Laura Menides, Champion of Worcester’s Literary History

Laura Jehn Menides, professor emerita of literature at WPI, poet, and champion of the poetry community and the literary history of Worcester, died July 22, 2022, after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. She was 85.

Menides joined the WPI faculty in 1976 after teaching at Finch College in Manhattan and at the University of Chicago, where she earned a master’s degree in language and literature. She also held a BA in that field from Queens College of the City University of New York and a PhD from New York University.

A scholar of American literature and an active writer and poet (her output included books of original poetry, short stories, and children’s stories), she collaborated with WPI music professor David McKay on an opera based on William Faulkner’s novel As I Lay Dying. The opera debuted at the 1991 International Faulkner Conference at the University of Mississippi.

Menides worked hard to raise the profile Worcester’s notable literary figures. Students she advised completed a series of IQPs that created plaques for the homes of such writers as Esther Forbes (author of Johnny Tremain) and poets Frank O’Hara and Elizabeth Bishop. She organized the Elizabeth Bishop Conference and Poetry Festival in 1997, which included readings and presentations by such giants of poetry as Donald Hall, Adrienne Rich, and Kathleen Spivack.

She also actively promoted and supported the local poetry community, helping found and serving as president of the Worcester Country Poetry Association and frequently organizing events and readings by poets—the up-and-coming and the internationally recognized, including Stanley Kunitz and Maxine Kumin.

She is survived by her son, John Menides, and her daughter, Georgia Menides. Her husband, Byron Menides, formerly an instructor in management and an assistant football coach at WPI, passed away in 2017.

—Michael Dorsey

Audrey Carlan, MS ’57, WPI’s first female graduate

Audrey Carlan, who earned a master’s degree in physics as WPI’s first female graduate student, passed away on Sunday, July 17, 2022, at the age of 91. In 2017, she received an honorary degree from WPI in recognition of the trail she blazed for generations of women who came after her.

After they were married, Audrey and her husband of 55 years, Alan, took jobs at American Optical (AO) Company in Southbridge, Mass., and began taking WPI graduate classes offered at AO. They were trailblazers in the newly developed computer science projects pioneered at WPI and were the only students from AO who continued classes on the WPI campus. Their simultaneous graduation, both with master’s degrees in physics, was especially remarkable.

Audrey and Alan went on to have two sons and a daughter (their first son, Steve, was born just weeks after that 1957 WPI commencement) and established careers as mathematicians and physicists. Earning an MS was the beginning of a career in which Audrey paved a path so many working moms face today. In an age when fewer than half of mothers worked outside the home, she not only thrived in the workplace, but was able to carve a niche and a career that nourished her curiosity. Within years, she moved to teaching, in part for the flexibility. She became a professor emerita of mathematics at Southwest Community College in Los Angeles and authored Everyday Mathematics for the Numerically Challenged.

Throughout her life, science held an unmistakable appeal for her. AO gave her a glimpse of what was to come—fiber optics and lasers—and that was where she worked on the earliest continuous vision lenses (now known as progressive lenses). Her team also worked on Todd-AO, the groundbreaking film projection system for the big screen version of “Oklahoma!”

Audrey was preceded in death by Alan. She is survived by her children Stephen, David (Sylvia), and Sue Reynolds (Michael), and her grandchildren Joshua and Solonia Reynolds. She will always hold a place in WPI’s history as the first woman to earn a WPI degree—15 years before the first female undergraduate degrees were conferred.

—Judith Jaeger

Ralph Smith ’43, CHE, SIGMA ALPHA EPSILON, Kennebunk, Maine

Kimball Woodbury ’44, ME, SIM, THETA CHI, Worcester, Mass.

Warner Sturtevant ’45, ME, PHI SIGMA KAPPA, Escondido, Calif.

Ellsworth Sammet ’49, CE, SIGMA PHI EPSILON, Craftsbury, Vt.

David Flood ’50, CHE, THETA CHI, Friendship, Maine

Edward Kacmarcik ’51, ME, ALPHA TAU OMEGA, Newburgh, N.Y.

Harry Mirick ’54, EE, SIGMA PHI EPSILON, Orleans, Mass.

Christian Baehrecke ’56, CE, ALPHA TAU OMEGA, Paxton, Mass.

Albert Battista ’56, EE, PHI KAPPA THETA, Norwalk, Conn.

Richard McBride ’56, CE, PHI SIGMA KAPPA, Bethesda, Md.

Audrey Carlan ’57, PH, Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

Richard Chapman ’58, CE, Englewood, Fla.

Arthur McGowan ’58, ME, PHI GAMMA DELTA, Topsfield, Mass.

Anthony Morrison ’59, ME, Waterford, Conn.

Morgan Whitney ’59, EE, PHI GAMMA DELTA, Saint Clair Shores, Mich.

James Teixeira ’60, EE, East Falmouth, Mass.

Ralph Guertin ’62, EE, LAMBDA CHI ALPHA, Sutton, Mass.

James Keating ’63, EE, LAMBDA CHI ALPHA, Wethersfield, Conn.

Stephen McCabe ’64, SIM, Plymouth, Mass.

John Preisser ’64, MS PH, Williamsburg, Va.

Robert Varnum ’64, EE, SIGMA PHI EPSILON, Naples, Fla.

Heyward Williams ’66, CHE, TAU KAPPA EPSILON, West Palm Beach, Fla.

Charles Goodspeed ’67, CE, MS CE, SIGMA PHI EPSILON, Alexandria, Va.

Robert Renn ’67, ME, THETA CHI, East Orleans, Mass.

Stephen Hammond ’69, CE, THETA CHI, Chester, N.J.

Lawrence Cohen ’70, CHE, ALPHA EPSILON PI, South Easton, Mass.

Michael Vardeman ’70, PH, Margate, Fla.

James Anderson ’72, PH, SIGMA PI, Mystic, Conn.

Joseph Kalinowski ’73, BS MG, MBA, PHI GAMMA DELTA, Holden, Mass.

Irving Paton ’78, SIM, Merrimack, N.H.

Robert Moller ’82, BME, LAMBDA CHI ALPHA, Worcester, Mass.

Jack Bravo ’84, EE, Jefferson, Mass.

Richard Willett ’91, EE, THETA CHI, Wellesley, Mass.

Eric Rogers ’99, ME, Blairsville, Pa.

Megan Concannon ’19, CE, ALPHA XI DELTA, Austin, Texas

Ryan Cumings ’21, MS EE, Exeter, N.H.

Sean Roorda ’21, MS MTE, New Hampton, Iowa

The WPI community also notes the passing of these friends of the university: E. Malcolm Parkinson, Marjorie Pearsall.

Complete obituaries can usually be found online by searching or newspaper websites. The Alumni Office will assist classmates in locating additional information. Contact  

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