59 Replies to “Fond remembrances of Ray, his life, and his work are welcomed here.”

  1. It is hard for me to envision Hampshire or my time there without Ray. Others here have eloquently detailed Ray’s contributions to Hampshire and their lives. I certainly can echo those. Ray was a great mentor, teacher and human being.

    The combination of his charisma, sensitivity and ability to read situations allowed him to navigate interactions with a wide variety of people and settings. I was fortunate to go on a guard-dog delivery/research collaboration trip with Ray (Winter ’87?) and see these abilities on full display daily (e.g. interacting with ranchers, my father, farmers, scientists at the University of Nebraska, waiters, etc.).

    There are certainly good stories to tell from that trip- However, I’m going to end with one about Ray telling a seemingly pedestrian joke. The setting was the Coppingers place, and present were a mix of students and some of Rays non-Hampshire hired hands. In this version of the joke, Walter Payton and Matt Suhey (members of the Super Bowl Champs Chicago Bears team of ’85) are camping. They are in their sleeping bags when a hungry grizzly begins clawing at the tent. Suhey is understandably worried, and turns to ask Payton what he thinks they should do. However, Payton is quickly putting on running shoes. “Walter!” Suhey exclaims, “you can’t outrun a bear!” Payton turns and looks at him and says “I don’t have to outrun the bear, all I have to do is outrun you!”

    Amidst the chuckles, one of the hired hands, laughing a bit louder exclaimed “I get it – the other guy is queer!”. Stunned silenced ensued – yes, over the implied homophobia, but equally over the lack of comprehension. Ray, however, leaned in and said very seriously “No- the bear is queer”.

    Like so many Ray stories, this one still makes me smile.


    Contagious cackler, witty dog whistler,
    farmer professor and provocateur.
    One canine snaggletooth with impish grin,
    sat king atop a kennel, a barking
    animal research facilitator
    happiest in the field, village, or dump.

    Recapitulating old Bayeux tales:
    his quaint English breakfast with two Huxleys,
    conjuring embryos and ancestors,
    weaving scientists and salamanders
    in tapestries of cigars, tonic, gin.
    But what, if anything, is a rabbit?

    “Lookit,” Ray would say, “you have got to read
    von Baer, Darwin, Garstang, de Beer, Goldschmidt
    Dahr, Twitty, Belyaev, Gould, Alberch, Geist.”
    The list went on as he waxed across time:
    Neoteny and paedomorphosis,
    nay, ontogeny and phylogeny.

    All behavior is genetic, and yet,
    from his heart, eager to bounce ideas
    he quips, “Where are you?” “What are you doing?”
    “Why haven’t I heard from you in so long?”
    Well Ray, we are still here, and so are you.
    Remember, eye —> stalk —> chase —> bite —> dissect —> chew.


    Where have all the good days gone?
    When the Dawgs were playing on the lawn.

    Fridays at the farm drinkin’ beers,
    we were not thinkin’ about our careers.
    Trying to find the solution to dogs’ evolution,
    Ray’s ideas were quite a revolution.
    Is that a yodel or a howl?
    What is the meaning of a bark-growl?

    Saturdays making pasta at Lorna and Ray’s,
    Tellin’ stories about our ol’ days:
    fishin’ with Stan on the boat,
    those were the times to gloat!
    Alessia wanderin’ with the camel herder in the desert,
    while Tim was eating a fish eyeball for dessert.
    We were all rather elated,
    Not to get fulminated!

    Where have all the fun days gone?
    travellin’ the world from Amherst to Saigon.
    Searchin’ the Andes for Perro Nevado,
    made us all a bit desperado,
    But that good Venezuelan rum,
    Made us all rather chum.

    Drivin’ to Indiana in Ray’s van,
    filled with dogs and a crazy plan.
    At Wolf Park, I heard alpha Erik saying:
    “I believe my wolfZ can kick your dogZ ass!”
    to which Ray replied rather daring:
    “Oh yeah? I’ll betcha a good glass!”
    I won’t tell you how it ended,
    Let’s just say they pretended.

    Where have all the good dogs gone?
    Howlin’ and barkin’ from dusk to dawn.
    Stella couldn’t get out the barn,
    Kolya wanted to rip out your arm!
    Gunther chasing all the deer,
    Jane covering the van with smeer.
    Sonny and Cher nesting in your hair,
    And Caruso was a singer, not a springer!

    Where have all the good days gone?
    When the dogs were playing on the lawn.
    It seems like yesterday,
    Yet it’s far far away.

    Come along and sing our song.
    hear them howlin’ in unison?
    Au au, au auuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu
    Come along and sing goodbye.
    Au au, au auuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

    Come along and sing our song.
    Come along and sing goodbye.
    For the greatest hound of all is gone.
    Au au, au auuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

  4. Ray was my adviser at Hampshire from my first semester in fall 1977 until I graduated in 1982. I was assigned to someone else at first., but after a few weeks of being at Hampshire, taking his class “The Dog”, I sought him out and told him I wanted to switch to him, and was that okay. He answered, “if you will have me” and that was how I ended up being the student of the greatest teacher of my life. I participated in the early experiments of the Livestock Guard Dog Project. In January 1978, I trained one of the guard dogs that he brought back from Europe, a Shar Planenitz named Tekla. Ray also gave me my first Border Collie. He got Gill from a local farmer who had got sick and no longer worked him–he used to herd cows. Story was, the farmer had him tied to the side of his barn for two years. Gill was an amazing dog, but not a good working dog at that point. Ray eventually gave him to an upper student of his to keep for him on campus. Within several weeks, Gill had made it clear that I was his person. I told Ray I couldn’t just keep him for me because I would get too attached, and he gave him to me. My passion for dogs is my very intense hobby now.

    Among other things, Ray taught me how to get my car out of a snowbank. I got stuck at his house one winter night, after one of the many dinners he and Lorna hosted for our cohort of students. I was spinning my wheels away when he came over to me. He sat there next to the open window of my Datsun 1200 and coached me through the process, which took at least a few minutes because I would apply just too much pressure to the gas, but my car eventually came free, and I also knew how to get out of a snowbank. Every time I do it I think of him.

    I kept in touch with Ray–and he came down to visit me North Carolina in 2009 on the way to FL, to give a seminar here. Most of the people I knew/know in dogs are in the dog agility community. I am passionate about dog agility and have competed nationally with two Border Collies. I have a full agility ring in my back yard, and travel a lot to compete around the country.
    I love training dogs, and I love running with them in competitions. I talked with Ray a lot about that–he had competed in sled dogs and we shared stories, even though the two activities were so different. The seminar was wonderful. At that time I had two Australian Shepherds and a young Border Collie. We were having a dinner for friends who wanted to come talk with Ray. I had a nice piece of salmon for one of the dishes i was making, laying out on the counter. I turned my back and my younger Aussie swiped the 3 pounds of fish off the counter and finished it in one gulp. Ray was on the other side of the kitchen, on the computer behind a knee wall. I was mortified…but he had not reacted so I thought he didn’t know. I quickly phoned one of my friends who was coming and asked her to pick up more fish for dinner, thinking no one would be the wiser. I began cooking again and moving about, when Ray looked up and said, “what that dog did was BAD.” Yes, it was!

    The weekend of Ray’s memorial service and dinner with family and friends fell on the same weekend as a national agility competition I had spent the year qualifying for. But there was no question in my mind about attending. I drove up from NC to be there. I was overwhelmed at the many, many stories that people shared . One of the original farmers who took a chance on taking a dog to guard her flock back on 1978 came too. As well as people from all walks of his life. Over and over people said, first and foremost he was a teacher. And he made a pivotal difference to so many people. I have always felt grateful to have been his student. To have Lorna and Ray in my life. He was a life mentor for me. I miss him very much.

  5. When I boarded the plane in New Orleans heading to the Ray Coppinger remembrance, I still held out hope Ray would be there. I was grateful to share a leg of the journey with Dave Schimel — listening to his amazing science gave me moments to breath and take breaks from the sadness filling my soul. When I arrived at the event and saw pictures of Ray with a wonderful collection of family, friends, colleagues, and lots of students being projected onto the screen and looked around, his absence was immense. The reality of his passing struck me to the core. Ray was gone.

    I arrived at Hampshire College after being in Zimbabwe for a year and I had under my arm 7,000 computer cards of baboon data. I was immediately hooked up with both Ray and Mike Sutherland. Ray was a brilliant scientist with a towering intellect, he was a masterful educator with the ability make teaching moments out of events where I had no idea what was happening until perhaps a day later. His story telling was legendary and deservedly so, drawing from all aspects of his life whether as a tough kid in Boston or stories from days in the merchant marines. It was clear Ray was larger than life but I didn’t really know why.

    Later I would move through the Hampshire education process of division 1, division 2, and then on to the more engaging division 3. By that time, I was part of Ray’s life and he was one of the most significant people in my life. My division 3 project was carried out in his backyard where we cleared plots in the forest to investigate the potential integrating sheep into forest grazing. The conclusion was sheep didn’t like to eat the herbs that grew under the deciduous trees, but it was a fantastic experience for me where in the end I became fascinated with plant biology. I constantly had my nose inches above the ground and got to know each and every little plant that occupied the experimental plots.

    To set up the plots, we had a hard-working team that cleared the forest with great exuberance and absolute fun, usually capped off the day by relaxing together in the Coppinger family home. Hanging around at Ray’s house I came to know the rock of Ray’s life, his wife Lorna. They were an amazing team. Sometimes there were mornings greeted with pancakes before we headed to the woods. I also got to experience interesting interactions with the large dogs just arrived from Europe. Everything was always new and exciting. Ray made sure our minds were constantly being sharpened by his questions and intellectual challenges. We all learned to share his passion for science but also were schooled in the fun of being rigorous.

    Looking back, I can hardly believe how generous Ray and Lorna were to the collection of students who were almost a constant around their home. The research budget for my division 3 experiment came out of their back pockets. But more important they opened up their lives to us in the most gracious manner.

    After leaving Hampshire, I went on to a parade of academic institutions with a stint as a landscaper somewhere in between. I was lucky enough to be able to check in with Ray from time to time. He always had great events going on in his significant life and was forever my professor. When I finally had a faculty position, I had the great opportunity of having Ray come to Louisiana to give a seminar. I will be honest, I was extremely proud of Ray as he stood before my colleagues to talk about dogs. In the middle of the seminar it seemed that time stopped and I realized how amazing it was that this man was my professor in college. His seminar was brilliant, inspiring, challenging, and of course hysterical at times. To think that Ray was part of my regular education at Hampshire College struck me. For example, every presentation and field trip for Ray’s ecology course had all those strong educational elements. And as always, Ray made it fun and exciting.

    Coming back to my main point, is that now I understand why Ray was larger than life. During the remembrance, I was talking briefly with Gary Hirshberg (who shared some very thoughtful and heartfelt words) and together we answered the question in unison. Whatever Ray did, he did it with a huge heart full of love. He loved life. He loved science. He loved his family. And he loved his students. Lookit, Ray was one of those people who you never would expect to say, “I love you” but in everything he did he showed how much he cared. I will miss Ray very much and am extremely grateful he was part of my life. My deepest sympathy to Lorna, Karyn, Tim and his dear grandchildren and all the other people whose hearts Ray touched.

  6. Ray was special. His wry wit was a pleasure. It was also a pleasure to hear him question the universe and life. He never held back from his students. I got to know him mostly through my DIV 3 when Frank Pinto from UMass and I wrote an environmental impact statement documenting the impact of the proposed Nuclear Power Plant’s transmission line which was planned to go right over Ray and Lorna’s house. Though Ray couldn’t be on my DIV 3 committee, it was such a pleasure knowing that he was watching with interest not only for the sake of his property but I knew he cared how I, his budding ecology student was growing in her pursuit of the truth.

  7. Ray Coppinger:

    My wife and I have lived just across the valley, Ray in North Leveritt, we in West Deerfield, for 41 years and before that my first experience in Ray’s sphere of influence was in that class my first year at Hampshire, Bio Social Adaption. Sometimes I wish I had continued working with Ray but the path I chose was in music. Even so we stayed in touch due to other circumstances, one of my band mates being a neighbor and another band mate being related to the Coppingers when Tim married. As I think back, one of the many things I remember was an “experiment” where a number of students, myself included, were instructed to be completely non verbal as we spent a night in the woods, probably up on Ray’s land, with nothing… no shelter, no gear, definitely no cell phones. I believe we found both fire making materials, and an ax, and last of all, we found a live chicken in a cage. Most of that experience has dimmed in my memory but we did end up making a fire and eating the chicken. We returned safely armed with plenty of fodder for argument and thought.
    The last time we met was up at the Northfield Mount Hermon School when my son and I ran in the annual “Pie Race”. Tim, Ray’s son, was running that day too and we had a lovely romp around the school grounds though after the start I didn’t see either Tim or my son, Gus, till after the finish. Tim was one of the first to finish and I did qualify for a pie. That day Ray and I discussed the forestry projects I have going on our land in Deerfield and reminisced about some of you who were contemporaries at Hampshire. It was an honor to know Ray and experience his acuity, deep intellect and willingness to wrestle with ideas. I wish I could be there to help memorialize one of the greats. Here’s to that sphere of influence which is Ray and which is still expanding like the universe.

  8. Ray was oxygen to fire. He delighted in it. He taught me to think, to ask more questions and he always had an interesting answer followed by yet another question. He could have gone head to head with Socrates and would have probably won the debate. Also, if ever a Hampshire professor lived and taught by Non Satis Scire , I have not met him/her . Ray made sure we did something with our lives, and we are still out there creating an arc of goodness, gleeful in our new discoveries, and humble that we got the chance to intersect with him. I regret to miss the celebration for Ray’s life, but I will be raising a glass from afar with all of you and I am sending my contribution to the Coppinger Endowment.

  9. Ray was my advisor when I arrived at Hampshire. He was the embodiment of “To Know Is Not Enough”. His Bio-social Human Adaptation course promoted my Div 1 natural science exam, and he made me dig deep into the question “Why Eskimos don’t get scurvy”. A true teacher in every way, shape and form. I thank my lucky stars I met him.

  10. Reading the memories and comments here has brought home something to me that I always knew but never really realized, until now. Ray Coppinger influenced a lot of people. I knew he was special to me and the folks who worked with him when I was at Hampshire. I heard many stories and the names of times past but until now they were just stories and names. Now that he is gone I feel that I have known you a long time, you are friends and we have something very special in common. Ray and Lorna changed my life, in a very big way.
    I first met Ray at Hampshire when I took The World Food Crisis class he was co-teaching. I quickly learned that the two professors took turns lecturing. I got a lot more from the class when Ray was lecturing. I liked Ray right away. He was real, smart and tough with a great sense of humor. I had never seen anyone captivate a room full of people as he could. His stories were filled with facts and data that he could verify and defend in the moment. Ray was great at playing the devil’s advocate. He would present outrageous scenarios and defend seemingly cruel and unpopular arguments in a dire situation. The class was intense and the subject was overwhelming, especially for college freshmen.
    I found myself skipping the World Food Crisis class when I knew Ray was not lecturing. One day as my friend and I were walking to the jeep carrying our fishing rods, I spotted Ray’s truck. I was caught skipping class. (I knew it was not Ray’s day to run the class.) My heart stopped when he pulled over next to us and he jumped out of his truck. I had never said more than hello and smiled at his jokes up until that moment. I had no idea what was coming.
    He ignored us and dug behind the seat of his truck where he came out with a fly rod. He asked where we were going. “The Swift,” I told him. What are you using for flies? I showed him our most recent mosquito patterns, he thought they might be too big. He jumped back in his truck and I had a new friend.
    A few days later he walked by me as I sat waiting for class to start and dropped a book in my lap. It was called Rising Trout by Charles K. Fox. A lot of the book talks about how trout see things. It spoke volumes to me about professor Coppinger’s observational skills.
    It wasn’t until I started working and having adventures with Ray that I actually started believing his stories. I remember having the realization that the things that happen to him happen to all of us. Ray was acutely aware of things going on around him and his sharp mind could make predictions/hypothesis, verify results and remember the conclusion in the form of a great story. While taking some license, his accounts of details and order of events were accurate. His delivery was legendary, no one could tell a story like Ray.
    His ability to pull an appropriate story out of his vast memory at the right time and place is truly a gift we have all enjoyed and learned from.
    The sadness I feel about the loss of such a great mentor and friend is severe. Knowing so many shares the pain helps somehow. Thank you for sharing.

  11. What a fantastic guy — I lived in his A-Frame a few hundred yards above his house for 2 years 1973-74 with Bill Barnes, who had like 25 sled dogs — border collie/ huskie cross breeds — we used to race them around the roads and trails on both sleds and tricycle sleds! 2 winters with no running water or electricity — we had to pump the water from a well!

    Ray would invite me down to his house to watch Wimbledon, eat apples with gouda cheese, and then we would go out and chainsaw and split wood for winter — as the A-frame had one wood burning stove. We had real winters too, lots of snow! Beautiful!

    Ray was my Div 3 professor. He made me completely scrap my first try, read Modes of Inquiry that was the book that defined Hampshire — and start over! Not just rewrite — new thesis topic! He said: ” if I can produce one student that knows how to write in my entire teaching career, I will be satisfied.”

    I wonder if he was ever satisfied! Probably not — as he had incredibly high standards.

  12. Ray was to motivated and engaged learning what Miles Davis was to inspired jazz. I took every class I could from him and he was my advisor. His class “The Dog” was an educational classic. I would not have spent the last 34 years working on environmental issues (heavy on wildlife conservation) but for his influence.

    For 4 years (’93 – ’96), I coordinated the EIS process, the interagency interdisciplinary team and the public comment process for the Mexican Wolf reintroduction project in Arizona and New Mexico for the USFWS. It was the background that Ray gave me on the wolf/dog issues that qualified me to do that. When dealing with wolves the only attributes truly of importance are realism and honesty. Wolf issues do not allow for posturing. The human/wolf relationship is too deep. Ray taught that lesson well.

    Fondly and sincerely remembered, Peter Jenkins, Bethesda, Maryland

  13. Ray loved visiting the UK, often with dear Lorna, and on his last trip we toured Darwin’s birthplace, Shrewsbury, with our mutual great buddy, Russell Jones. Ray loved his reflected image on the shoulders of one of his most important influencers, Charles Darwin, in a photo taken at the Lion Hotel, from where Darwin took a carriage to join the Beagle to begin his famous voyage. It seemed so fitting to link the two great men together there. So many precious times spent with you Ray, fishing in Florida, seminars in Germany, England, Ireland; dolphin watching in the Bahamas and those many precious hours spent with you and Lorna at your amazing home and here in the UK in Salisbury. Thank you for all those amazing insights, all that wisdom, humour, fishing fun and kindness, and for sharing so much of your voyage with me, my dear friend. I’ll cast a line and tell your jokes for you now, tho never, ever as well as you.

  14. I took only one course with Ray when I was at Hampshire, but he had a lasting impact on my own career. I’ve been a high school teacher for 35 years and a student of how we learn for longer than that. Educational theory has been obsessed with learning-by-doing for the last fifteen or twenty years. Ray (and Lynn Miller) were onto that idea forty years ago. I will never forget standing with Ray and the rest of our class in the woods near his place in Montague reconstructing the ecological history of the place by noticing stuff, and crouching at the edge of a field listening to a male woodcock do his bizarre mating ritual. I teach math and statistics now–mostly a far cry from the ecology I spent years studying at Hampshire and in graduate school. But half the time when a class goes well, I think of Ray.

  15. “Eek a mouse”

    I always think of my long relationship with Ray as a series of stories, and where did I learn that? Anyhow, in my head, I give the stories names “Laconia and the dirty trousers”, “You are very masculine”, “Distinguished dad and the beeping shit” and many, many others. This story or story cycle, one that Ray told his version of often, I think of by the title “False Advertising”.

    It’s our founding story with two sequels. I met Ray and a flock of Hampshire students on the train in Northern Canada. We were all returning from canoe trips. I’d been a counselor all summer, and the camp had actually made a little money, so the Director sent us off on a trip and bought our train tickets back, where we met Ray, Karyn and the students. We all talked and when I applied to colleges later, knowing that Hampshire students went on semi-academic expeditions was a major draw.

    During my four years at Hampshire, I was inundated by tales of Hampshire trips to Northern Canada, The North Slope of Alaska, the Brooks Range and other wild destinations during the summers, but so far as I know, there were no such organized trips during my time 73-77! Ray took off a few times, but not with students in tow, and there were no other opportunities either, despite all the amazing slide shows I saw of student-faculty trips that had apparently occurred before I started! When I came back for Ray’s retirement, I heard his more recent students tell tales of amazing trips, all after my time, and wondered how I managed to be there for exactly the wrong four years! And, I wound up thinking of all those trip slide shows as False Advertising. I have travelled plenty since, and done field work many places but I’ve always regretted not doing an expedition with Ray, though as you’ll see later I did make up for it in a sense.

    There’s more as there was so often with Ray’s own stories, as this one flows into the next. In a case of turn-about, in the early 80s, when I was a young research scientist, I went on an expedition of my own, maybe to compensate for Hampshire’s false advertising, to South Turkana District in Kenya, with Karyn Coppinger. That trip was very exciting, scientifically fascinating, often terrifying and stupifyingly hot! My main story from that expedition isn’t driving through deep sand, seeing amazing wildlife, great companionship or even the moments of sheer terror or even another story “Lions singing from the hills”. It was a fairly prosaic moment.

    Karyn and I were driving south out of the, well, you could with generosity, call it a town, to do field work. That previous night, when Karyn had been down in dry river playing her guitar with the Kenyan kids singing, my colleagues and I had had a conversation about dogs, rodents and disease. This is relevant.

    Anyhow, there were Karyn and I driving down the road, when from under the seat of the ancient Land Cruiser ran a mouse. Just a little mouse, gray, maybe even just a house mouse, but there are hundreds of species there, anyhow I digress. I’m fine with mice, but I was in sandals, and all I could think about were the diseases we’d discussed the night before and I had a vision of the mouse biting me. I screamed “Holy shit, a mouse”, swerved around on the dirt road and finally stopped and Karyn got the mouse out of the door. And, then she looked at me with that level Coppinger look and instructed me, reversing our roles “Dave, you don’t say Holy Shit, it’s a mouse, you say eek it’s a mouse”.

    I’m tempted to go from that into a much later story I call, in my head “Spaghetti Alfredo”, or maybe “Schimel, you’re such a downer”, but I’ll leave those for later.

    Coppingers, I love you all.

  16. We sincerely regret that we will not be able to attend the celebration of Ray’s life as indeed there was much to celebrate. Ray was a wonderful colleague, renowned story teller, impressive domino player, and devoted Red Sox fan. Others might remember him for his outstanding work as a teacher, researcher, and founder of Hampshire College and several of its crucial programs. His smile, his quick wit, and sharp insights will always remain part of his legacy.

  17. Ray Coppinger changed my life.

    In the autumn of 1972, after 18 months of wandering aimlessly around Europe and North Africa and four years in high school during which my course in life became progressively less clear, I found myself enrolled at Hampshire College. My parents dropped me off – their only visit prior to my graduation four years later. My father, an architect, took a long hard look at the freshly minted semi-brutalist campus buildings and remarked, “This must have been a lovely hillside before they put the college here.”

    To the extent that I thought I was anything at all then, I thought I was a poet. I’d published some terribly self-conscious free verse in tiny, ephemeral literary magazines. I was interested in the natural world as a subject for my painfully earnest ruminations, but I really knew nothing at all about it. One of the first classes I attended – maybe the first – was Ray’s. I don’t remember what it was called, but it turned out to be a lecture course, sort of the Hampshire version of Environmental Biology 101. I didn’t really want to be there. I went, as I recall, only because my advisor said I needed to take either a science or a math course, and that was an easy choice. Science was at least potentially interesting. Math was just plain hard.

    The first thing Ray said, at the first meeting of the class (at least in my admittedly hazy recollection) went something like this, “I know you all probably think I’m a scientist, but I’m not. I’m an artist. I use science to make my art.”

    Over the next three months, and the ensuing three or four years, Ray improvised brilliantly on that theme. I was smitten, enchanted, entirely won over. I tried to be a real scientist but was ultimately undone by the math. (My Waterloo was a Sylviculture and Dendrology course at Mass, which I flat out failed.) So instead I became a long-form journalist, sort of a wannabe John McPhee, writing mostly about nature and the environment. I used art to do my science.

    Today, four decades on, I run a small design firm that creates interpretive exhibits for nature centers, wildlife reserves, and zoos and aquariums. I love what I do, and I wouldn’t be doing it if it weren’t for Ray Coppinger.

    Thanks Ray. I hope you find a wee dram awaiting wherever you wind up. And don’t forget to let the dogs out one last time before you turn in…

  18. My first year at Hampshire, I stumbled into Ray’s Animal Behavior class and started working with the dogs on the farm. For the summer, Ray landed me a job as a shepherd in British Columbia. Folks in the wilds of BC were attempting to use sheep flocks to control weeds on clearcuts. They needed dogs to protect the sheep from grizzlies, wolves, coyotes, and you name it in the Canadian Rockies. I was to drive out to BC with four large livestock guarding dogs in the back of my Subaru wagon. I think my new bosses needed some convincing as to why a college freshman was qualified for this position, but Ray got them to agree.

    Ray helped me outfit my car with a gate so the dogs would be contained. He set me up with chains and swivels so I could roll into town and stake out the dogs by throwing one chain around each car tire. I stopped by my parents’ house in New Jersey with this rig and the dogs to say goodbye. I’m sure it was a little tough for them to watch their 19-year-old daughter pull out of the driveway on a 3000 mile solo journey with a bunch of unruly working dogs. They were good sports about it and it turned out to be an incredible learning experience. I went back again the next summer. Ray believed in me, and because of it I pushed myself beyond my perceived capabilities. We had lots of good times and many stories to tell from my years with him and Lorna at Hampshire. It is so hard to lose him.

  19. Ray was my adviser at Hampshire (1973 – 75) and on my Div 2 and Div 3 committees. I also took several of his ecology courses. Afterwards I went to MIT for grad school. I mention the latter only because it gives me a vantage point for knowing that Ray was one of the world’s great science teachers. Ya know, the sciences can actually be interesting, even for people who don’t go on to become scientists. But very few science professors have the teaching skill not to extinguish a student’s curiosity or to awaken it in someone not naturally inclined that way. But Ray’s combination of story-telling, Socratic questioning, teaching students to question assumptions and received wisdom, amazing outdoor field trips, caring involvement, welcoming students into his and Lorna’s home world up on the hill . . . you can’t beat any of that!

    Now, of course, college professing aside, Ray was also one of the world’s great raconteurs and all around characters and human beings.

    God, I’ll miss him. But we were all lucky to have known him.

  20. I was at Hampshire before its opening, it was an unknown risk but the excitement built as students and faculty applied. I remember when Ray and Lorna arrived. Ray always had time to share his wealth of knowledge, funny stories, love for the school and family. If you asked a question, his enthusiastic explanation could last an hour. He was a kind soul who always made you feel more than welcome into his love of the dog and beyond. The world has lost a beloved human who will be sorely missed but never forgotten.

  21. I was a Hampshire “Fellow” in 1971 and along with Ray, helped establish the early workings of Hampshire. I was hired to teach and form a Theatre Department the year after I graduated and became a colleague of Ray. I remember him as a kind and wise gentleman with a wonderful sense of humor. His contribution to the Hampshire community was not only enormous but essential to the early shape of the the college. My deepest condolences to his family.

  22. I was one of Ray Coppiner’s ‘Kid’s back in the 1970’s. Ray introduced me to Ecology and Animal Behavior and the belief that I too could be a ‘real’ scientist. And I became an ecologist and environmentalist because of Ray Coppinger. He also introduced me to a world of dogs!! I bought my first dog from Ray, a Border Collie and Husky Mix who was the runt of a litter. Thank you Ray!! She was a real challenge-more wild dog than domestic animal. But what was remarkable was that Ray thought I could handle her. Ha!! I tried Ray, I really did. I am saddened by Ray’s passing and I will never forget this: Dog Igloos in the backyard in Montague, the lead dog Pero, practicing Dogsledding on dirt roads, Dog Sledding Races in New Hampshire, interpreting dog howling from Ray and Lorna’s backyard dogdom and most of all just being part of Ray’s world for that short time.

  23. I did not know Ray well, but I took his ecology course during my first year at Hampshire (1973-1974), and it had an unexpectedly big impact on me. I learned the basics of ecology from Ray and have drawn on that throughout my career, as I have since published dozens of articles on the environment, as well as several books, including one specifically on ecology and conservation. Ray was the first quintessential New Englander I ever met, and I always appreciated his dry sense of humor, coupled with a warmth that was concealed, to some extent, by a gruff exterior.

    Two years ago, I went to a bookstore in Cambridge, MA, where Ray and Mark Feinstein talked about their book, HOW DOGS WORK. They did a great job and made a well-balanced team, with Ray’s humor really shining through. My only regret is that Ray and Mark never got a syndicated radio show, DOG TALK, which I’m sure would have been a great hit, possibly rivaling CAR TALK.

  24. I loved Ray…and Lorna. They were a serious home-base for me at Hampshire. I had zero knowledge of Ray until late in my Hampshire career when I took a class with him (unrelated to anything I was studying – engineering and art) but he was so inspiring and entertaining that this class left a serious impression.

    And then he heard about my plans for Div III (design, engineer and campaign human powered vehicles for the world speed record) which was far out of his main focus. He immediately demanded to be on my committee. And then he made demands of other professors. When another science professor asked to be on my committee, Ray told him in no uncertain terms that he’d have to pay to be involved. And later, when the Chair of the School of Science turned down my request for a grant, Ray got the news and immediately picked up the phone and told him that if they didn’t fund me, he was going to quit Hampshire. I got double the requested amount – the highest in history at the time!

    And then there were the amazing dinners and drinks with Ray and Lorna and 10 or 20 other characters at their home on various occasions. What a treat to be entertained and fed by faculty. Celebrated faculty. Amazing!

    Ray and I stayed in touch throughout the time since I graduated in 1981. We’d talk fishing and hunting and Labs (dogs, not scientific studies), and books. Ray sent me his assorted books and I loved them all. His crazy, insane send-up of fishing dogs was hard to read at night as my laughing would wake up Kate.

    And then there were the recent drinks at the Lord Jeff. My son’s Middlebury soccer games against Amherst were a welcome excuse to travel to Amherst and invite Ray, Lorna, and my other Hampshire great – Herb Bernstein – and his wife, Mary, for drinks. We’d sit outside and drain martinis and manhattans and laugh like mad. Those two guys were, and are, amazing. We did this a few times and had plans for this year’s game weekend on September 16th. Sadly, we will miss Ray and his infinite energy, wisdom, insanity, and cracks at Herb. But he will be with us in spirit and we will toast him. Lorna, Herb, Mary, Kate and I will laugh and sing his praises, and drink a lot and laugh some more.

    What an amazing guy. Ray Coppinger. Amazing!

  25. I was involved in theater at Hampshire so had little formal connection to Ray Coppinger but during my 2nd year, I adopted a dog, “Zero”, a bearded collie mix with a big, disarming personality who traipsed along with me from class to class. When we encountered Ray on our frequent travels across campus, Ray would invariably mutter (bark!) gruffly to me about “That useless dog– useless!!” But he did so with such a warmth in his eye and kindness in his demeanor that I knew he had room in his heart for even a useless mutt & his scruffy-artsy-fartsy caretaker.

    To me, Ray was one of the iconic figures that I will always associate with Hampshire– smart, suffer no fools, ahead of his time, not in it for any glory but simply for the love of the work. Thanks Ray for your humanity & for making even us “useless” humans & canines feel included in your special world.

  26. Ray was a wonderful professor and it was a joy to take both his classes my freshman year. His teaching style was laid back and we loved his sense of humor. His classes were interesting learning opportunities and he challenged us to think broadly. He was so sweet to bring in cider and donuts almost every week- something that made class even more enjoyable for hungry college kids.
    Ray mispronounced my name for the entire year (which I didn’t mind), and at the end of the year asked me if he had been pronouncing it wrong. I smiled and said yes and he smiled back and said…I thought so :-).
    Rest in peace, sir, and may your family find comfort in all the beautiful memories.

  27. Ray was a wonderful professor and it was a joy to take both his classes my freshman year. His teaching style was laid back and we loved his sense of humor. His classes were interesting learning opportunities and he challenged us to think broadly. He was so sweet to bring in cider and donuts almost every week- something that made class even more enjoyable for hungry college kids.
    Ray mispronounced my name for the entire year (which I didn’t mind), and at the end of the year asked me if he had been pronouncing it wrong. I smiled and said yes and he smiled back and said…I thought so :-).
    Rest in peace, sir, and may your family find comfort in all the beautiful memories.

  28. Ray’s class was my first class where he taught me to question the discourse around conservation. I remember we were studying the pros and cons of building in a particular untouched habitat. Naturally, as first year students, we were vehemently opposed to “the destruction of the tundra and taiga.” Our class had a passionate conversation about why it was wrong and must be protected. Ray then asked us, “What’s a taiga?” None of us could answer. Ray, in his good humored way, said dramatically, “Oh my God! They’re destroying the tundra and taiga!!!” Come on, guys, you have to know what a taiga if you’re going to engage in the conversation. Mind blown.

    I also remember he really, really liked fishing for walleye.

    Thank you, Ray.

  29. I didn’t concentrate in the natural sciences, and I became a criminal defense lawyer and have been for 30 years. But it didn’t take me long at college to figure out that the quality and character of a professor was more important than the subject matter he or she taught. So I ended up more courses with Ray than anyone else, even though that wasn’t the direction I was going. Oh, the storytelling!–often in some obscure place in the middle of nowhere he had taken us to, then the questions get asked, and then, the lightbulb would go off and we’d learn something about a subject but, more importantly, learn how to ask questions and think critically.

    It’s almost snarky to say that, in my practice, all the things I learned in Ray’s animal behavior have carried over into a lifelong study of human behavior, but it’s true. I didn’t become a scientist, but I did become a student of why things happen, and I got that from Ray as much as anybody I knew in college.

    Nobody here has brought up the dowsing, (or how he boasted that he could do a better job of finding water than geology professor John Reid) but maybe that’s a story that can better be done justice to at the memorial.

    He will be missed.

  30. Ray proctored my Division I project on celestial navigation in 1973, or maybe it was 74. I forget which. To make certain that I understood the theory and the math it involved, he had me teach celestial navigation to one of his classes. It was a terrific experience, working with a true mentor. I have felt grateful for it many times over.

  31. Many years after I had taken one course and tromped around the woods near Rattlesnack Gutter Road with Prof. Coppinger, my young family was sitting at Bell’s Pizza when Prof. Coppinger entered. I said in low voice “there’s Ray Coppinger, the bio professor I’m always talking about.” My youngest says in a very loud voice, “who’s Ray Coppinger?” And Ray turns around and replies, “I’m Ray Coppinger.” And as if we were all students in his class or next door neighbors he comes over to our table to talk. Needless to say my whole family all now know who Ray Coppinger is and how much he influenced me. One course! All my best to his family.

  32. So sad at the passing of the incomparable Ray Coppinger. Ray is known to many in the dog world as an author, researcher, lecturer and friend, but I believe his most important sphere of influence was in his role as a professor. That is how I most remember him.
    Having expressed an all consuming teenage interest in dog behavior, I arrived at Hampshire College in the Fall of 1977 to find I had been assigned a tall, lanky, fast talking, funny, compassionate and demanding advisor by the name of Dr. Coppinger. Fresh off the plane from Switzerland, bright eyed and bushy tailed, I trotted into our first advisor meeting eager to share my passion for all things canine. Ray responded to my earnest “I love doggies” declaration by suggesting (non too subtly!) that I might as well forget everything I thought I knew about dogs. Thus began my foray into a whole new perspective on “dog speak” and “dog think” that has shaped my entire dog centric professional life. My clients and their dogs have all benefitted from how Ray taught me how to learn.
    I’ll miss knowing he is there to bounce an idea or a question off. Even 40 years later, he was always engaged, curious, refreshingly blunt and opinionated. Ray was the kind of professor whose influence in his students’ lives persisted. He put so much of himself into his students, that we can’t help but carry bits of him forward and thus pass on what he gave us.
    I know many of us are heartbroken today, but I can imagine Ray finding some dry, off the cuff, startling, and non too subtle way of explaining why he is where is is right now. We would have to smile…

  33. Thank you, Ray, for being part of Hampshire since my first class, F 1972. Big, huge mistake to have never taken your classes. Your creative, deeply enthusiastic presence was always felt, and always greatly appreciated.

  34. I had the pleasure of taking the very last class taught by Ray Coppinger as a tenured professor in 05. I knew even then how lucky I was to have gotten that opportunity. That course shaped my DIV III project, which had a strong focus on the evolution of dogs. It still serves me well in my career in veterinary medicine , working with both domestic and wild animals, understanding behavior plays an integral role. This remains one of my favorite classes of all time, I regret not having more of an opportunity to work with him as my studies progressed but am grateful to have had the opportunity at all. He was a great professor.

  35. I took Rays Animal Behavior class back in “79 or it might have been “80. I remember so vividly this tall professor lecturing his class in such an animated way. The text book was so intimidating for a 17 year old freshman, and the material so complex, but Ray made me love that class, in fact so much so that I changed my major from Photography to Biology , returned to California and got a BA in Bio at UC Berkeley. What a great Professor Ray Coppinger was! May his family find comfort in knowing how many lives he impacted in such a positive way!

  36. Sad to hear, but glad that I had the opportunity to learn from Ray. I was creative writing focused, but in one brief semester course with Ray early in my time at Hampshire, I learned how to think and challenge. I’ve carried that with me. He will be missed.

  37. Ray Coppinger- one of the most amazing professors I’ve ever had. The things Ray taught me continue to blow my mind! I wish I could tell him how silly enthusiastic I get explaining neoteny to people. I wish I could tell him I often think of our trip to the dark recesses of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, where Katie and I practiced our caliper skills on countless canid skulls. I wish I could tell him that he influenced my thought process profoundly. And that I still giggle when I think about the building he named on campus- the ‘Animal Research Facility.’
    Rest in peace, Ray. I hope your heaven is full of peace, love, and dogs.

  38. I am a Hampshire grad, (class of 1988), and my fondest memory of professor Coppinger, (he made me call him Ray, though that was a hard one for me to swallow at the time) was an afternoon discussion with him about my Natural Science Division I project while he worked on the engine of a pick up truck. Professor Coppinger’s “office” or “classroom” was wherever he was, and talking to him in the driveway at the farm center while he tinkered with an engine was just the way it was. Though Professor Coppinger did encourage me to follow a career in animal behavior, I had other plans. But my choices do not diminish the influence Professor Coppinger had on my writing, my analytical skills, and his no nonsense, say it like it is attitude has stayed with me years after my experience in his classes and at Hampshire. I will NEVER forget him, and my thoughts and feelings are with his family and friends right now. May God continue to bless those who felt Professor Coppinger’s hands on their lives, and may his legacy and love of all things canid live on to inspire future generations.

  39. I came to Hampshire with an interest in studying Russian literature.

    Ray’s Animal Behavior Class dramatically changed those academic interests in my first semester. He ignited my desire to learn about natural history through the lens of science. That spark has lead to my career in Biology where I wrestle with many of the questions about development and evolution that Ray imparted so many years ago.

    I owe Ray and Lorna a tremendous debt of gratitude. One that I can only hope to repay by maintaining the enthusiasm for research and the life sciences that they fostered twenty years ago for my own students today.

  40. I remember being in the forest with a class led by another professor. Either intentionally or by happenstance, we stumbled upon Ray and a female student in the woods. They invited us into a small shed where they were rendering maple syrup. That’s when I learned another important fact of life, if you want a gallon of maple syrup, then you are going to have to collect one hundred gallons of maple sap to get it. Thanks Ray.

  41. Ray had a huge influence on my life. I went to Hampshire thinking I wanted to be an ecologist. I learned a lot from Ray about ecology in his classes. But what I learned that was more important was that I didn’t want to become an ecologist and work like he had done. He did great research but it had little effect due to other powers that made decisions based on things other than science. I thought it would be too frustrating. On the other hand, Ray’s love of and pursuit of animal behavior and canid studies showed me that I could pursue a path that I loved and didn’t have to stick to a pre-conceived idea.

    Ray was one of my advisers and he taught me how to think scientifically. That had a lasting influence on the rest of my life. Of course as everyone knows he was also just an amazing person and an inspiration in many ways. I loved reading his books and seeing him on TV even years after I graduated. Unfortunately I didn’t stay in contact with him, but we had a brief but very meaningful correspondence in 2015. In his first reply he wrote, “how nice it is to hear from you. I always thought that with teaching came the longest delayed gratification of any profession. Here forty years later a student appears with nice things to say and demonstrate about learning. I’m flattered and thank you.” I think that is just one small example of what a great man Ray was. He will be sorely missed but the impact of his life goes on in a big way.

  42. Although I never had a class with Ray Coppinger, I was fascinated by the dogs that lived on the sheep farm and would visit them frequently and that was where I met Ray. Around 1982 or so, I joined a group of students who were having dinner at Ray Coppinger’s house and I will never forget that evening- Ray’s insights into animal behavior- his respect for the animal world and our lively discussions that night (of course- because we were Hampshire students!) Ray was the quintessential Hampshire professor- experimenting, questioning, encouraging engagement. A great man and he will be missed! My love to his family.

  43. One small anecdote: when I was a student (around 1994), I saw Ray in the hallway and felt the need to tell him that I was going to deliver an overdue paper to him on Monday. He replied “Mr. Fargione, this conversation was solely for your benefit.” This presaged many years of teachers and supervisors disinterest in my excuses!

    To be clear: this is a fond memory. Even at the time, I took this for what it was – pithy and insightful advice from a caring mentor. Because it was always clear that he cared – passionately – for his students, his work, and the mission of Hampshire.

    I learned a lot from Ray about critical thinking. He was a great teacher, and inspired all his students with the joyful energy he brought to scientific inquiry and life.

  44. I took Animal Behavior with Ray the same semester that I was caring for the New Guinea Singing Dogs in the kennel below his classroom. One day after cleaning the kennels, I returned to my car, to find a broken headlight and a note on my windshield that read, “Leigh- I hit your car- Ray”. I think he had parked in front of me, put the car in neutral instead of park, and it slid backwards. He paid for the repairs. And it made me laugh. Always funny, always vivacious, and always brilliant. I’ll miss him.

  45. Ray’s Animal Behavior class was my first college course, 43 years ago. By the end of the semester, Ray had taught me how to think. He taught me to never make assumptions. I also discovered that it was not a good idea to raise Siberian Husky puppies in dorm rooms, even for science. I will always be profoundly grateful for Ray’s influence on me both as a person and a scientist, and for his and Lorna’s kindness. It was a privilege to be Ray’s student, and I am certain that all of the “dawgs” I’ve ever had were very glad that I was. My deepest condolences to his wonderful family.

  46. The first paper I wrote at Hampshire was for his Animal Behavior class. I remember being really nervous about it. To my surprise, he ended up loving it and we hit it off from there. What I learned with him in that class and in the following years became the inspiration and starting point for my career. Meeting Ray, working with him, and all the funny moments we had are memories I will always hold dear. He encouraged me so much during my time at Hampshire and he played such a key role in my becoming a biologist. Those big picture questions we discussed in class 15 years ago continue to guide my research today and I am so grateful to him for being so approachable and treating me like a colleague from the start.

    I remember one time during class down at the kennels I asked a question and he gave me some long-winded answer and when he was done I said “Ray, you didn’t answer my question.” And he said “Well, I thought if I kept on going long enough you wouldn’t notice!” We laughed and class/discussion continued. I remember another time, probably my last year, I asked him when or how he made the decision to study animal behavior. I think I was hoping he would give me some kind of recipe or steps I could follow. I don’t remember exactly now, his answer in full, but he started with a story about going fishing with a friend and ended with the advice that it really all comes down to the people; it doesn’t matter what you are studying as long as you like it and you like the people you are doing it with. At the time, I think I left his office scratching my head, not really sure why he emphasized people over topic (of study). Now, I absolutely understand why he gave me that advice. It’s such good advice that I confess I have started to give my own version of that answer to students who have come to me with the same question.

    Ray was a fantastic teacher and friend. I feel so lucky to have been able to have him as a mentor.

  47. Best ever mentor. Best ever storyteller. He packed 100+ years of living into his lifespan. When I last saw him I told him how much he he meant to my education and career. He replied, “you [students] meant a lot to me, too”. We all fed off his energy, humor, and passion for science and it turns out the feeling was mutual. Then he went on to tell me that his last two books were written to honor his students. He (Lorna and Mark Feinstein) couldn’t have given us a better gift or memory.
    A few of my favorite quotes:
    A good dog can’t be a bad color. An inch of dog is worth a mile of papers. You haven’t seen your first dog until you’ve seen 1,000.

  48. In the fall of 1972 I registered for De Rerum Natura, a sort of hybrid biology for poets class. Ray’s story telling made this non-scientist almost believe it was all magic & alchemy. I have had the pleasure of working with Ray & Lorna my entire adult life. Their dog books have made an outstanding contribution to the science of animal behavior. I miss the humor & voice telling me stories.

  49. Ray was also an aficionado of single malt scotches! In the 1990s, I was Director of Human Resources at Hampshire. One of my staff mentioned that she loved Drambuie, a Scotch based liqueur. To thank her for having done a terrific job arranging the annual faculty and staff holiday party, I bought her a bottle. Late in the afternoon of the party she opened the bottle to give us a taste. Just then we saw Ray approaching HR, so my staff member put the bottle in her desk drawer. Ray, who had a question about his employee benefits, entered Stilles House. All of a sudden he started twitching his nose, and exclaimed he could smell a Scotch! Of course, he would not leave until the bottle was brought out and he had a taste.

  50. I took a class given by Ray, and Lou Wilcox, my first semester at Hampshire (F74). It was everything Hampshire intended education to be: very interactive with the faculty, requiring collaboration between groups of students, and producing real answers (not book-learned answers) to questions of science and ecology. In the real world there was a proposal to cite a facility for chemical waste, or nuclear waste storage ( I can’t remember now, exactly) , in the town of Montague near Amherst/Hampshire. Ray wrote a strawman RFP asking for research into the effects of building this facility. Each team of students had to propose what data they would collect and how to interpret it. . It was ideal practice for doing the real thing.

    I say with humor that I quickly left biology/ecology for computer science-it’s warm and dry in the terminal room, and the bugs stand still.

    Ray was a fabulous teacher and scientist. I have great respect for him and his work.

  51. A special man has passed away from us. He had a pronounced opinion that he shared with the world. It was very special to get to know him at one of his workshops in the Netherlands.
    A lot of strength to family and loved ones

  52. I feel honored to have had Ray as my teacher. I, like many, took his Animal Behavior class my first year at Hampshire. He was one of those wonderful personaties who was able to pull off sarcastic humor without losing an ounce of sensitivity or approachability. He was also one of the only teachers in my long career in the humanities who made me feel, even in passing, like I could excel as a scientist, which I consider one of his strengths as a professor: his passion for his work and his engaging style drew everyone into the fold of his discipline. I still remember the papers I wrote for that class, and I still remember how much fun I had.

  53. My first class at Hampshire was Ray’s Animal Behavior class. I learned to think, write scientifically and in an organized fashion and ask questions from Ray and Lorna and worked at the Farm Center with the Livestock Guarding Dog Project. We would joke that I even did windows. Ray continued to mentor me as I studied at UMASS Amherst and was always there to provide a supportive kick in the butt when things got tough for me.
    He found it funny that I enjoyed milking cows. He let me train his dog Flea. He sent me to Lorna to proof my papers, that way it would take less long term ink!
    Always encouraging me to trust my knowledge and skills, I will greatly miss Ray. RIP

  54. Ray set the tone for experimental science and exploration of new fields. While I didn’t work with him directly, you could see his influence on both faculty and students during Hampshire’s formative years.

  55. Fond memories of Ray. I attended his famous Animal Behavior class in the 80’s and he was on my Div. II committee. I still am interested in the evolution of dogs and other critters and I can thank Ray for sparking that unterest ( I already had a general interest in animals) I also remember him for his sense of humor and the way he could tell a story ( and he had many captivating stories)

  56. Sad news indeed. I think of Ray Coppinger as perfectly embodying the academic and social principles of Hampshire. I am an F73 student now in Alaska and we talked dog sledding in 2016. He was great.

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