“A Tale of Our Times”

Rory Radding, Class of 1971

Delivered June 2022

President Wippman, my fellow classmates from the Class of 1971, those of 1970 and 1972, and all the other reunion classes, friends, and family.

First, I thank my classmates for all the memories and tales of our days on the Hill. Some of which many of us would rather forget. Second, I thank the College for its unbridled support in gathering some of the information long lost in the recesses of the brain. Third, I thank the three other annalists from companion classes for making my job easier and harder at the same time. Fourth, I thank President Wippman and his predecessors who, with our deans and dedicated faculty, have continued to devote themselves to teaching at the highest level over the past 50 years, maintaining Hamilton as a truly world-class institution. 

Delivering the 50th annalist letter is a humbling honor for a chemistry major who constantly had Professor Briggs practically rip up his freshman English “Yes” essays. The only saving grace was required speech where I, as well as others in our class, learned the fine art of public speaking from professors like Lafe Todd and “Mumbles” Carson — a skill, along with writing, that has served me well as a technology lawyer over the years. 

In looking back and reflecting on our 50-plus years, the opening of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities kept coming to mind: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief; it was the epoch of incredulity ….” The words seem to describe most times, but I felt they are apt in today’s context as reflecting the ups and downs in society, politics, economics, technology, and culture, as well as in the conduct of our own lives.

So here we are 51 years after 195 of us graduated and 55 years after 234 matriculated as young freshmen from varying backgrounds, beliefs, and socioeconomic upbringing in an era of turmoil — war (hot and cold) and a looming recession — to a new era today of technological marvels but still turmoil — war (hot and cold) and, if not a looming recession, certainly a period of economic uncertainty. Does anyone remember the Hamilton ad in TIME magazine in August 1967 with the statement, “A lot of people would like to see us build a factory here,” superimposed over a photo of the Chapel? When asked by The Spectator about the ad, Acting President Couper said, “The College needs money.” A far cry from today with our very strong endowment. Our class was no small part of making that happen.

What was it like back during our four years together, and how did our years at Hamilton mold us into who we are and who we became? 

Could our success be based on the many rolls to women’s colleges, to gin-and-juice parties during houseparties, to the isolation on top of a hill where the snow of the long winters only melted to create the muddy paths of late spring? Is it the College motto, “Know Thyself,” that propelled us? Is it the eclectic nature of a liberal arts education? Or maybe all of the above and then some.

About a third of us were on an athletic team, many of us were members of the College Choir and active in the Charlatans, The Spectator, student government, and a host of other activities.

We were required to have distribution requirements totaling 27 semester courses for two-and-a-half years. Those requirements softened a bit during the President Chandler years when he introduced the Williams system to Hamilton. Interestingly over our four years, we had three presidents. Perhaps a reflection of the times we lived in — of change.

That Williams system had three periods — a fall semester, a January semester, and a spring semester. Remember January Study? I recall several of us took the study period very seriously at various women’s colleges, such as Skidmore, which offered unique academic courses interspersed with weekly private co-ed ski outings in the area. Luckily January Study was pass/fail. Others found themselves in other parts of the country and world having created their own January Study such as an Economic Study of Communal Living in Hawaii. Strange to pick that locale for a January Study and miss the beauty of 5-foot snow drifts in subzero weather. 

Hamilton has grown and flourished since our days here. The Chapel is still reaching skyward as is the tuition as the choir song, When Alexander Hamilton, once reminded us. The College has changed in significant, beneficial ways. Fraternities are now dorms, and new buildings populate the campus, like the Kennedy Center, the Wellin Museum, the Little Pub, and Withiam Field for lacrosse. I must digress and thank Kevin from that other class, Jeff, Jack, Jaime, and all of our classmates for their generosity and loyalty over the years. Jeff has been so loyal to Hamilton that in addition to the pub and squash courts, he hired 23 Hamiltonians, some became his partners, proposed to his wife at a houseparty, has been a trustee forever, and is probably Alexander’s distant cousin!

Unlike the Hamilton of our freshman year, we are truly a mature co-ed institution and Kirkland, that women’s school in the apple orchard behind ELS, is Hamilton.

Speaking of Kirkland, its presence had a large influence on campus and academic life at Hamilton. Perhaps you can say a more humanistic approach. For others, it eliminated drives back to campus with a bleary-eyed classmate at the wheel and snoring classmates in the back seat. For some at Hamilton, Kirkland’s existence expanded the curriculum to embrace more social concerns and the arts, and created several long-lasting marriages like those of Anthony Bernini, Marty Kreiswirth, Jim Morgan, Robbie Ridder, and Hugh Sampson, to name a few. Several of us even had weddings in this Chapel. 

Today’s Hamilton has a very diverse student body, not to say it wasn’t diverse during our years, at least from a geographical perspective. It was a different kind of diverse. We came from 21 states and 12 countries with 17 foreign students. 158 of us came from public schools and 76 from private schools. Most of us came from several counties in New York State (upstate and downstate), many of us from the New England states and states in the Northeast. The other day I was looking through our class Meet the Freshman or “funny book” — or should I now say “facebook.” It was fascinating to see where our classmates came from and then look at where they ended up after 50 years. As I mentioned, most of us came from the Northeast, but there were a few of us from other states and countries, though not many. A few were Midwesterners like John Beck from Wisconsin, Tom Cooper from Ohio, Steve Thomas from Iowa, and the unforgettable John Lalor from Indiana, among others. Then there were a few from our western states like Larry Bentley from California, who gave a graphic talk in my speech class on the physics of surfing that I remember every time I go sailing and try to avoid a sand bar. A couple of us came from Alaska and going south Virginia, Florida, and Puerto Rico. I know I missed some people and states, but you get the idea. Luckily we had several classmates from Canada, like Dave McCart and Mike Thomas, without whom our hockey team might not have made it to the ECAC finals. To fill out the Western Hemisphere, there was Humphrey Polanen from Surinam.

We were truly international with foreign students from Iceland, Scotland, England, Cyprus, Greece, Columbia, Cameroon, Peru, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Quite a melting pot. David Crippen was a Watson Scholar from Scotland and only spent one year on the Hill with us but remembers Hamilton fondly. As he recently wrote, “Looking back, I am intensely grateful for the experience.” He in fact credits our fine professors and their teaching skills, especially those of Professor Kinnel, for his long-lasting depth of knowledge of organic chemistry despite his career in physics. 

Today the College attracts students from the four corners of the U.S. and the globe made up of all races, religions, and genders. Samuel Kirkland would be proud.

What was the setting for our four years? When we arrived in 1967, the Vietnam War was gearing up and starting to hit its stride with almost 500,000 U.S. troops. Three Apollo astronauts had died in a fire, Elvis got married, and Thurgood Marshall was appointed to the Supreme Court. A gallon of gas was about 33 cents, and gold was pinned at $35. The Dow was in the 800s, a far cry from where it is today. 

As freshmen we lived in the block house known as Dunham, which not quite Stalag 17, certainly had several of its attributes. To entertain ourselves, among other things, we used Dunham’s halls for slap shots and other deeds not to be spoken of or remembered. Of course, winter brought us natural refrigeration with beer storage on many windowsills. We had a very creative class that freshman year, and Dunham was our canvas to the chagrin of Dean DePuy.

In 1968, there was the Tet Offensive, Soviet tanks invaded Czechslovokia (sounds familiar doesn’t it), the Democratic Convention in Chicago, Jackie Kennedy married Aristotle Onassis, and three U.S. scientists won the Nobel Prize for something called DNA. Then we had the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy. Nixon became president, and OJ won the Heisman trophy long before he won his criminal trial. 

In 1969, we landed on the moon with “one giant leap for mankind,” remarkably the NY Jets won the Super Bowl and the Mets won the World Series, 400,000 people held a love-in at Woodstock, and then we had a draft lottery with many, if not all of us, huddled around TV sets waiting for our numbers to be called. While we were huddled in front of fraternity TVs for the draft lottery, certainly with a beer in hand, Jeff Little remembers watching it in Hamilton “cool” style at Professor Ed Lee’s house over cocktails. Suddenly there was a large increase in pre-med students at Hamilton, especially those of us with low numbers. For those with high numbers, it was probably the only lottery they ever won.

The idyllic hill became a refuge of sorts from the everyday reporting of Walter Cronkite on fighting in the jungles and paddy fields.

In 1970, the U.S. carpet bombed and invaded Cambodia. Then there was the 1970 March on Washington with car loads of Hamilton students, including some of our classmates, going on a different kind of road trip to our nation’s capital. The campus was closed and final exams postponed. Perhaps not surprisingly Patton won the Academy Awards. 

I need to digress for a moment. Mike Klosson was a founding member of the Semester in Washington program that I believe had just started in 1969 or 1970. He vividly recalls the March on Washington and giving shelter to protesters tear gassed at Dupont Circle, where he and Frank Anechiarico lived. When I looked back on Mike’s distinguished career, the movie Forrest Gump came to mind. Mike may have been our version of Forrest Gump — always in the middle of living history and current events and “in the room where it happened.” Besides the march in 1970, he was at the handover of Hong Kong, assistant to various secretaries of state involved in several touchy international issues, and a U.S. ambassador to Cyprus, among other posts. 

Finally, when we graduated in 1971, the Pentagon Papers had been published, China joined the UN, Nixon said he would withdraw 100,000 troops from Vietnam, moon rocks were brought back, Texas Instruments made the first pocket calculator, and Joe Frazier beat Cassius Clay before he became Muhammad Ali. Gas was now 40 cents, and the Dow reached the then-unheard of height of almost 1,000. The dollar no longer pegged to gold at $35, floated. It looks like Dickens foresaw not only our first four years together but, as we now know, the 50 that followed.

Whatever side of the political spectrum you may find yourself, Nixon influenced our years at Hamilton. Steve Baker, as president of our student body, was invited along with four other college student presidents from around the country to visit the Oval Office and discuss student reaction to Cambodia with President Nixon. Steve recalls Nixon asked what students were thinking. Steve, a Hamiltonian through and through, did not mince words but was certainly respectful. He succinctly responded, “Students are wondering what country we are invading today and how we can beat you in 1972.” Steve’s political career may have ended right then and there. I am not sure how Nixon reacted. But I am aware that Steve never ran for higher office, although he did have a successful career in the U.S. military and civilian life.

It seemed the military beckoned several members of our class — voluntarily and involuntarily. Jon House, an Army colonel and preeminent military historian, credits the struggle we all had in trying to obtain “Yes” essays in English 11, and the writing skills he thereby achieved, with his successful career in the military. He served as an intelligence analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency, where he received praise for polishing PowerPoints for the joint chiefs of staff, and as a professor of military history at war colleges for senior officers, where he taught many of our generals, including General Petraeus. 

Jon also reminded me that we had a French table at Commons where only French was spoken. I am not sure I recall the French expression for food fight or mystery meat, but I am certain the food did not meet French culinary standards. 

Of course, the current events of the day did not discourage us from rolling to the several women’s colleges — from Keuka to Cazenovia, Smith to Skidmore, Wells to Wellesley, among others. How many of us remember staying a night at the Rip Van Dam Hotel in Saratoga? 

As a member of the College Choir, I was fortunate to be introduced to the choir tour. What in essence was a College-sponsored road trip to sing at several women’s colleges in the Northeast with concomitant socializing while making beautiful music together — I might add — before, during, and after the concert. In Hamilton tradition of that era, certainly not politically correct by current standards, we spiked the punch at some of the finest women’s colleges in the Northeast. The longest road trip the choir took was the summer after our freshman year under the guidance of the legendary Professor Fankhauser. A five-week, 5,000-mile European choir tour with the women from Oneonta. In fact, we were invited by Oneonta. As reported by The Spectator, one Oneonta co-ed “cooed” that “After our concert with Hamilton in November, we all left wishing we could tour with Hamilton and now everyone is happy.” We sang for the U.S. ambassador to Italy and in 16th-century castles in Switzerland, beer halls in Bavaria (deemed illegal since 1945), and a host of other unique European venues. We made long-lasting friendships, both male and female. 

Also, Hamilton attracted an outstanding, but somewhat unique, and some would say eccentric, administration and faculty. Teaching was the priority. We were fortunate to learn from professors Briggs, Blackwood, Cratty, Kinnel, Marki, “Spoolie” Ellis, Potter, Lewis, Lindley, Gescheider, Paul Parker with his art slides course, “Bullfinch” Richardson, Suttmeier, Sid Wertimer, coaches Weber, Long, Von Schiller, Batt, Patrick, Jones, and MacDonald as well as the enigmatic Professor Mattingly, who held class on Ancient Civilization in his home living room on College Hill Road with warm cookies and milk supplied, at a break, by his adoring wife. And then there was the very theatrical Professor Barrett, who took several of us for 20 plays in 20 days in London. I know I missed several professors, but everyone of us had our favorites who inspired us and helped us achieve our goals — even if it were just to graduate. 

We also had our favorite courses. I was reminded of one that seemed to exemplify how Hamilton taught critical thinking. Remarkably, although we were on the verge of a technological revolution and computer age 50 years ago, we did not have any courses on computer science. Except it was the Philosophy Department that taught computer programming as part of the course in logic through a timeshare terminal with an IBM mainframe at the Griffiss SAC Air Force Base. Can you imagine the door that would open to a hacker today? But that course gave us a strong foundation for the computer age unfolding before us.

Moving to our deans. Stories about Dean Tolles are legendary — his penchant to relieve himself in the Root Hall bushes, his rumpled suits, and other endearing colorful tales. Yet with all his uniqueness one thing stood out, his matchless loyalty to Hamilton, its students, and his colleagues, as well as his infectious enthusiasm for all things Hamilton. This latter quality demonstrated during the nocturnal triumphant return by the Continentals hockey team in March 1968 after defeating Colby at the ECAC semifinals in Maine. The team was returning by Mohawk Airlines to Oneida County Airport. As the plane taxied, you could see President Chandler and Dean Tolles running on a snowy tarmac. Yes, I said Dean Tolles was running along with a few hundred Hamilton students, which must have been quite a sight. For those of you who do not recall, Dean Tolles was a rather portly man, and the image of him running alongside Hamilton students toward the plane in the early morning on the slippery tarmac was truly inspirational. Our victorious 1967-68 hockey team was apparently, up to that time, the best team in Hamilton’s history with our own Greg Batt, Dave McCart, Robbie Ridder, Mike Thomas, and Jeff Little. I guess slap shot practice in Dunham helped. Does anyone remember when we played West Point? Not our finest hour, but a helluva game.

Our baseball, basketball, football, swimming, cross county, track, and lacrosse teams also held their own. We had several outstanding players, but two from our class stand out. Tom Carr not only received the Gelas Award for outstanding athlete at Hamilton, but also was chosen as an All-American miler. Mike Thomas, likewise, was chosen as an All-American in hockey. Quite an achievement from Tom and Mike and a small liberal arts school in the hills of Upstate New York.

Then there are the stories about mandatory chapel where all of us heard announcements of the week about events and issues at the school. I believe it was there that we were indoctrinated into the Hamilton “cool” tradition of snapping fingers instead of clapping. There was no internet or social media — only the spoken word on an early morning. Dean DePuy would come to the podium. All assembled would hush. The dean started off the “festivities” with a tongue lashing about student behavior. But then, when Dean Tolles came to the podium, the hush evaporated into a cacophony of sound. Dean Tolles, of course, would then forget what he wanted to say, tell a series of jokes or anecdotes, and then sit down to thunderous applause. When Sid Wertimer went to the podium to speak, students would yell “Stand up!” Sid may have been short in stature, but he was a giant in the impact he had on so many of our lives.

Speaking of Dean DePuy, one of our classmates reminded me of a story during the first year or so of Kirkland. As occasionally happened, the College would mount a surprise fire drill every so often targeting one of the dorms in the wee hours of the morning. On one such occasion in 1968, North dorm was the victim. When the alarm sounded all left the sanctuary and sleep of their rooms to gather on the lawn. Dean DePuy surveyed the scene and found Hamilton sophomores and juniors, but also some young women from Kirkland. The dean, apparently satisfied with the result of the fire drill, was heard to utter “All right men, back to your rooms … and women, back to where ever you belong!” 

A supermajority of us were members of fraternities, which by senior year had dwindled to about two-thirds. Of course, houseparties, those testosterone-driven rituals three times a year for four years, were memorable not only because of the Four Tops, Richie Havens, Sly and the Family Stone, Sha Na Na, and the up-and-coming new group Chicago, but also because of the significant education we received on how to handle a hangover using the gin-and-juice remedy the next morning at Chi Psi or Theta Delta. I am not sure Dr. Roe, aka Death Roe, approved. How we survived is anyone’s guess. 

Theta Delta had perfected the remedy to such a degree that it was featured when The Sterile Cuckoo by John Nichols ’62 was filmed on the Hill in the fall of 1968. All remember that Liza Minnelli, then a young 22-year-old daughter of Judy Garland, became a denizen of the campus for a few days. She was nominated for an Oscar as best actress for that movie. Some of us became extras in the film. One extra from our class, Peter Salsbury, probably after one too many a gin and juice, recalls asking Liza to be his date at a TKE party. She graciously declined having just married Peter Allen (The Boy from Oz), who turned out to be gay. As Peter Salsbury tells it, he figures if he had the date with Liza, he might have been her second gay husband. The College will screen the movie tonight. Do not miss the Theta Delta porch scene unless you do not want your spouse to see your native self and primitive instincts. The scene exemplified the Hamilton “cool.” While Walter Cronkite filmed the world in turmoil with Vietnam, civil rights, drugs, protests, and the like, Hamilton hosted the filming of a party scene at Theta Delta.

We all hope that our conduct during these bacchanals was lost in the mist of memory. However, one memory seems seared into the recollections of many of us. Psi U was noted for its houseparties. Many a would-be astronaut would try their hand at flying through windows or just flying through the air. Bill Wright recalls watching John Stahl do a half-gainer free fall down the stairwell and unceremoniously land by straddling the balcony below. Ouch! 

Life on the Hill sometimes did reflect what was happening in the rest of the country. Many of us became Hamilton’s version of hippies — from long hair to experimenting with various substances. I will not go into the various substitutes for alcohol that found their way to the Hill, but I do recall the Fanguitos parties secluded in the woods between the Hamilton and Kirkland campuses. They were our version of Woodstock. For many, I believe, the memory of those parties went up in smoke.

It wasn’t all partying at Hamilton. Who cannot forget the Root-Jessup Lecture Series. Two notable speakers come to mind from somewhat divergent perspectives — Timothy Leary, who regaled us on the wonders of LSD, and Ralph Nader, who encouraged us to act in the public interest. Both expanded our minds in their own way.

Many of us attended Robert Kennedy’s speech in Utica in October 1967, several months before he was assassinated. After his speech, as was our tradition, the group of Hamiltonians in attendance finger snapped in appreciation. Kennedy looked up at the group and recoiled in surprise with a bewildered expression on his face apparently from what he had just heard. He was overheard to blurt into a hot mic, “What the hell was that?”

It would not be fitting to leave out the several dogs that inhabited our campus. Patches seemed to be everywhere at the same time. But Patches was not the only memorable dog. There were others.

There were 195 of us at graduation. Although former Interior Secretary Stewart Udall gave the Commencement speech on the future of the environment, it was Harvey, Curt Read’s yellow lab retriever who will always be remembered. As you may recall, Curt gave the weekly Chapel morning announcements. Harvey was his loyal companion who helped Curt keep everyone awake by performing at Chapel in the Spring of 1971. Curt called it Trick of The Week. One such trick was Harvey taking Dean DePuy’s hat off; another was Harvey catching a Frisbee thrown by Fred Entemann from the organ loft. But Harvey’s ultimate trick was at graduation. While all of us were seated in the Sage Rink waiting patiently for our names to be called and receive our diplomas, Harvey, having dodged guards, entered the Sage Rink. Curt whistled so Harvey could find him. Curt was called to receive his diploma from Dean Tolles, who also called Harvey’s name. When Curt and Harvey approached the bottom of the stage, Professor Liedke, the College marshal, with ceremonial mace in hand, tried to block Harvey — to no avail. The assembled went wild, Professor Liedke tripped, and Harvey ran to Curt’s side on stage just as Dean Tolles was handing out his diploma. Harvey was just in time to leap up and grab Curt’s diploma mid-air, like catching a bone. With diploma in mouth, Harvey leapt off stage. Later the Utica Daily Press reported on graduations in the area: “At Colgate students walked out on [Defense Secretary] Robert McNamara — at Hamilton a dog graduates.” Now that is the epitome of Hamilton “cool.”

So, what did we all become? Dave Paris and Frank Anechiarico joined the Hamilton faculty and continued the strong academic tradition at Hamilton. Several of us had distinguished careers in the medical profession as doctors, dentists, and even a medical examiner. We have lawyers, many noted in their own right — lots of lawyers — probably creatures of our exposure to the Vietnam and Nixon era. There are Ph.D.s in various fields, authors, poets, venture capitalists, artists, actors, a military historian, a legislative drafter for the U.S. Senate, NGO executives, those in public service, teachers, ambassadors, bankers, farmers, financial wizards, corporate executives, CEOs, CFOs, general counsel, judges, wine makers, a landscaper, musician, librarian, and even a rabbi to spiritually round out the group. Many of us switched careers during these 50 years — general counsel to poet, chemist to lawyer, bank executive to wine maker, and other career changes too many to mention. Definitely an eclectic group to be sure and clearly the products of a small liberal arts college and education that provided us with the tools to do whatever we wanted to do and whatever direction society and the economy took us.

My 50-plus years since walking across the Sage Rink stage to receive my diploma have been forever shaped by the four years I spent at Hamilton, as I am certain yours were as well. I never thought I would be a lawyer when I graduated with a degree in chemistry, but Hamilton prepared me to do whatever I set my sights on. We all have lived through the best of times and the worst of times as well as an age of marvels with the advent of supercomputers that can fit in your palm — a long way from the Texas Instruments pocket calculator — to the miracles of biotech. Many of today’s life-saving drugs and vaccines that slow down, if not eliminate pandemics, began with the three Nobel prize winners for DNA.

As we all look back, let’s reflect on what has unfolded in our lives during those years and who we have become — from those humble beginnings in the melting pot called Dunham, to the world we helped to mold and create. We were the stewards of the last 50 years. Hamilton prepared us for it. I hope history will be kind to us and look back and say, “These were the best of times.” 

The words of our alma mater, Carissima, which I often sang in the choir, is as apt today as it was when it was written over 100 years ago and sums up our feelings about our College on the Hill: 

Faith shall thy constant fame uphold.

While years, Carissima, grow cold.

We love thee evermore.

We love thee evermore.

Thank you.

A chemistry major, Rory Radding was a member of the Emerson Literary Society and the College Choir during his days on College Hill. He went on to a distinguished career as an international lawyer focusing on intellectual property and technology. He has represented clients on six continents and spoken at various global high-tech and legal conferences on such topics as innovation, IP strategies, litigation, artificial intelligence, and ethics. A trustee emeritus of Albany Law School, he has served on the boards of several non-profit organizations, including the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, supported by the Gates Foundation. He founded the Intellectual Property Section of the New York State Bar Association and serves on its House of Delegates. Rory currently practices law in New York City.

*Note: Presentation of the Half-Century Class Annalist Letter of the Class of 1971 was postponed from 2021 until 2022 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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