Bill Stevens (1931-2018)

Bill Stevens

William Yeaton Stevens, 86, died Jan. 12, 2018, at Vassar Brothers Medical Center of complications following a fall. After he retired from IBM, he and his wife, Gwen, founded the Howland Chamber Music Circle in Beacon.

Bill was born Nov. 5, 1931, in South Portland, Maine, the son of Philip and Eleanore Stevens. He graduated from South Portland High School in 1949 as valedictorian, then earned a bachelor’s in physics from Bates College in 1953 and a master and doctorate in engineering physics from Cornell University in 1955 and 1958.

After completing his doctorate, he joined IBM in Poughkeepsie, retiring in 1993 after 35 years. His career at IBM was primarily in the area of system design and architecture of mainframe computers. His initial assignment was in the system architecture group for Stretch, an early IBM supercomputer.

He was later in a similar group that designed the System 360, which became IBM’s dominant mainframe system and is still the design basis for their large server computers. He was the manager of the microprogram control system of the mid-size System 360, Model 50.

It was while on temporary assignment in 1964 to the IBM Development Laboratory in Hursley, England, that Bill met Gwendolyn Hamilton, who was travelling on summer vacation from her teaching position in the music department at Vassar. They were married June 18, 1966, in Pleasant Valley.

Never inclined to pursue prominence in his professional field, Bill devoted much of his energy and spare time to community service. In high school and college he had been interested in theatrical lighting, so shortly after settling in Poughkeepsie he sought out the newly formed County Players, which he later served as president.

A longstanding interest in firefighting techniques led him to join the New Hamburg Fire Department as a volunteer. There he later served both as chief and as chairman of the fire commissioners. He had earlier been a volunteer with the Sloper-Willen Ambulance Service.

Gwen had often organized chamber music sessions in their home, and later established Patrons for Young Artists, a group that sponsors concerts by budding professional musicians in various homes. She wanted to expand this to include performances available to the general public. So, just as Bill was retiring from IBM, they founded the Howland Chamber Music Circle. Gwen served as music director and Bill as concert manager. This turned out to be a very successful enterprise that, with the help of many others, has become a leading cultural organization in the area.

After devoting much of his retirement time and energy to it for 23 years, in 2016 they relinquished their positions for others to carry the organization forward.

Besides his wife, Bill is survived by their children, Emily Stevens of Atlanta and Guy Stevens of Washington, D.C., as well as a grandson, Oliver Stevens.

Memorial donations may be made to Hudson River Housing or the American Friends Service Committee. The Howland Music Circle is also collecting donations to perform a concert in Bill’s memory.

Information provided by Straub, Catalano & Halvey Funeral Home.

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