Allan Dean Converse III, M.D.

Allan Dean Converse III, M.D.

Died April 21, 2008

When Yale’s 1964 varsity soccer season ended, its head coach Jack Marshall remembered Allan as one of his best captains in his 25 years at Yale. Allan’s second wife, Barbara, remembers him as “my rock.” Between playing sports at Yale and marrying Barbara, Allan became a surgeon.

Son of Allan Dean Converse, Jr., Y’33, Allan came to Yale via Haverford School, and Hotchkiss. He was an American studies major and resided in Davenport. Allan was a three-year letterman in soccer, captained the team our senior year, and earned All Ivy and All New England recognition in 1963.

After graduating from Yale, Allan taught and coached for a year at Hotchkiss before graduating from Boston University Medical School, interning at Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and completing a surgical residency at Georgetown Medical School in Washington, DC.

He had a long career as a general surgeon in private practice in West Chester, PA, then in a large practice with a Milwaukee, WI, HMO through 2003, and a finally a stint at a small hospital in upstate New York until he retired in 2006.

Shortly after he completed his medical training in 1976, Allan was diagnosed with cancer; and, as he put it in his 25th reunion essay, “I became seriously ill for the first time in my life.” Four years later Allan “experienced my first true sense of failure when my marriage collapsed.” The cancer went into remission, and Allan started putting his life back together.

“He asked me to marry him only six weeks after we met,” says Barbara Hummel, a registered nurse who met Allan while she was working in organ donation. They were married on June 11, 1994.

Denis, his younger son from his first marriage, remembers the wedding day when his father “was nervous as a schoolboy on a first date. He looked to be in shock, and I thought he might faint. He appealed to Alex and me for help and support in that moment, which was very rare indeed.”

Allan’s elder son, Alex (Y’94), describes his father as “a grinder, a steady worker who rarely drew attention to his own labor. He worked hard for more than 30 years as a general surgeon, procedure after procedure.”

In his 25th reunion essay Allan wrote about medicine as “a fine profession which has truly stood the test of time.” But Allan became “very frustrated with the medical system,” Denny Gallaudet, his college roommate and longtime friend, says. “The free market model was pissing him off.” Allan spoke publicly about what he thought was wrong with American health care at our 40th reunion. “He was a very early proponent of universal health care, and at the end was very sad about the state of health care,” Barbara says. “He loved being a doctor/surgeon but was dismayed at the state of the business of health care, or as he called it, ‘The Medical Industrial Complex.’”

Following a long battle with colon cancer, Allan died April 21, 2008 in Bonita Springs, FL, survived by his wife, Barbara, and sons, Alex and Denis. Barbara describes Allan as “a thoughtful man, who did not make rash decisions. He thought things through. The only times I remember him being truly spontaneous were when he asked me to marry him, and when we came to Naples and on the spur of the moment bought our lovely condo in Bonita Bay.”

Alex, also wants us to know: “Dad worked like never before to keep going as his illness advanced. Above all, Dad loved Barbara with everything he had. His years with her were the happiest I ever saw him. Toward the end, 90 percent of his life was not much fun, but the two of them kept pushing to enjoy the 10 percent he loved.”

Denis also recalls: “It’s a fact that he stayed alive for months through sheer will. I don’t feel he ever lost that fight. He never stopped fighting, he just gained acceptance. I always looked at him as a cancer survivor, as a superhero in so many different ways.”

Others remember Allan as a dedicated doctor – generous and humble – who loved his wife, his boys, and his dogs; who took great pride in being a self-made man who could handle whatever life threw at him; who relished get-togethers with old friends from Hotchkiss and Yale, and who liked to make people laugh.

Jeffrey Miller remembers: What to say about a guy you knew for almost 50 years, starting in prep school in 1962, ending with his premature death from cancer in 2008? Al was many things, a superb athlete, a brilliant student, an all around good guy with an old-fashioned sense of right and wrong and a keen eye for the absurdities and hypocrisies of society. But he never let his sober side get in the way of a good time. Among many fond memories is the climax of his wedding to his first wife, Julia Moore, one hot summer day in 1968 somewhere on the Philadelphia Main Line. After the service, the wedding party repaired to the Moore’s fine home, which featured a broad lawn sweeping down to a small pond. The champagne flowed freely, the music played and pretty soon, with the June sun really beating down, someone, I can’t recall who, decided everyone needed a swim to cool off. One after another, the ushers, me included, then the bridesmaids, and finally, Al and Julia, all ended up in the pond in their wedding regalia. I do believe the parents of the bride and groom were spared, however. All in good fun, no hard feelings (except from A.T. Harris when I tried to return my soggy cutaway), and a unique memory of a great guy.

Michael Harrison remembers: I got to know Al after Yale as neighbor in Bethesda. Great guy with a big heart

Randolph Totten remembers: Al had a great, wry sense of humor that he could bring out on any occasion. I am particularly fond of his description of his many and varied dates through a service to find a wife. (He did a great job on that front – with Barbara). Al was a solid thinker. We could all learn from his presentation on the medical system. Al was a natural adventurer – he showed up in Virginia one time in a private plane piloted by him. Al was a great assessor of folks and was thoughtful about their needs. When Denny, Saint and I visited a very ill Al in Florida, he was focused on making sure we had a good time and not on his cancer. “Gor” was a truly good person and a favorite of many. He has been and will be missed.

Ward Barmon remembers: Al was a friend from Hotchkiss. He was always a gentleman and treated everyone fairly. I particularly remember him as captain of the soccer team on which I played as well. He played center forward and was tenacious in his going after the ball. I also played with him on Yale’s varsity team. He was a great leader. It was nice to have been able to attend his funeral service in Boston and see how many old friends showed up to pay tribute.

Herbert Thomas remembers: Although Allan Converse and I hadn’t known each other well during our undergraduate years, he was one of the classmates I made friends with after I started going to reunions in 2000. I remember his remarkable knowledge of health care issues, and the presentation he made at the 2005 reunion, just as the national debate on healthcare reform was beginning to build. That he was taken from us so soon afterward was a loss with national implications.

Harmar Brereton remembers: Al was a talented, humble, self effacing, funny physician colleague. At Yale he was a great athlete, close friend and is dearly missed.

Duncan Sutherland remembers: What a wonderful person and what a fun guy to be around. I know he is missed by his many good friends.

Edward Newbegin remembers: Al came to Oregon in the summer of 1963 and this is when we became friends. He lived with me on our farm, where my family spent the summers, and then we went on a road trip in my Rambler 660 to Eastern Oregon. A lot of beer was consumed as we went over the mountains on our way to Bend. We stayed two or three nights camping on Cultus Lake near Bend and had a terrific time. The following summer Tom Churchill, Al and I spent three months traveling through Europe, driving over 12,000 miles in a rented Opel Cadet. We would sleep in the car, beside it or under it depending on the weather. One night we slept in a farm field in Yugoslavia and we awoke with a very large peasant woman standing over us with a pitchfork in her hand. We concluded she wanted us to move on. It was a wonderful trip and one of the best times of my life and I am sure for Al and Tom as well. At the end of our senior year we went on a blind date with two girls from Conn College. We ended up in a local bar and for no reason (really) about six guys attacked us. I went down on the first punch and Al backed up against the bar and used his legs to keep the aggressors at bay. The strategy worked until the bartender hit Al on the back of his head with a bottle (huge goose egg) and we were both evicted from the bar for starting a fight.
Truly one of the biggest regrets of my life was not going to Al’s wedding, but I felt so broke that I thought I couldn’t afford the airfare. He came to Oregon after he was married but it wasn’t the same fun time as we had before. We always talked on the phone especially during football season. Al closely followed the Oregon Ducks and he never missed a chance to malign the Ducks and there were many opportunities in those years. If he were here today it would be a different conversation. One of the characteristics I liked and admired most about Al was his personal integrity. He seemed to have an innate strength about him and a strong sense of identity. He never complained and was always positive even towards the end when he was suffering from cancer.

Joseph Pugliese remembers: Dear friend: We miss you. We will drink a toast to your memory when we are together.

Henry Howerton remembers: Another good friend. One night as Al (aka Gor) was driving several us up to Conn College, his VW stopped in the middle of the freeway..fuel pump or something. Mildly frustrated, he rammed his fist through ( not into, THROUGH) the windshield. Obviously we never made it to CC and I haven’t the foggiest about how we got back to New Haven. Not hard to imagine what a blow like that might have done to someone’s face.