In Memoriam: Frank V. Snyder


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death June 26, 2006 of Honorary Trustee, Honorary Member and former Chairman of the Board Frank V. Snyder of a heart attack at his home on Martha's Vineyard. He was 83.

Frank Vreeland Snyder served as a Member of the Corporation from 1989 to 1993, when he was elected an Honorary Member of the Corporation. He served as an Honorary Trustee from 1994 to 1995, when he was elected Chairman of the Board of Trustees, a position he held until 1998.  From 1995 to 1998 he was an ex officio Trustee and Member of the Corporation, and in 1998 was elected an Honorary Trustee and Honorary Member. Through the years he served on numerous committees, including the Executive Committee, Nominating Committee, Ships Committee, Campaign Committee, Associates Executive Committee, and most recently the Access to the Sea Committee (formerly the Ships Committee). He participated in the Partnership Program, and with wife Jessie had been a member of the WHOI Associates since 1979.

Frank Snyder was born June 29, 1922. He received a B.S. degree from Harvard College in 1943 and served on submarines in the U.S. Navy during World War II.  After the war, he attended the University of Virginia Law School, receiving a degree in 1948.  He practiced law in New York City as an associate lawyer with Root, Ballantine, Harlan, Bushby & Palmer, leaving the law in 1953 to join Moore & Munger Inc., an independent oil producer, refiner and marketer of petroleum specialties. He served the firm as partner and later president and chairman.  In 1960 he co-founded The Stratton Corporation, which developed the Stratton Mountain ski resort in Vermont, and served as its president from 1960 to 1967 and as chairman from 1967 to 1983. He also served as president of the National Ski Areas Association for several years.

Interested in sailing since he was seven years old, when his father gave him an eight-foot boat to sail in Northport Bay, NY, Frank Snyder signed on as crew for his first Bermuda race in 1946 and competed in the race 25 times.  He wrote Life Under Sail, an anthology of old sea writings, in 1961. He joined the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) in 1970 and was elected Commodore in 1988, serving until 1990.  He was a member of the committee that acquired the John Nicholas Brown estate in Newport, RI, which became Harbor Court, the NYYC’s on-the-water clubhouse. He was instrumental in fundraising for Harbour Court, which opened in 1988, and received the New York Yacht Club’s Medal in May 2005 for his contributions.

His relationship with WHOI began decades ago. “I first saw WHOI when I was about 16 and was sailing with two other youngsters in a 36-foot boat we had been allowed to take to Maine from Oyster Bay by way of Vineyard Sound and Woods Hole,” he recalled during an interview in 1995. While serving in the Navy, Frank Snyder came in contact with WHOI again through Institution staff who were teaching submarine crews how to avoid detection by using the bathythermograph (BT) to measure water temperature. “The scientists from WHOI installed a BT on our boat and taught us how to use it,” he said.  “They explained that it plotted the water temperature against depth. They left, and we found it worked quite well.  It was an amazing device, very simple.  I read in a Navy publication long after the war that the BT was credited with saving at least 50 U.S. submarines during World War II.”

Frank Snyder retired in 1983 “from everything and went off to do other things,” including spending more time on Lake Tasmoo on Martha’s Vineyard, fishing and sailing, and watching WHOI from across the sound. Friends reintroduced him to WHOI, and he became active at the Institution. In March 1991 he and Jessie set sail aboard Chasseur, a Little Harbor 54', from Fort Lauderdale for an 11,000-mile, 10-month voyage across the Pacific Ocean.  Both kept carefully written journals on the voyage, which he illustrated with watercolor sketches while she took more than 3,000 photographs. He also retraced Columbus’s steps through the Bahamas.

He is survived by his wife, Jessie Snyder, of Shelburne, VT and Vineyard Haven, MA; two sons, Dr. Michael Snyder and Jonathan Snyder; two daughters, Jane Snyder and Suzanne Johnson; and several grandchildren.

Further information will be posted when available.


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(Photo by Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)