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Thomas Bransten ’58

December 19, 2019, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Tom was raised in San Francisco; his father was the scion of the MJB Coffee company and his mother’s family ran a dried fruit processing company. He studied at the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle in London, and at Peterhouse, a constituent college of Cambridge University in England, before coming to Reed. Initially interested in premedical courses, he switched to literature. He wrote his thesis, “The Alien Vision: A Study of Bertolt Brecht’s Epic Drama,” advised by Prof. Kaspar T. Locher [German 1950–88].

The next year he moved to France and married a French woman, Jeanne Hirtz. Deciding that he would need to make a decent living as they started a family, Tom decided to try journalism. After striking out numerous times, he was eventually given an unpaid internship with the International Herald Tribune and then got a job on the graveyard shift, working from 11 p.m. to 10 a.m. six days a week. Finally he graduated to the day desk and went on to write many important stories.

Bilingual in French, he covered the Algerian War of independence from France. The Algerian rebels not only committed terrorist acts in Algeria, they also bombed cafés and buildings in Paris. Tom narrowly escaped being killed by a bomb planted outside the offices of the newspaper Le Monde.

As a freelance journalist covering Western Europe and French-speaking Africa, he also wrote for United Press International, as a European correspondent for Fortune magazine, and for Mademoiselle, Time, Ramparts, and the London Observer.

Tom covered two kidnappings: that of four-year-old Eric Peugeot, heir to the automobile fortune, and the shocking kidnap-murder of seven-year-old Philippe Bertrand. He wrote a novel, A Slight Case of Guilt, loosely based on the kidnappings.

He had two children with Jeanne, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1965. Around this time, Tom established a restricted fund at Reed to fund scholarships for minority students and to provide psychiatric counseling for students at Reed.

After moving from San Francisco to Massachusetts so his wife could pursue her PhD at Harvard, Tom began selling real estate. In his 10 years in the real estate industry, he won awards for his service, and many clients became friends. “What I enjoy about real estate,” he said, “is working with people and satisfying their needs in one of the most important transactions of their lives—finding or selling a home.”

He is survived by his daughter, Katherine.

Appeared in Reed magazine: December 2020

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