Thanks to all of you who responded to the requests for memories of Cornell! Here are some thoughts from our classmates about their time on the Hill.
Cal Simon shared an excerpt from her Cornell journal. “It is St. Patrick’s Day,1961. While that has just jolly significance to you people of the normal world, it is the day of ritualistic behavior on the Cornell campus. At home, Horn & Hardart bakes a few cakes and the mayor proclaims any Irish ancestry he can dig up, but here the architects (who are about as Irish as I am) go wild. The day starts with ads in the Sun proclaiming all manner of parties at which the featured dish will be corned beef and cabbage and green beer. The thought of that at 8 a.m. is almost enough to send you back to bed until Memorial Day. Then on the way to class, architects, who have been up all night readying themselves, approach you with cans of green paint; if you aren’t wearing something green, they paint you (anything from a dab on the nose to your whole head).
“As 10 o’clock approaches, a large howl goes up in the Quad and from the architecture building comes a huge 100-ft. dragon. It is composed of a mammoth papier-mâché head and a long series of painted sheets tied together and mounted on 50 drunken students. They parade around and go in and out of buildings, painting people as they go. Then if you are studiously inclined, you go to the new library. At the end of the main corridor, there is something called a sculpture court. It is surrounded on all four sides by huge glass windows, but it is open to the sky and has a gravel (heated) floor. There, clutched together for warmth and wondering how they ever got there, are nine full-grown chickens dyed green for the occasion. The architects must have vegetable dyed them and dropped them in from the roof above. The ‘hen pen’ provided the main amusement for the day, but at 5 p.m. it reached its highlight. That’s when the man from the Vet school came to collect the chickens. There is a glass panel door in the back of the court. While cheering students watched from all sides, he merrily went about his task of catching nine chickens. It was great fun and, as usual, the students cheered the fluttering chickens to the end. The Straight also featured ‘green’ everything today, and for some reason the food tasted as bad as it looked.”
Gary Caplan writes, “It certainly wasn’t the most important thing, or maybe even the most memorable, but when I returned to campus a few years before our 50th, I missed the dogs running free, joining us in class, and I remembered the Alpha Dog, Tripod, surveying his kingdom from the steps of the Straight.” Two memories came from Steve Schmal: “Our 50th Reunion: the only one I’ve attended. I really enjoyed it. And the Tom Lehrer concert (November 14, 1958). This dates me. I remain a fan, even though he’s performed very little in the past 40 years.” Neil Schilke, MS ’64, says, “I loved Cornell from the first day on campus. It was obvious to me that I was not the smartest kid in the class, and I proceeded (not on purpose) to try and prove that by failing all of my first-round prelims. At the holiday break, I was failing almost every class. I went home and studied literally every day, came back, had a couple of exam successes and killed the finals. Biggest first Cornell lesson was that this wasn’t going to be easy and the corollary was that hard work pays off.”
And now for some current news. From John Munday, a retired professor at Regent U.: “Thank you to all who made my 80th birthday so memorable. From efforts by my wife, Judi, daughter Sarah, colleague Phil Born, former student Judi Vankevitch, Anita Reed, and others, I received over 100 birthday cards, far more than my number of years! I enjoyed phone messages and a wonderful Zoom call as well. Some callers joined in from years well in the past. I was very blessed and happy to hear from each one. Your many special messages encouraged me greatly. Also, of course, family from near and far came to the house for a birthday meal and festive celebration, including Judi’s lemon meringue pie with candles, and ear-pulling – one pull for each year – a family tradition on birthdays, Such a memorable day!”
Houston H. Stokes writes, “After Cornell, I went on to a PhD in economics in ‘69 at the U of Chicago after my two years in the US Navy. I retired in 2017 after teaching 50 years at the U of Illinois in Chicago. I decided to pack it in due in part to the effects to having a massive stroke in 2015 one day after I turned 75. Our free time now allows us to spend more time with our grandkids and our two sons families. Due to the COVID-19 we moved to our Sawyer, MI house from Chicago in March 2020.”
Gary Brayshaw writes, “I have recently published three novels: My Friend Billy, The Consummate Fix, and Repechage, all available through Amazon in paperback or hard cover. There you can read the jacket cover for each. My fourth novel is called The Choice.” He adds, “Like Tithonus, I forgot to ask for eternal youth. So there are lots of things I would like to do that I no longer can.” We can all identify with that!! But Gary hastens to cite many things that give him pleasure. “Watching my children find their way and my grandchildren grow. Knowing that as a person who did not talk until five or read until sophomore year in high school, I went on after graduating Cornell, to earn a master’s in economics, a master’s in literature, and a PhD in American Literature, not to mention write three novels. Also, the abiding knowledge that I rowed on the undefeated 1959 freshman crew, actually the fastest crew in the country that year, and that every boy in that boat remains my brother to this very day.”
I hope that 2021 is a good year for each of you, that you are staying well and safe in this strange and scary time, that you will find much fun and laughter in your life, and that you will think about contributing one or more memories of Cornell to our next column. We were in this together, and we still are!!! Gearing up for our 60th Reunion