This just in

On Yale & Yale alumni.
Ico print Print | Ico email Email | Facebook | | RSS

In Memoriam: paddler and poet

One of the highlights of writing for this blog is that I hear about Yale alumni whose fascinating, and sometimes inspiring, lives would otherwise be unknown to me. Sadly, sometimes I learn of them only because their lives have ended.

Two such lives—and deaths—presented themselves today: those of Jamie McEwan ’74 and Louis Daniel Brodsky ’63.

McEwan was a “tall, swarthy and cheerfully subversive Yale wrestling captain/1972 Olympic bronze medalist in Whitewater Canoe Slalom,” in the words of his wife, artist and songwriter Sandra Boynton ’74.

His performance in the 1972 Olympics “provided legitimacy to whitewater slalom in the United States,” a former teammate says, and “inspired a generation of paddlers.” After settling in northwest Connecticut with Boynton, he published several children’s books and numerous articles and short stories.

Five years ago, McEwan began a new writing project: a blog, titled “Excuses, Excuses,” about his newly diagnosed multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer. Last month, he wrote:

I've just realized that I only like reporting good news, never bad.

But who needs news? Instead I'll run an ad, a personal:

If anyone has seen approximately 30 pounds of Jamie McEwan in or near the Sharon Hospital Intensive Care Unit, please report back to me, as I seem to have mislaid this portion of myself during my two-week stay in that facility.

McEwan died on June 14 at age 61.

* * *

Louis Daniel Brodsky “composed at least one new poem, on average, every other day” for 48 years, according to his website. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that totaled nearly 12,000 poems, published in 83 volumes, by the time of Brodsky’s death on June 16, at age 73.

“Mr. Brodsky composed his first poem at the end of his senior year at Yale University,” the Post-Dispatch notes. “He titled it ‘Culpa eterna’ and said it embodied all that he had assimilated from five years of taking Spanish, Latin and literature courses. After that, he seemingly never stopped writing.”

While helping to run the family clothing business in his native Missouri, Brodsky “drove around visiting the outlet stores and wrote poetry in his ledger book with a pen while he drove,” his daughter tells the Post-Dispatch. Eventually, he was able to devote full time to his writing.

During his time at Yale, Brodsky studied the novels of William Faulkner with English professor R.W.B. Lewis, and began collecting Faulkner’s works. Eventually he donated the collection to Southeast Missouri State University.

Although Yale sparked two of his lifelong passions, Brodsky spoke bitterly of his college experience in a 2010 interview.

Yale was nothing other than a more sophisticated extension of St. Louis Country Day School, an even more elitist confederation of entitled prep-school legacies and jocks,” he said. ”Because Yale was larger, less personal, the anti-Semitism didn't seem as noticeable, flagrant. Yet it was a given that I would never be tapped for Skull & Bones.”

UPDATE, 6/20: Brodsky’s daughter, Trilogy Mattson, wrote to tell us that his thoughts about Yale were largely positive. “The truth was, he talked about it often and with fondness and was incredibly proud of his time there,” writes Mattson, “especially his athletic achievements, going as far as to take great pride in passing on his Major Y sweater to my brother in this final year.”


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

Filed under Jamie McEwan, Louis Daniel Brodsky
The comment period has expired.