel and The Good Muslim of Jackson Heights after his retirement, sharing an excerpt from the latter at a group reading by Marlboro faculty and staff as recently as 2009.
“With his kindness, perceptions into others, and erudite conversation, Birje made friends wherever he went,” says President Ellen McCulloch-Lovell. Read more.
Willene Clark, faculty emerita
“Willene’s passion for learning, the industry that she applied to research and writing, and her enormous generosity in sharing knowledge stand out in memory,” says Paul Nelsen, retired theater professor. “I loved the way she could roll her eyes at certain irritating events but still maintain a twinkle of tolerance and bemusement in them.”
Marlboro’s beloved professor of art and music history for 34 years, Willene died in Savannah, Georgia, on January 24.
Willene was born in Savannah in 1932, and received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She got her master’s degree in art and music history at Columbia University, and her doctorate in art history at Yale. Willene had fallen in love with New England by then, and taught art and music history at Marlboro until her retirement in 1997.
In addition to her role as a much-adored teacher, Willene published several books, the most noteworthy being two volumes of A Medieval Book of Beasts, and frequently traveled abroad to research primary sources. One of her legacies at Marlboro is coining the name of Apple Tree, the small building across from Admissions where Willene taught art history for over 30 years. Another important legacy is the Helen W. Clark Prize, an award for the best Plan in the fine arts, which has been generously supported by Willene in honor of her mother. Willene is survived by her brother, sister-in-law, nieces and nephews, and nine grandnieces and grandnephews. Read more.
John Peckham ’72
New England friends of John G. Peckham learned that the long-struggling artist died in North Carolina in November 2012. He was 63 years old. John studied creative writing at Marlboro, and was known for his intellectual intensity, instinctive contrariness, and occasionally too-caustic sense of humor. After graduating, John lost many years of his life to alcohol and drugs, but eventually beat his addictions and even worked with recovering addicts. He lived the final two decades of his life in remote Kure Beach, North Carolina. He cut lawns for a living, but his passion was painting, and he created hundreds of bold oil canvases. Much of his painting and some of his quirky writings may be found on his website: nunheh.deviantart.com. John is survived by a brother, as well as by four nieces and nephews.
Submitted by Colin Nickerson ’74
Will Fielding ’79
A longtime resident of Marlboro, Will Fielding died on October 21 in Carmel Valley, California. Will learned the art of guitar building from renowned luthier Augustino LoPrinzi before moving to Vermont to study furniture building at Marlboro College with Gib Taylor. He built his first complete banjo while at Marlboro. Over the years, Will did all kinds of woodworking: cabinetry, furniture, stringed instruments, hand drums, and custom-designed home renovations to name a few. “I pay close attention to the way each piece of wood relates to each other and to the whole,” said Will. He started Fielding Banjos in 2001 and turned to making banjos full time, creating about 20 banjos every year (Potash Hill, Winter–Spring 2007). Will leaves his wife, Paula, as well as two daughters, three grandsons, two brothers, and his mother.
Adam Fels ’92
A resident of Columbus, Ohio, “Jed” Adam Fels died in July 2014 at the age of 44. He studied theater and literature at Marlboro, where his Plan of Concentration explored “the role of the alienated hero” in Camus and Shepard. Fellow classmates remember him as “provocative, charismatic, and generally shocking in the manner in which he reveled in off-color humor,” said Cate Marvin ’93, who administers a Facebook page in his name (The Marlboro Record, Winter 2014). After graduating from Marlboro, Jed went on to work as a copywriter, most recently with digital marketing agency Moxie. He also continued to be an ardent fan of the Chicago Cubs, and gained quite a following as a blogger for Cubs Den. A fellow blogger wrote: “Rest in peace, but don’t forget to ruffle a few feathers up there.”
Lucy DeLaurentis ’10
“It was humbling and an honor to have known Lucy and have her contributions to our classes, community, and consciousness,” says photography professor John Willis, a Plan advisor for Lucy DeLaurentis. A resident of Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, Lucy died unexpectedly on January 25. It was her 29th birthday. Lucy completed a Plan in photography, American studies, and American literature, focusing on how gendered identity is created in a mass-mediated society. “Marlboro meant so much to her,” says Lucy’s father, Michael DeLaurentis. “I wish she’d had more opportunity to develop and use her many talents and realize her dreams and potential.” Lucy is survived by her parents, her brother, her grandmother, and her beloved yellow lab, Lexy. In partnership with Marlboro College, Lucy’s parents Michael and Shelley, are creating the Lucy DeLaurentis Prize. The details of this scholarship for future students will be announced in a future issue of Potash Hill.