ABBOTT "TOM" GLEASON died Christmas morning at a care center near his home in Providence, R.I. surrounded by his family. The cause was complications from Parkinson's Disease. He was 77.
A scholar, artist, jazz lover and beloved teacher, Tom spent his entire academic career at Brown, from his appointment as an assistant professor of history in 1968 until his retirement as Barnaby Conrad and Mary Critchfield Keeney Professor in 2005.
From 1980 through mid-1982, he served as head of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies, in Washington, D.C. In 1999 and 2000, he was the acting director of Brown's newly established Watson Institute for International Studies.
He was author of numerous publications and books including Soviet-American Relations from Roosevelt to Reagan (1985) and Totalitarianism: The Inner History of the Cold War (1995).
Tom was born on July 21, 1938 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of S. Everett Gleason and Mary Eleanor Abbott Gleason. He attended St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., and as a young man exhibited paintings at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington and the Baltimore Museum. A member of the Harvard Class of 1960, house affiliation: Eliot, he graduated with a bachelor's degree in history in 1961 and a doctorate in Russian history in 1969.
He was involved in the early civil rights movement, joining "Freedom Summer" in 1964 to teach at Tougaloo College near Jackson, Mississippi. At Brown, he became a strong supporter of the Brown-Tougaloo partnership that facilitates exchanges of students and faculty between the two institutions.
When Tom retired in 2005, he resumed painting almost every day. An Exhibiting Artist member of the Providence Art Club, he was the solo artist for the inaugural exhibition of the Director's Gallery at the Watson Institute in November 2013. He also exhibited at Bank RI in the fall of 2014, and most recently at the First Unitarian Church of Providence, November 2015.
Tom was a raconteur, an active member of the Providence community and an ardent and knowledgeable fan of the Red Sox and Patriots.
He is survived by his wife, Sarah, his children Nicholas and Margaret, four grandchildren, and a sister. A memorial service will be held at Brown University on Saturday, January 30, 2016, at 1:30pm. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.
Published originally in The Providence Journal on Dec. 30, 2015 and slightly modified by Henry Marcy, Secretary of the Harvard Class of 1960
Many of us will find especially relevant Professor Gleason's reflections,"Twilight of a Historian".