In Memoriam: Harry H. Esbenshade Jr.


Adorning the walls of his home and office are a variety of quotations, written in calligraphy, that Harry H. Esbenshade, Jr. held dear and attributed to his personal philosophy of life.

One such calligraphy, by John Ruskin, a 19th century British art critic and philanthropist, was kept in Esbenshade’s Vienna, W.Va., office.

“What we think or what we know or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only thing of consequence is what we do,” per Ruskin.

What Esbenshade did for the Marietta College community over the span of many decades positively impacted the lives of countless students, faculty, staff and community members.

Marietta College and the community are mourning the loss of Esbenshade, who died at his Vienna, W.Va., home Sunday, Aug. 10, at the age of 88.

“We are saddened by the loss of Harry Esbenshade, who was an Emeritus Trustee. It was my pleasure to get to know Harry in the short time I have been Marietta College’s president,” said Marietta College President Joseph W. Bruno. “His outstanding service and generosity is just part of his legacy at Marietta College, and it will continue to benefit our students and faculty for many generations. I know I join the entire Marietta College community in relaying to the Esbenshade family our sincere sorrow in his passing and that our thoughts and prayers are with them at their time of loss.”

Leavitt Funeral Home in Parkersburg, W.Va., is handling funeral arrangements. A graveside service is planned for 11 a.m., Thursday, Aug. 14, at the Mt. Olivet Cemetery on 23rd Street in Parkersburg, W.Va.

Esbenshade was born on Dec. 3, 1925, in Uniontown, Pa., the only child of Harry H. Sr. and Frederica Esbenshade. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He was assigned to the V-12 Educational Program and was sent, initially, to Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. He was later transferred to Yale University and earned a Bachelor of Science in 1946.

“The war ended and a few years later I moved to Parkersburg (W.Va.),” Esbenshade wrote in a 2012 letter to President Bruno, introducing himself to the new Marietta College leader.

“Carl Broughton recruited me for a scholarship and that got me started supporting the College. I felt no particular obligation to Stevens of Yale because of the manner of the acceleration I had experienced. Because I felt an urge to support some college, I was ripe for Carl Broughton. Later, I had a windfall in the investment market that enabled me to establish the public programs fund in memory of my mother, which continues to this day.”

Frederica was a nurse who was very involved in the community and enjoyed the cultural opportunities that were available. In 1980, Esbenshade and his father established the Esbenshade Series, which funds a variety of programs that broaden the campus and community’s understanding of the humanities. In the past, the series featured speakers such as Ralph Nader and Juan Williams, poets such as Joyce Carol Oates and Andrew Hudgins, to performances by The Baltimore Consort and mezzo-soprano Ruby Hinds.

“Harry’s gift to both the College and the community through the Esbenshade Series has established a program that is truly remarkable for the impact it has had,” says Dr. Daniel G. Monek, Chair of the Edward E. MacTaggart Department of Music and Director of the Esbenshade Series. “Founded in 1980 in honor of his mother, Frederica G. Esbenshade, the memorial fund has brought lecturers and performing artists of national and international stature to our campus, impacting thousands of lives since it began.”

Esbenshade also served from 1978-93 on the Board of Trustees.

“Since 1980, the generosity of the Esbenshade family has helped transform the Marietta College campus and the experiences of countless students, faculty and staff, as well as community neighbors through the presentation of lectures, performing arts and programs in the humanities,” says Hub Burton, Associate Vice President for Advancement. “The Esbenshade Series renders a wonderful contribution to a rich and rewarding academic and social environment for which we remain most grateful. We want to take this opportunity to extend our most sincere sympathies to the family of this longtime, true friend of Marietta College.”

Esbenshade is survived by four children — Harry Esbenshade, III, John Esbenshade, William Esbenshade and Anne Esbenshade Lynde, 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.