In Memoriam: Frederick Durant and Richard Ahlborn

Frederick Clark Durant III

Frederick C. Durant III, an authority on spaceflight and rocketry who for 15 years was an assistant director of the National Air and Space Museum, died Oct. 21 at a hospital in Mount Dora, Fla. He was 98.

From 1965 until he retired in 1980, Mr. Durant played a key role in building the Air and Space Museum’s space and rocketry collections and its space-art collections.

Before joining the Smithsonian, Mr. Durant was an engineer with E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., a World War II Navy flight instructor and test pilot, a rocket engineer with Bell Aircraft, engineering director at the Naval Rocket Test Station in Dover, N.J., and an aerospace specialist at the management consulting firm Arthur D. Little Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. In the mid 1950s, he helped organize the short-lived Project Orbiter, a joint Army-Navy satellite project headed by aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun.

Frederick Clark Durant III was born in Ardmore, Pa., on Dec. 31, 1916. He graduated from Lehigh University in 1939. In the 1950s he was president of the American Rocket Society, now known as the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

On retiring from the Smithsonian, Mr. Durant was a consultant and historian with Intelsat. For several years, he was author of the “Rockets and Guided Missiles” and the “Space Exploration” entries in the Encyclopedia Britannica, his family said.

His first wife, Celeste Bennett, died in 1945. His second wife, Carolyn Jones, whom he married in 1947, died in 1997. She was the mother of his children. Two sons preceded him in death: Derek Durant in 1951 and William Durant in 1994. Survivors include two children, Carolyn Gable of Mount Dora, Fla., and Stephen Durant of Wilmington, N.C.; six grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Richard Eighme Ahlborn

Richard E. Ahlborn of Bethesda, Maryland, died on Oct. 29. He retired from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 2002 as Curator Emeritus, Department of Cultural History, where he had served since 1964. Prior to joining the Smithsonian, Mr. Ahlborn was curator at the Joslyn Art Museum on Omaha, Nebraska.

Over the course of his career Mr. Ahlborn enthusiastically mentored interns, conducted research, produced exhibits on a number of subjects, and wrote more than 50 books and monographs on his research specialty, Spanish American history and arts. Among the notable exhibitions Ahlborn worked on for the American History Museum was “American Encounters” which told the stories of the communities that make up the state of New Mexico.

Born in Kansas to George and Dorothy Ahlborn in 1933, he was educated at the University of Colorado, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in studio and art history with honors and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Ahlborn was awarded a Henri DuPont Winterthur Museum Fellowship at the University of Delaware, where he earned a master’s degree in American studies. He was a Fulbright Scholar in the Philippine Islands where he studied the region’s many Spanish colonial churches. He also received a graduate grant to study under Prof. George Kubler at Yale University.

Mr. Ahlborn is survived by his partner, Marla Bush, of Bethesda. He will be buried in Smith County, Kansas, where his parents and a brother, George Ahlborn, who preceded him in death, are interred.


Posted: 10 November 2015
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