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Stephen Birrell, 80

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. —  Stephen Reynolds Birrell, 80, of Williamstown, passed away peacefully, on May 17, 2023 at home with his family by his side. He was born in Orange, New Jersey on May 19, 1942, son of the late Selwyn Lathrop Birrell and Elsie Reynolds Birrell.

Steve spent his childhood in Chatham, New Jersey. He graduated from Chatham High School and Williams College. He received a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Wesleyan University and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of New Hampshire.

In 1967, Steve entered the United States Navy and served as an officer on the USS Keppler, based in Newport, Rhode Island. After completing his military service, in 1969, he joined the Education Department at Brown University, and, later, the Education Department at the University of New Hampshire where he dedicated himself to teacher education and to the corporate and foundation relations program.

In 1984, Steve returned to his beloved alma mater, Williams College, to serve in the Development Office. Except for a brief hiatus at Amherst College as Director of Development and Alumni Relations, he spent the rest of his career at Williams College, serving as the Vice President for Alumni Relations and Development, retiring in 2009.

Steve was most proud of his alumni and development staff and devoted alumni in their accomplishments during the “Williams Campaign,” at that time the largest fund-raising effort Williams College had completed. He was dedicated to nurturing what he called the Williams “second endowment,” the immeasurable loyalty, affection and generosity the alumni feel toward Williams College. Among the honors Steve received at Williams was the Rogerson Cup, symbolizing outstanding loyalty, achievement, and service to the college, the highest award given to an alumnus.

Steve was honored to be a Trustee Emeriti of the Williamstown Theater Festival.

He lived by the words of the former president of Williams College, John E. Sawyer, in his “Charge” to the Class of 1964:

“Don’t be afraid to affirm. Don’t be afraid to give your energy and ideas and support to what is on balance good and constructive, to what can foster dignity, decency and opportunity on this earth.”

He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Pauline “Polly” McNeely Birrell, his daughters, Rebecca Birrell Smith and son-in-law, John Thomas Smith III of Brunswick, ME, Stephanie Birrell Luedke and son-in-law, Frederick “Fritz” Luedke II of Ridgefield, CT, his sister, Susan Birrell and her partner, Nancy Romalov of Iowa City, IA, and his four grandchildren, Jackson Thomas Luedke, Cecelia Anne Smith, Chase Reynolds Utley, and Stephen Paul Utley. He was predeceased by his beloved daughter, Kathleen Reynolds Utley.

The family wishes to express our deepest gratitude to HospiceCare in The Berkshires and the home health aides from At Home, TLC for their exceptional care in Steve’s final weeks.

A private graveside service for the immediate family will be held in the Williams College cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to the Williams College Alumni Office, Williamstown; St. John’s Episcopal Church, Park St., Williamstown; or the Alzheimer’s Association.

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Dear Polly, my sincerest sympathy in Steve's passing. He was always a true, honest and sincere gentleman. He will forever be remembered for his exceptional qualities and sense of humor. May wonderful memories surround you and your family in this difficult time.
from: Mireille Royon: 05-29-2023

To all of Steve’s family please accept my sincere condolences. Steve was always great to work with at Williams….always a gentleman that treated everyone with respect.
God Bless
from: Tom Maharon: 05-27-2023

Dear Polly, my heart goes out to you. May God grant you strength and peace. Love, Mary
from: Mary Lovvornon: 05-26-2023

My brother-in-law will always be missed, until we see him again in heaven. Steve was such a kind and compassionate person. Although , due to distance of geography, I did not often have opportunity to see Steve. I saw clearly these attributes in him each time we were together. Steve leaves a beautiful legacy for all to admire, thank you Steve.
from: Don Mcneelyon: 05-25-2023