The University Record, March 11, 1998

Family, friends, colleagues share memories of Hatcher

Hatcher and his wife, Anne, at a reception following a gathering of five U-M presidents in November 1992 celebrating the University¹s 175th anniversary. Photo by Bob Kalmbach


By Paula Saha

Anne Berenberg fondly remembers cheering the Wolverines to their Rose Bowl championship earlier this year with her 99-year-old father, Harlan Hatcher, and her mother, Anne.

"Daddy found a reserve of energy I didn't know he had," she told the audience of about 200 that had gathered to remember her father at a March 1 memorial service at Rackham Auditorium.

That vitality was recalled throughout the service, as friends and family members shared their memories of Hatcher: president emeritus, educator, golfer, husband, father and grandfather. Wilbur Pierpont, chief financial officer during Hatcher's tenure at U-M, welcomed the audience and introduced speakers.

Current University President Lee C. Bollinger reflected on the "vivid impressions" he had of the man who left office 30 years before Bollinger took his.

"I did not know President Hatcher well--certainly not as a friend," remarked Bollinger. "I knew him through others," he said. Nevertheless, Bollinger was "struck by the invariable tone of respect and reverence for this man." Hatcher served as president during a historical time of "epic changes" Bollinger said, "and higher education was at the epicenter of these changes."

"Harlan was in many ways, it seemed to me, a visionary," said Robben Fleming, Hatcher's successor at U-M. Fleming contemplated the risks Hatcher took in expanding the University's physical campus, research interests and private fund-raising efforts. He led the University through the post-war era, said Fleming, and left a wonderful legacy.

"He was born a Buckeye," said the former president, referring to Hatcher's Ohio origins, "but in the end, he was a devoted Wolverine."

Beyond his presidential legacy and love for the University, Hatcher was a vibrant, personal and spiritual man who loved to play golf and spend time with his friends and family.

"I met him early in the 1960s--I was occasionally needed when they needed a fourth [for golf]," said Maurice Bolmer, a family friend. At 95, said Bolmer, "he was an accurate chipper and putter. In his late 80s, he frequently shot his age."

Bolmer and Hatcher's time on the course blossomed into a deep and abiding friendship. As Bolmer put it, "Harlan Hatcher was my friend, for me a true blessing."

Hatcher's grandchildren, who differ in age from their grandfather by as much as 80 years, remembered, nonetheless, the active interest and excitement he took in their lives. Thomas Berenberg remembered a letter written to him in the style of Holden Caulfield after telling his grandfather he was reading Catcher in the Rye. Jessamyn Hatcher remembered her grandfather following her syllabus with her during a college course on James Joyce.

Daniel Berenberg solemnly thanked his grandfather "for his part in making me who I am," and Juliet Hatcher thanked him for teaching her "how to engage in everyday life learning."

Robert Hatcher told the audience of how his father continued to educate himself till the very end. "Born in the horse and buggy days," he said, "he [Hatcher] was fascinated by technology and mastered the computer in his late 80s."

During Harlan Hatcher's last days, his son would read poetry to his father. He remembers one in particular, which he read a few days before his death--Shakespeare's Sonnet "Remembrance of Things Past."

"I found a treasure," said Robert Hatcher, and shared it with everyone:

When to the Sessions of sweet silent thought,
I sommon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lacke of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new waile my deare times waste:
Then can I drowne an eye (vn-vs'd to flow)
For precious friends hid in deaths dateles night,
And weepe a fresh loves long since canceld woe,
And mone th'expence of many a vannisht sight.
Then can I greeve at greevances fore-gon,
And heauily from woe to woe tell ore
The sad account of sore-bemoned mone,
Which I new pay as if not payd before.
But if the while I thinke on thee (deare friend)
All losses are restord, and sorrowes end.