|George C. Hudson Jr., 1937–2013
“I become my eight-year-old self when I think of George,” said our grown son, “watching that tall man appear, as he did, around a corner in Innsbruck, Austria, so comfortable in his bearing.”
George Hudson was a man at ease, with himself and in the world, whether in Kyoto, Dartmoor, the Swiss Alps, or the Everglades, where, now part of family lore, we once followed him.
He wore his Southern roots with great comfort and grace — holding his father’s family bible, talking about the farm he and sister Carolyn inherited in rural Georgia — as precious in memory as the farm he held in Hubbardsville with his beloved family: his wife, Chikako Ikeguchi, and their son, George Taro Hudson. He had had Taro late in life, and, before his son’s birth, could hardly endure kid talk. But Taro, the most glorious and sunny child we’d ever known, changed all that. Ten minutes into riding in a car with George, anyone would say: it’s okay, George. You can talk about Taro again.
Chikako and Taro, now 19, saw him though this year of illness, working to make life precious, always. He was a lucky man. And George was lucky in his friendships, with people like the eminent cardiologist Thad Waites, a fellow Southerner whom he met while leading a Smithsonian Institution climb — one of literally dozens he led over the years in Japan, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy — and with lifetime friendships that included Wilbur Albrecht, for whom he wrote a wonderful Colgate Scene piece called “The Blessings of Friendship” on Wil’s retirement. And, of course, all of us in the English department and around the university who love George.
For George Hudson was on Colgate’s faculty for more than 40 years, and it would be hard to envision anyone who came closer to embodying what we think of as a Renaissance man. His range of courses took him to 17th-Century Literature, Milton, Haiku, Literature and Medicine, more than one survey of English poetry, the two core Western foundations courses, and Core Japan. And he led study abroad programs 15 times over: to London and to Kyoto primarily, but also, in extended study trips to Hiroshima and Nagasaki with a colleague in geology, Karen Harpp.
George was awarded almost every one of Colgate’s teaching prizes. And he served in numerous roles around the university, as chair of his department and liaison to the Board of Trustees. But perhaps the job he liked best was University Marshal, leading the most important ceremonies for more than a decade. He continued even in the final six months of his illness, showing enormous pride and pleasure when he put the cowl on honorary degree recipient Jeff Fager ’77, whom he much admired.
Many people wrote to George on his retirement, some with knowledge that he was ill. A small sampling of their words follows. It is not inclusive, but it gives some sense of how deeply admired he was. The letters have much in common and speak to the ways George made place and people important; the intensity with which he taught; and — a rarity always, and perhaps moreso now — the extraordinary scope of vision he brought to us all. In every conversation.
Susan Cerasano, English department colleague and one of his closest friends, called George a “wonderful mentor, willing to help me better understand so many things and, above all, seventeenth-century poetry… You have, as well, made me aware of the interstices between cultures from the East and from the West. And I have learned an appreciation of places that I will never visit from your stories and postcards, little missives that have taken me with you around the world as you traveled. You have been a generous and wise guide. Thank you for all of this.” Susan concluded, “But mostly, George, I feel blessed because we never run out of words.”
Andy Seidel ’88, once himself George’s student wrote: “The wonderful thing about George is that he is a student. He doesn’t invite you to learn from him; he invites you to learn with him... I have been fortunate to meet many special people in my over 250 trips to Japan: prime ministers, cabinet ministers, chief executives, university presidents, Nobel laureates and many others. But I have never met another person like George. I don’t think I ever will.”
Leslie Kaufmann ’74, with whom George kept in touch for the better part of a lifetime, wrote: “I have many memories, quite a few including canoes. Yes, I loved your classes and learned a lot from you, but what stays with me is the friendship. I highly value the life of the mind, but the life of the heart is what keeps me going. And you will always be part of that.”
Another friend, Liz Reid Wonka ’80, came to Hamilton in September with her husband to celebrate the lifelong student George had made her.
And a recent student, Susannah Davies, wrote to George while balancing her laptop “on my Norton Anthology of Poetry, which I bought for your introductory poetry class... a sort of talisman that I like to have near me.” She spoke of being taught “to read closely and deeply, to believe in my readings,” to see “reading poetry is a source of pleasure and consolation I can rely on always.”
There were so many other letters in a book of tributes, from recent graduates like Kaitlyn Kelly ’11, to present students like Nicole Halper ’15, who spoke to the strength of George’s convocation address to her class, and Jian Li ’14, who spoke about the “injection of courage” he brought her.
And from colleagues like Yo Aizawa (“I will show you my Tokyo, you your Kyoto”) and Takao Kato (“You have many admirers on both sides of the Pacific — including myself. Thank you, Hudson-sensei.”). Also, emeriti, like Dick Sylvester, Bill Oostenink, and Ken Ramchand.
George was, as Dean Doug Hicks said in his campus announcement of George’s death, “a giant of a man,” winning an admiration and affection that is universally held.” It is an honor to be counted amongst his many admirers and friends.
—Jane Pinchin, Thomas A. Bartlett Professor of English
Carol Bleser, 1933–2013
Carol Bleser, the first female full-time faculty member at
Colgate and the first woman to become a full professor at the
university, died in Bellport, N.Y., on August 20.
At Colgate from 1970 until 1985, Bleser was first hired
as an associate professor of history. She went on to serve as interim
director of women’s studies.
“Carol was a trailblazer for professional women and
mentored many colleagues in pursuit of their educations and careers,”
said Douglas Hicks, provost and dean of the faculty.
Bleser taught southern history and specialized in the
Civil War and Reconstruction. Her scholarly legacy includes The Promised
Land: The History of the South Carolina Land
Commission, 1869–1890 (1969). She then devoted most of her career to the
editing of letters and diaries written by famous, infamous, and nearly
unknown women and men of the 19th-century South.
Among those works were Tokens of Affection: The Letters
of a Planter’s Daughter in the Old South (1996), The Hammonds of
Redcliffe (1981), and the volume for which she may be most
remembered, Secret and Sacred: The Diaries of James Henry Hammond, a
Southern Slaveholder (1988).
In Secret and Sacred, she revealed James Henry Hammond
in his own words to readers interested in the tangled, turbulent life of
a slaveholder and plantation owner. Not only was The Hammonds of
Redcliffe given special praise by the New York Times, but also, owing to
the success of both books on the Hammond family, the Redcliffe estate
was declared a heritage site.
Bleser earned her degrees from Converse College (BA) and
Columbia University (MA, PhD). She left Colgate to join the Clemson
University faculty as the Kathryn and Calhoun Lemon Distinguished
Professor of United States history, and retired from there in 2000.
She is survived by her son, Gerald Rothrock, his spouse,
Elizabeth, and their daughter, Caroline. Memorial contributions may be
made to the Bellport-Brookhaven Historical Society, P.O. Box 47,
Bellport, NY 11713.