THE OYSTER FOUNDATION

Stephen E. Banker, 1934-2010

"As an undergraduate [Harvard, class of 1955], Stephen Banker held the H. V. Kaltenborn Scholarship and cut his teeth in the news division of WHRB. His first interview was with Walt Kelly in Harvard Square at the height of the Pogo riot. Later, he attended Columbia University as a CBS Fellow, where he concentrated in Latin American affairs. For CBS News, he covered the Kennedy Assassination while based in Washington and also covered stories in Spain, France, Mexico, Cuba and Haiti. He then spent 20 years mostly on a cultural beat with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. But he kept one foot in hard news. During that period, he frequently reported on Watergate and provided live coverage for NPR of Nixon's departure from the White House. He was an on-air columnist for the PBS series The New Tech Times with a series called "The Technoklutz," which was also printed in Popular Computing magazine. Other articles have appeared in Smithsonian, Fortune Small Business, PC/Computing, Byte, TV Guide and Penthouse" ("50 Years in Journalism: Changes in Media").

    At the last meeting of the Oyster Foundation, 2006.

Remembrances

Ken Flower: "Stephen Banker passed away today at home.  We've all lost a great friend and a sparkling wit."

John Meeks: "We will always remember Stephen and the Oyster Foundation."

David Rothman: "Steve's pet term, "Technoklutz," lives on. I'll remember him for caring so much about his family, the English language, and selection of appropriate computer hardware. Perhaps Sebastian and Luke have vague memories of the auction that Steve and I attended in Northern Virginia. My prize haul was a Victor microcomputer, known for its elegant design and distinctive operating system. I think the last six words applied to Steve. RIP."

David Levering Lewis: "Totally unexpected. We spoke less than two weeks ago by phone, jawed about Remnick's new book and the godawful state of the world. We pledged one of those pulent Chinese meals the next time I came to DC.  I am disconsolate, as is Ruth."

Ken Flower:

  • Honoring StephenB and The StephenB Imprompt Memorial Hour (6:00 PM, Monday, May 31, at Dino, 3435 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC).
  • "Let me start by addressing all the people that annoyed Stephen.  I believe that with the exception of six people in widely separated parts of the world, that was just about everyone. I first met Stephen over food.  Food was a passion and a love we shared for all of those wonderful, demanding, nicely argumentative years.  We talked about food, we suggested places and foods that we should eat and eat we did.  We ate Korean which Stephen came to love with the help of my wonderful wife (whom he also (not so secretly) loved, and in a good way).  He loved Chinese to the point where we made a crusade of following Peter Chang over large parts of Virginia just to say we had tasted Szcheuan the way the Gods meant it to be.  We ate and, just like everything else in life (okay, with the exception of wine), he approached it with gusto and maybe just a bit of reverence. I never found anything that Stephen didn't have an opinion on or of,   He gave me a greater appreciation of the Ivies by being such a learned person (albeit 100% opinionated) and if I could have 10 minutes of my life back, I'd like it to be the 10 minutes that we spent celebrating Lunar New Year with Dean and Stephen arguing about the effects of Ralph Nader on the 2000 election.  An argument that ranged far and wide with no rancor, no shouting, no heated diatribes, just two people expressing views.  I was almost overawed, to the point where I just sat silently (and that's no mean feat to accomplish) and listened.  Even though we who live on have lost a very dear friend, I'd like to think that somewhere Stephen has found new close friends (because that's what I feel we are and were to him) to sit down and dine and talk with.  To you Stephen from one argumentative old fart to another, there will never be another Stephen Banker and the world is a bit poorer for it."

Eric Britton: "The Oyster Foundation was a secret college. It has inspired me to start my own secret college. You should also look at this page about "Bodhisatva in metro."

Stephen's last post on DonRockwell.com (May 22, 2010). He "got the ball rolling" for Calvin Trillin's New Yorker article on Peter Chang.

Jim Fallows: "I am sending this to express my regrets not simply at the loss of Steve as a friend but also at my not being able to join the rest of you at memorial events this coming week. On Monday morning I'm leaving the country on a long-scheduled and at this point very difficult to re-arrange reporting trip to China and Japan. I send condolences and best wishes to all. I also did a brief and inadequate but heartfelt mention of Steve on the Atlantic's site late last night."

Some photos.

Taps for the Oyster Foundation

I cannot count the number of times I cursed Stephen as I labored to translate his Word documents into HTML. Only those who have looked at the HTML code that Word produces will understand. We Catholics have a "sin now, pay later" plan. If there is a God, I'm sure that I will pay for each one of those curses in Purgatory. If God is just, Stephen will, too. But for both of us, the Oyster Papers were a labor of love, and "love covers a multitude of sins." Stephen sent the following e-mail in plain text. Of all that he wrote for the Oysterers, this alone caused me no grief in editing but only grief at the end of an era in our friendship. When I received it, I intended to add it to the site on its own page, but never got around to it. Stephen loved to rewrite and reformat his work. I'm sorry that we missed that opportunity, curses and all.

Subject: taps for the oyster
From: SBANKER@aol.com

May 28, 2007

Oysterers:

It is five years since we met in Paris for the first time. And now it is time to call an end to The Oyster Foundation, at least as far as full-scale meetings are concerned . It has been an exhilarating run and I am indebted to all of you who participated in our events in Paris, St. Michaels, Montreal and Washington. There is an archival record of our proceedings, and I am proud of its quality and its diversity.

http://moleski.net/oybook/

There are those who thought I formalized things to too great an extent by insisting on written presentations. But I am glad I did, and those of you who review the contributions will, in the end, agree with my insistence. Thank you, Marty Moleski, for maintaining the site.

I believe that new friendships were made and new alliances formed. I think particularly of something Joe Schildkraut said in Paris — that the only thing he regretted about The Oyster Foundation is that he hadn’t met Ed Marks ten years earlier. Now both of them are gone. But there were many other pleasurable encounters in those few years. What are the mathematical possibilities when you have a total of two dozen people (16 or so at a time) convening?

It started in 2002 when I decided to go to Paris to celebrate my recovery from illness. Before I knew it, a dozen or so friends said they wanted to join me. Was it because they cared for me, or they loved Paris? I think it was a combination of both.

Although my health is stable now, I do not feel up to long trips or complicated arrangements. Where might we have gone? Hong Kong, Barcelona, Buenos Aires were on the docket. If you go to any of those places on your own, please write and I will circulate your observations.

My philosophy was to pick a place and a restaurant that would be interesting and comfortable, but not distracting. For example, several years ago I received a proposed menu from Paul Bocuse in Lyon that was affordable but glitzy and self-conscious. To me, The Oyster Foundation existed for the sake of conversation and collegiality. Anything that distracted from that was undesirable.

The result, over four years, was one of the highlights of my life. I had a warm personal relationship with all who attended, and I was fascinated to see their interactions when they met, some for the first time.

By calling an end to The Oyster Foundation, I certainly don’t mean to say goodbye to any of you. Our meetings will simply be more spontaneous and in smaller groups.

Stephen Banker

President, emeritus

The Oyster Foundation

 

From: Peter B Riddleberger

Dear Stephen:

You have been the pearl in our oyster. While the oyster has closed its shell for the time being, it could very well open up again.

Thanks so very much for making these events so enjoyable.

Peter R.

"Je me souviens."