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Dr. John Alden Corson


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Hanover, N.H. — Dr. John Alden Corson of Hanover passed away at age 80 on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 in his home surrounded by family members, love and laughter.

John grew up in Yarmouth, Maine, the son of Dr. Carl Cutting Corson and Esther Gertrude Alden Corson. When his father died, Clifford B. Swearingen became stepfather to John (then age 6) and his younger brother David.

John attended the University of Maine at Orono where a professor helped him find his passion and purpose in the study of psychology. In 1959, at the age of 22, he married Madeleine J. Gatchell of Cape Elizabeth Maine and immediately started a family. In 1960, John entered graduate school at the University of Vermont to get his MA in Psychology.

John went on to get his PhD at McGill University, studying under his mentor Dr. Donald O. Hebb. After receiving his degree, he continued to teach and do research while working in the burgeoning fields of psychobiology, biofeedback and behavioral medicine at McGill.

In his spare time, John—a lifelong ski racer and former member of US Ski Team’s Olympic development program–coached the McGill University Ski Team to multiple national championships. He took up off-road motorcycling and held the number one ranking in both the enduro and trials competitions in the Province of Quebec for four consecutive years.

John was also an avid sailboat racer. While in Montreal, he befriended and built Finn monotypes with Bruce Kirby and Ian Bruce, the pair that soon thereafter designed what became the Laser, one of the world’s most popular boats. During this time, John won the Canadian National Championship in Finns in a heavy air regatta that included former Olympic medalists and world champions.

In 1974 John became a professor of Psychology at Dartmouth College, taught at Dartmouth Medical School, and practiced at the VA Hospital in White River Junction, Vermont. At the VA he was known for working with the most difficult clients. Upon retirement due to health issues, his coworkers were sad to see him go. They presented John with a plaque which read “Oh My God what will we do now! Award to JAC for treating the patients everyone else is scared to death of!”

John was proud to have published several books and numerous articles throughout his career. Another one of his helpful contributions to mankind was co-inventing the GSR-a biofeedback machine which used galvanic skin response to help patients in stress reduction and pain management.

He spent his years in New Hampshire living in the same home he originally purchased in 1974: his beloved farmhouse with a beautiful view of the Connecticut River he worked endlessly to perfect. Around the house, John delighted in having a reputation for repairing whatever needed to be repaired with what he considered his wonder tool-Gorilla Tape. He also used Gorilla Tape to improve the appearance of various items that were otherwise working properly.

John was a great storyteller and his children, grandchildren, and friends all loved being regaled with stories of his childhood–from his brother David riding “Ferdimand” the Pig to jumping off the barn roof to test flying with an umbrella and ultimately learning the law of gravity. The memories make us smile.

John is survived by Dr. Mary Schneider his wife of 25 years, his former wife Madeleine Corson, three of their four children, and four grandchildren.

He spent the last five years since his retirement enjoying his view of the Connecticut River and accepting living his life with limits. The last few days, he enjoyed telling people around him how much he loved them and reminiscing about how beautiful life has been.

He was able to sing joyously along with music that was played by his bedside and bounce out the beat with his hand to the rhythms of the jazz he loved. What a blessing to spend time together and hear stories of old and create new ones. In his last days, the biggest snow storm of the winter arrived; the snow, which he loved so much, fell from the sky to coat the earth in a lovely powder; powder snow that would be beautiful for a ski. As he leaves us, we can find comfort in imagining him skiing through eternity until we meet again. We will always love you. And as John would often say, “That’s all she wrote.”

For anyone wanting to make a donation in John’s honor and in lieu of flowers, please donate to Friends of Veterans 222 Holiday Drive Suite 20 White River Junction, Vt. 05001 Phone: (802) 296-8368 Email: assistance@fovvtnh.org

There will be a celebration of John’s life at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Upper Valley on 302 Route 5 South (diagonally across from Fogg’s Hardware) Norwich, Vt. (802) 649-8828 on April 15th at 2 p.m.