San Diego, CA (September 12, 2017) – Please join the United States Rugby Foundation in mourning the passing of one of the key figures in the history of the organization, Joe Walsh. Joe kept up his involvement in rugby until his passing last weekend as he was instrumental in the creation of and administration of the M.I.T. Old Boys Fund under the USRF umbrella.
Joe’s introduction to rugby came in 1949 when he was a sophomore at MIT. MIT was forming their first rugby team, and Joe’s roommate, who had gone to a practice, came back to the room — “Joe! This rugby game is great! You’ve got to try it!” Joe did try it, he found it was even better than great, and he still thinks so. Joe’s position in those early years is best described as “utility”, meaning he could play poorly at any position on the field. This changed during the MIT club’s first tour to Bermuda, when the hooker succumbed to an injury common to many redheaded, fair-skinned Scots visitors: Sunburn. Walsh took over the position for the second game, it was a trial by combat, but he had found a home.
Walsh’s introduction to rugby politics came while he was at MIT. There had been an Eastern Rugby Union before WW II, and Ed Lee re-established the union when he invited all the teams in eastern USA to a meeting in New York in the mid ’50’s. Every team except one responded, making a total of four at the meeting. Only one non-college team, New York RFC, had been formed at the time; the other attendees were MIT and two Ivy League schools. Walsh was the MIT delegate.
Boston R.F.C. started in 1960, about the time that Walsh was no longer a student and was looking for a club. Fritz Grunebaum was elected President, and Joe was pleased not to be part of the club politics. This changed abruptly a couple of years later when Fritz invited the British Combined Services to Boston and planned a weekend tournament around the event. The Boston Club was broke, and it couldn’t organize 15 1st team players consistently. The event was madness, and Walsh ran for Secretary to stop it. He couldn’t stop it, the tour was a smashing success, and Walsh became Grunebaum ‘s supporter, rather than nemesis.
Grunebaum became politically active in rugby and Walsh found himself on occasion holding various offices in various east coast unions (talk about empty corridors of power!). The only job that counted came when Grunebaum organized a foundation to support aspects of rugby not handled by the unions. Walsh took the job of Trustee and Executive, ‘executive’ being whatever office needed filling. His major accomplishment was convincing Dave Koch to donate $10,000 to the fund. The name was changed to the U.S. Rugby Foundation, and here we are.
Please keep Joe and his family in your thoughts and prayers.
Below is the obituary for Joe published in the Boston Globe on Sunday, September 10, 2017.
WALSH, Joseph B. Age 86, of Westport, Massachusetts, passed away unexpectedly at home on Wednesday, August 30, 2017. He was the husband of Sarahann (Wilson) Walsh. In addition to his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Nina Henningson and her husband Erik of North Grafton; and two grandchildren, E. Anders and Isak Henningson. He was the brother of the late Bowman Walsh.Born in Utica, NY, a son of the late Joseph B. and Ann (Bowman) Walsh, he grew up in New York State before moving to Massachusetts.
Joe graduated from Gloversville High School and then attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he received his Bachelor of Science, a Master of Science and a Doctor of Science Degrees in Mechanical Engineering. After receiving his Doctorate in 1958, he continued his research work at MIT and other institutions. Early in his career, he was a Research Scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute where he worked on the pressure hull of the pioneering submersible Alvin. Joe joined the Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences Department at MIT in 1963, beginning a 25 year collaboration with W.F. Brace. It was a very fruitful combination: Joe did the theory and Bill the experiments. A host of graduate students and postdocs were trained under their guidance, many of whom went on to productive academic careers. Joe retired from MIT in 1986 but never stopped his research activities. He was still recently working as a Senior Scientist and Engineer for Enhanced Production Inc., as a Visiting Scholar at M.I.T. and at Brown University, as well as a consultant at various companies. Throughout his career his work often took him overseas, including serving as a Visiting Scientist for organizations such as Cambridge University in England, the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and the South African Chamber of Mines in Johannesburg. Joe has numerous publications and recognitions. In 2007 he received the Rock Mechanics Research Award, in 2000 he was honored as a Life Fellow at the Cambridge University and in 1993 a Fellow by the American Geophysical Union.
His memorable trip around the world started with an engineering job in Stockholm, Sweden through the winter of 1959. He bought a VW bug in Germany and then drove through Europe, the Middle East, and India. He then travelled by ship to Indonesia, the Philippines, and finally to California where he used his last pennies to take a bus back to Boston. The generous hospitality he received, incredible experiences and people he met along the way shaped his adult life.
One of Joe’s true loves was rugby. He began his rugby career sophomore year at MIT. As a member of the Boston RFC he played for its first full season in 1960, was its first secretary and then was president in 1970 & 1971. Joe was a part of the committee which formed the New England Rugby Football Union in 1968. In the early 1970’s he joined the charitable organization, the US Rugby Football Foundation, became a trustee and executive, and was an active Director Emeritus until his death. He played rugby into his 40s and these tours took him to Bermuda, England, Ireland, Wales, and Scandinavia. He then continued to watch matches which included many trips overseas. He made lifelong friends and had a wealth of adventures thanks to his involvement in rugby.
Joe loved to socialize, enjoyed hosting parties, and was a member of many clubs: Algonquin Club; St. Botolph Club; East India Club, London; Acoaxet Club; and the Winslow Lewis Lodge A.F. & A.M. Equally, he enjoyed being with his family and close friends contemplating the fire or the view of the river and engaging in conversation about the world and the people in it.
His burial will be private. A celebration of life memorial gathering will be planned for the future. In lieu of flowers, please send poems, photos and memories. Memorial contributions in his honor may be made to GeoHazards International, 687 Bay Rd, Menlo Park, CA 94025, www.geohaz.org.