Human Interest
Ann Beach, Life Member 1927-2016
Sep 28, 2016, 14:24

Ann Dandridge Franklin Beach, longtime Annapolis, Maryland resident, sailor, computer pioneer, and wife of Rodney V. Beach, former head of the Key School in Annapolis, passed away on August 28, 2016, in Smithfield, Rhode Island, after a brief illness.

Ann was born in Flushing, New York in 1927. She was the daughter of Lewis B. Franklin and Martha Dandridge Franklin; her father was a banker and the longtime treasurer for the Episcopal Church in the U.S. She attended Chatham Hall and Vassar, graduating from Vassar in 1947 with a degree in math at the age of just 20.

In her memoirs, Ann confesses that, during her teens and early twenties, she was "obsessed with sailing." Her family spent the summers in Noroton, Connecticut, and she learned to sail in Wee Scots at the Noroton yacht club. By age 14, she was crewing regularly on Star class boats. The Star class sailors in Noroton were a fast crowd; two of Ann's friends and regular skippers were Hilary Smart and Owen Torrey, Jr., who won gold and bronze medals, respectively, in sailing at the 1948 Olympics in London. Unfortunately, Olympic sailing was not open to women at that time.

During World War II, Ann became Fleet Secretary for the Central Long Island Sound Star fleet, and helped to organize the 1945 Star world championships. Fifty-five years later, in 2000, she reprised a similar role when the Star world championships were held in Annapolis. Ann was one of 100 life members of the International Star Class Yacht Racing Association.

After graduating from Vassar, Ann moved to New York City and found a job as, nominally, a librarian at IBM's new Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory at Columbia University. This was an exciting time to be working for IBM, the Apple/Google of its day. Ann put her math degree to good use, and was trained to use the new calculating machines. She worked on a high-profile IBM project to determine more precisely the position of the moon which IBM used to show the public the capabilities of its latest machine. IBM's "lunar ephemeris" was the basis for the orbital calculations of the NASA moon programs in the 1960s, including the Apollo landings.

Ann also did calculations on her machine for Dr. S. Chandrasekhar, the Nobel laureate and famed Indian-American astrophysicist. In 1951, at age 24, she co-authored a paper with Dr. Chandrasekhar on radiative transfer in the atmospheres of stars - Dr. Chandrasekhar supplied the physics, Ann and her IBM machine crunched the numbers.

In 1952, Ann married Rodney VanRychen Beach of Easton, Maryland, who was then a graduate student in history at Columbia. In 1954, they moved to Albany, New York, where Rod took a teaching position at the Emma Willard School. Ann's time charting the moon & stars at IBM ended in 1954 when she became pregnant with twins. In 1958, Rod became the headmaster at the College Preparatory School, a K-12 all-girls' school in Cincinnati, Ohio; in 1977, he became head of the Key School in Annapolis.

At these schools Ann faithfully "crewed" for her husband in whatever capacity was needed to keep the school racing forward - figuring out the school schedule, advising the school newspaper, working in the business office, and organizing fundraisers and athletic events such as Key School's annual 10k run. She also worked for many years as a tax consultant in Annapolis, a job which satisfied her passions for numbers, puzzles, and people.

Ann was always active - sailing was succeeded by skiing, bowling, tennis, bridge, organizing the family's annual camping trip out West to a new national park, and knitting a lifetime supply of sweaters and blankets for her children and grandkids. Later in life, Ann and Rod enjoyed being the always-cheerful crew on camping, canoeing, and rafting expeditions organized by their children.

Ann is survived by four children - Betsy Beach of Providence, Rhode Island, Tom Beach of Berkeley, California, Ed Beach of Columbia, Maryland, and Penny Beach of Boise, Idaho; eight grandchildren; and three great grandchildren. A memorial event for Ann will be held on Saturday, November 5, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.

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