To Russia with love: remembering David Sloane
Memories of David A. Sloane ‘68
By Bob Cricenti (David's roommate our senior year)
Some background first: Late June 1967, the summer before our senior year, Alexei Kosygin and Lyndon B. Johnson met at Glassboro State University in New Jersey for summit talks. There was some agreement on Middle East strategy and that accord led to other agreements that perhaps tourism would be a good thing for the two countries. Quite quickly and without prior preparation groups were chosen to visit each other’s country. Lots of barriers were in the way, language being foremost. Translators were needed. David was a Russian language major. Hardly any itineraries were prepared. The Soviet Union had a service, Intourist, that would be the guide for Americans to sightsee.
David came back to Williams a week or so late in September 1967. We were roommates on the third floor of Bascom House. He had been the American translator on a tourist trip to the Soviet Union. If Americans wanted to put an item on the itinerary, he had to ask permission starting with the lady from Intourist and the request went wherever and was either granted or not. The Russian speaking guide would then lead the American group and communicate through the translator. Tanya (later Sloane) was David’s counterpart and he was smitten. We talked about his summer and mostly we talked about Tanya. Before the age of google, getting information about how to bring a person to the US was not easy to come by. We brainstormed a lot. Love found its way because David and Tanya married and came to the States. She was his muse and support throughout grad school and after. We met a couple of times since graduation, once in Cambridge while David was working on his doctorate and once in our grocery store in NH when the Sloane family was on the way from Boston to Middlebury, VT where David taught at a prestigious summer program. This he did for many years.
I was pretty good at languages and in my senior year I thought I could take beginning Russian and probably get a good grade without a lot of work. By just being around David I should assimilate a lot. My work ethic was not good and though I did all the drills and studying, I did not attend a lot of the classes. I would leave completed homework assignments in Mrs. deKeyserlingk’s mailbox and she would send corrected ones back to me. Quickly into the year she became a regular at lunch in Bascom House sitting next to my roommate. I think that David’s friendship towards me softened her view of this slacker in her class. I was able to help type some papers on a Russian keyboard manual typewriter, and though it was slow and tedious, I hope I helped a bit.
There was word this year of David’s passing. It was in June of 2013. There was little fanfare as the family wished to be private. Faculty at Tufts had presented a resolution of honor in 2011 on David’s retirement.
Too late we all realize what we miss. I miss David’s loyalty, friendship, intellect, and talent. Too late to just bump into him and grab a coffee. Not too late to say that knowing him has made a difference in my life—the beginning of knowing the world outside a small New England town.