Tribute to Memory of Jean Travers
Jean Travers’ graduation at age 15 from SI in 1935 was the result of academic talent and family necessity.
“He felt he had to contribute to the support of his family after his father died,” his widow Elizabeth Travers of Redwood City said, explaining his early graduation. “He worked for Crocker Bank right after high school.”
Mrs. Travers, who established the Jean Travers Scholarship shortly after his death in 1992, wants her husband to be remembered for his lively intellect, gentlemanly demeanor, easy wit and breadth of knowledge. “I remember someone telling him at a cocktail party that he must be Jesuit educated,” she said. “I was impressed with that.”
She was also impressed with the scope of his library when she met him for the first time with a friend on the way to a play. “We were going to see The Lady’s Not for Burning. He had it on his bookshelf. I asked to borrow it, thinking he’d call me if I didn’t return it right away.”
Jean was born on Fanning Island, a tiny coral atoll in the Pacific about 200 miles north of the equator where his father worked as a radio operator during World War I for the British Telegraph system. After his father’s death, the family returned to San Francisco where his mother had deep San Francisco roots. Jean attended Notre Dame de Victoires and proved a precocious student who skipped two grades in primary school. He was the oldest of three children when he entered SI, but his younger brother Paul died of spinal meningitis while at SI.
His life was marked by strong contrasts. After World War II broke out, Jean left his bank job and joined the Navy, first working in intelligence and then seeing action in the Pacific aboard the light aircraft carrier USS Intrepid which survived kamikaze and bomb hits. But the retired Navy recruit actively opposed the Vietnam War where his former aircraft carrier spent three combat tours.
He entered Stanford University after the war, majoring in English literature, but worked as a manufacturer’s representative in the house wares industry, starting his own business in San Francisco. “I think he would have loved to have been an English teacher,” Mrs. Travers said. “He loved literature and kept a compendium of poetry on his bedside table.”
One of his long-time clients, Chuck Williams of Williams-Sonoma, described him as “a salesman, one with great gentleness and charm. He sold with complete sincerity and loyalty.” He also debated fellow San Franciscan Casper Weinberger on television, Secretary of Defense during the Reagan Administration.
Widely traveled and well-read, Jean enjoyed classical music and discussing New Yorker articles with his wife. He organized a Redwood City neighborhood group to advocate for open space and had several other philanthropic interests. He continued to write checks for worthy causes even in lean years, assuring his concerned wife that gifts to those in need “always come back to you.”
“He was a great husband, father and grandfather,” she said. “His death left a great hole in my life. The Travers Scholarship Fund keeps his memory alive for me and for the students it helps.”
Mrs. Travers has also established a charitable remainder trust in her husband’s memory and is a member of SI’s Carlin Society.
For information on establishing a named scholarship fund or charitable remainder trust at SI, call Director of Development Joe Vollert ’84 at (415) 731-7500 ext. 319.