Potash Hill

In Memoriam

Grant Li, life changer through language
by Richard Glejzer 

Grant Li, inimitable professor of Chinese language and linguistics, brought energy and passion to everything he did. I have heard from many of those who had the opportunity to work with Grant—students, faculty, staff, and members of Marlboro’s extended community— and they all remember his contagious enthusiasm fondly. From Plan students working in syntax, Grant’s linguistic specialty, to the many students who studied Chinese with him over his 11 years at Marlboro, to our high school partners who praised the great generosity and good will he brought to our dual enrollment programs, his impact on our lives has been huge. 

I perhaps heard most from those who travelled with Grant to China, including his home province of Heilongjiang in the north. Those trips were life changing for many, and opened up a world to us that we never would have known if not for Grant. To benefit his language students, Grant worked with his alma mater, Heilongjiang University, to develop a summer language institute for Marlboro students, forging a partnership that eventually led to a full exchange program that brought several Heilongjiang students to Marlboro. Grant was extraordinarily proud of his home in China, and it gave him great pleasure to share both the language and culture with members of our community. 

As passionate and excitable as Grant was, he was also a very private man who was devoted to his family. When he received his cancer diagnosis, he asked that I not share that information with colleagues because he wanted to keep everyone’s focus on students and the work we shared. The doctors gave him two years and he fought through seven, teaching his classes, working with Plan students, and maintaining Marlboro’s relationship to Heilongjiang. 

I sat with Grant and his wife, Donna, after his last class in May. We talked about his students that year and how grateful he was to have been able to complete the semester, which was in doubt as his health deteriorated through the spring. We also talked about the Red Sox— Grant was an extraordinary sports fan and was the center of many conversations in the dining hall about the highs and lows of Boston sports. 

I will most remember the great joy Grant brought to his work, which was so important to him right up until his passing. What drew students to him, more often than not, was his warmth and humor. He will be sorely missed. Grant died on June 14 at home with his family. The Marlboro community honored Grant at the beginning of the academic year with an event on campus. 

Richard Glejzer is provost and dean of faculty at Marlboro. You can find our full obituary of Grant at marlboro.edu/grant-li, and join Richard and other community members in contributing to Marlboro in his honor at marlboro.edu/give. If you have your own remembrances of Grant, please share them with Seth Harter at harter@marlboro.edu, and see the tributes of others at potash.marlboro.edu/remembering-grant

Joseph Herbert Schaeffer, former faculty member 
A longtime resident of Marlboro, Joe Schaeffer died in March in his home. He was 80. Joe attended Oberlin College and had a successful musical career before receiving his PhD in anthropology from Columbia University, under the advisement of Margaret Meade. In 1970 he moved to Guilford, and was professor of anthropology at Marlboro College from then until 1987. He then moved to Canada with his third wife and daughter, living there for the next 20 years. During this time he developed methods to support positive communication and conflict resolution, which he shared in workshops and in two books. After living internationally and teaching English in Istanbul, Madrid, and Moscow, he returned to Vermont and took great enjoyment in spending time with his grandchildren, sitting in the sun, reading books, and listening to classical music. 

Geoffrey Fallows, classics fellow 
Leading classicist and Marlboro’s second Oxford Classics Fellow, Geoffrey Fallows died in June after a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 77. Geoffrey was just out of Wadham College of the University of Oxford when he served as classics fellow in the 1964–65 academic year. He remained a loyal friend to Marlboro, and served a term as Marlboro’s designated trustee of Huron University, London, in the early 2000s when we maintained a partnership there. Geoffrey served for many years as the classicist and head teacher of Camden School for Girls, in north London. He also served as president of the Joint Association of Classical Teachers, and in that capacity was tireless in his pursuit of gentle political pressure for more attention to classics in education. He also helped launch their publication, Omnibus. 

Barbara (Dutton) Dretzin ’55 
A resident of Walpole, New Hampshire, Barbara Ann (Dutton) Dretzin died peacefully at her home in March. She was 90. Barbara was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, and attended the Manumit School in Pawling, New York, Cambridge School in Kendal, Massachusetts, and Marlboro College. While there she collaborated with Margaret MacArthur, folk singer and wife of longtime faculty member John MacArthur, in a folk program on the local radio station. At Marlboro she also met William Dretzin ’52, whom she married, and together they served a two-year term in the Peace Corps in Cameroon. She and William, who died in 1997, raised three daughters in Millwood, New York. Mid-life, Barbara returned to New England, where she enjoyed the peace and beauty of Cheshire County, finally settling in Walpole in 1994. 

Gretchen Hebb Bean ’57 
A longtime resident of Scituate, Massachusetts, Gretchen Hebb Bean passed away peacefully in June. Born and raised in Brattleboro, Vermont, Gretchen was a graduate of Brattleboro High School, and studied biology at Marlboro College. She went on to earn her master’s degree in physiology at the University of Vermont, and finally her PhD in biochemistry at Boston University. Gretchen worked for many years in clinical and research labs, and volunteered as a Scituate Board of Health member for several years. Later in life she founded Commonwealth Laboratories, Inc., where she worked until poor health forced her retirement at the age of 72. She was the beloved wife of the late Richard A. Bean, with whom she shared 56 years of marriage. 

Joe Patten ’69 
After five years of dealing with lymphoma, Joe Patten finally succumbed in May. Joe was born in Rutland, Vermont, went to Rutland High School, and graduated from Lenox School. He served in the US Army, working in the Intelligence Service in the US and abroad. Upon discharge, Joe returned to Vermont and worked at Spring Lake Ranch, a therapeutic facility in Shrewsbury. It was there that Joe met Mary Miles ’84. They married in 1966, then both attended Marlboro College until 1969 (Mary returned to complete her degree in the 1980s). Joe went on to work in the construction business, heading two companies. He also served his community as a lister and selectman in the town of Shrewsbury, and a member of the vestry at Trinity Episcopal Church. In 1996, Joe and Mary moved to Rockland, Maine, to be closer to Monhegan Island, a place they love. 

Pat Needle ’80 
A resident of Hudson, Massachusetts, Patricia Needle died in June after a long battle with Parkinson’s. She was 72. Pat was born in Mattapan, Massachusetts, and was a longtime resident of Newton, Massachusetts, as well as San Francisco, California, where she worked for years as a psychiatric nurse. She was already a nurse when she attended Marlboro College, one of the three on-campus nurses that took turns running the health clinic while working toward their degrees (Pat’s was in sociology). “Yes, we called her Nurse Needle,” said Dianna Noyes ’80. “She was a sweet, funny, nurturing soul who was kind to all of us.” Pat was a volunteer and supporter of many political and social causes, known for her generosity, her love of travel, and her love of meeting new people. 

Brad Oldenburg ’82 
A resident of York, Pennsylvania, Brad Oldenburg died on a sunny morning in May after a valiant battle with cancer. Born in Detroit, Brad was a graduate of Central York High School, and studied cello performance at both Temple University and Marlboro College, then went on to earn a master’s from University of Maryland. Brad’s creativity led him into making documentaries, many of them about music and musicians, at his company OPL Productions in New York City, where he also worked as a project manager for high-end renovation companies. Brad enjoyed the outdoors, kayaking, scuba diving, travel, contra dancing, raptor watching, and flirting with just about any woman he met. His family requested that contributions in his memory be made to Marlboro College or Marlboro Music, and they intend to plant a tree on the campus in his memory. 

Hilary Sloin ’85 
Award-winning playwright, writer, and essayist Hilary Sloin died at her home in Ashfield, Massachusetts, in June. She was 55 years old. The cause of death was suicide, following a lifelong struggle with mental illness. Hilary was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and attended Marlboro College to study creative writing before completing graduate study in playwriting at New York University. Her widely acclaimed debut novel, Art on Fire, chronicles the life of a young, renegade painter. Hilary continued to write and publish short stories, and left several in-progress novels. She also found a second career in the world of antique dealing and restoration, as co-owner of Stray Dog Antiques in Ashfield, Massachusetts. In her last years, as she struggled increasingly with her own lifelong mental illness, Hilary became a vocal advocate for those grappling with mental illness and suicidality. 

Will Timpson ’09 
Richard “Will” Timpson died in a kayaking accident at Boulder Drop rapids on the Skykomish River, Washington, in February. He was 31. Will graduated from Marlboro with a degree in biology, focusing on the conservation biology of rare plants and sustainable human communities. He had recently finished his first year at the Google campus in Seattle after spending the previous year completing an intensive computer coding and programming “boot camp” in Takoma Park, Maryland (his hometown). He spent most weekends enjoying the outdoors, either hiking, cycling, or kayaking. He described himself as a software “craftsman,” but that love of workmanship also translated into timber framing, cooking, baking, pottery, photography, and music. In April, a group of alumni and friends joined together on Marlboro’s campus to hike, play music, and celebrate Will’s life. 

Karleen Crossman, staff member 
A valuable member of the Plant an Operations team since 2011, Karleen Clossman died unexpectedly in February. She was 54, and passed peacefully in the comfort of her home with the love of family near. Karleen was a lifetime resident of Winchester, New Hampshire, where she attended local schools. Before coming to work at Marlboro, she had worked at Thayer High School in Winchester in a similar capacity. Karleen enjoyed singing, dancing, music, her dragonfly collection, and shopping for good deals—especially on nice shoes and clothes. She was also an avid NASCAR fan, going to Louden for the races in the warmer weather. Mostly, Karleen loved being with her family and close friends. Her colleagues at Marlboro were devastated by the loss of Karleen, and planted a peach tree in her memory. 

While this issue of Potash Hill was in production, we were saddened to learn of the death of Bill Horridge ’51 in July 2019 and of Paul Nelsen, theater professor emeritus, in August. We will plan on full obituaries in the next issue.