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Bostonia: The Alumni Magazine of Boston University

Fall 2008


Boston University Faculty Members Remembered

Peter Kass
Former College of Fine Arts assistant professor of theater, 85,
on August 4

A Clifford Odets protégé, Kass directed the out-of-town tryouts of Odets’s The Country Girl in 1950 and moved to the cast when it went to Broadway. He had acted in the American premiere of Sartre’s No Exit, directed by John Huston, and other Broadway productions, and went on to direct four Broadway shows, including Lorraine Hansberry’s The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, starring Rita Moreno, and an ill-fated revival of Odets’s Night Music. He also directed off-Broadway, the early fifties television series Assignment: Manhunt, and several television commercials, winning two Clios. He both directed and wrote the 1962 film Time of the Heathen, an intricate morality tale.

But, as his New York Times obituary notes, Kass’s “main notoriety was as a fervid and prolific preparer of actors,” at BU from 1955 to 1959, at New York University in the 1960s and 70s, and as a private instructor. The fifties were “still a time of declamatory acting,” says Robert Banov (CFA’60). “He wasn’t a method or a Stanislavski teacher, but much like that, because he was teaching young people who hadn’t had a lot of experience, and he wanted them to use their imaginations to understand the emotions.”

“He was brilliant at looking at a scene and putting his finger on what was wrong, absolutely brilliant,” says Marvin Starkman (CFA’58). “Sometimes he would pursue you fiercely. He wanted you to understand your part not only intellectually but also emotionally; he wanted the truth. It could be very painful.” For Starkman and countless others, it was “exciting, stimulating.” But for some, he could be intimidating. “I was pretty young,” Mary Ann Donahue (CFA’57,’58) confesses. “I found him a little scary.”

The emotional truth Kass taught grew out of his understanding of script. Kass directed a BU production of Flowering Peach, Banov says, Odets’s play about Noah. “My family had taken me to see it on Broadway,” he says. “It was a kitschy comedy there. But it was really about family relationships,” and that was the core of the also-humorous BU production.

Kass stayed in touch with many students, who included Olympia Dukakis (SAR’53, CFA’57, HON.’00), Faye Dunaway (CFA’62), Maureen Stapleton, and Val Kilmer. Starkman and Banov speak warmly of the help he gave them over the years, professionally and personally.

Born in Brooklyn to Russian immigrants, Kass went from high school into the Army, and after World War II into the theater. “He said he got his education standing at book stalls,” Starkman says.

A memorial service for Kass will take place on Sunday, November 9, at 6 p.m. at New York University, 111 Second Avenue, between Sixth and Seventh Streets. ~Natalie Jacobson McCracken

Allan Macurdy (CAS’84, LAW’86)
Age 47, A School of Law visiting associate professor, 47, on June 23

Macurdy, who died after a lengthy battle with muscular dystrophy, had defied medical odds by living for more than twenty years on a ventilator.

A staunch disability rights advocate who had managed BU’s Office of Disability Services since 1996, Macurdy was outspoken and honest about what he described to the Boston Globe in 1999 as the “constant, grinding reality” of being perceived as mentally deficient, incapable of communicating, or simply unhappy.

“I have a happy life,” he told the Globe. “The fact that few people can see that probably says more about what’s wrong with the way we, as a society, look at ourselves than it is any indication of what my life is really like. We have this mythical idea about physical autonomy, physical perfection — we’re the society of diet crazes and bizarre body-consciousness. In terms of building your happiness in life, the outside package matters so little. I love my work. I have a strong family. I love my wife. I love my dog.”

In his role at the Office of Disability Services, Macurdy was responsible for disability policy, and he monitored and promoted the University’s efforts to ensure full and equal access to curricula, employment, facilities, events, and services. “May we always remember the service Allan gave the University and the passion with which he advocated for the rights of all students,” says Kenneth Elmore (SED’87), BU’s dean of students.

Macurdy also taught Conflict of Laws, Admiralty and Maritime Law, Federal Indian Law, and Legal Rights of Individuals with Disabilities at the School of Law. He published and lectured widely on constitutional law, civil rights enforcement, individual liberties, federal jurisdiction, and law and disability.

He was a board member of the Franciscan Children’s Hospital, a founding board member of Partners for Youth with Disabilities, a past president and board member of the Disability Law Center in Boston, and a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association.

Donations in Macurdy’s name may be sent to the Allan H. Macurdy Memorial Fund, Boston University, 595 Commonwealth Avenue, Suite 700, West Entrance, Boston, MA 02215. ~Caleb Daniloff

Richard R. Towle (SMG’39)
Retired School of Management professor of accounting, 90, on December 23, 2007

Towle, a BU professor for more than forty years, also had a long career as a certified public accountant with the international accounting firm Pannell Kerr Forster in Boston.

After earning an undergraduate degree from BU, Towle joined the U.S. Navy. He served as a lieutenant aboard an aircraft carrier in the Pacific during World War II and was awarded nine battle stars and a Purple Heart.

He joined the SMG faculty in 1945 as an instructor and retired as a professor of accounting in 1987. He was a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Towle is survived by his nine children, five of whom attended BU: Richard, Jr. (CAS’66, SED’70), Doretha (SMG’66), Douglas (COM’69,’73), Thomas (SMG’78), and Steven (SMG’79). ~Katie Koch

Robert L. Treese (STH’53, GRS’58)
School of Theology professor emeritus of practical theology, 88, on January 1

Treese, a BU faculty member from 1956 to 1983, also was associate director of field education for STH students. A passionate crusader for social justice, he espoused the role Christianity could play in fostering equality for minorities, women, gays, and underpaid workers.

After working as a machinist in Chicago, Treese moved to Boston in the early 1950s to pursue a career in the ministry. He earned an STH degree in 1953 and joined the faculty while earning a doctorate in biblical studies. He taught courses on parish administration, pastoral leadership, evangelism, and other practical ministerial matters.

He was known for taking brave stands on controversial issues. He marched for civil rights in Selma in the early 1960s and was jailed in California for striking with grape pickers. He hired the first female faculty member at the School of Theology and fought for inclusiveness in the workplace.

In 1965, Treese helped found the Council on Religion and Homosexuality, an interdenominational coalition of liberal church leaders and gay rights groups. The council’s conference in San Francisco led to Treese’s 1966 paper “Homosexuality: A Contemporary View of the Biblical Perspective,” which is still cited in defense of the Bible’s tolerance of homosexuality.

While at BU, Treese also served as minister of the Allston and Quincy Methodist churches and as an elder in the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church. ~KK

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