June 18, 2020
Chappaqua - Peter James Quandt, 71, of Chappaqua, New York, passed away on June 18, 2020 of cancer. Peter was born in Fort Benning, Georgia, where his father, Dr. Val Quandt, was stationed during World War II. Peter's mother, Faith L. (Hurtig) Quandt, was a nurse and homemaker. After the war, the family moved back to Wisconsin, settling in Hartford, where Peter grew up with a younger brother and sister. In school, Peter was known for his intellect and for always questioning everything and everyone, including his teachers. Upon graduating, Peter was the only student in his class to attend college out of state. Peter graduated from Georgetown University magna cum laude with a degree in government. Peter went on to a successful career in publishing. From his first job writing summaries for book jackets, he rose through the ranks of Macmillan Book Clubs, Inc., becoming President and CEO in 1988. When Macmillan Book Clubs was acquired by K-III and became Newbridge Communications, Peter remained at the helm. He was later promoted to President and CEO of the K-III Education Group. Peter Bergen, a colleague during this time period, remembered Peter for his "unflinching honesty and decency" and for his interest in and respect for others. Mr. Bergen also highlighted the impressive growth in sales and profits that Peter created. In 1996, Peter began his own company, Haights Cross Communications (HCC), which acquired various subsidiaries that published educational, medical, and audio materials, including Recorded Books. In 2007, Peter left HCC and started a few new ventures, including Illume, an online platform for university instructors and their students to create, compare, and access learning materials. Peter created Illume to democratize access to educational content and drive down its escalating costs. His business partner, Justin Irizarry, explained, "providing a public good was as important to Peter as the business' success." Outside of the publishing world, Peter devoted his time to several non-profits. From 2002 to 2012, Peter was the chair of the board of the Fund for Social Change, a foundation that used philanthropy to increase the power and well-being of disempowered people in New York City. David Tobis, the founder of the Fund, said, "Peter brought his brilliance as an administrator, his passion for justice, and his boundless kindness to impeccably guide the Fund throughout its existence." Peter and his wife also hosted students at their home for many summers from the Chappaqua Summer Scholarship Program, an academic enrichment program for students in New York City public high schools. Peter met his future wife, the former Diane Fergerson, at a party at Vassar College when they were undergraduates. When Diane went to Washington, D.C. for a semester, and moved into the house Peter had just left, they started dating. Two years later, Peter and Diane cycled across Southern Canada, from the Thousand Islands Bridge to Golden, British Columbia. They carried all their gear and camped along the way, often in farmers' fields by the road. The trip was cut short when Diane developed appendicitis in the Canadian Rockies, just four hundred miles short of Vancouver. Peter and Diane were married in 1973. They lived in New York City and had three children: Mark, Lauren, and Gillian. The family experienced a great loss when Lauren died unexpectedly as a baby. In 1985, Peter and Diane moved their family to Chappaqua and often returned to the city for concerts, events, and dinner with friends. When his children were young, Peter enjoyed reading with them and teaching them to ski. He was especially interested in their schooling and sports as they got older and then later in their professional careers in finance and law. He and Diane always visited Mark and Gillian wherever they lived, including Tanzania, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, and Cambodia. Peter enjoyed getting to know his children's friends and later their spouses, Mary and Omar. One of Peter's defining traits was his relentless desire for knowledge. He never accepted anything at face value and always wanted to know the facts behind any argument. Before the internet, he would consult encyclopedias and dictionaries daily. Peter delighted in the easy access to information that Wikipedia and the iPhone provided. Peter was well-versed on many different topics—he took online calculus classes for fun in his mid-60s—and expected those around him to be similarly curious and well-informed. Peter could be opinionated and stubborn but was receptive to different opinions if they were supported by rational arguments and data. Peter was a voracious reader and participated in many reading groups throughout his life. Besides calculus courses, he also took photography and wine tasting classes. Peter loved good food and drink, sampling a wide array of new music and art, and learning about other cultures. Together with his wife, he traveled to many countries, often exploring by bicycle. After his family and work, his biggest passion was for exercise. Peter ran cross-country in high school and began running again in his mid-twenties. From then on, he ran almost every day of his life and completed several marathons. He also enjoyed long bike rides, alone or with his wife or friends. At the time of his cancer diagnosis in late 2018, Peter was training for a triathlon. Peter was clear-sighted about his terminal diagnosis and determined to enjoy as much of life as possible. Even while undergoing grueling chemotherapy, Peter pushed himself to lift weights, cycle, and walk. Peter's final year and a half was spent with friends and family and pursuing his insatiable quest for knowledge. He and Diane traveled to France, Morocco, California, Hawaii and picked up where they had left off nearly fifty years earlier to finish the final four hundred miles of their Canada trip— this time by car and train. Peter was predeceased by his parents and his daughter, Lauren. Surviving are his wife of 47 years, the former Diane M. Fergerson; children, Mark Fergerson (Mary) Quandt and Gillian Fergerson (Omar Elafifi) Quandt; grandchildren, Ethan Quandt and Layla Elafifi; sister, Heidi Rossiter; brother, Mark David Quandt; niece, Molly Callahan; nephew, Noah Wolf; and aunt, Audrey Larsen. Private graveside services were held in North Syracuse Cemetery. Donations may be made to Chappaqua Summer Scholarship Program (chappaquasummerscholarship.com) or the Wikimedia Foundation (wikimediafoundation.org).
Chappaqua - Peter James Quandt, 71, of Chappaqua, New York, passed away on June 18, 2020 of cancer. Peter was born in Fort Benning, Georgia, where his father, Dr. Val Quandt, was stationed during World War II. Peter's mother, Faith L. (Hurtig)... View Obituary & Service Information
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