Craig Thorn IV, Beloved Teacher, Dies at Age 47
June 14, 2006
— Craig Thorn IV, 47, of Andover, died Monday, June 12, 2006 at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston after a two-and-a-half-year battle against cancer. For twenty-six years a member of the English Department at Phillips Academy, he has shaped countless students’ lives, inspired his colleagues, stamped his character on the Academy with his boundless creative energy, and nurtured a loving family.
He was born on December 14, 1958, in Hudson, New York, a storied place and region of which he was proud, and to which he was loyal. Whatever trajectories his rich life would trace, his teaching was always informed and tempered by the vivid curiosities and fertile friendships of the upstate New York town life. Having graduated from Hudson High School in 1976, he entered Dartmouth College, where his gift for the language, his indefatigable creativity and magnetic personality found fruition. He was an avid skier, unrelenting tennis player and deft left-handed pool shooter, a skill he honed as a member of Alpha Theta fraternity.
Among his most cherished college experiences was a personal and professional friendship with Ted Geisel. With Dr. Seuss as his mentor, he was well on his way to a variegated career as teacher, writer, house counselor, coach, professional editor, music critic, radio broadcasting personality, founder of a score of campus literary magazines, and an ideal institutional propellant for a school about to enter a new millennium.
Hired as a Teaching Fellow at Andover in 1980, he joined the faculty as Instructor in English after earning a Masters Degree in English from Brown in 1982. He mastered the works of the satirists Swift and Twain, specialized in The Romantic Poets and Shakespeare, and after a sabbatical to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1991–1992, made Native American, Central and South American Literature his specialty. His classroom was a hothouse of intellect, a haven of hip, and a profound reservoir of teacherly love. He served a term as English Department Chair from 1995–2001, a time of exciting growth and experimental flowering, and helped shape policy and give direction to the school in its non-academic functions.
It was as a house counselor (Eaton Cottage, Bishop Hall and Thompson House) where he struck his most enduring ties with his students, and as general manager of the student radio station WPAA where he rose to cult status, not just on campus, but at the farthest reaches of the station’s signal in far-flung New England. His encyclopedic knowledge of and voracious appetite for all kinds of music kept the station at the vanguard of a true world movement. In his spare time, he ran two educational publishing houses, helping many of his colleagues publish professional essays about teaching.
His work was his fun, his family’s life his purpose. He wove his family both into the school’s fabric and the town’s, where he was an avid and generous supporter of a host of youth activities and civic groups. He is survived by his wife Andrea, his son Alex, and his daughter Kelsey, all of Andover; his father Craig Thorn III and his mother Edwina of Hudson, New York; his brother Doug, wife Denise and three children of Loudonville, New York; sister Stacy and her two children of Norcross, Georgia; and his father-in-law Laszlo Papp of New Canaan, Connecticut.
Memorial services will be held on Sunday, October 8, 2006 at 2:00 p.m. in the Cochran Chapel on the Phillips Academy campus. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the Craig Thorn Memorial Fund at Phillips Academy.
A Song for Craig Thorn
The following song was composed for Craig Thorn, his family and the PA community by Alex King '05 and Andy St. Louis '05
Stuck in a state of suspended belief
After losing a hero like you;
Missing your charm and comic relief
I can't bring myself to accept it's true.
Despite all the pain that you faced for those years,
You faced it with strength and grace.
And with your big heart that never showed fear
You took on the world with a grin on your face.
Did you want to hide away
From all those eyes upon you,
Past the light of day?
Lifelong teacher, teaching how to live,
When to take and when to give,
What to stand for and how to stand tall,
By being yourself you taught us all WHAT IT MEANS TO LIVE.
Always a favorite at school and in town,
A lover of life and a man of his word.
You were too young--now we long for the sound
Of your laughter that never scarce to be heard.
You were well loved by your beautiful bride;
Father, son, brother-- too soon to be gone
In countless more your memory resides;
Through those you touched your spirit lives on.
Lay not you head in your hands,
But retrace nostalgic steps;
Celebrate this man.
Now that you're gone we still try to hold on
To keep you alive in our hearts and minds.
If we're looking for answers, we needn't look far
Remembering you, there's no doubt that we'll find
WHAT IT MEANS TO LIVE.
Copyright King and St. Louis 2006