photograph of Jeanne Ashworth with ice skates

Ashworth, ’60, was a pioneer in speed skating, as well as in female competition in the Olympic Games.

Jeanne ashworth 1938–2018

The first american woman to win an Olympic speed skating medal, Jeanne C. Ashworth, ’60, died at her home in Wilmington, New York, on October 4, 2018. She was eighty. A champion athlete who competed in three Olympics, Ashworth was inducted into the National Speed Skating Hall of Fame in 1975 and into the Lake Placid Hall of Fame in 1993. This year she will be posthumously inducted into the Tufts Athletics Hall of Fame.

Ashworth made history when she was a senior attending the Tufts-affiliated Bouvé-Boston School of Physical Therapy and Physical Education. It was 1960, the year women for the first time were allowed to compete in Olympic speed skating. At the Winter Games at Squaw Valley, California, she won the bronze in the 500-meter race, finishing the course in 46.1 seconds.

Classmate Bonnie Fastiff, ’60, A90P, recalled Ashworth was a day student who was friendly and quiet. “We knew she was a skater,” she said, “but she didn’t talk much about it. I remember her telling us, after she got back from the Olympics, ‘All I did was skate fast!’”

Janet Dendy, ’60, agreed that Ashworth “never really talked about any of her accomplishments.” Her athleticism was apparent, however, on the playing fields when Bouvé students gathered to practice soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey. “God help you, she was fast,” Dendy said. “You couldn’t catch her.”

Ashworth represented the United States at two additional Olympics, the 1964 games in Innsbrook, Austria, where she nearly captured her second medal in the 500 meter but instead took fourth, and the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, France. She was part of the 1980 US Olympic Committee and one of the dignitaries chosen to fly to Greece to witness the lighting of the Olympic flame and to return with it on Air Force One to the United States for the Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.

Ashworth attended graduate school at Brigham Young University and then returned to Wilmington, New York, where she taught high school and served as town supervisor. Her legacy included shaping policies that supported environmentally focused projects.
 


Judith Vaitukaitis 1940–2018

Judith Vaitukaitis, J62, former member of the university Board of Trustees and the Tufts School of Medicine Board of Advisors, passed away October 19, 2018. She earned a BS in chemistry and biology from Tufts in 1962, and earned her MD in 1966 from Boston University School of Medicine. She went on to an illustrious career specializing in reproductive neuroendocrinological and clinical research, primarily at the National Institutes of Health, where she ran the General Clinical Research Centers program, before becoming director of the National Center for Research Resources. She published more than 150 papers, and made a key discovery that helped lay the foundation for the first home pregnancy test—she once joked that her name wasn’t on the test because no one could spell it. She was passionate about advocating for young scientists, and provided for a significant gift to the medical school that will create an endowed fund in her name.
 


Phil Pura 1952–2018

Mathematician, filmmaker, and beloved friend Phil Pura, A74, passed away in March 2018 after living more than thirty-five years with a major brain injury. Pura, who majored in math at Tufts, lived in a communal house dubbed Bearsnuk in Somerville and often cooked for his seven friends. His mathematical ability enabled his creation of a then-cutting-edge animated film, TRANSCENdance, which won the Student Academy Award for Experimental Film from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 1983, Pura was working on developing a new optical camera when he was hit by a van and suffered a major brain injury. He lived more than three decades with the care and support of his sister, Elaine Pura, who became his guardian. “He will always be remembered warmly for his kindness and caring,” said his friend Marsha Paiste, A74.