Chief Confidant

By Emily Gold Boutilier / March / April 2003
June 22nd, 2007
John Mcintyre, who died on december 18 after a long illness, was a young lawyer in Milwaukee when then-president Henry Wriston offered him a job as assistant to the president. Armed with a book called The Care and Feeding of an Executive, McIntyre arrived for work at University Hall in December 1947 and stayed for forty-five years, serving as the trusted assistant to six Brown presidents and as secretary to the Corporation.

McIntyre, of Rockford, Illinois, was ninety-four when he died. “When I came to Brown,” then-president Vartan Gregorian told the BAM in 1993, shortly after McIntyre retired, “I was told that John McIntyre knew where all the bodies were buried. And he did.... There are very few people whom I would consider my confidant; John is one of those people.”

At first McIntyre served primarily as a personal assistant, answering Wriston’s correspondence and signing documents. In 1967 he was named secretary of the Corporation’s advisory and executive committee and soon became secretary of the Board of Fellows. He started working closely with the full Corporation in the early 1970s. In 1982 the University established the John K. McIntyre Scholarship Fund in his honor. “He is a wise, insightful gentleman who has poured more than four decades of his life into the growth and well-being of this institution,” Gregorian said eleven years later. “And he has done it without flash or ego or strings attached.”

During the 1989 Commencement ceremony Gregorian awarded McIntyre the first John K. McIntyre Medal, which has since been awarded occasionally for extraordinary service. “He pretended to have misplaced some papers,” McIntyre later said, “and asked me to come up to the podium to help him. That’s when he presented me with the [medal]. I had no idea he was going to do that. And I’ll never forget it.”

McIntyre was class valedictorian at Brown and a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Delta Phi. Drafted immediately after law school, he served in the U.S. Army Air Forces from 1942 to 1945, achieving the rank of sergeant and earning a Bronze Star.

McIntyre was working for his father when Wriston called to say he was in Milwaukee and wanted to talk. “I was finding the investigation of personal-injury cases and the preparation of legal papers somewhat less than completely satisfying,” McIntyre wrote in the BAM in 1965. The pair met in a hotel lobby, and by the end of the meeting Wriston had offered McIntyre a job. “I did not accept immediately,” McIntyre wrote, “as I wanted to talk the matter over with my family before taking the rather drastic step of leaving both home and my father’s law firm for a position a thousand miles away. In due course, however, parental doubts were quieted and the necessary arrangements made.”

McIntyre retired in 1992. A member of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Providence and Boston, he is survived by a brother, Robert ’42; five nieces and nephews; and thirteen grandnieces and grandnephews.

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March / April 2003