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Thomas Haines, Beloved Board Member, Dies at 90

By December 19, 2023No Comments

Dear Friends,

It is with a deep well of sadness that I share the loss of a beloved member of the Graham community. Thomas Haines, Ph.D., was my dear friend and mentor, and a shining light of our community. He lived at the Graham School from ages 4 to 15, and for the past eleven years, he served as a member of our Board of Directors.

I have known few people as “glass-half-full” as Tom was. He saw opportunity everywhere and would often share his perspective on the positive side of being an orphan. “You could choose your own family,” he would say.

Tom lived an extraordinary life, which was beautifully chronicled in his autobiography, A Curious Life, From Rebel Orphan to Innovative Scientist. In it, he wrote lovingly about his time at The Graham School:

Early on, Mrs. Hastings [the housemother at Dun Cottage] taught me that the main question you should ask yourself is, ‘What nice thing can I do for someone today?’ I found it especially satisfying when I did something nice for somebody, and so I was forever trying to find things to do for people. I discovered that if I paid attention, there were always opportunities.

From 1964 to 2006, Tom was a professor of Chemistry at City College of New York (CCNY). He also conducted laboratory research on the structure and function of living membranes and published his research extensively. In the early 1970s, he conceived an idea to address racial and ethnic disparities in medicine and pitched it to the new City College president, Robert Marshak. The president was sold, and in 1972, he and Tom founded the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education of CUNY, which has since graduated over 2500 doctors. Black and Latino students at this school now graduate at more than three times the rate of other US medical schools, and this model has been copied in many other places.

At a book party for his autobiography, which was published in 2019, he was asked for his advice on living a good life, and his answer was to always keep learning. He lived that way, and he taught us at Graham many valuable lessons to help us continue to learn and grow. As a Board member, he shared insights from his own experiences, including ideas for how to successfully develop our Graham SLAM program, which is now a model for all youth in foster care in NYC and Buffalo.

Tom had a great sense of fun and an infectious smile. We wish all who have known and loved him peace and strength. Tom said The Graham School gave him “the gift of belonging. We who had no family were one.” Having Tom as part of our Graham family has been a great gift to each of us and he will forever be in our hearts.

Tom turned 90 on August 9th of this year. He is survived by his wife Polly Cleveland, his daughter Avril Haines, and his son-in-law David Davighi. You can read more about his extraordinary life in the full obituary written and published by his loving wife.

With sadness,

Kimberly Watson
President & CEO