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Michele Moeller Chandler, 73

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. —  Michele Moeller Chandler – beloved spouse, mother, grandmother, friend, educator, mentor, and role model to those who knew her – passed on May 9, 2024, in Santa Barbara, California, after a 5-decade battle with autoimmune disease and its related impacts. She lived intentionally, courageously, and with a sparkle in her eye, truly embodying the saying she often cited – Carpe Diem, or “Seize the Day.”

One reason why Michele was so loved and admired by all was her strength and resilience in refusing to allow the disease to dictate her life. When it left her ill for 2-3 hours every morning as a young woman, she simply got up earlier to work as a college administrator and attend graduate school simultaneously, earning her master’s degree at Columbia and eventually her PhD at Northwestern. When told by one doctor that she could not have children, she sought a second opinion and had two healthy children during the 1980s. The same defiance continued throughout her life and is best captured by a Nora Ephron quote that also spoke to her, “Be the heroine of your own life, not the victim.”

Another reason was the life she built. One pillar of that life was her family -- her husband of 50 years Chip, her children Matt and Kelsey, her nieces Sara and Ali (for whom she became a second mother after their mother died very young), and her 5 grandchildren. Her philosophy as a mother and as a grandmother centered on creating wonderful memories for each child and fostering their imaginations, turning the mundane magical with great thought and care. Even their friends were influenced as a recent, touching note to Michele from one of them illustrates, “Your attention…to our little lives over the years made me feel appreciated and heard…I felt inspired.”

A second pillar of Michele’s life was her friends, whether they knew her from her girlhood, her college days at Wellesley and Williams, her years in Chicago, Williamstown, and Santa Barbara, or her involvement in school and arts organizations. Uniformly, they mention how closely she listened, how much she cared, how wise her counsel was, and how much fun she was to be around.

The final pillar was her passion for helping young people craft fulfilling lives. Sparked initially by her interest in women’s issues, especially the difficulties faced in pursuing both demanding professional careers and satisfying family lives, these obstacles and the tradeoffs required ultimately became the topic of her PhD dissertation. Shortly after receiving her PhD in 1992, however, Michele had two life-threatening health crises, leading her to conclude reluctantly that she could not pursue a full-time academic career as hoped. Happily, an opportunity then arose to create a Williams winter study course that she designed and co-taught from 1997 through 2016. Its goal, she wrote, was to encourage Williams women and men “to ‘live the examined life,’…and to contemplate proactively…how they will define success and balance in their lives.” It became her mission and her means of living Wellesley’s motto, Non Ministrari sed Ministrare, or “not to be ministered unto, but to minister.”

Michele was a shining exemplar to her family, friends, and students. She did not allow her life to be defined by her illness but instead used it as a spur to compose a life full of meaning and love. It was a life well-lived…and a ministry completed.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Michele’s memory to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Lupus Program and for APS research, in particular. Donations can be made online at https://www.brighamandwomens.org/medicine/rheumatology-inflammation-immunity/lupus-center/support-the-lupus-center, or by directly contacting Laura Ogonowski, MBA, Director of Development BWH, (LOgonowski@bwh.harvard.edu , phone 617.634.9912).

Recollections & Sympathy For the Family
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Chip and family: One of the highlights of moving to Williamstown was getting to know Michele and participating for many years in her "building a life" course at Williams. She impacted a generation of students examining difficult work-life balance related topics. I'm certain the tools she provided are hard at work informing purposeful and examined lives.
from: Marianne DeMarcoon: 06-12-2024

Sending our sincerest condolences to the entire family. Michele will be missed and continue to be an inspiration to those that were lucky enough to know her. Wishing you all grace and peace as you navigate the days ahead. Hugs.
The DeMayo Family.
from: Carin DeMayo-Wallon: 06-10-2024

Chip, I so enjoyed working with Michele when she was on the board of The Williamstown Theatre Festival. She was tireless in her pursuit of doing what was best. My thoughts are with you and your family....she will be deeply missed.
from: Juliet Flynton: 06-07-2024

Chip and family: So sorry for the loss of Michele. Always enjoyed spending time with her at the many cultural venues in the area. She will be missed.
from: Jonathan Swartzon: 06-07-2024

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