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Stephen Mittenthal '55

October 7, 1938 - January 18, 2021


Written by Gail Tirana ’55

The Class of 1955 sends its condolences to Patricia, Steve’s wife, to Laurie and her husband and their three children.

Written by Art Goldschmidt ’55

Steve was kind, generous, and clever. He never said or did anything mean. He used to tell me that the one thing in life that he valued most was comfort, his own to be sure, but everyone else’s comfort, too. His favorite way of saying “Goodbye” was “Take it easy.” When Major ordered Steve to lead the senior boys in calisthenics, he proceeded to lead us all in finger exercises.

Like most of us, Steve liked to argue with Dr. Hunter about his multiple-choice American history questions. There was one where we were supposed to choose the answer that the development of the West benefited from the extension of the railroads. Having chosen a different answer, Steve argued that stagecoaches could have developed the West. “Steve and his stagecoach” made its way into our class song. And, having seen his resemblance to Prince Metternich in a history book photo, we called him “Mitternich;” and that’s how Steve signed my yearbook.

Adolescent friendships often do not survive, but Steve and I remained close for more than 60 years. When I was a first-year graduate student at Harvard, I remember feeling stuck in my dorm room on a lovely Saturday afternoon, probably struggling to read Islamic history books or master classical Arabic. Steve showed up on an unannounced visit—what a happy surprise! When Louise and I got married in 1961, Steve was an usher. When he and Patricia were married in 1965, we could not be there; but later his parents hosted a New York reception, and Louise and I showed up with our newborn son. Then when Laurie was a newborn and our boys were three and one, we met the three Mittenthals for a picnic near Hartford, where Steve worked briefly, for a very informal (and very child-friendly) lunch.

Steve, with a BA from Yale, MPA from Princeton, MA and PhD from Columbia, and with passions for American history, opera and travel, found his life’s work in philanthropy. Because Steve ran the Arizona Community Foundation, and I taught at Penn State, we were far apart, but occasionally his work or family responsibilities brought him back east, and we could meet. I also saw him once in Phoenix. Retired, we could and did meet more often.

When we learned that Steve had Parkinson’s disease, we wondered whether we would ever meet again. His daughter Laurie flew with Steve to New York so that he could revisit his old home, Friends Seminary and his friends. It was a wonderful reunion evening for us at Gail’s with class members and their spouses to honor the man whom so many of us loved.

Using Facetime, I talked to Steve some five times while he was hospitalized. He always asked after his classmates. He cared for us right up to the end. Requiescat in pace.


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