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Abbott Gleason

July 21, 1938 December 25, 2015
Abbott Gleason
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Obituary for Abbott Gleason

Providence:
 
Gleason, Abbott “Tom” died Christmas morning at a care center near his 
 
home in Providence, R.I. surrounded by his family. The cause was 
 
complications from Parkinson’s Disease. He was 77.  
 
A scholar, artist, jazz lover and beloved teacher, Tom spent his entire 
 
academic career at Brown, from his appointment as an assistant professor of 
 
history in 1968 until his retirement as Barnaby Conrad and Mary Critchfield 
 
Keeney Professor in 2005. From 1980 through mid-1982, he served as head 
 
of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies, in Washington, D.C. 
 
In 1999 and 2000, he was the acting director of Brown’s newly established 
 
Watson Institute for International Studies. He was author of numerous 
 
publications and books including Totalitarianism: The Inner History of the 
 
Cold War.  
 
Tom was born on July 21, 1938 in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
 
the son of S. Everett Gleason and Mary Eleanor Abbott Gleason. He 
 
attended St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., and as a young man 
 
exhibited paintings at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington and the Baltimore 
 
Museum. He graduated from Harvard College with a bachelor’s degree in 
 
history in 1961 and a doctorate in Russian history in 1969. 
 
He was involved in the early civil rights movement, joining “Freedom 
 
Summer” in 1964 to teach at Tougaloo College near Jackson, Mississippi. At 
 
Brown, he became a strong supporter of the Brown-Tougaloo partnership 
 
that facilitates exchanges of students and faculty between the two 
 
institutions.
 
When Tom retired in 2005, he resumed painting almost every day.  An 
 
Exhibiting Artist member of the Providence Art Club, he was the solo artist 
 
for the inaugural exhibition of the Director’s Gallery at the Watson Institute 
 
in November 2013.  He also exhibited at Bank RI in the fall of 2014, and 
 
most recently at the First Unitarian Church of Providence, November 2015.
 
Tom was a raconteur, an active member of the Providence community and 
 
an ardent and knowledgeable fan of the Red Sox and Patriots.
 
He is survived by his wife, Sarah, his children Nicholas and Margaret, four 
 
grandchildren, and a sister.
 
A memorial service will be held at Brown University on Saturday, January 30, 2016,
 
at 1:30pm.  In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Michael J. Fox
 
Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

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