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Yale 62


Ed WorthyBorn: June 12, 1940
Died: March 27, 2021

Edmund (Ed) Henry Worthy, Jr. – educator, non-profit leader, and museum executive – died on March 27, 2021 from metastatic cancer. Soon after his birth in Washington, DC, he moved to Philadelphia during World War II and afterwards returned to the Maryland suburbs of Washington where he was raised and educated.

Ed was the son of Edmund Henry and Helen Elizabeth Brown Worthy. He prepared for Yale at Landon School in Bethesda, Maryland. Joining Ed at Yale were 4 other Landon graduates: Bob Zuckert, Ken Tuggle, Butch Jacobson and Bob Oliver. Ed was a resident of Branford College where he competed on the football and volleyball teams. He was in the Freshman Chorus. Ed was an English Major.

Ed took a leave of absence for his senior year to recover from an illness and received his Yale degree in 1963. He remained affiliated with our class. During his time off he worked as a reporter on the city desk for the Washington Daily News. On his return he shared freshman counselor duties with Tony Dean in Wright Hall. During this period, he received the National Arts and Letters Society’s award for expository writing. He also won a prize for the best undergraduate Asian Studies essay at Yale. He was on Dean’s List while at Yale.

Ed’s life took a major turn when the Yale-China Association appointed him in 1963 as one of two fellows from his class to teach English in Hong Kong at New Asia College (now part of the Chinese University of Hong Kong). Since 1901 Yale-China has sent Yale graduates to teach in China and, after 1949, Hong Kong. Here Ed began studying Mandarin, and his interest in China deepened. One of his teachers was Huei-ling Chow, whom he married in 1965 in Hong Kong.

In 1966 Ed brought his bride to Princeton University where he started Ph.D. studies in Chinese history and she taught Chinese.

From 1971 to 1974, Ed returned to Hong Kong as director of the Yale-China program and lecturer in the Chinese University’s history department. He laid the groundwork for the establishment of the university’s International Asian Studies Program for overseas exchange students.

To find time to complete his Ph.D. dissertation, Ed returned to Washington, DC in 1974, earning his doctorate in 1975 He had received his Masters also at Princeton. During a brief academic career, he taught at George Washington University as a part-time adjunct professor, published several scholarly articles, and founded a publication that has become a specialized journal in Chinese history. From 1977 to 1979, he was assistant executive director of the American Historical Association.

After 1979, Ed’s career shifted from the academic world to adult and continuing education in non-traditional and museum settings, a path he followed until retirement. From 1979 to 1984, he led the National Council on Aging’s Division of Life Enrichment. This work involved managing a national continuing education project for 25,000 older adults in senior centers and directing a national policy center on education and volunteerism.

Ed entered the museum world in 1984 when he became Associate Director of The Smithsonian Associates, America’s largest museum education program. It annually created and presented 1,000 cultural and education events attended by 100,000 people.

Ed completed his 9-to-5 work life at the National Building Museum where he served as Assistant Director for Education, 1998-2006. Educational programming included lectures by most of the world’s leading architects and large family festivals about engineering and the building arts.

Throughout his retirement, Ed derived tremendous satisfaction as a part-time consultant to the ACE Mentor Program of America, a national after-school mentoring program deigned to attract high school students, many from under-served communities, to pursue careers in architecture, construction, and engineering. It annually engages 10,000 students mentored by 4,000 volunteer design and construction professionals.

Ed reveled in his Chinese and Western friends and family, good food, stimulating conversation, travel adventures, listening to jazz music and chorale ensembles, and racquetball which he regularly played for 15 years, almost until his 80th birthday.

In our 50th Reunion Class Book Ed reflected on his varied, challenging life and judged it as very good:

Life has been and remains good, in spite of the usual bumps in the road everyone encounters. Advanced prostate cancer in the last two years is a recent bump, but this malady does not weigh me down or prohibit me from enjoying life.

Retirement from a satisfying career at the National Building Museum almost six years ago has brought many sources of fulfillment – family, travel, friends, and part-time projects, both paid and volunteer.

Forty-six years after I won the heart of my soul mate in Hong Kong, Huei-ling and I enjoy the same spark as newlyweds. Marital joy seems to deepen with age and understanding.

We are fortunate that our two children and their delightful spouses live minutes away from us. This enables us to maintain strong family ties and to play a regular role in the lives of two glorious grandchildren.

The opportunity to contribute, as a consultant, to the success of a worthwhile national mentoring program brings me tremendous satisfaction. The Architecture, Construction and Engineering (ACE) Mentor Program is an after school program whose mission is to attract high school students, mostly inner city youth, to pursue careers in the design and construction industry. As a jack-of-all-trades, I conduct impact studies, create curriculum, and write an administrative manual. Most recently, I authored the organization’s successful nomination for a White House award recognizing excellence in mentoring in science, engineering and math.

Travel remains a great pleasure, especially now that there is more time to explore places in depth. Recent sojourns have taken us from Bhutan to Burma and Brazil plus many places in between.

Bob Zuckert joined in saluting Ed for the life he lived. “Ed,” Zuckert wrote, “was one of the most outstanding human beings I have known. He was always consistently positive and optimistic even despite his last illness. Eddie was always up!”

He is survived by his wife Huei-lin Chow Worthy, son Brian and daughter-in-law Stephanie Singer, daughter Elaine Worthy Thomas, son-in-law W. David Thomas, and grandchildren Grace Dzo Thomas, and Andrew Worthy Thomas.

A celebratory event for his family and friends to pay tribute to his life and careers was held on June 12, 2021, at the Potomac, Maryland, home of his Landon classmate Bill Hessick. Friends from Asia, South America, Africa and closer to home Canada joined D.C. area residents to salute Ed and tell stories of his dedication to others. Contributions in his memory can be sent to either Yale-China Association, 442 Temple Street, Box 208223, New Haven, CT 06520, or Ace Mentor Program, 1501 Cherry Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102.


– Robert G. Oliver