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Peter Dobkin Hall ’68

A picture of Peter Hall

Peter Dobkin Hall ’68, April 30, 2015, in a traffic accident near Branford, Connecticut.

During his freshman year, Peter joined an informal organization founded by his friends Kim Stapley ’68 and Howard Rheingold ’68 called the Bureau of Iconoclastic Projects (BIP) and passed out business cards bearing BIP’s motto: Chaos=Eternity. “During the 1965–66 school year, Peter and Kim lived in a funky apartment called the Woodstock Arms,” Debbie Guyol ’68 recalls. “The scene was (understatement) colorful. There was a jukebox to lend atmosphere. All kinds of art was everywhere in the apartment—paintings by Kim, Howard, and others, smallish statues left by a previous tenant, and Peter’s mural of the harbor at Castine, Maine, on one large wall. The mural was pure Peter, erudite and quirky. Peter chose the smallest bedroom for himself—it was draped with India prints and other exotic fabric so it resembled the tent-like quarters of some desert dignitary. In the midst of this full-on psychedelic decor and the hippie attire of his friends, Peter always kept his preppy look—tweed jackets, oxford cloth shirts, and horn-rimmed spectacles.”

Peter played banjo, guitar, and bass, and performed with the group Laura and the Vipers, founded by Laura Fisher ’68. “Peter was funny and smart,” she remembers. “He was like a radio; he could talk for hours on any subject,” a sentiment echoed by his wife, Kathryn Bonese, who said, “Every day with Peter was a salon.” He was an imaginative amateur painter and also collaborated with Kim on a Quest comic strip, “Milli the Model,” featuring the adventures of a statuesque blonde (rumored to be based on Kim’s sister Andrea Stapley ’69). “It was Peter who talked us into hand binding and illustrating our own books,” said Howard, who added, “When I think of Peter, which is often lately, his wicked laugh dominates my memories.”

Peter earned his BA in international studies from Reed, then went on to obtain an MA and PhD in American history from State University of New York at Stony Brook and became a professor of history and theory in the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College and a senior research fellow at Harvard. He held appointments at Wesleyan, Yale, and Harvard.

A pioneer in the field of nonprofit scholarship, he was a founding member of Yale’s program on nonprofit organizations. In 1993, he received the John Grenzebach Award for Outstanding Research in Philanthropy for Educational Advancement from the America Association of Fundraising Counsel Trust for Philanthropy and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. In 2008, he was given the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action Award for Distinguished Achievement in Nonprofit and Voluntary Action Research. In addition, Peter was scholar in residence at the Rockefeller Archive Center in 1988–89.

Peter published four books, The Organization of American Culture, 1700–1900, The Lehigh Valley: An Illustrated History, Lives in Trust, and Inventing the Nonprofit Sector. He was coeditor of Sacred Companies: Organizational Aspects of Religion and Religious Aspects of Organizations and editor of the chapter on nonprofit, voluntary, and religious entities and activities for Historical Statistics of the United States—Millennial Edition.

His articles on the development of nonprofit institutions, religion, philanthropic elites, higher education, charities law, corporate social responsibility, and public policy appeared in the American Sociological Review, Commonwealth, Foundation News, History of Education Quarterly, History of Higher Education Annual, Journal of American History, New York Law School Law Review, Nonprofit Management & Leadership, Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Philanthropy Monthly, Science & Society, and Theology Today, as well as in more than a dozen edited volumes.

Peter served the community as officer and director of a number of agencies, including the New Haven Historic District Commission, the Branford Planning & Zoning and Inland Wetland Commissions, the Church of Christ–Stony Creek, the Connecticut Foundation for Open Government, the Eli Whitney Museum, the New Haven Colony Historical Society, the Ronan-Edgehill Neighborhood Association, and St. Thomas Episcopal Church and Day School. He was a member of the Century Association.

 “Peter did what he loved his entire life,” says Laura.

In addition to his wife, Kathryn, he is survived by his former wife, Karyl Lee Hall Pfaff; his four children, Sam, Mary, Becca, and Allison; and his brother Jonathan and sisters Marion and Suzannah.

Memorial by John Allen Cushing ’67.

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2015

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