VASCI announces the passing of Dr. Anthony Borton

June 2021

Anthony Borton Equine Studies Scholarship
The Anthony Borton Equine Studies Scholarship, established in honor of the former professor and program director, provides stipends for undergraduate students in the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences who have an interest in equine studies. To make a donation to the Anthony Borton Equine Studies Scholarship in memory of Dr. Borton, please click here.

Dr. Borton’s Obituary -

The most expensive thing Tony Borton ever acquired in his life was Taman Farm, a 112-acre slice of heaven in Conway, MA, barely affordable on his starting professor’s salary of $7,200 in 1964.

There, the horseman, educator, conservationist, and civic-minded family man lived until he died peacefully on June 6 - his 88th birthday - always grateful for the magnificent view across 30 acres of open fields, two vigorous streams, a pond, a barn, and a handsome center chimney colonial built in 1785.

In his unpublished memoir written in the final two years of his life, Tony recounted the moments that shaped him – from his 5-year courtship and 55-year marriage to Ann (Hutton), to the birth of his two children, to his professional accomplishments in the Equine Studies Program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. A quote from Winston Churchill was a favorite: “There is something about the outside of the horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

Anthony Borton was born into a Quaker family in Bryn Mawr, PA, in 1933. His father, Hugh, was an authority on Japan and served as the head of Columbia University’s East Asian Institute as well as president of Haverford College. Tony greatly admired his politically-passionate mother, Elizabeth (Wilbur), a member of the Women’s International League for Peace with a wide range of talents that included carpentry, knitting and April Fools’ Day pranks.

In his memoir, Tony traced his love of the outdoors to the years after World War II when he lived with his parents and siblings on small farm in Fairfax County, Virginia. A favorite memory was a 12-mile round trip on his horse into town, tying the animal to a post on Main Street long enough to buy himself an ice cream.

The summer after his freshman year at Haverford College, Tony met Ann through a childhood friend. It took a few months before they went on their first date, but they quickly bonded over their shared values and love of animals. They married in 1957 and were never without a German Shepherd in their home.

Tony followed in his father’s academic footsteps. He earned a master’s and Ph.D. in Animal Husbandry at Michigan State University. In 1964, he accepted a teaching post in the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences at UMass-Amherst; he was a popular professor until his retirement in 1995.

He co-authored a textbook, The Horse, in 1977 that was used in curricula across the country. His long-time colleague, Wayne Hipsley, said Tony worked tirelessly to expand the Equine Studies Program at UMass to meet the needs of a broader group of students and to establish the UMass Equine and Livestock Research and Education Farm in Hadley, a model educational equine facility. Throughout his time at UMass, Tony taught introductory undergraduate courses because he enjoyed cultivating an appreciation for agricultural studies in the university’s youngest students, despite the challenge of keeping lectures and labs interesting enough to make up for the 8 a.m. class start time.

Tony’s ready smile and warm, quick wit won him loyal friends throughout his life. In addition to teaching, Tony operated an Arabian breeding program and attended and judged horse shows in New England and beyond. Ann and Tony visited all 50 states, spent time at a family home in Lavallette, NJ, and fostered in their children a love of tobogganing and skiing on Taman Farm’s fields in the winter. Tony was fond of swimming and sailing in the summer and looked forward to regular reunions with extended family of Wilburs, Huttons and Bortons. He was also devoted to the care of his aging parents and a sister, Ancy, all of whom settled near Tony in Conway.

His son, Tim, recounted the many ways in which his father made time for and encouraged his children’s interests, both when they were youngsters and as adults. Tony joined Tim in learning to windsurf on Barnegat Bay in New Jersey in the 1980s and to play golf in more recent decades. “We played a ton of really bad golf,” Tim said, “but we walked and always had a blast. He always made me feel like nothing was more important to him than our time together.”

His daughter, Tami, shared her father’s love of horses and all animals. She recalls daily trail rides when conversation wasn’t even necessary. “We’d just ride along, loose reins, just observing the changes in nature over time,” she said. “And he never thought he liked cats until he met mine.”

Tony and Ann were active in Conway town government and contributed to land conservation efforts in Franklin County. They donated a conservation restriction on their farm, all the while encouraging neighbors and friends to do the same. “We don’t really own the land,” Tony told the UMass-Amherst environmental conservation program. “We just have stewardship of it while we’re here.”

In the years after Ann’s death from cancer in 2012, Tony met Penny DeGeorges who became his constant companion. The pair regularly met with a group of about 10 others to explore the trails in the hill towns and valleys near Conway. They called themselves the “Thursday Hikers” and were like a family, said Nancy Goodman of Hadley, who, coincidentally, had Tony as an advisor during her undergraduate years at UMass-Amherst.

“Tony was the patriarch of the group,” she said. “He was the biggest kid of them all. He was just one of these special people, welcoming of everyone. He loved anything and everything life had to offer.”

Tony leaves a daughter, Tami, of Burlington, KY; his son, Tim, his daughter-in-law Diane (Connolly), and two grandchildren, Tyler and Emma, all of Harvard, MA; as well as his very dear friend, Penny DeGeorges, his faithful German Shepherd, Sukee, and three white Arabian horses.

Donations in his name may be sent to the Franklin Land Trust, P.O. Box 450 Shelburne Falls, MA 01370, or to Conway Community Swimming Pool, Inc., 309 Whately Road, Conway, MA 01341. A celebration of Tony’s life will be held at a later date.…