1944 Class Annalist’s Letter
Taking the Measure of Our Days
William M. Ringle, Class of 1944
Delivered: June 4, 1994
President Tobin, ladies and gentlemen, fellow members of 1944:
I know I speak for the Class of 1944 when I say we’re delighted that President Tobin is Hamilton’s 18th president. But we sincerely hope he won’t repeat his predecessors’ mistakes that alienated students and faculty.
Of course, we’re referring, specifically, to digging up the campus and planting it in hay and vegetables for the president’s own use and for sale. President Samuel Ware Fisher did that in 1858.
And we trust he won’t give students cause to pray publicly for him, as a member of the Class of 1826 was forced to do for President Henry Davis (a forebear, incidentally, of our classmate, Dana Babcock). The prayer described him as “an old gray-headed sinner, leading his scholars down to Hell.”
Still, the faculty in those days wasn’t blameless. A professor of ancient languages prayed publicly: “Thou knowest, Lord, that the faculty of Hamilton College have sinned in high places, and we pray thee, Lord, that if they are obstacles to thy work, that thou would remove them out of thy way.”
But hark! Do I hear a whirring sound coming from the College cemetery?
That would be Willard Bostwick Marsh rotating at 1,500 RPMs in his grave at the impudence of it all: The worst declamation student in modern history inflicting himself upon an audience.
I half expect Swampy’s ghost, clad in one of those forest-green or offbrindle suits that he favored, to leap, any minute, as he used to, from a pew in the rear of this Chapel and come charging down the aisle, brow furrowed, yanking his glasses from his nose. Nevertheless, I’ll proceed.
We’re together today, you might say, because a penniless, heroic 53-year-old Presbyterian missionary family achieved his dream of a place just a few feet from here to educate Oneida Indians. We can only speculate on what that missionary, Samuel Kirkland, might say were he to return today and find that no Oneidas are matriculating here at this College that succeeded it.
Or what that flinty Calvinist might say upon finding that what they are doing today is running a very successful gambling casino over in Verona, and another out in Wisconsin.
But we’ll leave that kind of historical conjecture to Dick Couper. Dick worked with the Oneidas — with a descendant of Kirkland’s friend, Chief Skenandoah, in fact — on last month’s 200-anniversary celebration of the founding of the Hamilton-Oneida Academy.
For it’s only a little more than a fourth of Hamilton’s history that we 44 members of the Class of 1944 and our friends are here to muse over today. That period began Thursday, September 19, 1940, when 130 of us freshmen joined all the other classes in this Chapel for the opening of College (though we freshmen had reported three days earlier for orientation and testing).
We shared four characteristics: age, gender, color and apprehension. In the main, we were strangers to one another. Most of us were from Upstate or our antecedents had been. As Owen Thomas observed, Bob Emery, from Bartlesville, Oklahoma, was our class effort toward what admissions officer now call “geographic diversity.” And our ideas of Southerners were Scotty Brewer and Bob Insley who came from a suburb of Washington with their exotic Tidewater accents.
As for that “cultural diversity” colleges strive for today, we not only had no Oneidas in our class, we had no blacks, though by then 122 years had passed since this College produced that fire-breathing 1830s apostle of racial equality, Gerrit Smith. Only two upperclassmen were black, though neither we nor they would have employed that British usage. The socially sensitive word was “colored,” and Negro was the term newspapers used.
When we were here no woman graced either the student body or the faculty. As for an Asian-American or Hispanic student, there was none. The only Oriental on campus was Wu Tehyao, from Malaysia, who later became a professor in Singapore and who died in Taipei last April.
The only cultural phenomenon we anticipated, as we stumbled into compulsory chapel every morning at eight minutes before eight, was what kids now call “bad hair.”
Dr. William Harold Cowley, the president at that time, decreed that each morning’s chapel talk should deal with something of substance. For instance, in one of those talks (he recalled later, quite seriously), he extolled the benefits of sleep. Now, rousing a bunch of teenagers from their beds in the early morning to lecture them on the value of, as they say, getting a few Zs, may seem like folly of a high order. Perhaps that’s why Dr. Cowley decided to put himself on a rigorous schedule of chapel every six days. Had one of our class been watching a couple of weeks ago as the 1994 graduates paraded across the platform, he couldn’t have helped contrasting them with us.
Their class is three times larger. Almost half women. Fourteen blacks. At least 24 of East Asian ancestry. Thirty-two from foreign countries. They were taught by a faculty 41 percent female.
No way to determine, short of a poll, how many in 1994 are Jewish, but only a handful in the Class of 1944 were. No faculty members were. Our classmate, Bob Linowes, said he “never felt so alienated” as he did in the days following that first orientation meeting. At home he’d been popular. Here, in all the fraternity rushing that was going on, he was kind of a nonperson. He walked around the campus in despair, on the verge of quitting, when he felt a big hand on his shoulder. It was the new dean of students, Campbell Dickson. They talked for hours. Dickson invited him home to dinner and told him, “If you or I walk away from this, we’ll never beat it.”
Fortunately for us and for Hamilton, Bob stayed. Fortunately, too, Hamilton has progressed. Last week an old friend, an editor, who is Jewish, assured me that his son, a student here, has not had to report any such misgivings.
Though our hormones were percolating and sex was inevitably very much on our minds, we would have seen no reason for that word — in either of its meanings — to be uttered in those orientation sessions.
When, we haltingly sang Carissima for that first time here, we weren’t jarred by the lines (long since rewritten, I’m sure you’ve noticed), “mother of loyal steadfast men” or “we will still be thy boys.” Any suggestion that that language might have been a smug celebration of male exclusivity, or that women should have been among our classmates, would have seemed too far-fetched even to contemplate.
Maybe one of our classmates, Jonah B. Reeves, a tall, rawboned guy from just outside Oneida, had an intimation of things to come. In Royal Gaboon, our “humor” magazine, 53 years ago, he wrote a bit of doggerel titled “Coup d’Etat”:
I had a dream the other night
When everything was still.
I dreamt I saw all women
Upon our College Hill.
Now Prexy took the Mrs.’ place
And she had taken his’n.
While we kept house from day to day
She preached of “womanism,”
Female janitors stoked the fires
While bachelors made each bed,
And women profs filled all the chairs
From which the men had fled.
The football team was eleven blondes
Who really knew their stuff.
And the boys from Vassar clapped with glee
When the game was getting rough.
What caused this funny turnabout
I have one reason for:
Eleanor had played her cards
And showed dear Frank the door.
Our first get-together leapt to mind when I read a New York Times account of the freshman orientation at Columbia in 1992. There, college officials urged freshmen to avoid bias against homosexual fellow students.
Shock and puzzlement would have gripped us in 1940 had Dean Frank Humphrey Ristine even mentioned the word. Undoubtedly, some members of our class were homosexual, a few faculty members were, according to President Cowley’s papers. But for anyone — especially a dean — even to have alluded to homosexuality in a public meeting would have been unthinkable. The “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” policy was pioneered on this hilltop for more a half-century before the U.S. military considered it. And, of course, the dear old word “gay” had not been purloined for its current meaning. But that usage did exist then. I refer to a 1941 Cole Porter song, Farming.
Not only were we more circumspect in what Dean Ristine might have called “carnal matters,” but our lives were infinitely more parochial. The mobility of today’s college students — even high school pupils — would have been beyond our ken.
Today some 40 percent of Hamilton students spend a year abroad. This year 174 of 420 juniors will be away. Viewing this trend at Kenyon, a college much like Hamilton, an unreconstructed professor grumbled, “Studying natural history is not the same as visiting a zoo.” So many students are going to be away from Hamilton this year that the College, to avert a surplus of beds in the dorms, was forced to sharply limit off-campus housing.
In 1940, keeping up intellectual pretense alone could be taxing for a freshman. Some upperclassmen were giving us a rundown on the faculty. Professor Edgar Baldwin Graves, they advised, was one of the world’s foremost authorities on the “Rota records,” welcome to pore over them anytime he pleased down in the bowels of the Vatican archives. I, who wouldn’t have known a Rota record from a can of Arbuckle’s Coffee, was heard to exclaim in fake awe: “Is that right? Wow!”
Then we all went on to chuckle over their account of how Professor John R. Mattingly and his wife had met at a “Sanskrit convention.” Because Mr. Mattingly, our Greek and Latin professor, and his wife seemed so delightfully otherworldly, that grew to be an article of faith among students. Later, I was sorry to learn that it wasn’t true.
Always we had to be on guard against exposing our callowness. I attended a beer party — though I didn’t drink then — in Carnegie. Someone declared “the three best things in life” to be “a dry Martini before and a nap afterward.” With the knowing smiles of sophisticates, we nodded agreement — though I’m sure that only one of those three that most of us had experienced was the nap.
The Depression was waning, but still very much with us. Many couldn’t have made it through college without NYA — that’s National Youth Administration — jobs, or by eking out parents’ payments with income from waiting tables or from summer jobs. Tuition that year rose from $300 to $400, dorm rents were $85 to $165 annually, and board was $7 a week in Commons.
Dave Beard of the Class of 1943 told me at that time he had come to Hamilton with no resources at all. And, because he feared he might have had to reveal that too soon if he showed up at a dormitory, he slept the first night in some nearby farmer’s hayloft. To hold the bursar at bay until he could line up enough jobs to survive, he concocted a fiction of anticipated funds from an ailing, aged aunt.
With the benefit of hindsight, the curious aspect of our 1940 meetings was that few — if any — of us had any real intimation of what was to befall us and change utterly the course of our lives. Certainly the handwriting had been to the wall for a long time. The banner headline on Sunday papers, the day most of us arrived, proclaimed that Congress had passed the draft law. And Dr. Cowley’s opening talk, titled “National Defense and Self Discipline,” warned sternly that “Any student who fails to work up to his capacity will be undermining national defense.”
Still, that wasn’t the same as realizing that some of us would be charging up beaches (Fred Smith landed at Omaha Beach just 50 years ago next Monday), piloting bombers, sailing on submarines and landing craft, or parachuted behind enemy lines. Or that a number living here on College Hill soon would be dead. Even the draft wasn’t that forbidding. A popular song, remember, was “Goodbye, Dear, I’ll Be Back in a Year.”
Besides, the draft, as Dr. Cowley explained that day, applied only to those 21 and over. For 17- and 18-year-olds that seemed remote indeed.
I recall, but no one else seems to, that one speaker during our first week told us that if the past were any criterion, only half of us would wind up with Hamilton diplomas. If so, that crystal ball was cloudy. Sixty-two percent — 82 of us — did. Thirty-one others got B.A.s elsewhere, and those were dribbled out over 20 years. Perhaps College histories will remember us as the “elastic class.” Only 10 were graduated on the appointed date, June 24, 1944.
Even earlier, on July 4, 1943, Flying Officer Jonah Reeves, Jr. — whose verse I just read — died when the Royal Air Force Lancaster Bomber, on which he was a navigator, was shot down. He was 22. He had enlisted in the Royal Caribbean Air Force a month before Pearl Harbor. You’ll find him memorialized on the eighth pew down, on your left.
And on that seventh pew, on the other side, is a plaque for Lt. Arthur Stout. Art, leader of a machine gun platoon, died on March 14, 1945, the 4th Marine Division’s next-to-last-day on Iwo Jima. He was three months shy of his 25th birthday, a bit older than most of us.
And a plaque dedicates that third pew, on your right, to Dave Hastings, Jack’s brother. He was policing a B-17 over Leipzig, his 33rd mission, when he was killed on April 6, 1945. He was almost 23. Strange what things you remember: I still picture Dave as the only fellow who managed to retain his dignity, head back, chin up, while wearing a green freshman beanie — which we called, elegantly, a “slimer.”
Hamilton’s faculty became instantly more cosmopolitan, thanks to Hitler and Mussolini. We’d been studying the Sforzas — including Ludovico (il Moro), the patron of Leonardo da Vinci — in Digger Graves’ European history classes when suddenly, in 1942, Count Carlo Sforza appeared among us. He himself looked very much like a bearded figure from a Tuscan painting. He’d been Italy’s ambassador to China and foreign minister. Opposed the Fascists, he was forced to leave his country. He returned to Italy in 1943, reentered the government, and by 1947 was again foreign minister. He died in 1952.
The former director of the huge Cologne Museum of Applied Art, Karl With, was appointed a professor in the fall of 1941. His vigorous, impassioned, infectious lectures made him popular as a professor. His outspoken belief in the right of every kind of art to be seen and discussed had made Nazis unacceptable to him and he to them. In 1948 he went on to become a professor at UCLA. He died in 1980.
Economics jumped from a “snap” course to a serious study in 1941 when Polish-born Michael Angelo Heilperin became a visiting assistant professor. With his Nixon-like five-o-clock-shadow he soon was dubbed “Black Mike.” A major figure in international economics, he went on in 1945 to many eminent consultancies, editorialships and teaching posts, the last as visiting professor at the University of Southern California.
When Dr. Karl Geiringer arrived in 1940 he was already one of the world’s leading musicologists. His biography of Brahms was the best ever written, Victoria Sackville-West proclaimed. When he died five years ago at 89 — after distinguished careers at Boston University and the University of California — The New York Times called him “one of those refugees who changed the face of American higher education.”
For those of us who hadn’t already enlisted, the axe fell two months into our junior year when President Franklin D. Roosevelt, on November 13, 1942, authorized the drafting of 18-year-olds. Talk about the college year abroad! We pioneered it! By the following September only 23 of our class were left. Thirteen were graduated and that month entered the Navy and Marine Corps. They’d been allowed to finish as civilians on inactive duty after agreeing to attend college summers.
A class in those days could have been comfortably accommodated in a phone booth. Some of us in that accelerated group found ourselves taking a special math class, to provide foundations for celestial navigation, taught by none other than our own classmate, Dick Clelland.
Thus he became the first member of 1944 to join a college faculty. That experience, we can assume, catapulted him into his long and distinguished career as a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
With the prospect of next to no students to pay the bills, the College, thanks to Dr. Cowley’s manipulations in Washington, lured an Army Specialized Training Program for pilots, then an Army Air Corps premeterological unit, about 400 strong, and, on top of that, an Army language program. Bob Stone and Chet Hamilton got into the premeterological group so they were able to stay on campus, but as soldiers. Later the Army decided it was awash in weathermen and dispatched them to the infantry.
In September 1944, three months after what was to have been our graduation date, the entire civilian college — about 450 students in normal years — had shrunk to 33. Our prewar time here fell into the “Cowley Era.” Our class was, after all, the first to enter under the sweeping new admission standards President Cowley had instituted. This moved him, years later, to pronounce us “the best class on the record, but also in terms of vigorous personalities. That was a distinguished class, the Class of 1944.” Say what you may about him, the man showed flashes of rare discernment.
Looking today at his papers in the library at Stanford University, a battery of motivational psychologists would need weeks to sort out what finally caused him, on August 28, 1944, to submit a rambling, anguished, pathetic letter of resignation. “Perhaps I have wrecked the College,” he said he told one trustee after he resigned. He spent the next 25 years at Stanford as a professor of higher education.
Because he loomed so large in our lives I’ll devote a few minutes to just a couple of disclosures in those papers. I apologize to those who weren’t around in those days and may find this tiresome.
Dr. Cowley had come to this institution of 450 students in 1938 from a professorship in education in Ohio State University. Thus, he had been here only two-and-a-half years, when, on February 11, 1941, we were shocked by newspaper reports that he’d been offered the presidency of the University of Minnesota, a place 70 times bigger — with 31,687 undergraduates and 1,740 faculty members. There were four times as many professors as we had students. As for football, fans weren’t comparing our Buff and Blue juggernaut, with a season of two wins and five losses, to the Big Ten. Next day a number of students — including some of us — picketed in front of this Chapel, carrying signs bearing such pleas as “Hal, don’t leave us.” Incidentally, according to Dr. Cowley, those placards had been made and distributed, in a foray into manufactured news, by a Hamilton alumnus at the Utica newspapers.
That man’s instincts for publicity were sound. Photos of the picketers, plus the dramatic mouse-vs.-elephant aspect of Cowley’s choices, grabbed the attention of the wire services and the national press. After seven suspenseful days he rejected Minnesota’s offer. His backers there were stunned first, then embittered.
Here Cowley’s jubilant supporters saw his decision as a kind of triumph. But, I was astonished to learn, he himself didn’t. Immediately after he made it, his papers reveal, he decided he was “washed up professionally.” That same day, he said, he and his wife also decided privately that he’d quit the presidency of Hamilton, a resolution he didn’t carry out until three-and-a-half years later.
Reading his papers, one is impressed with the antic character of that episode. For more than two months before this blowup, he’d been encouraging Minnesotans who were pushing him for the job. Later, he rationalized his irresolution, saying that he’d wanted to finish the job at Hamilton, or that he’d done it to rally the trustees behind his ambitious proposals to overhaul this College’s educational system, or that he hadn’t realized the power some campus Pooh-Bah’s wielded at Minnesota, or that too much of his time would have been consumed by administration and he wanted to become a scholar.
During those years we became all too familiar with his obsession with Robert Maynard Hutchins, the young president of the University of Chicago, then certainly the most celebrated figure in American higher education. Cowley cast his philosophy of “holoism,” the education of the “whole man,” as the antithesis to what he called Hutchins’s “intellectualism.”
What we didn’t know was that before Hamilton’s board had offered him the presidency, it — or at least a search committee — had considered Hutchins. The Chicagoan would have headed a league of four or five “elite” colleges, with Hamilton as its base, to carry out his ideas. One would have been St. John’s at Annapolis, already famous for the following precepts. Kenyon another. Whether Hutchins was interested in the job, Cowley didn’t say. “Well, they voted him down and picked me,” he crowed years later in his oral history. “I had beaten him…Here I was in the job and he was out. That was the end of the League of Colleges.”
We students knew something of the rancor between some veteran professors and Dr. Cowley. But we had no inkling that behind the façade of what most of us regarded as a starchy, tranquil, rural campus. the outwardly bluff, gregarious Dr. Cowley was being torn apart — or was tearing himself apart — in battles with the faculty, some trustees and ultimately, students and alumni. He claimed that some veteran professors had opposed him even before he’d taken over the job in 1938. They disapproved of a president, he said, “Who had devoted so much time to educational research” and was trained in psychology, “a subject which had never had a full-time teacher at Hamilton.”
Among professors whom Dr. Cowley said were his “sworn enemies” were some splendid teachers. George Lyman Nesbitt, in English literature, and Boyd Crumrine Patterson, in mathematics, were two who inspired this mediocre student. Dr. Cowley saw Professor William Massey Carruth and Dean Ristine as “powerhouses” of the campaign against him. They well may have been. But I must say, a Machiavellian cabal masterminded by two short men known to us as “Bunny” and “Chubby” is delightful to contemplate. The faculty was so riven that Coach Albert Ira Prettyman, who by that time was Cowley’s stepfather-in-law, and Prettyman’s old fishing companion, Dr. Edward Hauch, whom Cowley described, quite correctly, as a “Prussian drillmaster type,” never again spoke to one another, according to Dr. Cowley.
Though President Cowley himself retreated, a look at the College Catalogue today shows that much of what he advocated ultimately prevailed. If there was but one course in psychology in 1940, there are now 26 and you can major in it. You can also major in sociology, anthropology, public policy, economics and music. There’s even a course in the history of jazz. It includes, I trust, those jazz greats Joe Anderson’s brother, Ernie, rounded up for the 1942 Winter Carnival, as well as those we used to hear Saturday nights in Utica.
President Cowley must get credit for much more than keeping the College afloat in wartime and new admissions standards. He added some first-rate professors, such as our Tom LeDuc, who’s here with us today. Dr. Cowley created the Squires Club for non-fraternity men, not to mention the Alumni Council and the annual Alumni Fund (think of the millions that has meant to the U.S. Postal Service alone, as well as the private fortunes that have been made selling lumbago remedies to the mailmen who’ve carried all those letters.)
President Cowley also recognized the unfortunate truth that a modern college must “stir it and stump it and blow its own trumpet,” or you can bet it won’t have a chance — to echo W.S. Gilbert. Cowley installed the resourceful David H. Beetle as the public relations man. Dave had The New York Times Magazine, the Saturday Evening Post and countless hometown newspapers paying him or campus correspondents for stories about Hamilton. Dave also doubled in brass as an instructor in freshman English composition.
The president of Amherst asked in awe — Cowley said — “How does he do it?”
By the end of the war our class had been scattered to the ends of the earth. Those who returned after the war — like veterans across the country — not only did markedly better in their studies than their prewar counterparts had done, but in most cases far better than their prewar selves had done. Many veterans had something else we’d never contemplated for college students: wives and even babies.
Of that group, the first six were graduated in June 1946. In September, 11 more. And in June 1947, 20 were declared A.B.
Then the stretchout began: Ray Gau got his diploma in 1949; Kurt Hoch in 1959. The last two Hamilton bachelor’s degrees went to Dick Farr and Jack McCabe in 1963. I don’t know the academic term for the College’s action in their cases, but in journalism and politics they call it getting to the station after the train has pulled out. By the time the College decided they were worthy of A.B.s, Dick had been an M.D. for 17 years, Jack for 16. Dick had won honors in his field and had taught at two universities. Jack had been chief of the U.S. Air Force’s European cardiovascular section at a big hospital in Wiesbaden and had been a cardiologist in private practice in Rochester.
Being a wartime class had its rewards. You’ll find that ours is the only class in modern times that had neither honorary degrees nor commencement speakers. And it had its penalties: We’re one of only four that had neither valedictorian or salutatorian. However, nine classmates made Phi Bete: Clelland, Couper, Hamilton, Harvey Levin, Bob McDermott, Owen Thomas and Dave Winter did it here. Jim Rhind was elected at Ohio State, where he finished up, and Harry Love at Duke.
Sometimes Hamilton’s gross national product seems to be doctors, lawyers, stockbrokers and schoolteachers, leavened by an occasional clergyman. But less than a quarter of our graduates, 18, were M.D.s, and eight are here today (which is why we didn’t find it necessary to imprint medical information on the back of our nametags, as Harvard’s Class of 1937 did at its 50th. And so far this gathering, I’m happy to report, hasn’t been disrupted by “the clash of the bridgework and drumfire crackle of arteries snapping like pipe stems” that S.J. Perlman reported from a high school reunion.).
Members of 1944, a cautionary note: If you have a health problem and need a doctor, don’t get befuddled and consult one of our five Ph.D.s or, heaven forbid, one of six honoraries. If pressed, even Dick Couper, with seven honorary doctorates, will admit he can’t spell tachycardia, much less treat it. The same with my freshman roommate, Don Reutershan. Skidmore bestowed one on him, at the insistence, I suspect, of its grateful Class of 1945. Hartwick gave one to John Wagner. Hamilton honored Drs. Couper, Linowes, Thomas and Joseph Frederick Anderson. I asked Joe if we now had to call him “Doctor Anderson.” “Yes,” he replied, “but don’t get sick.”
Nonetheless, if any of our M.D.s do a bungle a job, 11 of 1944’s 21 lawyers are here this weekend, ready and eager to sue for medical malpractice.
Happily, we’ve never had to worry about classmates being one-dimensional. Take Dave Winters, whose 40 years as a pediatrician included teaching the subject at Harvard Medical School. His peculiar delight is butterflies, and he not only was editor of the American Lepidopterists’ Society newsletter but spent much of his leisure studying lepidotera “from the equator to Alaska’s North Slope.” Bob Linowes has been a mover and a shaker in the real estate bar, but he also led the successful battle to rescue the Folger Shakespearean Theatre in Washington when it was threatened with extinction. And as an obscure neophyte lawyer he persuaded the government to trademark Smokey the Bear, which has brought in millions. Milt Fillius, while a successful business executive, has been battling to give mainstream jazz the recognition it deserves. Thanks to his lobbying and Joe Anderson’s, three of the greatest — George Shearing, Joe Williams and Milt Hinton — have Hamilton doctorates.
When, half a century ago, Prof. Nesbitt guided us through “Dover Beach,” we knew exactly what was meant by “a world that seems to lie before us like a land of dreams, so various, so beautiful, so new.”
That view of the world came naturally with youth on this beautiful campus. These days, though, we may find ourselves sometimes resonating more to a line — “Change and decay all around I see” — from a hymn we frequently sang in this Chapel.
For that kind of weltschmerz, let me offer an antidote: In my first June here, I chatted briefly with Samuel Hopkins Adams, Class of 1891, back for his 50th. How sad, I thought then, that this great pre-World War I muckraker, this chronicler of the Roaring ’20s, had reached the end of the line. But — remember? — He went on to write the immensely popular Grandfather Stories for The New Yorker and, 18 years after that reunion, the novel Tenderloin, which was recycled into a Broadway musical. And that’s not even mentioning his invention — which he demonstrated in Life magazine — to enable him, though his joints wouldn’t bend, to put on his pants.
So far, we seem to be responding to the peer pressure to stay similarly immersed in life. We can’t all parachute into Normandy as our contemporaries are doing this very month, or skydive, like that 90-year-old Arizona lady, or bungee jump, like another nonagenarian.
Still, Charlie Patterson’s serving as an ombudsman in his hometown, Concord. Louis Vieillard, who had uprooted himself in mid-life to practice medicine among the Kentucky coal miners, is also raising Dalmatians, French Bulldogs and Pekingese, and before those, he bred Afghans, Dobermans and Greyhounds. As retired attorneys, Ben Sherwood and Harry Love have given new meaning to “a brush with the law.” Ben paints exquisite landscapes in the Chinese style. Harry reports his watercolors are selling well. Jack Smothers recently ran a half marathon — which is 13.1 miles — and also won a four-mile race (though he didn’t say who else was in it). Lawyer Arnold Osgood and Janet have just moved ashore from that boat they’d been living on after their children grew up. Think twice before you curse out that maniac bicyclist weaving through Manhattan traffic. This might be my old roommate, Steve Van Ness. That is, unless he’s sailing one of those intricately crafted model boats in Central Park Lake. Roger Rudd? He’s in Ann Arbor, teaching Japanese.
And please, don’t run over bicyclists between here and the West Coast. One of them might be Scotty Brewer on one of his interstate forays. Ed Quigliana not only writes newspaper columns on coins, he’s in demand as a lecturer on Charles Lindbergh.
But enough of boasting. I’ll close by proposing an experiment. Dr. Cowley said, “Hamilton songs were damn dirges. There wasn’t a good one among them.” He quoted, with approval, Alexander Woollcott’s complaint that “Carissima is the lousiest college song in the world. Nobody can take the high note on it, except Anna Case, and nobody should sing it who is past puberty.” (If you wonder, as I did, who Anna Case was, she was a great soprano, an opera star, early in this century, and also was Irving Berlin’s stepmother-in-law).
That’s nonsense. I think Carissima has a lovely melody; but I’m incapable of singing on key. So, I suggest that we, unarguably past puberty, repudiate Woollcott. After a few additional ceremonies, we’ll have a chance to do so when we stand and demonstrate that others besides Anna Case can take the high note. Thank you.
William M. Ringle, Class of 1944
In 1946, fresh from duty with the U.S. Navy in the Pacific, Bill Ringle went to sea again as a third mate on an Atlantic freighter. His taste for the briny finally satisfied, he then turned to dry land and journalism as a reporter for the Rome (N.Y.) Daily Sentinel. After several years with the Rochester Times-Union, Bill became legislative correspondent for the Gannett newspapers in Albany. He was managing editor of the Saratoga Springs Saratogan when Gannett assigned him in 1966 as a correspondent in Washington.
By the time of his retirement as chief correspondent for Gannett in 1988, Bill Ringle had covered the entire news scene, both local and international, and his thoughtful and incisive commentaries were familiar to readers from coast to coast. Today, Bill’s commitment to his craft and curiosity about the world and its people remain unabated, and just this fall he returned from Mongolia, the latest of several trips to teach and lecture on journalism in the Far East.