George Macomber had a big heart. He threw himself into life’s challenges wholeheartedly with energy, humor and compassion. Eaglebrook’s best and most successful alpine skier not only made two Olympic national teams in 1948 and 1952 after an outstanding intercollegiate racing career from MIT but he also with his MIT mechanical engineering degree headed for many years the family company, the George B.H. Macomber Construction Company. Four generations of Macombers guided this famed company from 1904 to 2007. Renovating such important Boston landmarks as the Faneuil Hall Marketplace buildings, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and, at Massachusetts General Hospital, a historical house where physicians used to live, his company also built newer Boston attractions – the Four Seasons Hotel and New England Aquarium’s IMAX theater.
George and his wife Ann (Andy), a Smith College student met just as he was leaving for St. Moritz for the 1948 Olympics. They made a great couple for both were excellent skiers, loved to travel, and had a passion for helping children. By George’s 80th birthday he had visited (and skied if possible) more than 60 countries covering every continent except Antarctica as well as 47 states.
With success the Macombers shared their good fortune and wisdom quietly but generously with many institutions including Mass. General Hospital’s Cardiac Performance Program, Home for Little Wanderers, Comrades for Kids, Planned Parenthood of MA, lifetime Overseer of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, director of the Emerson Hospital in Concord, the Boston Harbor Associates, the New England Council, the Winsor School, the Artery Business Committee, the Judge Baker Children’s Center, the National Ski Hall of Fame, the Hochgebirge Ski Club and many other skiing associations – including founding with three others, Brooks Dodge, Malcolm McLean, and Mack Beal, the Wildcat Ski area.
When asked to join the Eaglebrook board in October 1966 George quickly accepted. Before long he became the head of the Building and Grounds Committee as he had at so many other schools and organizations. George, Eaglebrook ’41, Gerry Mayer ’44, and Bob Larsen ’46 were a tower of strength for a rookie headmaster in his early years. Together they gave over 110 years of guidance and support to a school where as students they had studied, played, skied and grown into honorable and compassionate young men who gave generously of their time and wisdom. It is not a coincidence that George and Andy said that their “kids” John, Jory, and Grace were their proudest achievements and have followed in their footsteps as teachers, volunteers, business leaders, and civic contributors. Together George and Andy were named recipients of the 2007 Camille O. Cosby World of Children Award. Eaglebrook is honored that Jory and Martha Macomber’s son Sam ’08 attended Eaglebrook and captained the ski team just like his father Jory, Uncle John, and Aunt Grace all captained Dartmouth’s ski teams.
A couple of anecdotes are in order. When I was a young student at Williams College I was invited to race in the Hochgebirge Cup while the Austrian National Ski Team was invited as well. I had fallen painfully in the downhill and was able to participate the next day in the slalom thanks to a canny local doctor in Franconia who gave me some medication that I was to take every two hours until the race guaranteeing that I would feel no debilitating pain by race time. She was correct but because of my poor performance the day before I was scheduled to start the slalom in the 72nd position. As I skied down adjacent to the course watching the other racers and hoping to learn from their performance, the ruts around the slalom gates grew bigger and bigger and softer for it was a warm day. Finally after watching about fifty competent racers struggling with the torn up course I came upon George who had set the course. “What should I do about all these ruts?” I asked. George simply smiled and said “Ski the flushes backwards and the gates very high.” I guess I did what he suggested for as I finished I was greeted by a big cheer. I had felt a wonderful sense of rhythm coming down the course. Unknown to me I was in the top ten. Probably the cheering was because the long wait of those watching was over at last.
Once in a board meeting I lobbied hard to get the board to approve funding to buy up some of the wood lots on Mt. Pocumtuck bordering Eaglebrook property but owned by folks in the valley who no longer needed that much firewood and were probably glad to monetize the asset. I wanted to preserve all the land we could that made Eaglebrook the rare forest experience it had been in my childhood. Money was tight (it always is to a schoolman) and George demurred growling, “You know, Stuart, we are not in the real estate business”. Then he smiled and helped pass the motion. And that vote and others like it is why the school has been able to protect so much land on both sides of Pine Nook Road, over 700 acres, well above the 35 acres founder Howard Gibbs had bought in 1921.
Our memories of George and his family are warm ones. We will never forget among all George’s honors and achievements the great loyalty and passion he had for this school.
Read a remembrance of George ion the Ski Racing magazine website here