Robert M. Grant. (University of Chicago Divinity School)

University obituaries
Recent trustee, faculty, staff, and alumni obituaries.


Steven G. Rothmeier, MBA’72, died of Lewy body disease and Parkinson’s disease May 14 in Naples, FL. He was 67. A University of Chicago trustee emeritus and a life member of the Council on Chicago Booth, Rothmeier was a decorated infantry officer in Vietnam who went on to spend most of his career at Northwest Airlines. Beginning in the finance department, he rose to the position of chairman and chief executive officer in 1985. Following the sale of the company, he formed Great Northern Capital, a merchant banking and investment firm, and was its chairman and chief executive officer until his 2012 retirement. He is survived by his mother and two brothers.

Faculty and Staff

Robert M. Grant, Carl Darling Buck Professor Emeritus of New Testament and Early Christian Literature, died June 10 in Chicago. He was 96. Grant was a renowned American historian of ancient Christianity and wrote more than 30 books on the topic, including Miracle and Natural Law in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Thought (1952). A recipient of Fulbright and Guggenheim fellowships, he was president of the Society of Biblical Literature, among other scholarly organizations. He was also an authority on German U-boats whose works on that subject included U-Boat Hunters: Code Breakers, Divers, and the Defeat of the U-Boats, 1914–1918 (2004). Survivors include his wife, Margaret (Horton) Grant, LAB’35; daughter Susan Slattery, LAB’66; sons Doug M. Grant, LAB’59, Peter W. Grant, LAB’63, AM’71, and Jim Snyder-Grant, LAB’74; six grandchildren, including Anjali Grant, AB’90; and two great-grandchildren.

Tonya Gunn, a customer service representative in Facilities Services, died July 7 in Chicago, the unintended victim of a drive-by shooting. She was 44. Gunn attended Morgan Park High School and studied at Robert Morris University before joining the UChicago staff in 1993. The single mother of an 11-year-old girl, Gunn loved to cook for family and friends and was a lifelong musician who played drums, piano, and guitar and enjoyed R&B music. She is survived by her daughter, her mother, and a brother.

James Lawler, professor emeritus of French, died July 28 in Paris. He was 83. An Australia native who earned a doctorate at the Sorbonne, Lawler was a specialist in modern French poetry. While serving as the first professor of French at the University of Western Australia, Lawler founded the journal now known as Essays in French Literature and Culture. He taught at UChicago from 1979 until his retirement in 1997. After retiring, Lawler served as president of the Association Internationale des Études Françaises and of the Association des Amis de Rimbaud. In 1999 he was awarded the Prix du rayonnement de la langue française by the Académie Française. He is survived by a daughter and a son.

Marvin Mirsky, AM’47, died May 20 in Chicago. He was 90. Mirsky taught for many years in the College and in the University Extension. He also founded discussion groups on contemporary literature and film, and led tours to Europe and Canada focused on literature and theater. He is survived by his life partner, Mary Ann Whelan; a son, Seth Mirsky, LAB’76; and a brother.

Bernece Kern Simon, AB’36, AM’42, of Chicago, died May 19. She was 99. The Samuel Deutsch Professor Emerita at the School of Social Service Administration, Simon retired in 1979 but continued to teach in SSA’s doctoral program; she was also the book review editor of Social Work and served on several national boards dedicated to social work. She is survived by a daughter, a sister, and a grandson. Her husband, Marvin L. Simon, PhB’33, JD’36, died in 2006.

Benjamin Spargo, AB’50, SM’52, MD’52, died May 30 in Chicago. He was 94. A WW II veteran, Spargo was a renal pathologist and professor emeritus of pathology who was one of the first physicians to use the electron microscope for clinical diagnosis. He received the Gold Key Award from the Medical and Biological Sciences Alumni Association in 1993 in recognition of his outstanding and loyal service to the Division of the Biological Sciences and to the University. He is survived by his daughter, Patricia Spargo, LAB’71, and one grandchild.


Gerald Ratner, PhB’35, JD’37, died June 20 in Chicago. He was 100. A WW II veteran and a senior partner in the law firm of Gould & Ratner, he was a longtime supporter of UChicago. His generosity included establishing a student loan fund at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, endowing a distinguished service professorship in the Law School, helping to fund the Gerald Ratner Athletics Center, and funding a gallery in the Smart Museum of Art. Ratner’s awards from UChicago included the University of Chicago Medal, the Law School’s Distinguished Alumni Award, and the Alumni Service Medal. He is survived by three nephews.

Mary Elizabeth “Sue” (McKeon) Whitman, PhB’31, AM’32, died March 27 in Huntsville, AL. She was 103. A journalist who worked for the Office of War Information during WW II, Whitman served after the war as chief of employment at the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency. Later she worked at the Department of State before retiring in 1976 and going on to spend many years as a volunteer on behalf of the elderly. She is survived by a son and a granddaughter. Her husband, Roswell “Ross” Hartson Whitman, PhD’33, died in 1962.

Jerome S. Katzin, AB’39, JD’41, of San Diego, died June 14, less than two weeks after the death of his wife of 75 years, Miriam Eve (Manchis) Katzin, AB’39 (see below). He was 96. Katzin was a partner and managing director at Kuehn, Loeb & Co. in New York City before moving to Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., where he established himself as a nationally known expert in public works financing. An adviser to the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation, he served on more than 20 corporate boards. Survivors include a daughter; two sons, including David B. Katzin, SB’67; a brother, Marshall P. Katzin, AB’42; and two granddaughters.

Miriam Eve (Manchis) Katzin, AB’39, of San Diego, died June 2. She was 96. She worked as a reading teacher in New York and in California, where she started and ran a program in remedial reading for elementary school students. She and her husband, Jerome S. Katzin (see above), were well-known philanthropists who funded the creation of the Judaic studies department at the University of California, San Diego, and endowed many other programs at the university. She is survived by a daughter; two sons, including David B. Katzin, SB’67; and two granddaughters.

Frederick G. Smith, SB’39, died May 4 in Ames, IA. He was 96. A biochemist and plant pathologist, he taught at Cornell University and the University of Rochester before joining the faculty of Iowa State University in 1948. He taught at Iowa State until retiring as a professor emeritus and also served for 17 years as chair of the school’s Department of Botany and Plant Pathology. He is survived by his wife, Ursula; a brother; and two grandsons.

Janet Kalven, SB’34, of Cincinnati, OH, died April 24. She was 100. One of the founders of the Grailville retreat center in Loveland, OH, Kalven was a feminist educator, author, and activist. She was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame in 1990 for her contributions to the advancement of women. She is survived by three nephews, Jamie Kalven, LAB’65; Michael J. Kalven, LAB’69; and Peter Kalven, LAB’71, and a niece, Katherine H. Bauer, LAB’78.


Reed Buffington, AB’42, AM’47, died June 9 in Santa Rosa, CA. He was 94. A WW II veteran, Buffington was a longtime advocate for community college education and was the founding president of Chabot College in Hayward, CA, which named its performing arts center for him in 2010. After his retirement from Chabot in 1981, he was senior vice president of administration for Lucky Stores, a supermarket chain. He is survived by three daughters, one son, eight grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.

Albert Abe Schy, SB’42, of Hampton, VA, died May 24. He was 93. A WW II veteran, he was a researcher in aeronautical science at NASA’s Langley Research Center for more than 40 years and remained a distinguished research associate at the facility after his retirement. Schy was a longtime volunteer at the Peninsula Peace Education Center and at his synagogue. Survivors include two daughters, three sons, eight grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Seymour Slive, AB’43, PhD’52, died June 14 in Cambridge, MA. He was 93. Slive, an authority on 17th-century Dutch painting, was the Gleason Professor Emeritus of Fine Arts at Harvard University; he was also Cabot Founding Director Emeritus of the Harvard University Art Museums. He served on the board of directors of the Guggenheim Museum of Art in New York City and on the advisory committee of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Survivors include his wife, Zoya Slive, LAB’42, AM’50; two daughters; a son; and five grandchildren.

Jeanette (Scherer) Fiss, AB’46, AM’50, of Albany, CA, died May 16. She was 90. Fiss was a psychologist and an activist on women’s issues who founded the women’s studies program at Ramapo College of New Jersey. Survivors include two daughters, a son, a brother, a sister, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Nancy (Kaplan) Fischer, AB’47, died June 16 in New York City. She was 86. Fischer was a lifelong educator, serving as an adviser to the Department of Education at the City College of New York. She taught at the Long Ridge School in Stamford, CT, and later served as its director. She is survived by a daughter, two sons, a stepdaughter, a stepson, six granddaughters, three grandsons, and four great-grandchildren.

Helen Harkonen, AB’47, died June 1 in Warwick, NY. She was 86. A former assistant curator at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, she was for many years a professor of art history at the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is survived by a brother.

Sally Morris Petrilli, LAB’44, PhB’48, of Chippewa Falls, WI, died April 30. She was 85. A lifelong musician, she performed frequently as a singer and classical guitarist; she also taught guitar. After earning a graduate degree at the age of 54, Petrilli went on to a career as a tenured professor of instructional communications at Governors State University in University Park, IL. Survivors include a daughter, a son, and two grandsons.


Maurice Crane, AM’50, died June 1 in East Lansing, MI. He was 87. A Michigan State University professor from 1953 to 2000, Crane headed the school’s G. Robert Vincent Voice Library, a collection of sound materials including speeches, lectures, and performances. He was nominated for a Grammy in 1984 for his cassette compilation of the speeches of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He also hosted Passing Through, an interview show on local television. Survivors include his wife, Elayne Crane, AM’50; two daughters; two sons; three granddaughters; two grandsons; and four great-grandchildren.

Janet Gray (Frazee) Hayes, AM’50, of Laramie, WY, died April 21. She was 87. Hayes was elected to the San Jose (CA) city council in 1971 and became the city’s first female mayor in 1975. After serving two terms as mayor, she managed the medical practice of her husband, Kenneth Hayes, MD’52, and volunteered for the League to Save Lake Tahoe. Her husband died in 2013. She is survived by three daughters, a son, and eight grandchildren.

Robert William “Bob” Lickiss, AM’50, died May 6 in Peoria, IL. He was 89. A B-17 bombardier/navigator in the Army Air Corps during WW II, he was one of the first military aviators to be trained in the use of navigational radar. He retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force and spent 30 years as a sales representative for a legal publisher before retiring in 1990. Survivors include his wife, Colene; four daughters; two sons; 13 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

H. Martin Weingartner, SB’50, AB’50, AM’51, died May 6 in Nashville, TN. He was 85. Weingartner was the Brownlee O. Currey Professor of Finance in the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University until his retirement in 1998. The former president of the Institute of Management Sciences, he was a prolific author and a consultant to a number of corporations. He is survived by his wife, Joyce; a daughter; three sons; and four grandchildren.

Karl R. Zimmer Jr., AB’50, of Indianapolis, died May 18. He was 87. A US Navy veteran, Zimmer worked in the publishing industry before taking over his family’s paper-packaging manufacturing business in Indianapolis. He was an enthusiastic volunteer who served on the Indiana Council on World Affairs, the Athenaeum Foundation, and the Indiana Humanities Council; he was also the author of three books. Survivors include a daughter, two sons, a sister, and two grandchildren. His wife, Barbara Evans Zimmer, AB’49, died in 2010.

John “Jack” Thomas Hickey Sr., MBA’52, died June 7 in Glenview, IL. He was 88. A WW II veteran, Hickey worked at Motorola for 50 years, rising from a sales position to become the corporation’s chief financial officer and retiring in 1986. He continued to serve on Motorola’s board of directors for another decade. Survivors include his wife, Joanne; a daughter; four sons, including John T. Hickey Jr., JD’77, James P. Hickey, MBA’82, and Roger P. Hickey, MBA’88; two brothers; two sisters; ten granddaughters; ten grandsons, including James P. Hickey Jr., MBA’12, and Chicago Booth student John T. Hickey III; and two great-grandchildren.

George Herbert Borts, AM’49, PhD’53, died May 2 in Providence, RI. He was 86. The George S. and Nancy B. Parker Professor Emeritus of Economics at Brown University, where he spent his entire career, Borts was an expert in international finance and transportation. He served as chair of the Department of Economics at Brown and was managing editor of the American Economic Review. He is survived by his wife, Muriel; three sons; a brother; and three grandchildren.

George S. Fabian, MBA’54, died June 7 in Bryn Mawr, PA. He was 84. A longtime advertising executive, he began his career at the market research firm Alfred Politz and later worked for advertising agencies including Young & Rubicam and Backer & Spielvogel; he also worked at Johnson & Johnson, Campbell Soup, and other companies. In 2009 Fabian was elected to the Market Research Council’s Hall of Fame. He is survived by his wife, Norma; a daughter; a son; and two granddaughters.

Sidney J. Blatt, PhD’57, died May 11 in Hamden, CT. He was 85. Blatt was a psychologist who developed the influential “double helix” theory of depression, which holds that depression can arise from one’s identity or one’s relationships. He spent most of his career as a professor at Yale University, where he served as chief of the psychology section of the Department of Psychiatry. Survivors include two daughters, a son, and nine grandchildren.

Sam Greenlee, EX’57, died May 19 in Chicago. He was 83. Greenlee was one of the first black officials of the US Information Agency to serve overseas. His 1969 novel, The Spook Who Sat by the Door, was based on his experiences there in the 1950s and ’60s. He adapted the book into a 1973 film for which he served as writer and producer; in 2012, it was named to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as one of the country’s “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” films. He is survived by a daughter and a granddaughter.

Jean Pehrson (Sutton) Rumsey, AM’57, died May 14 in Stevens Point, WI. She was 80. After raising her children, Rumsey returned to school and earned a PhD in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin. She became an associate professor at Clarion University of Pennsylvania, retiring in 1999. During her retirement, she tutored second-graders and taught many classes in the University of Wisconsin’s lifelong learning program. She is survived by her husband, Charles; two daughters; a son; two brothers; a sister, Marjorie (Sutton) Dickinson, AM’55; and five grandchildren.


Frederick F. Cohn, AB’60, JD’62, died April 30 in Evanston, IL. He was 75. He began his career in the Cook County public defender’s office, volunteered as a civil rights attorney in Mississippi in the 1960s, and later became a criminal defense attorney. He also taught criminal law and procedure at John Marshall Law School and offered legal services pro bono to neighbors in need. He is survived by his wife, Mary; a daughter; and a son.

Paul W. Waltz Jr., SB’61, MBA’67, of Fox Lake, IL, died April 18. He was 74. An early expert in computing, Waltz worked in the APL programming language developed in the 1960s. He later taught courses in ethics and critical thinking at the College of Lake County. He is survived by three daughters, a son, a brother, a sister, and seven grandchildren.

Janet Mae (Anderson) Buskey, AM’62, died May 2 in Cincinnati, OH. She was 80. A registered occupational therapist, Buskey spent more than 40 years working with patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and universities in a number of states. She was an avid gardener, a rescuer of animals, and a dedicated quilter. Among the survivors are her husband, John H. Buskey, AM’61, PhD’70; a daughter; two sons; a sister; and a granddaughter.

Carol Welt, AM’59, PhD’62, of Mansfield Center, CT, died June 11. She was 77. Welt was a biomedical researcher at the University of Wisconsin before moving on to administrative positions at institutions including the National Science Foundation and the New York University School of Medicine. She retired as the University of Connecticut’s assistant vice provost for research and executive director of the Office for Sponsored Programs. She is survived by a son.

Margaret Arlene Payne, PhD’63, died June 18 in Chapel Hill, NC. She was 87. Payne’s first academic position was as a professor of nutrition at the University of Kansas Medical Center; she later worked as a professor at the University of Missouri–Kansas City before joining the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, from which she retired in 1990. She was a great-aunt of President Barack Obama and is also survived by two brothers.

Vincent G. Harding, AM’56, PhD’65, of Denver, CO, died May 19. He was 82. A civil rights activist and speechwriter for Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Harding was a founder of Atlanta’s Mennonite House and traveled the southern United States working against segregation throughout the 1960s. He retired in 2004 from the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, where he was a professor of religion and social transformation. He is survived by his wife, Aljosie; a daughter; and a son.

Bernard J. Witczak, MBA’66, died June 12 in Sturgeon Bay, WI. He was 81. Beginning his career as a draftsman, Witczak then became a mechanical engineer and served in the US Army. He later held a number of executive positions and retired as the president of Utilimaster, a truck-body manufacturing company, in 1981. Survivors include his wife, Phyllis; three daughters; two sons, including Peter Witczak, MBA’88; a brother; a sister; seven granddaughters; six grandsons; and a great-granddaughter.

Michael J. Barron, MBA’67, died May 25 in Sylvania, OH. He was 78. After service in the US Navy, he embarked on a career in the railroad industry, working at the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad; the Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad; and the Grand Trunk Railroad. He retired as the chief executive officer of the Ann Arbor Railroad in 1996. He is survived by his wife, Marguerite; a daughter; four sons; a sister; and 16 grandchildren.

Jerrold F. Schwaber, AB’69, PhD’74, died June 6 in Haddonfield, PA, of complications following surgery. He was 67. He was an immunologist and cell biologist whose work as a graduate student at UChicago pioneered the creation of monoclonal antibodies, now used in a variety of cancer drugs. Schwaber continued this line of research as a professor at Harvard Medical School, Boston Children’s Hospital, Hahnemann University Hospital, and Thomas Jefferson University. He is survived by his wife, Susan Hoch, AB’70, MD’74; two sons; and four grandchildren.


Werner Joseph Dannhauser, PhD’71, died April 26 in Frederick, PA. He was 84. Dannhauser was a writer and editor at Commentary magazine before beginning his academic career. The author of Nietzsche’s View of Socrates (1974), he taught at institutions including UChicago and Michigan State University and retired as professor emeritus of government at Cornell University. He is survived by two daughters, including Anna Ruth (Dannhauser) Marks, AB’93, AM’98, and four grandchildren.

Donald W. Larmouth, AM’65, PhD’72, of Green Bay, WI, died June 12. He was 73. A member of the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay faculty from 1970 until he retired as professor emeritus in 2000, he served as the university’s dean of arts, sciences, and graduate programs for several years. Larmouth was an avid fisherman who wrote three books and many articles on the topic. Survivors include his wife, Judy Ann; a daughter; a son; three granddaughters; and a brother.

Eugenia “Jean” (Sloan) Merczak, AM’77, died June 8 in Northfield, IL. She was 75. The former head of children’s services at the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago in Waukegan, IL, she was also a longtime volunteer at the Art Institute of Chicago. She is survived by her husband, Richard; three daughters; two brothers; a sister; three granddaughters; two grandsons; and two great-granddaughters.

Michael Joseph Shortley III, JD’79, of Fairport, NY, died of cancer May 7. He was 59. After beginning his career in litigation and antitrust law, Shortley became a specialist in telecommunications law and worked at companies that included Bell Atlantic, Frontier, Global Crossing Telecommunications, and Level 3 Communications. He was also an avid runner and active in his church. Survivors include a brother.


Nancy Jan (Garner) Milnes, AM’81, of Chicago, died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) on May 15. She was 68. She spent more than 40 years as a licensed clinical social worker who provided therapy and neurofeedback to her patients. She volunteered for organizations dedicated to the welfare of women and children, including Aunt Martha’s Youth Service Center. Survivors include two sons, a brother, and a granddaughter.

Gail Lee Duddy, MBA’85, of River Forest, IL, died May 10. She was 61. Duddy began her career as a business analyst at McKinsey & Company; she later joined the railcar leasing company GATX Corporation, where she retired as senior vice president of human resources in 2008. She is survived by her mother.

David Walton, AB’89, of Eugene, OR, died January 9 due to complications of diabetes. He was 47. A longtime information technology professional, Walton worked most recently in the information services department of the University of Oregon. He was an accomplished pianist and cellist who loved many kinds of music. He is survived by five siblings.


Robert Abrahamian, SB’99, died June 5 in Chicago. He was 35. Abrahamian was a passionate collector and preservationist of 45 rpm Chicago soul music records and the longtime host of Sitting in the Park on Sunday evenings on WHPK-FM. He worked as a computer programmer for several years. Survivors include his parents, a sister, and a grandfather.


John Meyers, a degree candidate in the master’s program in computer science in the Physical Sciences Division, died of a brain tumor June 27 in Chicago. He was 42. Meyers held a law degree from Loyola University School of Law, where he met his wife, Hanh. He is survived by his wife and son.