Richard B. Witschonke ’67 died on February 24, 2015, in Sarasota, Florida.
(The following appeared in The New York Times, March 26 – 27, 2015):
Richard Witschonke, noted numismatist, died on February 24, 2015, in Sarasota, Florida. A dedicated researcher, collector, teacher and benefactor, Rick’s contributions to the field of numismatics were many and varied.
Rick was born in Washington, D.C., on July 9, 1945. After graduating from high school in Darien, Connecticut, Rick attended Bowdoin College for a year prior to enrolling at the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut. He graduated from there in 1969 with a BA, cum laude, in English. In 1972, Rick received an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, graduating with Highest Distinction as a Baker Scholar. Upon graduation from Harvard, he accepted a position with American Management Systems (AMS), a technology consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. Rick spent most of his professional career at AMS, where he became a vice president and manager of the North American Financial Institutions Practice, with 500 people working under his leadership. Upon his retirement in 2001, he moved to Califon, New Jersey.
Rick was first introduced to numismatics through the Whitman penny boards given to him at Christmas by his grandmother. In 1960, at the age of 15, Rick purchased his first Roman Republican denarius. He was amazed that a coin of such antiquity, beauty and historical interest could be purchased for such a modest price. His interest in Roman coins intensified shortly thereafter upon purchasing Edward A. Sydenham’s The Coinage of the Roman Republic (1952). Rick’s affiliation with the American Numismatic Society (ANS), began following his first visit in November 1969, when he became one of the ANS’s youngest members. In January 2003, Rick began working as an ANS volunteer and wrote frequently in the ANS Magazine about his adventures as a curatorial assistant. He became a curatorial associate in March 2006.
In 2005, Rick became involved with the ANS Summer Seminar. He believed that the Seminar was one of the most important programs offered by the ANS, as it helped to train the next generation of numismatists. Rick became co-director of the Seminar with Peter Van Alfen in 2006 and enthusiastically continued to travel into New York City to teach his classes even during the final stages of his illness.
A Life Fellow of the ANS, Rick was also a Fellow of the Royal Numismatic Society and a member of the French, Italian and Swiss Numismatic Societies. When Rick’s most prized Roman Republican coins, consisting of over 1,800 different coin types, were compiled and auctioned in two parts during 2011 and 2012, they were hailed by many as perhaps the most complete collection of ancient Roman Republican coins ever offered for public sale. The catalogues he meticulously authored for the auctions have already become essential reference materials for coin scholars the world over.
Rick is survived by his long-time partner, Heidi Becker, and her family, his two sons, two granddaughters, four siblings and extended family.