Welcome to our first virtual class column!

Jun 10, 2021 | ARCHIVES

Whoever said, “You can’t teach old dogs new tricks” didn’t know the Cornell Class of 1962!!! Just watch us pivot!  

Speaking of the specialness of our class and of our time at Cornell, the recent death of Walter LaFeber at age 87 sparked a lot of reactions from our classmates. His NYTimes obituary states, “After he earned his doctorate in 1959, he was hired as an assistant professor at Cornell, joining a star-studded roster of political scientists that would include Allan Bloom, Andrew Hacker and Theodore J. Lowi.” What a time!  We and he arrived at Cornell simultaneously.  Can it be that he was only 6 years older than we are?  YIKES!!!

Alan Flaherty writes: “I think all of us who attended our 50th reunion will well remember Walter LaFeber’s gracious recollections of our shared time on The Hill.”  Neil Schilke expanded: “Professor LaFeber’s wonderful symposium presentation in which he explained our lives from our time on campus forward to the reunion; all of the on-campus events he included (the Cuban missile crisis, the first U.S. space flight, etc.) were vivid memories, now put into the context of how the world was going around.  When I received his Chronicle obit, I started playing his final lecture with the intent of just getting a sampling of what he would say.  An hour later, I saw him walk off the stage with his “historical footnotes,” after having explained Cornell during his four plus decades there.  Wow!  Hunter Rawlings was right when he said that there are very few ‘scholar teachers’ and Walter LaFeber was the best of the best.” The Cornell Chronicle that Neil mentioned includes this link to his last lecture in NYC in 2006 to 3000 adoring alumni – 50 minutes of fascinating fact-and-name-filled words without any notes!!! It’s a magical hour of Cornell and world history!

Peter Schuck says, “I was among Walt’s first students at Cornell, and we continued to communicate thereafter. Here is the poem that Peter wrote on the occasion of Walter LaFeber’s retirement in 2006:

Can it be that he’ll retire?
when in his belly there’s still fire,
when colleagues he can still inspire,
and students who their prof admire?

Cornell cries out “This cannot be,
The lecture hall he must not flee
Clio says, lugubriously,
“This day is dark for History”

But retirement day should not appall
Friends of Walt – let us recall
There’s life beyond McGraw Hall
Like teaching grandkids basketball

More hours with Sandy and to write
Rather than hone lectures late at night
More time for reading books to cite
Continuing to set history aright

So, friends of Walt, don’t be sad
Retirement won’t be so bad
The finest teacher whom we had
Is, geologically, still a lad.

Barbara Wecker writes, “Loved Professor LaFeber’s history/foreign policy class. And he gave a great talk at our 50th reunion.” And Linda Roberts adds: “I remember his wonderful lectures at Cornell and our study group at SDT to prepare for his exams.”

From Rich Alther: “Professor George Healey’s Chaucer course was so popular it was scheduled Tu,Th, Saturday at noon to limit enrollment. Didn’t work. After class, we had to dash to the football game. About the applause: at first, I thought this a polite thank-you. Same for Edward Fox, Rossiter, Hacker et al until I realized, no, beyond brilliant lecturers they were performers with bravura to prompt the wild clapping.”

Betty Kreps Zielinski writes:, “Marilynn Schade and I were in the front row of a government lecture by Clinton Rossiter in Goldwin Smith Hall.  We both had on knee socks. Prof. Rossiter walked to the front of the stage and asked us, “So, are knee socks in or out?  We said we weren’t sure, and he replied, “Okay then you are either in or so far out that you are in!!! I must say that my years at Cornell were among the best of my life – being taken care of financially and still being on my own with the only worries about grades and getting term papers in on time. I wish I could relive just one day of that time again – especially when being alone since mid-March due to Covid has me doing a lot of happy memory searches.”

Otto Doering submits a story he calls “By Chance”: “When I was in the process of busting out the end of my sophomore year, I had to choose an advisor. I was a government major and went to the Department secretary for advice because she was one of the few people who had smiled at me. I explained that I was not up to having Rossiter or Hacker and then asked her, ‘Who is nice?’ Without any hesitation she responded, ‘George Kahin.’ I signed up and then proceeded to bust out. I spent four months wrangling horses in the Canadian Rockies (having never ridden a horse when I took the job) and six months preparing cases in the Municipal Courts of New York City. In fall 1961, Dean Perry was willing to let me back in, so I arrived in Ithaca to sign up for classes. I had to put together a class schedule with my advisor and then get signatures from those teaching the classes. I climbed the stairs to the attic of what was then Franklin Hall where George Kahin had a plywood cubicle for an office. Two of the plastic chairs outside his door were occupied – a bird colonel from Army Intelligence and a ranking State Department officer. These were the early days of US on the ground involvement in Vietnam. I quickly learned that Kahin was an expert on Southeast Asia and likely the foremost expert on Vietnam. Kahin spent more time with me than he did with the colonel and the Foreign Service officer. I signed up for Kahin’s class, The US and Asia. I received the first ‘A’ I ever got at Cornell. I had never worked so hard for a class before. He put his faith in me, and I was desperate not to disappoint him. I then took his Governments and Politics of SE Asia. These two classes were remarkable, drawing on Kahin’s postwar experiences in SE Asia, his wide-ranging knowledge, and his skills as a teacher. I did not have a lot of contact with him but felt he would help me if I needed it. I applied to the London School of Economics and with my dismal undergraduate record, Kahin’s letter of recommendation was the only reason I got in. On finishing at the LSE, I was offered two jobs in SE Asia and made a good choice between them with Kahin’s advice. After four years away from Cornell, I returned with wife and child for graduate work in another field. A month later, Kahin phoned out of the blue inviting my wife and me to dinner to meet someone he thought we should know. That individual became a lifelong friend. George Kahin continued to be a part of my life until his death. We visited every time I came to Ithaca and he and his wife visited us. I realize now that he quietly and unobtrusively watched out for me. I was never quite sure why. I certainly wasn’t a very impressive specimen when I arrived at his door to get him to sign my class schedule in 1961.”

Continuing the theme of notable professor memories.

Rick Kelly writes, “In the 59 years since my graduation, most of which were spent in the hospitality industry, I have accumulated a great family, great friends, and an adventurous life in the US and abroad. Suffice to say, the Hotel school was the catalyst for all of these wonderful memories. One salient memory of my time at Cornell involved one of the finest men I’ve ever met, Dean Beck. When returning to the Hotel school, after a brief hiatus during which I acquired the practice credits I needed to graduate, I submitted my proposed class schedule to him; his response was classic Dean Beck, and I quote, ‘Kelly, if you are prepared to spend another year here, stick to this travesty – here is a more practical schedule that will see you out of here in June.’ At graduation, Dean Beck addressed me with a smile on his face: ‘Kelly, we are finally getting rid of you!’ ”

Joy Harwood Rogers writes, “I kept this a secret, but I went to Cornell from Montreal, Canada, at age 16, not due to brilliance but because schools in Quebec at that time only had 11 grades and my birthday is late in the year. I told one date, and he withdrew in shock because, after all, I was jailbait. From then on, I told anyone who asked that I was 18! I was at Cornell for two years and then went to the nursing school in New York City. A fun fact is that Tony Fauci, MD ’66, was in the parallel medical school class. Professor Marchand was assigned to the nurses and welcomed us with dinner at his home, a really special occasion. The nursing school was three years, so I am actually a member of the class of ’62 and ’63. Tony Chan has been instrumental is orchestrating Zoom meetings for the nurses. Such fun to connect. I loved Cornell. It was a struggle, as I had not had any American history. Also, I noticed that all the American girls had a certain charm on their charm bracelet. I finally asked what it was for. Well wouldn’t you know, it was the National Honor Society. My Canadian accent got me into trouble when I asked for a map and was queried about what I had spilled — my ‘map’ sounded like Upstate New York’s ‘mop’! So there were many cultural as well as academic challenges for me. I was fortunate that my brother Fred Harwood ’59 was two years ahead of me and really guided me through many hoops. I had great friends as dormmates and sorority sisters. They made me feel welcome. I remember all dates were study dates! I wonder if it is still like that or if current students have to study as hard as we did. I loved walking to class in that gorgeous crispy snow, and then the blessing of the first days of spring. I feel blessed to have gone to Cornell and then to the nursing school, which has since been sadly closed. A great education led to a fun life and many great memories and lasting friendships.”

Paul Marantz sends this story, called Cornell Goes to the Dogs: “When I warmly recall some of the most consequential high points of my time at Cornell, its canine population is not the first thing that comes to mind. Nonetheless, there’s no doubt that the lively group of dogs roaming the campus was a distinctive part of the Cornell scene.

Rumor had it (though I have no idea whether there is any truth to the tale) that a benefactor had left money to Cornell on the express condition that dogs have the run of the campus.  In any case, whether this folk tale was true or false, there was a happy pack of dogs that freely wandered the campus, passing in and out of the buildings unhindered.  Most prominent among them was “Tripod,” a huge, majestic dog who despite missing a front paw ruled the pack and roamed near and far in regal splendor.

The coming and going of the dogs was usually uneventful, but on one occasion, in the middle of a large lecture class, a couple of amorous dogs moved front and center into a broad aisle and began to copulate.  We were all transfixed by this unexpected spectacle, but the instructor (whom my fallible memory recalls as the prominent political scientist Ted Lowi) perhaps being more worldly than we were, was completely unruffled.  He made some brief comment acknowledging the unusual activity and calmly proceeded with his lecture.  Some sixty years later, while having strong memories of his impressively calm demeanor, I can’t remember what he had to say, and the copulating dogs remain a vivid memory of my time at Cornell.”

And on that note, you are invited to search your brains for stories of your time at Cornell!  As always, send to Evelyn Eskin, Class Correspondent.

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