Leighton M. McCutchen ’55

Leighton M. McCutchen '55

Leighton McCutchen, PhD, born August 10th 1933, passed away at home May 17th, 2022, surrounded by family. Leighton was born in Bulape, then the Belgian Congo, to missionary parents who, he said, would likely have been environmentalists in this era.

Leighton met Martha Jackson in Latin class in Nashville, Tennessee. He graduated from Davidson College, 1955. They married three days after Martha graduated from Maryville College, 1956. Both continued in graduate school at ATS and Union Theological Seminary and did clinical training at Medical College of Virginia at Richmond & Staunton State Hospital. Their first child was born in Richmond. Union awarded Leighton a Hoge fellowship which he used toward his PhD at University of Chicago, Illinois. They had two more children while Martha researched Early Childhood Education. Briefly following his fathers’ profession, Leighton was an inventive presbyterian minister, once offering a sermon on Ciardi’s poem: “The King Who Saved Himself from Being Saved.” 

In 1965 Leighton became Assistant Professor and Chairman of PhD & Masters Studies in Human Nature & Religion at Hartford Seminary Foundation, CT. He developed a successful program allowing students to disassociate from the Vietnam war, and taught psychology and philosophy of religion. He published “Dream without Myth” & “The Father Figure in Psychology and Religion” in 1972. In Hartford, Leighton developed an international lecture series, later becoming a Visiting Lecturer at Harvard Divinity School during a sabbatical year taken while his family moved to Heath, MA, 1973. 

In Heath, Leighton aimed at balancing physical farming and an intellectual life. He became a community psychoanalyst and clinical psychologist, calling it his third profession. He developed an independent practice for children and families called the Shelburne Falls Clinical Group, going into partnership with Martha in 1979. His son Brooks joined the practice, 1991.

Retiring 2002, Leighton wrote poetry prodigiously and helped with his family’s sugarbush. Philosophy, psychoanalysis and farm work were rich intersections for Leighton, challenged by the emerging environmental crisis. Leighton supported his son’s family’s Agroecological farming and outreach, his eldest Veterinary daughter’s eclectic work with exotic and domestic animals, and his youngest daughter’s University teaching and writing, often editing her manuscripts. He survived two heart valve replacement surgeries (2000, 2013).

During the pandemic, Martha and Leighton spent their time on their beloved farm, reflecting on their life together. Leighton died in the company of wife and children, with grandchildren traveling from Vancouver Island Canada, Baltimore MD, and Bar Harbor Maine. 

Leighton was given a green burial in South Heath Cemetery in the presence of local friends and family, who shared memories. He always said he hoped for his wife, children and grandchildren to be around him, and that he would pass at home.

Leighton is survived by his wife of 66 years, Martha J. McCutchen LCSW; daughter Sharon McCutchen DVM; son Brooks McCutchen PhD, husband of Janis Steele PhD, their sons Connor, Rowan and Gavin Steele McCutchen; daughter Deborah McCutchen MFA, her spouse Timothy Paulson BFA, their daughters Lilith and Pippin Paulson. All participated in Leighton’s green burial. 

He is deeply missed.


“While reflecting on our lives, Leighton remembered the trauma of his father’s death at a young age, though he acknowledged that he replicated many things his father gave him. From age 4, Leighton was expected to put his shoes in those of his talented father. Leighton Senior had a keen sense of humor, was sympathetic, engaging with people, and had high ideals. He was the 3rd generation of ministers to graduate from Davidson, where he started a literary society and a varsity debate team. He was a North Carolina tennis champion, a minister and teacher. Leighton Jr was also in a debate team when he met me. He played tennis, and focused on mind and body as a healthy way to live. He taught in every part of his life, even in his sermons while at Chicago University. He had so many talents with language, poetry and music. He was part of Barber Shop Quartet at Davidson, and later, at a formal faculty dinner at The Hartford Seminary Foundation, he was famous for singing a Beatles’ song with Martha, “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road.” Leighton was a master of diverse talents.”                                                                                                                                                                                  – Martha McCutchen


  To Martha

One day stretched back, one after the other.

Tomorrow stretches forward, one day after the other.

In all, quite a stretch:

             In how complex our dynamic has become;

             In how life giving we have been to each other;

             In how we bounce back from trouble to satisfaction;

             In how unknowing we were at the beginning

             Except we wanted to be, and stay, together for life.

I am amazed at us, and deeply satisfied, in spite, and because, of all.

And altogether ignorant about how one of us will survive the other.

Love, Leighton