SPENCER--John, died on December 30, 2016. Born on February 3, 1930, he was the son of the late Theodore Spencer, Boylston Professor of Rhetoric at Harvard University, and of the late Anna Morris Murray of Clarens, Switzerland and Shelburne, Vermont. John Spencer graduated from Portsmouth Abby School, Phillips Academy, and from Princeton University where he served as President of the Ivy Club. He received an M.A. and Ph. D from Columbia University and an honorary Litt. D from Clark Atlanta University. After Princeton, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a first Infantry Platoon leader in Korea and California, and then worked for the National Sugar Refining Company in New York and New Orleans. In the late 1950's, he became interested in the emerging countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. This led to a change of career with the receipt of a Fellowship from the Institute for Current World Affairs that took him to East Africa for two years and then to the Ford Foundation as a Program Officer in its Middle East and Africa Division. He subsequently was an evaluator for Peace Corps programs in Gambia, Mauritania and Senegal before starting graduate work and spending another two years doing research in Kenya. For 24 years after that he was at Middlebury College where he was Professor of African History, Kenan Professor, Chairman of the History Department, and Dean of the College. The Spencer Professorship of African Studies was created in his name. After his retirement, he served two five year terms as a Middlebury College Trustee. He published many articles and two books, one of which--The Kenya African Union--the American Historical Review noted "will remain the standard account of early nationalistic politics in Kenya for some time." His activities beyond Middlebury included serving as: Vice President of the Andover Alumni Council and the Rockefeller Family Fund, a Trustee of the Africa America Institute, African Medical Research Foundation, Atlanta University, the Institute of Current World of Affairs (as well as Chairman), the JDR 3rd Fund, the University of Cape Town Fund, the Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences Fund and the Victorinox--Swiss Army Foundation. He was also a Director of the Porter Medical Center in Middlebury, and of Swiss Army Brands Inc, and a member of the Museum of Modern Art Photography Committee and the Council on Foreign Relations. He is survived by Natalie, his wife of 46 years (he never stopped saying that marriage to her was the best thing that ever happened to him) by his sons David and Theodore, daughter Natalie (Pixie), two step children Cassandra and John Cushing, and seven grandchildren. A memorial service will be held May 11 at 11am at St. Bartholomew's Church, 325 Park Avenue at 51st Street, with a reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Middlebury College.
Published in New York Times on Apr. 30, 2017.