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Yale 62

Charles ‘Chip’ Neville

Chip NevilleCharles “Chip” Neville passed away in West Hartford on February 4th, 2024, at the age of 82. He was born on April 2, 1941, in Washington DC. Chip lived in many different states before moving to Connecticut, but his early life on the family farm in Cornish, Utah shaped him. He often spoke of the friendship between his mother and her two aunts, Virginia and Mae. Their values of learning, justice, and generosity, along with a penchant for puns and a gift for storytelling, made a lasting impression on Chip.

He furthered his storytelling abilities as a high school debater in Virginia, where he attended Fairfax High School. To Chip, a good debate was a good conversation, even if the topic was as seemingly ridiculous as whether dusk and hurricanes occur in Hawai’i or as arcane as the history of invasions on the Central Asian steppe. He passed on his love of learning and storytelling by reading books like the Earth Sea Trilogy, Sherlock Holmes, and The Odyssey to his children when they were young. He also loved to tell stories about Bigfoot, Nessie, and the Bear Lake Monster.

Entering Yale after his junior year at Fairfax High School, Chip often felt like a bit of an outsider, but he made lifelong friends and ultimately completed degrees in mathematics and physics, as an honors major. He was awarded the third Barge Prize (mathematics), 1959 and 1960. He was a member of the Pierson crew and touch football teams, as well as the Political Union. His roommates were George Snider and Steve Buck.

Later, during doctoral studies at the University of Illinois, he went back south to register voters in Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1965 and later committed to tenant organizing in Chicago.

Chip shared his love of math and technology with those around him. After several decades of teaching, he retired from Central Connecticut State University in 2001. He first taught in the mathematics department and was later a founder of the computer science department. He sometimes compared himself to Oscar the Grouch, but students who were excited to learn held a special place for him. At home, he encouraged his daughters early on with a Commodore 64, a dial-up modem, and a sense of fearlessness that very little could be permanently broken. He did, however, once set up a wireless system that was so secure that only he knew how to manage it.

Chip hardly spent money on himself, even when he had it. The linoleum floor in his kitchen was held together with duct tape for at least 15 years and, before he met his wife Judi, he often wore clothes until they were threadbare. But with his friends, family, and for issues he cared about, he was uncommonly generous. He stood by people, even when it was unpopular. He gave cash to friends – and friends of friends – in need. After he finished grading papers each December, he could be seen at the kitchen table writing out checks to as many organizations as he could.

A computer command to delete all files is rm -rf*. Chip found it a humorous way to close chapters of his life, and it seems appropriate to share that here.

Chip was involved in Yale 62 class affairs and was a frequent participant in our class Coffee Hours, where his insightful comments and wry humor were greatly appreciated. In fact, according to our Y62 honorary classmate (and communications consultant) Jean McKillop, it was originally Chip’s idea that we start holding these monthly Zoom calls. Jean shares these memories of the history of our Coffee Hour history: “If I recall correctly, Chip’s idea came to us through Steve Buck. I’m thinking they may have been talking more often during that time, because Chip had just moved to an assisted living residence, and was feeling terribly isolated because of Covid. I think the idea was floated in a team meeting somewhere around March or April 2020 – quite near the beginning of the pandemic. We held a small test meeting, and then our first class-wide official Coffee Hour took place June 4, two or three months past that initial suggestion. Our ’62s are the longest-lived Zoom sessions class that I know about, certainly the longest I’ve facilitated. Our June [’24] Coffee Hour will mark our 49th session. We missed one month (Dec. ’22, I think) but we also once held two in one month (an evening session in addition to the 1PM Coffee). This June marks our 4th year anniversary.” Thank you, Chip, for this valuable legacy for the Class of 1962!

Chip is survived by the “love of his life,” Judi Ann Goodman, daughters Rachel and Anne, sons-in-law Keith and Diego, granddaughters Ellie and Ana, sister Jill and brother-in-law Mike, niece Erin and nephew-in-law Joe, and a community of friends who loved and cared for him as much as he did for them.
A celebration of Chip’s life was held at Chatfield Brookdale in West Hartford on February 17, 2024. Contributions to the American Mathematical Society, JMM Child Care Grants in Chip’s memory are appreciated.

Adapted from The Hartford Courant

— Douglas ‘Tim’ Hall