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Yale 62

William Willis Stork II

William Stork, born May 25, 1940, died peacefully of natural causes on November 6, 2022. He was 82 years old. Born in Toledo, Ohio, he grew up in southern California. Bill received his B.A. in history at Yale University, where he was a history major and Lamar Trotti, Jr. Scholar.  He was a member of Silliman College and Phi Gamma Delta, as well as the Political Union and Young Republicans.  His roommates were S.E. Avner, W.E. McGlashan, and R.G. Stokstad.

He earned his master’s in history at Brown University. Later he was a National Science Foundation Scholar at Bowdoin College, where he received his master’s in mathematics; he did his PhD studies at the University of Southern California. As an East-West Center Scholar at its East Asia Institute, Bill wrote a self-published classroom text on social change in rural China; his other self-published classroom text was on linear programming and matrix games. Bill was a Fulbright Scholar to India and a Visiting Scholar at Cambridge University.

Bill had a distinguished academic career. He was head of the history department at Brimmer & May School (Chestnut Hill, MA) and held numerous administrative positions, including Associate Dean of Students at St. George’s School (Newport, RI), where he also taught mathematics and history. Bill was appointed Director of Studies at Marlborough School (Los Angeles, CA) with the charge to transform its curriculum and teaching to make it the leading academic school in the area. Sensing success after ten years, Bill returned to teaching as head of the mathematics department at the nationally known Polytechnic School (Pasadena, CA). Here he also served as acting head of the upper school and was named head of its summer session, which grew from ninety to over 900 students. During this time, as a credentialed instructor, Bill taught evening courses in mathematics for Pasadena City College. He also worked with Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, providing weekend and summer skills enrichment classes for junior high school students in under-served areas. Hong Kong International School (HKIS) asked Bill to develop and lead out a new Summer Program for High Achievers, a math-intensive three week program for gifted form III students in the top local high schools of Hong Kong.

After three successful summers, Bill moved to live full time in Hong Kong, teaching honors and advanced mathematics at HKIS until his retirement. Bill was an early proponent of inquiry-based learning, originally in Asian studies. When he became a full-time member of the mathematics department at HKIS, he successfully adapted this method using data exploration to provide a firm understanding of the functions of advanced algebra. An early exponent for the use of technology that allowed students to visualize the mathematics they were learning, Bill also introduced mathematical modeling as a curriculum subject at the secondary level. For highly gifted students he wrote college-level modules on a wide range of topics.

When in Los Angeles, Bill became involved in Yale alumni affairs, and after several active years was elected president of the Yale Club of Southern California. He served three years as its Delegate to the Assembly of the Yale Alumni Associate (YAA), and he was then elected to the YAA’s Board of Governors, serving two terms as Secretary. Bill was asked by the Yale administration to develop and then chair the YAA Assembly LII “The Internationalization of Yale,” designed to prepare alumni for changes that were to come during Yale’s fourth century. Bill was elected president of the Yale Club of Hong Kong, and after a six-year term was awarded the alumni association’s Club Leadership Award. He co-chaired Asia 300, Yale’s tercentennial event in Hong Kong for its Asia alumni. He was then asked to be the inaugural Director (Asia) for the Yale Day of Service. In all, Bill was an active Yale volunteer for over forty-five years, most recently as Contributing Editor for the Yale International Alliance, a social media platform for Yale to better engage its increasing number of international alumni. Active in Pasadena civic affairs, Bill remained an Honorary Director of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses. In Hong Kong, in addition to his academic and Yale activities, Bill had been closely involved with a student exchange program at New Asia College (Chinese University of Hong Kong).

Several of Bill’s roommates offered memories of Bill.  Bob Stokstad recalled:

Bill and I were close friends during our years at Yale and kept in contact thereafter.  As it turned out, Julie and I came to know Bill’s parents, Helen and Willis, very well during our time in Pasadena (1963-67) and they became lifelong friends and mentors. Bill’s passing came as quite a shock, even though we were aware that his health was fragile in recent years.

He was gregarious, thoughtful, and compassionate.  His obituary lays out his passion for teaching and, like his father, Bill was an outstanding educator. His devotion and service to Yale comes through, in a strength and depth that I can imagine and understand now that I see it all in one place but couldn’t fully appreciate at the time.

Bob went on to add more detail about their time at Yale:

Bill had a significant impact on my experience at Yale.  I have a vivid recollection of a conversation I had with Bill toward the end of freshman year.  He’d asked me about my plans for sophomore year and whom I was going to room with. On learning that I had none and no prospects in that direction he invited me to join him and two friends (Jack Weber being one).  That single act of kindness resulted in life-long friendships with a group of remarkable people, brought me into the extended Stork family, and contributed greatly to my enjoyment of the next three years at Yale.

For two years Bill and I shared the canonical Yale “room” – bunk beds, two dressers, with just enough room to turn around (while standing). It is a testament to Bill’s calm demeanor, sense of humor and innate humanity that we got through that without strife and emerged good friends.

During spring break that first year I visited Pasadena, California and met Bill’s parents, Helen and Willis. That was the start of another lifelong friendship, as I was later to spend four years at Caltech, living just walking distance from the Stork family home.  Bill also visited my home in New York over Thanksgiving.  My mother would fondly recall how Bill fit in like he’d always been a part of our family. She would tell the story of how she was doing some ironing in the laundry room when Bill happened to walk past. She told him that his trousers could use some ironing too.  So, Bill took them off and handed them to her.

After Yale we would see each other several times a year, first because of my residency in Pasadena and later because we were both on the east coast – Bill and family in Rhode Island and my wife Julie and I in New Haven.

Bill was a super-teacher.  I was always amazed that he taught in two quite different fields – history and mathematics.  The breadth of his interests was also expressed in his ability to converse on practically any subject, punctuating the discourse with laughter as well as insight. Julie, also a teacher, would talk in depth with Bill, sharing the challenges of teaching, and recalls how he valued his students.

Our meetings became less frequent, though, as we both continued to move around the US, changing jobs as we worked our way upwards in our respective careers.  Perhaps as a result of Bill’s move to Hong Kong, it took the occasion of our 50th Yale Reunion to bring us together in person again.  It was indeed sad that Bill was not able to be at the 60th reunion.  But he kept in touch through his many contributions to Yale and his frequent communications to Yale62.org.

Bill Stork was a warm, cheerful outgoing person who would, seemingly through his mere presence, make you feel invited to join him in whatever he was doing.  The invitation he extended to me our freshman year at Yale is the example I can offer.  Bill’s contributions to teaching and to Yale and the friends he made along the way indicate there are many more.

Bob provided the following photo of Bill and his Silliman roommates. (Front, l.t.r., Stork, Bayne (since deceased), McGlashan, Weber. Rear, l.t.r., Stokstad, Avner, North, Cook. Missing, Pharr.

From Jack Weber:

I will always remember Bill (aka “Stork”) as a history/math scholar committed to thinking deeply about education…and a relentless advocate for internationalizing Yale.

And in a message to Bob Stokstad, Jack added:

Carol and I were shocked and saddened to hear of Bill’s passing.

He was a beloved friend who will be remembered for his selfless leadership for Yale in the Asia Pacific.
Please let us know if anyone plans a Zoom celebration of his remarkable life and/or a place to send condolences.

Love and vibrant health to all,
Jack

PS Warm memories below.

Warner North wrote:

I express appreciation… for what Bill Stork brought to our 1905-06 group with his energy, enthusiasm, and optimism. I admire the major contributions he made to Yale Alumni activities from Hong Kong. I enjoyed his personal visit for the 50th reunion, and I am sorry he missed being with some of us again for the 60th.

Jean McKillop, our Class of 1962 media coordinator and longtime web manager, describes working with Bill as follows:

There’s so much I could say about Bill that it’s really a challenge to distill it down to a few words. But I know I must, because we have an abundance of remembrances for this wonderful person.

Bill was the unofficial Y62 Communications Team member who didn’t manage to attend our meetings, owing to the time zone in his adopted home of Hong Kong. He never turned us down when we asked him to write about or report on some news focus, which was usually Hong Kong and environs, but occasionally something Yale-based, and he always came through with flying colors. I never met Bill face-to-face – not even on Zoom – but I had a wonderful correspondence with him over many years, regarding topics for the website, but also topics of life. We joked that he and Jasmine (SWMBO – “She who must be obeyed”) might move to Lubec – even farther into the Maine “boonies” than my own spot. We laughed that we’d finally get the chance to meet, and enjoy a beverage of one sort or another.

Prior to the 60th reunion, when he knew I would be in attendance, he most generously shared with me his account number at the legendary Mory’s, inviting me to have a meal there on him, even covering the tab for any classmates who might join me. He suggested his favorite Mory’s dessert of Indian pudding with coffee ice cream. (He opined that it “sounded disgusting but was ambrosia to the taste buds.” I regret I never made it to Mory’s, with so much going on that weekend. I’ll truly miss this kind, open-hearted gentleman a great deal.

Bill is survived by his partner, Jasmine Wong; a sister, Cynthia Stork Gerber; a daughter, Christina; and a son, Bill Willis III. Christina provides the following remembrance of a loving and sensitive dad:

Bill and daughter ChristinaHere goes. My dad, Bill ‘Bill’ Stork, died on Sunday. He was brilliant, eccentric, hilarious, preppy, and full of surprises. Dad was an (intimidatingly) gifted scholar. He was passionate about mathematical applications, history, Asian cultures, and education, and he pursued these interests fanatically, garnering countless degrees and academic honors (okay, not countless. Let me count them: undergrad and masters degrees in both math and history from Yale, Brown, and Bowdoin, Fulbright Scholar in India, PhD in Educational Admin, East-West Scholar at USC’s East Asia Institute, and a Visiting Scholar at Cambridge.) He loved school, obvs, and wanted to share that by teaching, rather than pursuing a career in law (he was offered a position upon graduation from Yale and decided that he wanted to “work with people, not paper.”) He made an enormous impact on his students and supporting their love of learning was his North Star. When dad moved to Hong Kong to teach math 30 years ago it was an A+ pro move at living your best life. A big reader, Dad especially loved mysteries, and gifted me the full set of Nancy Drew when I was 6 or 7. We shared the love of serial mysteries, discovering a good author and devouring everything they produced. Many times I’d walk in to say goodnight to Dad and he’d be asleep, book open on his chest, glasses propped up on his forehead. Reading to unwind is the best way to end the day, and I’m happy to have gotten that from him.

Dad’s dad, my grandfather Willis ‘Boompa’ Stork, had a keen sense of humor, which was even more finely honed in my dad. While there was a time that I thought “dad jokes” were called that because of MY dad, his humor went so much further than just amazing puns. He would plot and scheme and concoct elaborate hijinks. He could find humor almost anywhere, and his range was wide, from silly to profound. He brought that sense of fun to the classroom, and it was one of the things that made him such a fantastic teacher. This is something I know from experience, as he taught me math at Poly. I remember one day, Emily Bills and I were sitting next to each other in class and talking while he was lecturing. He stopped mid-sentence and walked over to my desk and dragged me, sitting dumbfounded, to the back of the room. He stopped and said “Bekins.” No one said anything, so he repeated it. “Bekins.” Someone called out “What does that mean?,” and he replied “Bekins Moving Company moves people. And so do I.” Classic Dad. He was a condiment superfreak: I remember him being obsessed with chutney when I was little, then progressing to an impressive collection of mustards in the late 80s/early 90s. For the past decade plus, he’s been a hot sauce aficionado, going so far as to order cases (“you get such a deal when you order a case”) to be delivered to my house, so I could send them to him in Hong Kong. Either they wouldn’t deliver to his place in Hong Kong, or it was too expensive, so he ‘let’ me help him by sending them to him. Did I mention he loved elaborate pranks? I know that this cracked him up, but it also gave an excuse for connection, because sometimes it’s not what’s inside the package/letter/postcard, it’s knowing that someone is thinking of you.

As many of you know, when I got divorced, Dad sent me a postcard every day for over four years. And for those of you who didn’t know this, my dad sent me a postcard EVERY DAY. FOR OVER FOUR YEARS. Imagine that for a second. The postcards usually had a funny newspaper story cut out and taped to them, along with some dorky stickers. Small, silly, and an enormous gesture of love and thought and support. I saved every one (duh), and it’s a lot of boxes. He was the best of dorks, the leader of us little Storks, he loved English muffins with grape jelly and made disgusting sandwiches (peanut butter AND miracle whip AND American cheese?!) and taught me to pay attention and to be a responsible person and to study without music playing in the background. He could be judgmental when he thought someone wasn’t living up to their potential. He was so smart and so funny and it’s going to be very weird to not have 10+ emails from him every day when I wake up. I know that he was a part of many of yours’ lives, and I know that I’ll treasure his lofty lessons and particular brand of clever mischief forever.

For Bill’s Yale 1962 classmates, Lee Bolman offered the following thoughts on the class website:

Prominent and beloved classmate Bill “Bill” Stork died peacefully in Hong Kong on November 6. Bill was many things — teacher, school administrator, innovator, author, Fulbright Scholar, world traveler and more. Classmate Al Chambers captured the quality that stood out most to many of his classmates: “His love and commitment to Yale were extraordinary.”

Ask Bill to do something for Yale or the class, and he never said no. He served terms as president of two Yale Clubs: Southern California and Hong Kong. He was a delegate to the Assembly of the Yale Alumni Association (YAA) and was elected to YAA’s Board of Governors, where he served two terms as secretary. In 1991 Yale asked him to chair the Yale Assembly on internationalization of the university, a task he carried out with great success. Ten years later, Yale asked Bill to co-chair Yale’s 300th anniversary celebration for alumni in Asia, a four-day event that drew 450 attendees. He was involved in the NUS initiative from its early stages. He and Al Chambers co-chaired a class mini-reunion in Hong Kong in 2005.

Bill was the all-time leader in articles submitted to our website here at Yale62.org, and was prolific until shortly before his death. His last submission to the class website was a timely three-part series in July and August that asked “How Secure is China’s Leadership?” Bill’s genial optimism and fascination with the world around him were reflected in an August note to a classmate: “Here I am hearty, happy, and healthy and busily watching the comings and goings of typhoons and other ramifications of climate change in Hong Kong and elsewhere.” He’ll be missed.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Frostig Center.

 

— Douglas T. (Tim) Hall

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