On June 22, 2021, we lost Harry Marshall ’61, long-time president of Virginia Beta, Inc. and the Fraternity’s “Second Founding Father.” In a description of his own life penned during his lengthy illness, Harry concluded it in brief: “HE LOVED HIS FAMILY, HIS COUNTRY, HIS UNIVERSITY, AND HIS FRATERNITY.” Those words truly do encapsulate Harry’s life. Harry treasured his family and friends (and was loved in return). He was a senior diplomat and defended our nation at the highest echelons of the State and Justice Departments. For those of us who met him at UVA, he was the personification of a Virginia Gentleman (despite his New York roots) and lived the word “brotherhood.”
Harry was born in 1939 in Mt. Vernon, NY, where his first job was a carrier for the old Daily Argus. His youthful interest in journalism continued at the University where he became a City Editor with the Cavalier Daily.
He graduated from UVA with a degree in political science and received his law degree from University of Pennsylvania in 1965. His education culminated at the University of Cambridge where he rowed #3 in several of the VIIIs for Churchill College.
Upon returning to the U.S., Harry worked as an estate lawyer in New York City, and in 1970 met the love of his life, Claire Sanford Whitman. The two were married in Bedford, NY, in 1971. He worked with the founders of the Environmental Action Coalition (EAC) to orchestrate the celebration of the first Earth Day in 1970 and then served as President of the EAC until 1976.
During this time, Claire gave birth to Harrison Reinhard Marshall in 1974 and Katharine Sanford Marshall (UVA ’97) in 1975. The Marshalls then moved to Washington where he was named Executive Director of the General Advisory Committee on Arms Control. He was a member of the U.S. SALT delegation and contributed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978. Appointed as a Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State under the Reagan administration in 1980, he became a key negotiator of several new nuclear supply agreements.
Between periods of government service, Harry opened the Beijing and Hong Kong offices for Martin Marietta International. Then in 1991, Harry joined the Department of Justice Office of International Affairs where he spearheaded federal extradition and mutual legal assistance between the United States and a significant portion of the world. In that role, he helped obtain the return from Pakistan of Ramzi Yousef, later convicted for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Mir Aimal Kansi, who was convicted of the 1993 shootings at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Harry retired in 2011.
Harry maintained a close, longstanding relationship with UVA, including serving on the Jefferson Scholar Committee and as an Adjunct Professor at the School of Law teaching a course in International Criminal Law. The UVA effort closest to his heart was the stewardship of Phi Society (and previously Phi Delta Theta), as President of the House Corporation and Alumni Board for over 30 years. In 2000, in response to new restrictions imposed by the Phi Delt National, Harry led the alumni-supported effort to gain independence and University recognition as Phi Society.
Young Phikeias from the 1990s to the present were often intimidated by the bespectacled gentleman who towered over most of the First Years. Outfitted in a bowtie and a Phi rosette on his lapel, he welcomed each new pledge class with a discussion about the Fraternity’s impact on his life and on so many others.
Harry loved to mentor Phis that took officer positions in the House, often inviting them for lunch at one of his haunts in Washington, DC. Several recall showing up to an oak-paneled restaurant near the Treasury Department, to be escorted to “Mr. Marshall’s table” by the fireplace. This imposing entrance was always quickly quieted by Harry’s disarming and friendly manner where he would treat his young guests like equals, engrossed with their ideas about the Fraternity’s finances and upkeep.
Scott Oswald ’90, long-time Virginia Beta Board member and new Board President, noted in his eulogy that “I watched Harry teach them – not in a pedantic way, but through his actions. Harry showed them what a sense of commitment looked like as he returned to the fraternity house year after year. In the end, he taught nearly 500 young men over 30 years.” Indeed, Harry found a way around the Justice Department bureaucracy to consistently hire former Phis as law clerks, propelling their career. One of those, Brendan Dignan ’01, House President during the departure from Phi Delt Nationals, stated that “I wouldn’t be where I am today without Harry. In addition to being my mentor, he was more like a grandfather, and I loved him very much.”
While Harry looked like an academic dean out of central casting, he was usually the life of the party. If he happened to be in Charlottesville to teach a law school class, it was not uncommon to see a tall man in his 60s or 70s suddenly walk through the door at One University Circle during a social event (where the Delta Gammas and Pi Phis would quickly surround him). He was usually the most popular brother at any House party.
Harry was game for all social engagements, and was an enthusiastic racquets player and golfer at the Chevy Chase Club and Nantucket Yacht Club where he and Claire have been members for many decades. His love of history was evident throughout his life. He was an avid reader of books on Jefferson, he volunteered at the Nantucket Historical Society, and was Chair of the Chevy Chase Club Archive Committee.
In addition to Harry’s immediate family, five grandchildren survive him: Jules and George, children of Harrison and his wife Diana Pittman of Austin, TX, and Sam, Harry, and James, children of Kate and husband Pete Huntington of Needham, MA.
The Virginia Beta Board looks forward to holding an event to honor Harry’s service to the Fraternity in the near future.
HE LOVED HIS FRATERNITY AND HIS FRATERNITY LOVED HIM!
A link to Harry’s obituary is below: