In Memoriam: Winifred Asprey '38

My dear friend and distinguished classmate Winifred Asprey ’38 [Vassar professor emerita of mathematics and director emerita of the Computer Center] passed away on October 19 in her home on the Vassar campus. We had not known each other well during our college years, but when I returned to work at Vassar in 1960, Winnie invited me for the first of many wonderful evenings at her apartment on Raymond Avenue. She made me so welcome and helped me to feel at home in the Vassar community.

Winnie cared about people and was interested in their lives, families, and careers. Every reunion weekend, and indeed throughout the year, former students as well as classmates went up to Thellberg Road to visit her in her home facing the Vassar golf course. Her hospitality was unbounded, and she enjoyed those visits so much. I recall some memorable Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations with her. She always wanted to be sure that her friends had some place to go on those holidays.

For a number of years Winnie drove across the country to spend the summer with her parents in California. Later on she went on a cruise to Indonesia, sailed around the Greek islands, visited friends in Europe, and stayed with her brother Bob, when he lived in England.

In recent months we had a special date on Sunday afternoons. I took her the Sunday New York Times, and we exchanged news of our families and friends, and speculated about candidates for the 2008 Presidential election. These were special times, and I am grateful for them and for her friendship. I shall miss her very much.

Mary-Alice Hunter ’38
Poughkeepsie, New York

I met Winifred Asprey shortly after I began at Vassar, a sophomore transfer from Dutchess Community College. I declared a major in computer science very quickly, as the result of some great advising from a number of sources, and requested that my work-study assignment be with the computer science department. Soon after I began, Elle Gohl, the administrative assistant there, asked me if I would be willing to help Ms. Asprey with setting up a new computer at home. I said, “Sure,” and began what was to be one of the greatest friendships I am sure I will ever have.

Ms. Asprey was not a typical retired professor or human being. She maintained very close contacts with the computer science department and even attended one of my classes for a semester. She was always amicable, with a great sense of humor and a timeless way of seeing the world. I was pleasantly surprised at how well we could relate.

She would often bring people together, introducing friends who did not yet know they were friends, but would recognize one another immediately. She had a great talent for that and understood profoundly the energy created in two minds working together. By the time I graduated in 1998, Ms. Asprey had introduced me to several of her friends, many of whom I now count as friends myself.

When I returned to Vassar in 2002, Ms. Asprey called me quickly, wanting some computer help. So I began visiting again, but realized our relationship had changed, from professor and student to dear friends. Since then I’ve visited more infrequentlybecause of the normal schedule we all face—and because it seemed that Ms. Asprey entertained visiting friends almost constantly. Even the very last time I saw Ms. Asprey, at her 90th birthday, I was introduced to new friends with lots to talk about.

She brought people together not as much, I think, because they would like one another; of course they would. There was more of an expectation, an air of quiet excitement about where the new relationship might lead, that I think intrigued her. Winifred Asprey is the only person I’ve ever known who thought to do that as a normal mode of living, with everyone she knew.

For her 90th, a thoughtful compendium of memories was compiled by friends and family in the Vassar community. She was thrilled to receive such a gift, packed with the humor and love of a group so grateful. I couldn’t write what I wanted to, I told her. At the time it seemed too personal. But I told her many times what she meant to me, that she made me feel welcome, that she gave me an endorsement to create and to be smart that I had never felt before. Winifred Asprey will always represent the future, in the way of an entrepreneur, a guide, and a hero.

Tim McGraw ’98
Poughkeepsie, New York

Editor’s Note: Read the 1967 VQ article about Professor Asprey and Vassar's then-new computer center.

In Memoriam: Eric Smith '92

The Vassar community is deeply saddened by the tragic death of Eric Smith ’92. Eric, 37, was killed when a sight-seeing plane in Alaska crashed on August 16, 2007. His wife Christine, his 3-year-old twins Trevor and Allison, and his stepfather, David Mayer, were also killed. His mother, Mindy Mayer, narrowly survived the accident.

Eric died a hero. Upon impact, only he and his mother were alert. He quickly handed his mother his daughter, whose clothes were on fire, to get her to safety. He then jumped over the seat into the back to try and rescue his wife and son. Shortly thereafter, the plane exploded killing all on board. His daughter survived several surgeries for nearly seven weeks before she succumbed.

Those of us who had the opportunity to befriend Eric know that he had the unique gift of seeing the positive in everyone and every situation (unless, of course, you were competing against him!). Eric and I were doubles tennis partners for three years at Vassar and played on the squash team together. Eric was talented and loyal, but above all a person of great strength and courage. If the match was on the line, Eric was the one guy you wanted on the court. As friends and as teammates, we counted on him both on and off the court. After Vassar, Eric moved to Oregon, where he was a successful owner/operator of several McDonald’s stores and where he and Christine were enjoying raising their twins.

We all mourn a great loss.

Mitch Truwit ’91 
Darien, Connecticut

Re: Rebuilding New Orleans: Robert Jackson '77 and Grisela Alejandro Jackson '78

Robert and Grisela Alejandro Jackson
Robert and Grisela Alejandro Jackson
Thank you for your story on Robert Jackson ’77 and Grisela Alejandro Jackson ’78 [pictured], native New Orleanians who are passionately committed to rebuilding our city. Having just made our first trips to Vassar to take our daughter for her freshman year and then to attend freshmen parents’ weekend, we were puzzled by the lack of awareness both on and off campus of the dire situation in New Orleans. However, after receiving the Vassar Quarterly we are encouraged by your sensitive and accurate portrayal of the very complex situation here. You captured the essence of the story: New Orleans was destroyed not by a hurricane but by the failure of levees built and maintained by the federal government, and it is individuals like the Jacksons and many other brave citizens of this city, as well as volunteers from around the country, who are responsible for the survival of New Orleans. We will not merely survive; we will triumph. Our spirit is strong, our community is vibrant, and our culture thrives. Come visit us and enjoy our food, our neighborhoods, our music, and so much more. While you’re here you can volunteer to be part of the rebuilding of one of the greatest cities in America.

Wendy Schornstein Good P’11
New Orleans, Louisiana