Having lived the fullest of lives, characterized by an unbridled passion for learning and teaching, Bartley B. Nourse, Jr., 65, passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family, on February 25, 2019. His enduring gift to his family, friends and the South Coast was that of a vibrant and generous man who had a passion for life that was unmatched.
That passion included a strong sense of justice and much of his life’s work was focused on changing systems to make a better world. As E.B. White penned, “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world.” This desire led him to a career in education, most recently the founding of Maverick-2- Mainstream Media where, as writer and director, he produced videos of best teaching practices and innovative schools. This culminated in a full-length documentary, Passion to Teach, which seeks to counter the inroads that high-stakes standardized testing and privatization efforts are making into public education, and a subsequent campaign to promote the professionalization of the teaching profession.
Bart was born on August 25, 1953, in Providence, Rhode Island, the middle child of Bartley B. Nourse, Sr. and Helen Tiffany (Clark) Nourse. He would describe his childhood as the best of times, highlighted by life-shaping experiences and friends in Rutland, VT, and Hamilton, MA. A childhood of roaming neighborhoods and forests, building things from imagination with whatever was handy, and an active Boy Scout troop cemented Bart’s love of the woods and his interest in building and design.
Bart was an exceptional teacher whose commitment to deeper understanding, authentic student work and self-directed learning was ahead of its time. Teaching experiences included Milton Academy (MA), Holderness School (NH), and Tabor Academy (MA). His interest in and concern for the natural world led him to create courses in environmental science wherever he taught. At Tabor, Bart taught both English and science, directed the Global Values Project and coached varsity crew, taking Tabor boats to the Henley Royal Regatta.
Bart’s thirst for learning was nurtured as a History of Ideas major at Williams College (Class of ’75), where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa. The desire to deeply understand the world led to a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University (1984).
Bart moved to Marion, MA, in 1988, and its people, harbor and Silvershell Beach became his soul home. He was the founding executive director of the Marion Institute, and then, with Sandria Parsons, founded the South Coast Learning Network, the largest purveyor of short-term adult community education in the South Coast. Bart returned to his Scouting roots to serve as the Cubmaster of Scout Pack 32, and his leadership earned him Marion’s Man of the Year (1997).
Bart’s passions spanned many interests. He was fascinated by building design, could recite from Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language, and designed and built, with brother Jim, his parents’ retirement home in Brewster, MA. He loved to travel; highlights included volunteer work in Tonga, study in Annecy, France, and birding adventures in the UK. He found peace rowing his single scull in Sippican Harbor, birding on its shore, and swimming daily in its waters. He was a voracious reader, each book filling rapidly with highlights and reflections on Post-It notes, and his conversations were rich with insights and convictions from all that he read.
Bart’s biggest love was for his children and he showed that love in big ways and small. Poems in sonnet form were written, quoted wisdom emailed, phone calls treasured, and adventures together savored.
Bart was predeceased by his father, Bartley B. Nourse, Sr. He is survived by his daughter, Rebecca Wieber Nourse, Boston, MA, and son, Jared Bartley Nourse, Hong Kong; his life partner, Sandria Parsons, Marion, MA; mother, Helen Tiffany (Clark) Nourse, Middlebury, VT; brother, James Hallett Nourse (Sarah Shipton), Lyme, NH; sister, Tiffany Nourse Sargent (Bill Sargent), Ripton, VT; many nieces and nephews, and a large group of close friends.
“Let the life I’ve lived speak for me.” Bart taught us how to embrace life fully, to continue to learn, to seek new adventures, to give oneself to others, and to face illness with courage and optimism. His was a life full of kindness, deep wisdom and genuine humility.
A celebration of Bart’s life will be held on Saturday, May 18, 2019 at Silvershell Beach, Marion, MA at 11:00 am. In lieu of flowers, gifts in memory of Bartley Nourse can be made to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to advance CLL research and patient care under the direction of Dr. Matthew Davids, c/o Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, P.O. Box 849168, Boston, MA 02284 or via www.dana-farber.org/gift, or to Learning Network Associates to support the Center for the Teaching Profession, c/o Learning Network Associates, Box 1023, Marion, MA, 02738.