My first instinct is to smile remembering Greg’s quick wit and priceless sense of humor. Greg was a great teacher. He showed us all the truly important things in life by the way he led his life; what it means to be honest, modest, gentle, fair, and generous.
The very first time I met Greg was when I was going through the day-long interview process for the Safety and Security Directors position — and Greg chaired one of the groups. After about 15 minutes into the scheduled 30 minute meeting, he asked me if my father was Bill King who would drive from Northeast Philly to run and race from campus with a group of locals under the name Haverford Athletic Club. When I said that I was his son, Greg announced, "I’ve heard enough," and politely excused himself. As he exited the room he turned to the group and said, “If you don’t hire this guy you’re making a big mistake.” They listened and I was fortunate to work with and learn from Greg for the next nine years.
It was a privilege and pleasure to be in the same space at the same time with him. A man of peace, he had a calming effect on everyone and was always quick with that smile of his. Wherever he was a brighter place — it was the room you wanted to be in. Greg was the best of us, yet had this incredible ability to make everyone in a room feel like they were the most important person there. It was genius, actually.
So gentle, so kind. But so strong. He was, as they say in Ireland, pure class. The quintessential gentleman.
He will live on through the many generations his presence influenced and inspired, but it will never be the same without him. I loved Greg very much — we all did — and I will miss him forever.
Tom King, Director of Bi-College Safety and Security
I remember the first time when I met Greg. I was I was told that Greg wanted to meet with me about joining the coaching staff at Haverford.
A 23-year-old assistant baseball coach at Johns Hopkins, I made the two-hour drive from Baltimore to the Main Line. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this meeting, but when I arrived, it was clear that I was in the midst of someone very special. Greg was warm and inviting. He put me at ease, and we sat at the baseball field and talked about everything and nothing, at the same time, for about an hour. I couldn’t believe that an athletic director would take such time to meet with a young nobody and seem to have genuine interest in speaking with someone like me.
But that was Greg. And from my first interaction with him, I was hooked. He had an amazing ability to know hundreds, if not thousands of people, and to make each and every one of them feel special.
Greg was the bond that united generations of Haverfordians. He was the college’s institutional memory and the caretaker/guardian of Haverford’s essence. Thanks to Greg, our times at Haverford were more enjoyable, our memories of Haverford are more vivid, our relationships are more numerous and more meaningful. Not because he was a dean, a baseball coach, an athletic director, an admission director, and then a dean again, but because he was a mentor to many, a father-figure to some, and a friend to all.
Greg’s passing has created a huge void in our campus community, a void that can’t be filled by any one person. (Let’s face it. Greg was unique, and there won’t be anyone else like him.) Each member of our community must do his or her part to not only honor Greg’s legacy but to continue his legacy and keep his spirit alive for future generations.
Dave Beccaria, Haverford Head Baseball Coach
Greg was an incredible person that we got to know personally during our time on Students’ Council. During one of the most challenging and gratifying years for us at Haverford, he was always there to lend advice and support as an advisor and mentor. At our weekly meetings over lunch, we often arrived frazzled with the given SC-crisis-of-the-week, but somehow after the first few minutes spent with Greg, his outpouring confidence in us and the Haverford community would make us remarkably assured that we could work through anything. Greg’s passion for Haverford was inspirational and such a driver in how this community has become as strong and dynamic as it is today.
Greg had an amazing presence that radiated a constant sense of calm and cheerfulness. Walking into a room full of Board members, Greg would always give us a smile, and somehow we would suddenly feel like we fit right in. Whether he was making a serious announcement about the future of the college, updating us on the latest Haverford athletic news, or just cracking a joke to lighten an uptight meeting space, Greg was able to make us feel comfortable, because everyone felt comfortable around him. From the most influential people on the Board to the visiting alumni to the student representatives, everyone we met seemed to have a close personal connection to Greg.
No one knew Haverford the way Greg did, and no one was a better advocate for students than Greg. As students we owe a lot of appreciation to the precedents and traditions that Greg set in pushing student voices to the forefront. Through his inter-personal relationships he brought together a multitude of people and helped make us all feel like real members of a community.
We regret that our relationship with Greg wasn’t able to extend beyond our time at Haverford as it did for so many others. As we look forward to graduating, we are grateful that we were able to have Greg here with us for most of our time at Haverford, but we are also confident that Greg’s work and his remarkable presence will be a positive light that shines on perpetually for the Haverford community.
We will each deeply miss him.
Fabrizio Barbagelata HC ‘10 and Meghan McAllister HC ’10
When I came to Haverford some two decades ago, there were a handful of people who seemed to be pillars of the community—individuals whose commitment to the community, whose understanding and feel for various aspects of the community life, and whose personal integrity seemed to provide continuity, stability, and solidity to the College, to its Quaker heritage, and to its future as a community that aimed to call its members to give their best, not only to the campus community, but also to the world at large. Those pillars included some folks on the grounds crew, some in physical plant, some in administration, faculty, food service. It also included, I felt, Greg Kannerstein.
But over time I came to see Greg as something more than “just” a pillar. Greg’s fibers seemed to be embedded in the fabric of Haverford. As I grew to know him through work on the Minority Affairs committee, through our shared work to encourage and support various students over the years, and through his frequent visits to Special Collections as he sought to ever more deeply understand and interpret the College traditions of which he remained a steward, I came to really understand how Greg’s published history of the college — which he titled The Spirit and the Intellect — was actually a reflection of how the fabric of the college was deeply shaped by Greg’s dedication to its well-being, even as the fabric of the college was interwoven through who Greg was.
I feel very privileged to have known a man so capable of such dedication, and of such breadth of talents —writer, scholar, educator, administrator, athlete, coach, mentor —a spiritual man in the best sense of spirituality, and a man of thoughtful intellect. It seems to me he leaves the college a legacy that we will have to live up to.
Emma Lapsansky-Werner, Professor of History
Greg was a huge — and discerning — fan of Haverford baseball. No matter how busy his College duties kept him, he’d always find time to stop by a game. Some of my fondest memories of Greg come from schmoozing with him standing by the fence along the third base line. Greg would talk (in between brief instructions to the umps on how to do their job better) about College matters, students and news from alums. He cared deeply about all three.
On one such occasion, the plate ump called a strike that looked way high to me, and he called “STRIKE!” in a particularly booming and overbearing voice. “Why did he make a lousy call so damn loud?” I asked Greg. Greg answered: “The closer the call, the louder you have to make it.” I think that piece of advice tells us why Greg always spoke so softly: he always made good calls.
Bruce Partridge, Emeritus Professor of Astronomy
My encounters with Greg Kannerstein began in the summer of 2007, in an indirect manner. Greg was involved in the founding of the Israel Baseball League (IBL), a professional summer league that took place in Israel in 2007. Greg was active as one of the advisers to the founders of the league, and sent three baseball players from Haverford’s class of 2007 — Ben Field, Nat Ballenberg, and Travis Zier. As one of the few baseball players in Israel, I was accepted into the league, and was placed on the same team as the three Haverford players. After two great months of baseball, I was convinced that I wanted to play baseball in the U.S., and so the three Haverford players encouraged me to apply to Haverford.
Discouraged at first and worried about Haverford’s rigorous academics, Greg quickly emailed me and urged me to apply and assured me that I could succeed and prosper at Haverford. He set up a personal interview with me when I came to visit, and we talked for about half an hour — about Israel, baseball, Haverford, and just life in general. Greg was very kind and sincere in our conversation, and seemed to be very relaxed and happy in his position as Dean of the College. After leaving the interview, I realized how unique a place Haverford was — none of the other schools that I applied to gave me such personal attention.
Our next meeting took place at the end of my first semester last year. Greg invited me to lunch (at the DC of course) and wanted to hear about my thoughts and experiences. We chatted for a while, talked about baseball and about the classes I was taking. I was amazed by how much he knew about everyone at the school, and how he wanted to hear more stories about my experience. He also asked about my summer plans, and said he would talk to some of his many contacts and try and figure something out.
Finally, my last encounter with Greg was during Haverford Baseball’s alumni weekend, this past October. This was probably one of Greg’s favorite days, as he got to mingle and catch up with so many baseball alumnae and watch a solid baseball game on a beautiful sunny day. We had another friendly conversation, and then said our last goodbye.
Upon these remarks, I’d like to thank him for helping me be here at Haverford, and will miss him dearly.
Daniel Maddy-Weitzman HC ’12
During the first session of the Board Meeting this weekend, I experienced an incredible moment. The session saw a number of the Senior Staff of the College reflect on their memories of Greg, how he had mentored them and encouraged them in their roles. But the moment I found most gratifying was the moment of silence that proceeded all these remembrances. Sitting in the room was a group of people who were all affected by Greg’s time at the college, ranging from alumni from the 1940s who become board leaders during Greg’s years at the college, to former teammates of Greg during his time on the basketball team as a student, to faculty and staff members who remember Greg as dear friend and colleague, and current students who knew him as the friendly face of the Dean’s Office. At that moment, everyone in the room paused their thought processes and lives to remember a man who had managed to personally connect and inspire not only the 40 managers and representatives, but literally thousands of alumni, faculty and staff over the last 5 decades. In that moment of silence, everyone present was connected for a brief while in our collective grief and joy over the life of a man so beloved in our community. Words cannot adequately convey the moment, but I think I will remember it for the rest of my life.
While it is incredibly sad thinking of Greg’s passing, Greg is certainly not gone from the college. Greg’s kindness touched every part of campus, staff, faculty and students. But his good nature is also present in all the alumni who walked through these halls and dorms in the last 40 years, as evidenced by the touching comments on the memorial website. From the Deans’ Office in Chase where the current students remember him, to the admissions office in the Campus Center where he was recently interim head, to Founder’s Hall where he had recently located, to Ryan Gym where he had worked for so many years, to the dorms that he lived in, to the fields where he couched, to the greens that he walked, to the classrooms where he taught, to the GIAC that he finally saw constructed, to the community members who were touched by his humility, Greg will always be present. And we are all thankful for that.
Will Harrison HC ’10
Greg was the embodiment of Haverford and its Quaker values at their best. In addition to being whip-smart, Greg was modest, unassuming, self-effacing, kind, gentle, generous, possessed of a wry, self-deprecating sense of humor. He looked for the good in others and generally found it. He took the greatest pleasure in the happiness and success of others.
As Haverford’s resident historian, he is leaving a void that will be well nigh impossible to fill. Many have commented on Greg’s encyclopedic knowledge of Haverford and its alumni. I have always marveled at how Greg has been able to keep up with so many alumni and to remember anecdotes about virtually all of them. This week it dawned on me that this was not simply because Greg was endowed with a prodigious memory. More likely his ability remember so much about so many was a reflection of how deeply he cared about each and every one of them and his sincere and genuine interest in them as human beings.
Thanks for helping others to remember this wonderful and irreplaceable man.
Steve Watter, Haverford Dean of Student Life
Greg Kannerstein ’63 was a lot of things to me. That’s not really news, though — he was a lot of things to a lot of people. In my four years at Haverford, Greg was a welcoming face, a passionate anti-Swarthmore lobbyist at tennis matches, a mentor as I stumbled my way towards a career, and a dedicated sparring partner during dozens of interviews.
In his obituary, Greg’s career in journalism merits little more than a sentence, while most of the copy is dedicated to his incredible career at Haverford. This is far from surprising: after all, who of the people who knew him can consider him in any other context?
I didn’t even know that he had been a journalist until he mentioned it during one of the first interviews I had with him. After that I began to see the journalist in him during our weekly interviews with college’s senior staff.
You learn a lot about administrators when you ask them questions they don’t want to answer, and I learned that the only thing that would ever get Greg upset was when we got facts wrong. Other administrators routinely took issue with our tone or our editorials, but Greg only cared that we got the facts right.
I remember once when the president was taking us to task for our (mis)representation of him in an article, Greg stayed silent for nearly the entire meeting, despite several expectant looks from Steve Emerson. Greg spoke only at the end of the meeting, and then only to recount a tangentially related — and hilarious — story about Isaac Sharpless.
But should we mess up, I knew Greg would be there after we were done with our question, saying, "David, just a couple things about this last issue…" And even then, in that room and in that mindset with the administrators as adversaries to be badgered, cajoled, and bullied into answering our questions, I couldn’t help but notice that he was right. Not just that, but he was always right.
Besides being a former journalist, Greg was also a former editor of the Haverford News and I like to think he had a soft spot for its heir, The Bi-Co News.
His help wasn’t limited to the paper, though. When I was having trouble figuring out a way to run the paper, have an internship, and somehow manage to graduate, I knew where to turn. Like he had for so many students before, Greg helped me figure out a way to manage everything. In those moments in his office, I wasn’t the tough interviewer (I realize now that I was nowhere near as tough as I thought) or the hardened journalist. I was just a student trying to get the most out of Haverford, and Greg wanted nothing more than to make sure that I did.
That internship turned into a job, which I hope will turn into a career, and I never would have managed it without Greg. Sometimes I wonder how many other students he helped in a similar way. However many it is, I’m sure it’s an astounding number.
I could go on: about the time Greg took the entire tennis team out to dinner after a victory over Swarthmore (sitting next to him at his favorite Chinese restaurant, I was treated to an evening of hilarious Haverford anecdotes); about the time, during an interview, I impertinently said, "Dean Kannerstein, I just have one more question: what is up with your socks?" (and he did have a reasonable explanation for his pink and purple argyle socks); about my good friend Melissa de Moya, who came to Haverford from the Dominican Republic because of the effect a dinner with Greg had on her.
I could go on, telling the stories of someone who got to know Greg pretty well in four years at Haverford. Instead, I want to share words from someone who only saw Greg twice, in August 2005 and then again in May 2009. Here’s what my dad said when I told him of Greg’s passing:
I’ll never forget the guy, and I hardly ever encountered him. He had a charisma about him, and a love of Haverford, that was immediately apparent. I remember his story to the parents your freshman year, a perfectly timed, perfectly pitched tale to the effect that our children were admitted to Haverford by a guy who had no idea what he was doing. That, of course, was also clearly false — he seemed always to know very well what he was doing. I’m glad that you got to know him, and he you.
I’m glad, too. Thanks, Greg, for everything.
Dave Merrell HC ’09, editor in chief of the Bi-College News from January 2007 to June 2008
Greg Kannerstein was a journalist’s best friend. To me, a reporter, he was an invaluable source. As News Editor of The Bi-College News, I had the distinct privilege of interviewing Greg every week for two years as part of our senior administration meetings. Greg had an encyclopedic knowledge of Haverford — both past and present — and could deliver all of the key facts in 30-second sound bites. He took great care in ensuring we had the most current and thorough information, and would often e-mail us after our Thursday morning meetings with additional thoughts he obtained from speaking with other staff and administrators. These e-mails always included his hours for office availability and his home phone number, just in case we had any further questions.
Yet even more importantly, he advocated for a strong and vibrant press. I know Greg spent several years after college covering sports and civil rights issues in the South, and his conviction that free media advances the public interest served as a foundation of The Bi-Co’s relationship with Haverford’s administration. He advocated both publicly and privately for our access, and defended us when proactive reporting had led to the publication of information that other administrators preferred remain private. He read virtually every Bi-Co cover-to-cover and frequently offered writers and editors praise and constructive criticism — there was always more of the former than the latter. I regret that my journalistic desire to maintain a healthy skepticism toward all sources — particularly those in powerful positions — prevented me from admiring Greg in the same way as thousands of other Haverfordians. Yet I appreciated that Greg would always praise my desire to be a professional reporter and offer kudos whenever I would receive a summer internship offer.
Greg visibly supported the club rugby team, of which I am currently co-president. Our club co-president two years ago would send e-mail invitations for home matches to college administrators and athletic department staff, and while most others understandably had better things to do on a Saturday, I saw Greg at Featherbed Field for at least two of our home matches that year. Since our club was struggling at the time to find players and other administrators had wanted to disband the team due to perceived safety concerns, Greg’s presence and support meant a ton. And Greg would somehow figure out whenever the Angry Young Newts won or played well and congratulate me about it at the following Thursday’s Bi-Co meeting.
I obtained a copy of the 1951-1952 Haverford College handbook last year from a high school friend (I don’t know how he found it, since none of his family went to Haverford). Between the “clothing and general regulations” for freshman and the list of Haverford-related cheers and songs, it has been a constant source of amusement for my friends and me. I decided many months ago that Greg should receive the handbook when I graduated, since I knew he would enjoy it more than anybody, and I was mistakenly confident his years at Haverford would far outlast mine. I only wish that I had stopped by his office one more time, a little earlier.
Michael Novinson HC ’10
I have had the privilege of knowing Greg only for several months, and from everything I have heard over the past days and weeks, I should feel lucky, since the pain of his loss seems to accumulate with all the years people have known him. I first met Greg last April as part of the search process for my job as Dean of the College — which he held for three years — and before I sat with him in person, meeting the "incumbent" was a daunting prospect. I knew from the search materials that the person holding the job I sought had been at Haverford for a very long time, was greatly beloved, and was still going to be there once the new Dean arrived! For a job candidate that combination can be an enormous red flag, but Greg disarmed me completely at our meeting by spending the time convincing me in his quiet compelling way of just how many wonderful things I could bring to Haverford. And once I arrived here, what I have called a "hard act to follow" proved itself to be a great act to follow: Greg’s legacy in my position is that the people he worked with and nurtured are collegial, good-humored, slow to panic, resourceful, compassionate, trusted and respected by colleagues and students, and given to moments of random fun and games. These individuals and this team constitute his personal gift to me, and I am thus both humbled and inspired by my predecessor in this critical role at Haverford.
I would add that Greg must have been possessed of a miraculous quality that I would also like to acquire: he appears to have been someone who could literally make time. So many people have said to me: "Greg was a great friend and we spent a lot of time together"; "Greg always had time for me to talk over problems and find solutions"; "Greg always came to my games/concerts/exhibits…etc." How he did all of this mystifies me, given the demands of the Dean position, the intensity of the contact with students at Haverford, and the many other roles he played consecutively and simultaneously at this institution. He must have truly been able to manufacture time in a very real sense, in such a way as to have more hours in the day than the rest of us. Even in my own all-too-brief experience, conversations with Greg never felt hurried, and were full of helpful, insightful and humorous detail without judgment or unkindness. He relished human contact and in particular the kind that can edify, educate, encourage, and — most especially — affirm. As one young worship service speaker said so well, he believed in all of us even in those moments when we couldn’t quite believe in ourselves. In addition, he took the time necessary to convey that belief through his words and his presence, and that has made such a difference for so many of us, the new Dean included. I wish Greg could have manufactured a little more time to be with all of us in this place, but I think we all know that it never would have been quite enough.
Martha Denney, Haverford Dean of the College
It was shortly after I was elected Honor Council co-chair that Greg was appointed to be the interim Dean of the College. I remember at that point my co-chair and I, neither of us knowing Greg, were worried. How would an Athletic Director be good at working with the Code?! This Haverford old-timer won’t care at all about students! I don’t know that I’ve been more wrong in my life. In Greg we found someone who was not only passionate about the Honor Code and an effective advocate of student interests, but a man who beneath his quiet, grandfatherly exterior was not only extremely smart and capable, but motivated by deep concern and care for other people. Greg had the special gift of leading people not through goading or prodding, but subtly and almost imperceptibly guiding a group towards consensus.
Sometimes Greg’s low-key attitude could have its drawbacks. Once, when Greg asked me to join him in talking to some people about the Honor Code, I arrived only to find out that we were listed as giving the keynote speech.
Perhaps one of the things I loved best was that, like all good Haverfordians, he was a little bit quirky. He still typed with just his pointer fingers. Greg always wore argyle socks, frequently paired with sandals.
Ultimately, Greg was a man who had the ability to make so many people feel so special. It was part of his ability to see the good in people as well as their potential to grow. What amazes me about Greg is that he was able to have genuine relationships with so many people and continue to have each person feel special. Haverford has lost something special with Greg’s passing. However, I know Haverford will continue to thrive on the nurturing Greg provided and I hope that others will step in to fill the space he has left.
Joe Anderson HC ’09