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Thomson M. Whitin

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Thomson M. Whitin Obituary
WHITIN, THOMSON McLINTOCK Thomson McLintock Whitin, widely respected academician whose talents were sought by institutions ranging from the U.S. Navy to universities including Princeton, M.I.T., Berkeley, Wesleyan, and Yale, died at the age of 90 at The Sakonnet Bay Manor in Tiverton, RI surrounded by his children on December 9, 2013. Tom was not only an intellectual with notable accomplishments in his field of econometrics and operations research, he was a man of great humility and spark. A former resident of Higganum, Tom retired to Little Compton, RI and he resided at Sakonnet Bay Manor in Tiverton, RI since 2008. Born in Massachusetts in 1923, Tom is the last survivor of three offspring of Ina and Richard C. Whitin’s branch of a family that once lived in the textile machine and manufacturing town of Whitinsville in the Blackstone River Valley that has borne their patriarchal name since 1720. A graduate of Fessenden and Kent Schools, Tom earned his undergraduate degree from Princeton in 1943. Anxious to join in the WWII effort, he interrupted his academic pursuits for 3 years of service in the U.S. Navy as a gunnery officer aboard the Intrepid Class carrier “Bonhomme Richard.” After the war, Tom returned to Princeton University, where he earned his post-graduate degrees on the G.I. bill. Tom was an associate professor of economics at Princeton, where the couple had two children, Charles Pinckney and Sonia Wesson. In 1953, Tom moved his family to Concord, Massachusetts when he joined the M.I.T. faculty’s esteemed economics department. While at M.I.T. the couple produced their third child, Holly Watson. After two years in Washington, D.C. as the Chief Economist for the recently established Atomic Energy Commission, the Whitins moved back to Concord for two years, from 1958-1960 when Tom resumed his M.I.T. professorship. Offered tenure as a professor at U.C. Berkeley in 1960, the family moved to California to test the West Coast waters. Tom authored two books, including The Theory of Inventory Management (Princeton University Press, 1953), and An Analysis of Inventory Systems (Prentice-Hall, 1961), the latter co-authored with his colleague George Hadley. Tom also published dozens of scholarly papers and reviews, and he served as a consultant to numerous organizations, including the RAND Corporation, Stanford Research Institute, and the U.S. Navy. Tom was elected to membership as a fellow in the international Econometric Society in 1958. After three years in California, with their fourth child, Richard Courtenay in tow, the family of six trundled back to Connecticut in 1963 to Wesleyan University where Tom taught for the next 30 years. During his long tenure at Wesleyan, sometimes as the department Chairman and as distinguished Chester D. Hubbard Professor of Economics and Social Science, he twice served as a visiting professor of administrative science at Yale University and received fellowships from the National Science Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Three Nobel prize winning economists joined Tom’s retirement conference in 1993. A lasting legacy of Tom Whitin is the love he engendered in his children for international cultures, languages and experiences as a result of his sabbatical year in Holland at Rotterdam’s Econometrics Institute in 1966. Tom was particularly fond of a succession of dogs that attended many of his classes at Wesleyan; corgis named Rennie, Scuppers and Barkus, and a wandering beagle named Ishi. He sometimes asked “What’s a man without a dog?” fully believing such a relationship gave evidence of a life fulfilled. The loss of his driving license and the demise of Barkus--of not having a car and a dog for company--were his only major complaints. He told politically incorrect, sophomoric jokes and limericks his entire life. Sophisticated by upbringing, educational pedigree and academic accomplishment, Tom was nonetheless a man with relatively simple, unassuming tastes, and a confirmed New England Yankee by birth and values, and Yankee-hater by all things baseball. Increasingly immobile in his last years, Tom never flinched. His many staff and nurses at Sakonnet Bay found him to be cheerful and indomitable for the duration, and they enriched his life, as he did theirs. Tom lived for visits from his children and grandchildren who were fortunate to visit him often. Tom’s wife of 45 years, Edith “T.D.” Osborn Sherer, pre-deceased him in 1994. His four children: Charles (Providence, RI), Sonia (Gainesville, FL), Holly (Nyon, Switzerland), Richard (San Francisco, CA) and three grandchildren, Emilie (Burlington, VT), Aya (Burlington, VT), Sophia (NYC) will miss him very much.
Published in middletownpress on Dec. 18, 2013
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