Thomson M. Whitin, 90, Tiverton, Little Compton


Professor of economics at MIT, Berkeley, Wesleyan; author

Thomson McLintock Whitin, summer resident and retiree in Little Compton, formerly of Higganum, Connecticut, and who resided at Sakonnet Bay Manor in Tiverton since 2008, passed away surrounded by his children on December 9 at the age of 90. Born in Massachusetts in 1923, Tom is the last survivor of three offspring of Ina and Richard C. Whitin’s branch of a family that once lived in the textile machine and manufacturing town in the Blackstone River Valley that has borne their patriarchal name since 1720.

A graduate of Fessenden and the Kent School, Tom earned his undergraduate degree from Princeton in 1943. Anxious to join in the World War II effort, he interrupted his academic pursuits for three years of service in the U.S. Navy as a gunnery officer aboard the Intrepid Class carrier Bonhomme Richard. After the war, Tom returned to Princeton University, where he earned his post-graduate degrees on the G.I. bill. Tom met his wife of 45 years on the beach at Warren’s Point in Little Compton. Edith “T.D.” Osborn Sherer, a lifelong summer resident, and he were married at “Red Top Farm” a year later. Tom was an associate professor of economics at Princeton, where the couple had two children, Charles Pinckney and Sonia Wesson. In 1953, Tom moved his family to Concord, Massachusetts when he joined the M.I.T. faculty’s esteemed economics department. While at M.I.T. the couple produced their third child, Holly Watson.

After two years in Washington, D.C. as the chief economist for the recently established Atomic Energy Commission, the Whitins moved back to Concord for two years, from 1958-1960 when Tom resumed his professorship at M.I.T. Offered tenure as a professor at U.C. Berkeley in 1960, the family moved west to test the West Coast waters. Tom authored two books, including The Theory of Inventory Management (Princeton University Press, 1953), and An Analysis of Inventory Systems (Prentice-Hall, 1961), the later co-authored with his colleague George Hadley. Tom also published dozens of scholarly papers and reviews, and he served as a consultant to numerous organizations, including the RAND Corporation, Stanford Research Institute, and the U.S. Navy. Tom was elected to membership as a fellow in the international Econometric Society in 1958.

After three years in California, with their fourth child, Richard Courtenay in tow, the family of six trundled back to Connecticut in 1963 to Wesleyan University where Tom taught for the next 30 years. During his long tenure at Wesleyan, sometimes as the department chairman and as distinguished Chester D. Hubbard Professor of Economics and Social Science, he twice served as a visiting professor of administrative science at Yale University and received fellowships from the National Science Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Three Nobel prize winning economists joined Tom’s retirement conference in 1993. A lasting legacy of Tom Whitin was the love he engendered in his children for international cultures, languages and experiences as a result of his sabbatical year at the Econometrics Institute in Holland in 1966.

Tom’s wife T.D. pre-deceased him in 1994, and he moved from Higganum, Connecticut to Rhode Island as a full-time resident a few years later. His companion for many years, Mary Cooper Dunn of Little Compton, pre-deceased Tom in 2009. He was a member of the Sakonnet Golf & Tennis Club and the Warren’s Point Beach Association until moving to Sakonnet Bay Manor in 2008, where he lived out his remaining years, playing bridge, doing crosswords and watching “Jeopardy” with his companion Louise Seagrave.

Tom was particularly fond of a succession of dogs that attended many of his classes at Wesleyan; corgis named Rennie, Scuppers and Barkus, and a wandering beagle named Ishi. He sometimes asked “What’s a man without a dog?” fully believing such a relationship gave evidence of a life fulfilled. Besides the loss of his driving license and the demise of Barkus, not having a car and a dog were his only major complaints. He had a lively spirit and special twinkle and told politically incorrect, sophomoric jokes and limericks his entire life.

Sophisticated by upbringing, educational pedigree and academic accomplishment, Tom was nonetheless a man with relatively simple, unassuming tastes, and a confirmed New England Yankee by birth and values, and Yankee-hater by all things baseball. Increasingly immobile in his last years, Tom never flinched. His many staff and nurses at Sakonnet Bay found him to be cheerful and indomitable for the duration. They enriched his life, as he did theirs. Tom lived for visits from his children and grandchildren who were fortunate to visit him often. Tom is the last survivor of an entire generation of Sherers, Whitins, Shethars, Burchards, Osborns, Merrimans and Macintoshes that once populated the Sakonnet peninsula of Little Compton.

Tom’s four children: Charles (Providence), Sonia (Gainesville, Fla.), Holly (Nyon, Switzerland), Richard (San Francisco, Calif.) and three grandchildren, Emilie (Burlington, Vt.), Aya (Burlington, Vt.), Sophia (NYC); and his dear friend Louise Seagrave (Tiverton) and her daughter Virginia (Bristol) will miss him very much.

Ave Atque Vale, Dad!



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