Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Gratitude to Greenbaum: thanks for service on the Historical Commission and Jones Library Trustees
I have known Louis since my arrival in Amherst, because he was my first landlord. I wasn't sure which term to apply to him here: "retiring" does not fit, for although formally having relinquished his position as a professor of history at the University of Massachusetts, he has never ceased working, and he certainly is not shy about expressing his opinions (many can attest to that). Louis is nothing if not passionate about history. What is more, the breadth of his knowledge matches his passion. Although trained as a specialist in French history of the Ancien Régime and Revolution (he wrote a book on the former Archbishop-turned-politician Talleyrand), he was also immersed in the history of the American as well as European Enlightenment and had an additional interest in the history of medicine and education on both continents. As the owner of one of the oldest and most historic houses in Amherst and a consummate connoisseur of early American art and material culture, Louis was a formidable presence in any conversation or debate. No matter which property was under discussion at the Historical Commission, Louis always seemed to know the history of the structure, its architect, and owners. And woe to him who dared to threaten it with inappropriate modification or—God forbid—demolition. Trained in the now-lost art of formal rhetoric, Louis could launch into a peroration or jeremiad at the drop of a hat, emitting sentences so polished that they seemed to have come from the pages of a book, and so long that we sometimes feared he would collapse for lack of oxygen. But persist he did, and we were generally the better for it. His presence was a unique one.
We on the Historical Commission offered our informal oral but heartfelt thanks to Louis on the occasion of his last participation in our group. Somehow, though, it never occurred to us to go as far as the Library trustees. Chair Pat Holland (also a historian by training, I might add) penned a flowery tribute in the form of a formal resolution. Because it must be seen in its full context and and typographical garb in order to be properly appreciated, I'll simply link to the relevant number of the Trustee minutes and allow you to savor it for yourselves.
What both groups were saying, in their own distinctive ways, was: un grand merci!