The following article, written by David Cole, DS45, appeared in the Washington Post and in the Fall 2020 Deep Springs Newsletter
Gregory B. Votaw, 92 years old, an economist who dedicated his life to world economic development, alleviation of world hunger, and peace activism, died Friday night August 28 2020. He passed peacefully with his three children at his side in a retirement community in Adamstown, MD. He was a resident of Bethesda, MD for more than 55 years and enjoyed spending summers with his daughter and her family in Steamboat Springs, CO. He was born in Chester, PA in 1928. He is survived by three children and six grandchildren: Stephen Gregory Votaw of Arlington, VA, and his son Daniel G.J. Votaw of Santa Fe, NM; Michael Albert Votaw and his wife Elizabeth S. Votaw of Potomac, MD and their children Alexandra Votaw, Anna Votaw, and Michael Todd Votaw; and Lisa Votaw Olson and her husband Brian Olson of Steamboat Springs, CO and their children Taylor Delgado Olson and Abby Marie Olson. His wife of many years, Carmen Delgado Votaw, a prominent Puerto Rican women’s equal rights and civil rights activist and lobbyist from Yabucoa, PR, died of breast cancer in February 2017.
In the Quaker tradition of his father, Ernest N. Votaw, and after seeing several high school classmates at Westtown School in Chester, PA perish in World War II, he became a peace activist, pacifist, and conscientious objector. Never running away from a moral fight or responsibility, he was active in the peace movement in Chicago in the 1950’s. As a conscientious objector, rather than leave the country or risk being jailed for refusing to fight, he volunteered to serve in Korea in the Christian Missionary Service supporting the civilian corps of the U.S. Army for two years during the Korean War.
He graduated from Deep Springs College in California, earned a master’s degree in Economics from the University of Chicago, and completed the equivalent of a PhD in economics at Lincoln College at Oxford in England. He was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society His professional career began as an economic consultant for the Government Development Bank of Puerto Rico in San Juan, PR. There he met his wife Carmen, and they married in 1960. The Votaws moved to Tehran, Iran where Greg served as an economic development consultant with the Harvard Advisory Group in the early 1960’s. Their first child, Stephen G. Votaw, was born overseas in 1962.
They moved to Bethesda, MD in 1963 when Greg began working at the World Bank. They lived in Bethesda, MD for more than 55 years and were active in the community, the Montgomery County Democratic Party, and their church- St. Luke’s Episcopal of Bethesda, MD. Greg and Carmen were very involved with St Luke’s Church since its early years in the 1960’s. They were devoted to St. Luke’s open, progressive, and socially conscious mission. Greg served on the church’s Vestry leadership and was involved in numerous programs. Their son, Michael Albert Votaw, was born in 1964 and their daughter, Lisa Votaw Olson, was born in 1967.
Dedicated to economic development and improvement of the world and the lives and livelihoods of its people, he worked for the World Bank from 1963 to 1978 as an economist, country director, regional director- Africa, and regional director- East Asia and Pacific. There he managed financing and planning for major infrastructure and industry development projects in India, Bangladesh, Korea, the Philippines, Japan, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Each of his three children, in turn, were able to accompany him on trips while he performed his work with the World Bank. Thus, they were given a firsthand taste of his wide-ranging world travels- through Africa, East Asia, Australia, and Europe.
Always thoughtful and generous, he took time to lead and support many progressive causes including The Hunger Project, Christian Missionary Service (during the Korea War), Samaritan Ministry, the 1818 Society (for World Bank retirees), and the Gala Hispanic Theater. He was a dedicated fan attending hundreds of his grandchildren’s lacrosse, basketball, softball, baseball, and soccer games, and dozens of their musical and theater performances.
Mr. Votaw lost his older brother, Albert N. Votaw, in the terrorist bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983. He had followed in Albert’s footsteps attending high school at the Westtown School in Chester, PA and then Deep Springs College in California. After his brother’s death, he was like a father and grandfather to Albert’s four children- Claire Votaw, Susan Votaw West, Cathy Votaw, and Mrzy Votaw- and their families.
Greg was loved by everyone he met. He was kind and caring and sought the best in everyone he met. In many ways, he was a silent hero who led by the example of his deeds. He will be missed by all who knew him. In his later years, he was thankful for those who cared for him, completing a life full of grace, while rarely complaining despite physical ailments that accumulated over time, including total blindness from glaucoma and chronic back pain. He worked to complete crossword puzzles into the last week of his life (with help from his children due to his blindness).
Earlier in retirement, he enjoyed spending summers in Steamboat Springs, CO where he loved attending outdoor concerts and enjoying the beautiful mountains and scenery of Colorado with his daughter and her family. In his honor, he would be grateful for everyone to look for ways to lend a helping hand, to be generous with your smiles, to be open and willing to understand another person’s point of view, and to seek the best in everyone you meet. He believed that in the end what is most important is not your accomplishments and what you do with your life, but rather how you make others feel. He will certainly be missed for the many ways he filled our lives with love and light.
In a final act of service, he donated his body to the Maryland State Anatomy Board to support medical students and scientific research. A memorial service will be conducted through St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Bethesda, MD at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to The Heifer Project, Deep Springs College, Gala Hispanic Theater, or St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Bethesda, MD.