Stephen D. London ’64 died on December 19, 2022, in West Roxbury, Massachusetts.
(The following was provided by dignitymemorial.com on December 19, 2022)
Stephen D. London, 80, of West Roxbury MA, passed away peacefully in his home on the morning of December 19, 2022, surrounded by his family.
Steve was born on October 1st, 1942, in Quincy, MA, to Jack and Ruth London, themselves the first generation children of Jewish immigrants to America.
Steve grew up in Quincy and Milton, MA, graduating from Milton High school in 1960. At Milton High School, Steve became an avid football player, playing quarterback for the school’s team. He also became an increasingly socially conscientious person, reflected in his emerging interest in social issues, especially in relation to racism and its historical and contemporary use and perpetuation as a weapon of exclusion, domination, and division.
Steve earned a B.S. in 1964 from Bowdoin College and a Ph.D. in sociology and education from the University of Chicago in 1967. While at Bowdoin, and especially during his time in Chicago, he became highly active in the civil rights movement, distinguishing himself for his ability to work effectively with participants at both the local and national levels.
Steve’s experiences during this period profoundly affected his intellectual interests within the sociology of education, as is seen in his analysis of the practice of racial segregation in education, whether de jure or de facto. These experiences also shaped Steve’s sense of moral purpose and civic mindedness, expressed through his abiding dedication to community engagement and service learning, starting with his first academic appointment, as a professor at Wellesley College.
At Wellesley, Steve’s contributions were catalyzing and transformative, whether in the classroom, on campus, or in the community. His students, including Nancy Gist and Hillary Rodham (yes, that Hillary), have acknowledged his influence on their intellectual development and work on numerous occasions. While at Wellesley, and still in the 1960s, Steve advocated the establishment of a center for Black (African American) studies, which at the time would have been among the first in the country. He also created some of the first community-engagement and service-learning programs in American higher education, both through his work in East Boston and his several years as director of Harvard University’s Phillips Brooks House.
In 1975, Steve took a position as professor in the Department of Sociology at Simmons College, where he remained for the duration of his career. At Simmons he continued to distinguish himself through impactful teaching and community engagement. It was also in 1975 that London met and married Deirdre Morrissey, who would become his best friend, wife, and life partner.
At a time when Boston was riven with the racialized politics of school segregation and integration, Steve continued his steadfast commitment to civil rights and social justice. His ability to combine teaching and community engagement led to the successful development of the Scott-Ross Center for Student Engagement. His efforts at Simmons and in the Boston community and Boston public schools were recognized by successive US presidential administrations’ registers of excellence in community outreach in higher education and, more recently, in 2022, through official proclamations issued by the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
No account of Steve would be complete without acknowledging three of his lifelong passions and sources of joy: running, the Boston sports scene, and summers in Maine. In the mid-1960s, Steve became a devoted long-distance runner and would routinely, for decades on end, and literally every single day, awaken at 4:44 AM and run for eight to ten miles, often accompanied by his closest longtime friend, Al Nathan. All told, Steve ran over thirty Boston Marathons, numerous other marathons, and even completed a fifty-mile road race, well before the age of ultra-marathons.
Steve was a devoted fan of the Boston Red Sox, the Boston Celtics, the hard-luck and then good-luck Patriots, and, especially, his beloved Boston Braves. His knowledge of the Boston sports scene was beyond encyclopedic, as he knew back stories and personal histories unknown to most.
And then there were his summers in Maine. For forty years, between 1981 and 2021, Steve and Deirdre, enjoyed summer retreats in Belgrade Maine, at their small A-frame on the shores of Great Pond. Their happiness together there made that blissful and serene setting even more beautiful, both for them, their family, and friends lucky enough to pay them a visit.
Steve will always be loved by the family he so loved, including his wife, Deirdre, his children – Andrea (of New York City), Jonathan (of Leiden, in the Netherlands), as well as Jonathan’s loving long-time partner, Nan Choi (also of Leiden), Jeffery (of Chelsea), and Jessica and her husband, David Rand (of Jamaica Plain). And, of course, Steve’s grandchildren – Noah and Nyla (in New York), Jesse and Anna (in Leiden), and Layla, and Hazel (in Jamaica Plain) – who knew Steve as Grampy.
Steve had a special bond with his siblings, including younger brothers Howard of East Bridgewater and his wife, Debra, and Kenneth of Canton and his sister, Jayne London Lewis, who passed away in 2012. Steve shared an especially close bond with his father and mother, Jack and Ruth London, his grandparents on both sides, and his cousin Mark Michelman. Steve was also very well-liked by his wife Deidre’s thirteen siblings— bonds that were and remain extremely meaningful to them all.
Steve London was a remarkable person who has touched and transformed the lives of thousands of students and citizens throughout an impressive career and a relentless commitment to education and social fairness.
In his family, Steve shined as an unremittent jokester, prankster, and teller of stories, but also, and always, as a beacon for comforting reassurance and encouragement. Steve didn’t reserve these qualities for his family. He had a special ability to connect with people old and especially young, and from every walk of life.
Steve was the embodiment of relentless good will, generosity, and optimism. These qualities, combined with his legendary sense of humor and loving presence are that made him a unique and beloved person. While mourning his loss, Steve’s family will always carry his spirit forward, with pride and love.