Donald P. Severance

Obituary
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Donald Porter Severance died June 5, 2013 at his home in Exeter, New Hampshire. He was 97, and a former longtime resident of Wellesley, MA, and Tuftonborough, NH. The son of Walter and Florence Severance, he spent his early years in West Lebanon, New Hampshire. Donald attended Greenfield High School in Massachusetts and was valedictorian of his graduating class. He received his S.B. and S.M. degrees in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Following his graduation in 1938, he devoted his professional life to MIT. He was Assistant Registrar for 10-years until 1949 when he was appointed Secretary and Treasurer of the MIT Alumni Association. In that position and, subsequently, as Executive Vice President, he was responsible for alumni relations and fundraising. For eight years, he was publisher of The Technology Review, the oldest scientific journal in America. From 1974 until his retirement in 1986, he was Director of Lifetime Giving, Office of Resource Development. He also served as a Director and Vice President of the Harvard Cooperative Society for 32 years. He met his future wife, Phyllis Smith, daughter of the President of Babson College, in 1939, when she worked in the MIT Registrar's Office. They were married July 28, 1941 in the president's home on the Babson campus, and settled in Wellesley, where they raised four daughters. In 1942, Don began his lifelong association with the Appalachian Mountain Club. He loved hiking and skiing the mountains of New England, and he found the AMC's values and activities a perfect fit for his own. He served the AMC as president, vice president, and secretary. His early volunteer responsibilities were as Councilor of Camps and Reservations, including Cold River Camp in the White Mountains and Three Mile Island on Lake Winnipesaukee, Chairman of Huts and Research, and Chair of the Meetings Committee. While serving as president of the AMC, he propelled the AMC into a leadership role in the organized opposition to a proposed highway through Franconia Notch, a 10 year battle that successfully ensured the preservation of the Old Man of the Mountain for the enjoyment of several more generations. In 1941, the AMC offered figure skating lessons with Willy Frick, a skating coach at the Skating Club of Boston. Don and his wife took lessons from him and, later, from Maribel Vinson Owen, 9-time US National's Women's Figure Skating Champion. When one of their daughters wanted to take up figure skating, Maribel was the coach of choice. Following the 1961 plane crash that took the lives of the 1961 World Figure Skating Team, including Maribel, the Severances joined the Skating Club of Boston, in search of a new coach. Donald served as a member of the board of directors, secretary, vice president and president. Precipitating his involvement with club politics was a desire to eliminate the long-standing discriminatory membership practices. His efforts paid off, paving the way for the club's current diverse membership. In 1950, the Severances bought land on an island in Lake Winnipesaukee where they spent every subsequent summer. The cottage which he both designed and built was a perfect setting and location for his lifelong interests, swimming, photography, and woodworking. He is survived by his wife and true love of 72 years, Phyllis Smith Severance of Exeter, NH; daughters Carol S. Glenn of Amesbury, MA, Patricia Severance and Andrea Severance, both of Newburyport, MA, and Gail Severance of Shrewsbury, MA; grandchildren, Lisa Laverty of Hamilton, MA and Jonathan Glenn of Maplewood, NJ; three great grand children; and a niece, Cynthia Field of Exeter, NH. Private services will be held at a later date. Memorial contributions may be made in his name to: The Appalachian Mountain Club, 5 Joy Street, Boston, MA 02108.

Published in The Amesbury News from June 30 to July 7, 2013
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