By Thomas J. Bourgeois
This just in from David Brenner: “After more than 15 years, I recently stepped down as vice chancellor of health services at UC–San Diego and am now president and CEO of Sanford Burnham Prebys Institute, a freestanding research institute also in La Jolla.” David, who also served from 2007 to 2018 as dean of the university’s medical school, remains as distinguished professor of medicine at UC–San Diego Health Sciences. In announcing his departure from the vice chancellor role, a UCSD press release quoted Chancellor Pradeep K. Kosla: “Vice Chancellor Brenner has made a lasting impact on UC–San Diego during his tenure and leaves an enduring legacy that positions UCSD Health Services well into the future. Since his appointment to Health Sciences in 2007, his rare combination of talents as a researcher, clinician, scholar, and administrator led to transformational progress for the university’s tripartite mission of education, research, and clinical care.” The release also cited this glowing assessment from UCSD Health CEO Patty Maysent: “Dr. Brenner has been a visionary leader. He could see the huge potential and promise of UC–San Diego Health as a care provider to not just the region, but the world. [He] set the aspiration that no patient . . . would need to leave San Diego for complex care and has delivered on that vision. He has led efforts to translate discoveries into clinical care in an accelerated way which has greatly benefited our patients and communities.” As both a classmate and a California taxpayer, I commend David for his invaluable service to UC–San Diego!
My last installment reported on the astounding commercial success (over a million copies sold as of late 2021) of the computer science text Introduction to Algorithms, coauthored by Charles Leiserson, as well as its reach into popular culture (its appearance as the basis of a $600 question on the National College Championship version of Jeopardy!, and its inclusion as a plot point in the recent Chinese television miniseries Forever Love). Part Two of the Professor Leiserson update begins with his most notable extracurricular pursuit.
Charles writes, “For avocation, I sing with my 14-year-old Katie in the North Cambridge Family Opera, with which we performed this spring after a two-year COVID hiatus. The (pre-COVID) cast includes about 150 performers, ages 7 to 90. Over the years, Katie has become a star with leading roles, whereas I’m in the chorus and have only bit parts (which seems appropriate for a computer scientist). Our classmate David Bass founded the music company, is the music director, and wrote some of the operas we perform. I didn’t know David at Yale, which is my loss, as he is among the most gentle and talented souls I’ve ever known. David is especially good with kids, managing them all with wit and understanding while nurturing them to perform at near-professional levels. The Family Opera shows are locally famous for having a high production value for community theater—music, set design, choreography etc. David provides every kid with the opportunity to sing a challenging solo at a level where they can succeed. If you’re in Cambridge next spring, we’ll be performing The Cutlass Crew, a brand-new opera about Lady Mary Killigrew of Cornwall, one of the most notorious pirates of the sixteenth century. Better yet: if you sing, audition this fall (everyone is accepted), and join us!
“I’m eyeing retirement, but I have no definite plans at this time. I still enjoy teaching and research at MIT, but my generally upbeat outlook seems to be challenged by COVID, global warming, the war in Ukraine, the mass shootings, the abrogation of women’s rights, and the rampant racism in our society. I wish there were an algorithm for solving these big problems.”
Congratulations to Ben Yagoda, who is among the current crop of 129 McDowell Grant recipients. McDowell recognizes, and awards residencies to, creative artists across seven categories: architects, composers, filmmakers, interdisciplinary artists, theater artists, visual artists, and writers and poets. If you haven’t read it already, I commend Ben’s article, entitled “Unforgettable,” in the last issue of this publication. It chronicles the remarkable gathering of jazz greats, organized by bassist and American Studies lecturer Willie Ruff, at Woolsey Hall in October ’72. I’ll drop what is known in television as a teaser: our own Erroll McDonald appears in the story as Charles Mingus’s assigned chaperone.
As noted briefly at the close of my last column, Arthur Thomas Keefe III (DC) passed away on July 6, in Rockville, Maryland, from complications of the multiple sclerosis that he had suffered for over 20 years. Art was known equally for his graciousness and large, gregarious personality in our undergraduate days and beyond. He was a member of St. Elmo’s, a spirited singer with the Sons of Orpheus and Bacchus, and such an accomplished competitor with the Yale Corinthian Yacht Club that he was elected to the Sailing Hall of Fame as a collegiate sailor. Having served as a senior class volunteer fundraiser, he joined the Development Office immediately after graduation as associate director of graduate and professional schools in the Campaign for Yale. A proud alumnus of Georgetown Prep, he became its first lay development officer in 1980 and held that post for five years, as well. Art was thus the first alumnus to serve both his alma maters in key fundraising roles. His distinguished career as a development executive continued for another 16 years, with stints at Washington’s Greater Southeast Community Hospital, Baltimore’s Franklin Square Hospital, the USO, and the National Foundation for Cancer Research. His last position before his 2001 retirement due to illness was VP of development for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. The honors he earned as a leader in his professional field are too numerous to mention here.
There can be no better distillation of Art’s playful essence and tirelessly competitive spirit than the words of his older son Ryan, who delivered the eulogy at his father’s funeral Mass, including these two anecdotes: “One time when I was embarrassed with how loudly Dad was singing in this very church, I whispered to him, ‘Can you not sing so loud? People are staring.’ Dad gave me a brief look, long enough to let me know he heard me, and immediately started singing even louder. When I was five or six years old, after I had been put to bed, Dad went into the family room to play Nintendo. When Mom asked what he was doing, he said, ‘Ryan got a new high score. I have to beat it.’”
Art is also survived by his wife Lori, with whom he enjoyed 40 years of marriage, and by son Garrett, sisters Dr. Bernadette Keefe and Lisa Hull, brother Timothy, and several nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Lori has asked that any donations from his Yale classmates and friends be sent in Art’s name to Yale.
As always, I welcome your news and notes.