|Shots from RPI ‘45’s
Over the past several years the theme of the Class of ’45 Notes for the Alumni News has been “Our Career Stories”. It has been an interesting theme since each submission painted an “individual” picture of one of our classmates since they graduated from or left RPI. In some contributions it was only a piece of the picture, but always an interesting vignette of an event or of part of their life. Twenty years ago in 1990, when these Notes started to be collected, each individual wrote the input. That’s when most of us were around 66 or 67 and starting retirement. Now that it is 2010, the input is often written by a wife, daughter, or son reflecting on the life of their husband or father who was our classmate. As you read these “Career Stories” and “vignettes” this becomes a “collage” of the Class of ’45 and very interesting reading. For those that are a part of the RPI Class of ’45, you should be proud of what you and your classmates have accomplished in those 65 years.
Click on the links at the right to read through the shots, which are separated out alphabetically, as the file all in one piece would be too large to post on a Web page.
In 1995, our 50th Reunion, we tracked down 321 names and addresses that were Freshmen in college in 1941 when the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor on December the 7th. A later note indicates that there were 407 Freshmen in the Class in 1941 at RPI. Those 407 Freshmen scattered right after Pearl Harbor. After Pearl Harbor most colleges that I know of were put on a full calendar year schedule, i.e., classes continued straight through the summer. Many decisions were being made too, “I’ll join the Marines!”, “I’ll join the Army!”, “I’ll join the Navy!”, “No, I’ll join the Army Air Corps!”, “I know, I’ll join the Navy V-5 Program (pilot training)!”, “Oh no! I have been drafted!”, “No, I’m going to stick it out and try to graduate!” Then the Army showed up with their ASTP (Army Specialized Training Program...they were sent to other colleges) and the Navy with their V-12 Program (regular college for future officer candidates). Each of those decisions reduced the number of Freshmen at RPI except for those that stuck it out, the Navy ROTC and those that joined the Navy V-12. The Navy ROTC program students became the base unit in the Navy V-12 Program at RPI and a large group who had signed up for the Navy V-12 Program from many colleges were sent orders to report to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in June of 1943 to continue their college courses. That filled the dormitories and the small group of civilians had to live off campus, but joined the Navy students in regular classes. Things got rolling early in the morning when you heard reveille to rouse the Navy students to muster for Navy calisthenics and Taps at night for lights out. During the day things looked very much like a normal campus except almost everyone was in uniform. The Gym was a very busy place with more PE and those Navy FitnessTests on a regular basis. Weekends found the local USO (Troy and Albany) busy, and Russell Sage was a popular place or you could hitch a ride to Bennington or Saratoga. You quickly learned that you had to be prepared each day in class, because you almost always had to solve a problem and explain how you solved the problem...graded of course. RPI used a schedule of regular classes up to the last two weeks in the quarter when it was Reviews. You reviewed a percentage of the course each day with a test and received a grade each day. If at the end of those two weeks your grade average was 3.4 (out of 4.0) or better you didn’t have to take the exam unless you thought you could improve your grade. If you had the high marks in several courses, it could mean several days leave.
In early 1944 the NROTC received orders to be commissioned and report to various ships and Navy Stations. Our Aero NROTC members were commissioned and reported to six of the Essex Class Carriers in the Pacific. That meant that they were not able to complete their course work to qualify for a degree at that time. The rest of the Class continued on through the summer, some graduating in the summer and the rest in October of 1944. In September of 1946 after most had been discharged to inactive duty, it was like old home week when many returned to campus to pick up where they left off using the GI Bill. This included those that had left in the early 40’s to their service of choice. They then technically became a part of another Class Year since they graduated later, but we reclaimed them for the 50th Reunion!!! Now, after a large number of significant and glorious careers we are celebrating our 65th Class Reunion!
FINDING THE CLASS OF ’45 FOR THE 50TH
I found this note when pulling this file together and thought it very timely to include it as special tribute to Bob, since without his wisdom, experience, with the Class of ’44 the year before and encouraging me to work the problem, our 50th would have been a MUCH smaller gathering! We are still in touch; he recently called me to make sure that I knew that his brother-in-law had died. I felt a strong feeling to go see my long time friend and had been down to see Lloyd the week before.
Bob Barnes '44 has struggled with trying to pull the Class of '44 together for the same reasons that we are experiencing. He has called me several times from Wayland, MA to discuss some of the secrets of pulling out the class members from the scattered piles of data. I am sure that our job will be a lot easier due to Bob's persistent efforts. Bob happens to be the brother-in-law of very close friends of ours here in California. Thanks Bob for extending yourself to help us straighten out the lists.
There were 407 listed in the freshman class in the '42 Transit, and then Pearl Harbor changed the picture. Today there are 119 listed as Class of ‘45 graduates. Others are listed in different graduating year classes (NROTC (108) and others). In '43 the V-12 added more to the original list. There is a group that didn't graduate from RPI. From our '45 list there are those that we can't locate. Then we have our known losses whom we hold in memory.
I received a great letter from George “Bud" W. Schadd X'45 now '48 who you will notice is the Class Correspondent for the Class of '48. Bud painted a very clear picture of what happened on the campus in those early years of the war. The draft was, of course, a concern to all, but then the Reserves came and signed up everybody to make sure there would be engineers available too. That was followed by everyone being called up a few months later. The Army formed the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) and the Navy the V-12 Program. NROTC continued as part of the Navy Reserves plan. The Army discovered that they needed Infantry more than engineers, so the ASTP provided them. This same picture was duplicated on every campus in the US.
The 50th Reunion Countdown is down to 3 months and still counting! Thanks to Bob Bernard, Phil Clarke, Irene Wynnyczuk, the RPI '45 computer list, and my RPI '85 directory, I was able to piece together the list of '41 Freshmen, the original '41 list of NROTC, the list of Juniors in the '44 Transit, and the RPI Class of '45 computer list into a list of 514 plus the list of deceased that were part of '45 at one time. All but 94 are listed with RPI classes from '43 to '57. The RPI Class listings showed '45 with 263, '47 with 47, '48 with 68, and '49 with 20. A diligent student working with Irene worked through the files to find the current addresses.
You will remember that when we were on campus in '43-'44, there were fifteen to twenty Navy officers working toward a degree in Civil Engineering. They gave the rest of us ample opportunity to sharpen up our saluting techniques. Reports say that most were Annapolis graduates from the class of '41. We have heard from several in the last newsletter and Waldron McLellon reports on several others: Jim Bartlett stayed in the Navy into the 1970's and became a Rear Admiral, CEC. After he retired he went with a big Texas construction firm, Raymond International, becoming Senior Vice President of Engineering. He then retired to Savannah. He and his wife own a dwelling out on Oahu, so they go to Hawaii for part of the year. He still is a ham radio operator and also is doing a lot dabbling in computers.
Tommy Cocke as you reported left the Navy in the early 1960's and went to Lutherville, MD. He became the public works type for Johns Hopkins Hospital. After some years, he left and became a very successful consultant on hospital systems. He and his wife are still in Maryland.
Bob Thomas retired from the Navy as Captain, CEC, about the same as I did ('63) and went to California. He became the Public Works Director, Orange County, California. Some years later, he took over the position of Orange County Administrator, a large position with a one billion plus annual budget. He now is retired. His reputation was terrific, to the extent that the new county administration building was named for him. Bob's wife, Carole, passed away some years ago and he is unmarried.
You may not remember, but Chuck Merdinger, 1946, also was a member of our USNA 1941 class. He came to RPI in the class after us, later went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and took a Ph.D., writing a history of Civil Engineering as a dissertation. He retired from the Navy as a Captain, CEC, in the early 1970's. Since, he has been President of Washington College, Maryland, and subsequently into a variety of other things in the educational field. He and Mary always have been avid snow skiers and have a condo at Tahoe as well as their house in La Jolla, Ca.
Now as for Waldron M. McLellon, P.E., I left the Navy early, in 1963 as a Captain, CEC, and went back to RPI for a doctorate in Environmental Engineering, with Kilcawley as faculty adviser. I finished my Ph.D. in 1966. Afterwards, my efforts were spent as an engineering faculty member at Clemson University, then University of Central Florida, Orlando, a total of 15 years. I now am a Professor Emeritus from UCF. Subsequently my wife and I owned a consulting engineering firm, then I became a free lance consultant and writer, continuing to this day. At 75, I publish articles, a little poetry and have a Civil War novel in press. My wife, Naomi, and I are still in reasonably good health, so we remain in our own home. My main emphasis is composing on my home computer, hers is sewing for charity.
Harold Georgens '50, Charles Kalt '50, James Lott '50, Robert Lyons '50, Oliver Trechter '50, and Newell Whitcomb '50 should make this a special reunion, because they can celebrate their 45th post war class and their 50th with their '41 Freshmen class. Those Freshmen roots develop very strong ties, we have discovered. A special mailing to the '41 Freshmen reflected definite interest in being part of their '45 class. Edgar Lehman '48 and Lindsay Collins '47 wrote me to make sure they were on the list. Irene has even more.
Note: After the experience with ’44 and ’45 and probably with ’42 and ’43 class reunions, RPI allowed alumni to be listed in their “preferred Class year”, so now when I ask for a list of the Class of ’45 I get the whole list of “preferred and graduating year” classmates. In reality very few of the Class of ’45 actually graduated in 1945, because they had either graduated earlier or in later years when they returned.
Bob Leff BME ‘45 reported that the 50th Anniversary of the Navy V-12 Program was a great success for all who attended the 4 day event in Norfolk, VA in early November.
The program was well organized and implemented, with excellent support from the Navy. All the "old boys" who attended looked pretty spry for their 68 to 72 years.
From our headquarters at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott Hotel (which we took over completely) we were bussed to the Naval Base, the Amphibious Base and the Naval Air Station, for a busy two days of tours of the latest Aircraft Carrier, Amphibious Assault Ship, Guided Missile Cruiser, Nuclear Submarine, Landing Craft Air Cushion, and several of the newest aircraft and helicopters.
Two Admirals -- The NATO Supreme Commander, Atlantic and the Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Fleet gave very interesting updates on the present status of the Navy. They had a good understanding of our country's role in the post cold war era. They told how the Navy and Marines are prepared for any actions necessary, even with greatly reduced personnel and fleet size. We can support major military operations on two fronts anywhere in the world. The people are well trained and the equipment is excellent and battle tested.
We shared a lot of experiences with fellow V-12ers from RPI and from the other schools from all over the country. One morning, after some of the speeches, several of us told the group our favorite sea stories.
The Statistics of the Event: Only 8 people from RPI attended. I was the only one of the 74 V-12ers who graduated with the class of '45 in August 1944. 520 V-12ers were present. About half brought their wives.120 of the 131 colleges that participated in the V-12 program were there. The number of participants from each college ranged from 1 to 20. Those with the higher attendance had active alumni organized support.
The V-12ers from RPI who attended were:
Dennis R. Garwood, Donald F. Goetz, Stanley Landgraf, Robert C. Leff, William Lehrer, James A. Morgan, Leo B. Sherry, and Biddle A. Whigham.
50th Reunion Reports:
The Parade! No one on the side lines would have guessed that our good size group of 61 were those that had been in military organizations. Of course our infamous hat got all the attention with two peaks with "I'M THEIR LEADER, RPI '45, Which Way Did They Go?" on the front(?) (designed by Leonard Crenan ChE, I'm told) ( maybe Allen Crepeau ChE helped with that). Phil Marks AE granddaughter made him go back and get one after the reunion. I've got mine hanging on the wall for the 55th in June 2000. I know it will stay there, because I wouldn't dare wear it duck hunting. We had honorable mention in the parade (they have to give everybody something) We did win an award though, for the biggest gift to Rensselaer. I'll let someone else report the numbers.
Bill Beck MCL and I got together not long ago to look at some of the pictures from the Class dinner. We were trying to put names with faces, since he knew people in the early class years that I didn't. If it wasn't for Bill and other dedicated people like him in San Luis Obispo County, CA many families wouldn't have the food they have on the table. He gets up at 4 a.m. to go pick up left over food, then goes to the many fields in the area to glean crops that were too ripe to be shipped to you. While he is resting, he helps get it organized for distribution to those in need. Bill discovered that I didn't get a picture of his table (very few were at the table when I was busy taking pictures)
Bob Bernard AE writes: There were 12 1945 NROTC Aero Engineers who were commissioned in early '44 and traveled together from Albany to San Francisco by train for aircraft carrier assignments in the Pacific. Of the 12, eight are still around and kicking. Seven of the eight made it to Troy for the big 50th. Only Ed Cortright, who had a seriously ill grandson had to cancel, but he had just been back at Rensselaer as a guest lecturer.
We had a fabulous time reviving old memories and catching up after 50 years. Very soon the personalities we remembered shone through and we were all in a time warp back in the mid-40's. We unanimously agreed (of course) that we all looked great. Just about all of the surviving eight are athletes of one sort or another -- mostly golf or tennis. And, we all agreed our wives of many years are now starting to mumble! The "Surviving Eight" vowed to be back in Troy in 2000 for our 55th. Present were George and Carolyn Cook, Dick and Mary Jane Donahue, Ted and Ginny Gaieski, Mort and Norma George, Emil Kremzier, Ray and Ann Zimmerman, and Pat and Bob Bernard. Ed and Bev Cortright were unable to attend.
Bob Lyons MGR received the Alumni Key Award at the Awards Banquet at the same time that I received my Directors Chair, then we skipped that dinner and went to the Country Club for the Class dinner. Bob was in the original Freshman '41 class, went into service, and returned to graduate in 1950. He identified those at his table as Marty and Peg Davis, Bill and Bonnie Werther, Bob and Nancy Lyons, and John and Ann McCaul.
George "Bud" Schaad CE wrote that those that got separated from '45 really appreciated that they were invited to "their" 50th too. Bud was very active in getting the word out to encourage all that came.
Chuck Flora AE helped confirm who's who in one of the pictures and added a good picture of the foursome to the collection. They were Chuck , Jim Decker, John Graves, and Paul Dickman all AE. Louise Flora, Dory Dickman, and Sunniva Graves completed the picture at the table.
Jim and Marguerite Neilson, Mike and Lil Marx, Phil and Bertha Marks, and Verna and I had a great gab fest at the picnic, which was continued at the 50 Year Club dinner Saturday night We missed John and Gisela Meyer to round out the old working team in Aero.
Bob Leff MCL alerted me to bring out the statistics at the 50th. It might surprise you to know that out of the 61 on the list, 33 rejoined '45 for the 50th. Only 28 present were on the RPI Class of '45 list. ALL were Freshmen in '41. Eleven were freshmen in other schools and transferred to RPI with the Navy V-12. Five were civilians, 17 NROTC, 16 Navy V-12, 5 Navy pilots, 9 Army (including Air Corps) plus 9 that I presume were Army or Air Corps. Twenty eight graduated in Class of '45, 15 in '47, 12 in '48, 3 in '49, 2 in '50, and 1 in '51. That certainly confirms that the freshmen roots of a Class are very strong and that we were right to invite the "real Class of '45".
On our wonderings around campus we were of course very interested in the areas and buildings that are now RPI, but were not part of campus in our time. Notable among them was the "Voorhees Computer Laboratory" in the old Chapel building. That of course was named for Alan Voorhees CE (part of the "real Class of '45) who felt that computing capacity on campus was very important. As you may know RPI is noted for it's integration of computing techniques into the engineering courses in all areas.
Well, if you had your "1942 eyes and memory" in focus when you got the "Alumni Alert" about the Navy Reunion, you saw six ROTC getting the vital information about machine guns from the Chief. If they were really in focus you may have recognized all six of the ROTC and the Chief. If you were an old Aero like me you at least recognized Bob Bernard (A.E.), Ed Cortright (A.E.), and George Cook (A.E.). Did you recognize more? If you noticed a funny hat on a guy on page 11, you may have recognized Mike Marx (A.E.). On page 29 of the Sept. Alumni News Mike Marx (A.E.), Jim Neilson (A.E.), and Bill Beck (ML) were decorating the space with those outstanding hats. If you missed the picture of Verna and me, you don't read the Alumni Notes! Looking at the picture on the Hudson river dinner cruise I recognize a number of people, but when I got my copy of the class taken at the parade, I didn't get very far with names. How far did you get?
Jim Neilson (A.E.)& Marguerite report that Mike (A.E.) & Lill Marx, Al Crepeau (CH.E), Bob Nagel (CH.E.), and Bev & Don Vandenburgh (BME) were all together in the Class dinner picture.
The Class of ’45 Dinner Report:
At this point I am here on campus finishing off the news for the next issue. Thursday we began to gather the Class of '45 together with a record 67 alum plus guests that raised the total to 116. minus some that couldn't come at the last minute and some new ones that did.
The first gathering was on the dinner cruise down the Hudson with about 28. Bob Bernard arranged a lunch rendezvous with the Aero NROTC group with a great turnout.
This was truly the first gathering of all of the '45 vintages and it seemed to be the consensus that it was a great idea. That was just the beginning though, we had a great Class Dinner at the Troy Country Club with the warm up drinks and task of finding all the old buddies. It was either the drinks or the great meal that stimulated the wild stories that followed. Jack Westbrook MT refereed the story telling, and some didn't remember the interesting details that had been added. The Eli Silverman EE story about the "lost coat", the story of Lyons falling downstairs, etc. Well they always taught us to be innovative didn't they. Bob Bernard's story of how his room arranged to get people to turn off loud radios took the cake....they rigged up a device to cause all the surrounding radios to make a wild noise. No one ever knew where it came from.
Well I have to run for the parade. I'll tell you about that next time.
Introductions to Class Notes in years following:
A Bit of History: On October 21, 1944 the remnants on campus of the Class of '45 graduated from RPI with their Bachelor Degrees. Those in V-12 had orders to one of the Navy Midshipmen Schools, i.e., Cornell, Notre Dame. Those in NROTC had already been commissioned back in March and were out at sea and returned to get their degrees in ’46 – ‘47. Those that were civilians left with degree in hand for their first position as an engineer. That was 55 years ago.
Back to 1999: When the Southern California Alumni Chapter sent me notice that they were planning a "Day At The Races" at Del Mar, it sounded like the real way to go to the races and it was. There were close to 75 people that showed up. They had reserved a spacious room overlooking the race track with lots of good food and of course a convenient place to bet on the horses. Now that is the way to go to the races!
A Bit of History:
Fifty five years ago in March 1945, the members of the Class of '45 that were
V-12 at RPI were being commissioned at their respective Navy Midshipmen's Schools. Orders were sending them to the Pacific, specialist training, and some to duties in the States. The war was nearing an end in Europe, but it was still very hot in the Pacific. The Japanese Kamikaze’s were becoming very active around Okinawa and the invasion of Japan was obviously going to be a tough road.. Nobody that we knew had any idea that bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki would end the war in the Pacific in just a few months. Think about that!
A Bit of History: 55 years ago, the war in Europe was over, but the war in the Pacific was still creating havoc especially in Okinawa. There was lots of talk and concern about the potential upcoming invasion of Japan. A few were on their first job in industry, those in NROTC had been in the thick of it for over a year, those in the Army & Air Corps were already experienced veterans, and those in the Navy V-12 were new Ensigns on board a ship or Navy Station. I was looking at my first CVE carrier that had been hit by a Kamikaze amidships and had limped back to Norfolk Navy Yard for repairs. Not a pretty sight.
Sixty years ago in the fall of ’46 most of us were coming back to campus to finish up our work towards a Bachelor’s or to go for a Masters or more. Thanks to the GI bill the cost for tuition wasn’t the big factor, and the stipend for room and board filled most of our other needs. That’s when Rensselaerwick was born to provide places for the married veterans. I had a room in Thompson House down town across from the YWCA (great food), which is where I met my future wife.