Ed Winchester remembered for leadership and warmth

by Arielle Beak | 4/30/20 2:20am

Source: Courtesy of Karen Burgess

A gifted storyteller, Olympic rower and leader, Ed Winchester was known for his endless optimism and good humor. Winchester, who served as executive director of marketing and communications at the Tuck School of Business, died from natural causes on April 22. He was 49.

“He never complained and just had a really healthy attitude [that was] so refreshing and nice to see — just a very warm, fun guy who liked to laugh, [but] at the same time just incredibly professional,” Tuck senior associate dean for innovation and growth Kevin Lane Keller said. 

Wincester is survived by his three children, Ava, Noah and Rhys, their mother Allison, his partner — Tuck associate director of annual giving Karen Burgess, his brother Steve and extended family. In light of COVID-19, a celebration of life service will be held in the future when circumstances allow. 

Originally hailing from New Brunswick, Canada, Winchester graduated from Carleton University in Ottawa with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and later received a master’s degree in journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto.

According to Tuck communications senior writer Kirk Kardashian, a close friend and colleague to Winchester, much of Winchester’s world revolved around his love for his family and children, working at Tuck, rowing and music. 

“He held himself and his team to very high standards of performance — because of his warm and giving nature, [he] was able to elicit the best from people in a way that made it seem super easy.”

Winchester first came to Tuck in 2007, where he worked to expand Tuck’s strategic communications efforts for almost 13 years. Kardashian called him a “true professional” whose gift for storytelling and charisma made him the natural choice for communications executive. He said that Winchester had truly “found his calling” through his work at Tuck.  

According to Tuck dean Matthew Slaughter, Winchester’s affinity for writing was paired with a commitment to excellence, and he would draft his way to perfection — although Keller said that even his first drafts were always “unbelievably good.” However, this ambition never eclipsed his humble demeanor and ability to connect with those around him. 

Even so, “he wasn’t someone who projected to you intense competitiveness,” Slaughter said. “He held himself and his team to very high standards of performance — because of his warm and giving nature, [he] was able to elicit the best from people in a way that made it seem super easy.” 

His recent efforts were pivotal in revamping the bi-annual Tuck Today magazine. Slaughter noted that Keller and Winchester took ownership of the project in recent years.

“I just had total trust in Ed to do anything that was involved in his job. I could depend on him to always deliver.”

“In the past couple of years, it’s really taken a step up in terms of unity of an issue and the semantic resonance with the school overall,” Slaughter said. He praised Winchester’s ability to devise a thematic strategy that better aligned Tuck Today with the school’s goals, as well as to empower his colleagues to deliver a collective vision. 

Keller worked closely with Winchester as his direct supervisor but says that he considered him as more of a peer. He said that Winchester was always laughing, “bounding” into every room he walked into and bringing with him endless energy and life. 

“I just had total trust in Ed to do anything that was involved in his job,” Keller said. “I could depend on him to always deliver.” 

One of Winchester’s greatest passions lay in fitness, specifically rowing. He began rowing on the Kennebecasis River in New Brunswick and went on to become a five-time member of Canada’s national rowing team. He was also a member of the Canadian rowing team that participated in the 2000 Olympic Summer Games in Sydney, Australia; during this same year, he won a World Championship in the lightweight men’s pair in Zagreb, Croatia. 

He was inducted into the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame in 2008, and according to Slaughter, he was a beloved hero in his hometown and within the broader rowing community around the world. 

In Hanover, Winchester pursued his love of rowing on both the Connecticut River and an ergometer at home, even organizing a team to row in the Head of the Charles Regatta in Cambridge, Mass. every fall. He would not only use rowing as a time of contemplation, but also as a time to work through writer’s block. 

Winchester’s life was “consistent and tenacious,” his younger brother Steve Winchester said. Every morning, Ed Winchester would go downstairs, make coffee and row on his ergometer for 80 minutes. 

Winchester’s talents in writing and rowing came together as the editor of Rowing News magazine and as former editor and publisher of the Appalachian Mountain Club Outdoors magazine. 

Slaughter found Winchester’s talents in rowing complementary to his exemplary leadership skills. 

“He … empowered those around him to be their best selves and to elicit the highest performance of the team,” Slaughter said. “I think that was deeply in his bones from his career as a world-class rower. In crew, everybody in the boat has to be in alignment, functioning as a unit.”

In addition to his dedication to rowing, Winchester often expressed his passion for his work at Tuck.

Tuck assistant director of marketing and communications Justine Kohr said that she had been on the fence about accepting her offer at Tuck when Winchester sent her an email describing how joining Tuck changed his life and was one of the best decisions he ever made. 

“It was one of the most beautiful written emails I’ve ever received,” Kohr said. “And [joining Tuck] really did change my life for the better.” 

Kohr characterized Winchester as someone who led by example. 

“He was very, very giving of himself,” Kohr said. “He brought his whole self to work.” 

Another one of Winchester’s multifaceted interests was his deep love for music. 

Kardashian said that Winchester had an “encyclopedic” knowledge of rock music from the 1960s to the present. 

Winchester bonded with Keller over their mutual love of ’60s rock music — the two even attended a Canadian rock-and-roll concert in Manchester. Keller said that he was always impressed by Winchester’s knowledge of music that came before his time. 

When asked what Winchester valued most in life, however, his friends and family all agreed that it was his family. 

“He was my hero; he was my best friend. He was the person I chased to try to be more like everyday.”

He was often heading out the door to attend one of his children’s events, whether it was a swim meet, soccer tournament or ski racing competition, according to Steve Winchester. The four shared a love of the outdoors and spent time hiking together. 

Winchester and his brother shared a close relationship. Their father passed away when they were in their late teens, so to Steve Winchester, Ed Winchester was “the feeling of home.” 

“He was my hero; he was my best friend,” Steve Winchester said. “He was the person I chased to try to be more like everyday.” 

He said that his best memories of his brother are the small moments they shared. 

“He would call me while he was driving to the dump, or if he was going to pick up a burrito, or he would send me a funny picture of himself with a coffee in his hand at the Dirt Cowboy or something like that,” Steve Winchester said. “Those to me are the memories that every day you think about.” 

Most recently, Steve Winchester recalls his brother conveying his contentment and happiness with his life. 

“He said, ‘This is the best work I've ever done.’ I was really excited for him because Ed always had another peak, he always had that next thing to go after,” Steve Winchester said. “But he said this is the best I've ever been … Everything was going wonderfully — and that's as much as you can ask.” 

A donation can be made to the Ed Winchester Children’s Education Fund which will be used to further his children’s education. Contributions can be made through Mascoma Bank, 80 S. Main Street, Hanover, N.H., 603-443-877.