Welcome to RIT's 175th Anniversary website. The University celebrated the anniversary during the 2004-05 academic year. This website is no longer active and will no longer be updated. The site remains active, however, to preserve the history of both RIT and the anniversary year.

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Remembering RIT

As part of the commemoration of the university’s 175 th anniversary, we asked readers to share their memories of RIT. Here, in their own words, are the stories we received.

If you would like to submit a memory, go to the “Create Your Own History” link on the “RIT History” section of this Web site.

Professor Silas M. Thronson with students.
Professor Silas M. Thronson with students.

Dr. Thronson got it right
In the late 1940s, when I was a photography student at RIT, we had a photo chemistry professor, Dr. Silas M. Thronson. He was a wonderful person. With him, I finally passed chemistry.

Dr. Thronson had a habit of saying “. . . isn’t that right?” He might say this 30 or 40 times in a 50-minute class, sometimes saying it a couple of times in a row.

One day, a couple of students suggested we have a lottery. Participants each chipped in a quarter and a guess of how many times Dr. Thronson would say “…isn’t that right?” Student guesses ranged from the low 20s to as many as 50.

Apparently, Dr. Thronson got wind of the lottery and at the beginning of the class, he said “…isn’t that right?” twice. I do not remember who won, but it was the student with the lowest count. We got a big laugh out of this adventure.

Another Dr. Thronson story: He was the faculty advisor of the RIT Camera Club. Each year the club held a corn roast in a Rochester park (I forget which one). Dr. Thronson had a corn roaster. This was a V-shaped trough about six feet long with a charcoal fire beneath it. Ears of corn were soaked for several hours in cold water. The dripping ears of corn, with husks intact, were laid in the trough. The ears were moved along the trough by a manually operated lever. When they came off the other end of the trough, they were ready to eat. I guess we had other food to eat too, but do not remember what.

What wonderful memories of RIT and of one of our professors!

Bill Carnahan ’51 (photo tech)
Silver Spring, Md.

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Professor Albert Rickmers
Professor Albert Rickmers

The most influential educator
The most influential teacher/professor in my lifetime was Professor Albert Rickmers. Professor Rickmers taught a variety of subjects in the photographic sciences department including calculus and statistics. While not the most exciting subjects in the curriculum, he made them come alive with interesting and practical examples (strangely enough, I use statistics in my everyday work). But Prof. Rickmers went well beyond his job as an educator in the classroom.

He somehow instilled in several of us the desire to achieve. For example, during my freshmen year, in the old downtown campus, his class was the last of the day. A group of us would almost run back to the dorm (the Nathaniel Rochester Hotel) to begin our homework – work he challenged us with in class. After a while we would get together to help those of us that weren’t able to get the correct answers. This was in the spirit of helping the class as a whole to achieve.
I always made careless errors in my math classes, but this stopped immediately in Prof. Rickmers class. I still don’t know how that happened, but maybe I didn’t want to disappoint him. He became my mentor.

Several years after graduation, my wife and I visited RIT. Prof. Rickmers wouldn’t hear of us staying at a motel or campground – he invited us into his home. How generous!

If my memory serves correctly, the Professor was an orphan being raised in the Hershey Home for Boys. How someone so disadvantaged could end up being so influential in my career is hard to understand. He was unique.

Professor Rickmers, I trust you are well in retirement knowing that you have made a profound difference in many of your students’ lives.

Joseph D. Geller ’67 (imaging science)
Topsfield, Ma.

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Growing up and getting an education
It was a warm, fall day in 1979 when my parents drove me to Rochester to begin my studies at RIT. As a 17-year-old, I was ready for the adventure, the excitement, the challenge and to be “on my own.” My parents were comforted that their recently graduated, independent high school senior would not truly be “on his own,” since RIT had much to offer outside the classroom, including support for the incoming class of “I know everything” freshmen. It was a long drive, about eight hours in the car. The excitement and anxiety was building throughout the trip.
Despite how much I was looking forward to college, I never felt so alone as I did when my parents said their final “good bye” and left my new dorm room. I sat on my bed in Sol Heumann Hall for what seemed like an eternity, questioning my decision to go so far away from home. In reality, it was only a few minutes until my roommate arrived, went through the RITual with his family that I had just finished and was now the “expert” on, and we settled in. The awkwardness of those first interactions and wondering how it all would work out was, in retrospect, trivial. After all, we stayed roommates by choice for the next three years – in the same room in Sol Heumann! I don’t remember much of the rest of those first few days, but I do remember meeting so many great people from the floor as well as the great staff from the Student Orientation group. I was comfortable, knew I made the right decision and was coming into a new understanding of “home.”

Orientation continued uneventfully and we were soon scheduled and ready for classes. Oh yeah . . . college means classes. A full schedule for me meant four classes, three days a week. Done by 1 p.m. with Tuesday and Thursday off! What a deal! My roommate, a fine arts major, labored in class, lab and other adventures on a much stricter schedule. It was the source of a great many conversations, most that ended abruptly when he had to leave for class . . . .

Dorm life was great. People on our floor became fast friends, since we were all thrown into this stage of life together. Some before us (the “upperclassmen”) who we could learn from; others just as inexperienced outside the safety of our parents’ homes as me. Floor lounges were always packed, dorm rooms open most of the time and the whole communal bathroom thing wasn’t ever given a second thought.

The one TV on the floor had only a few channels, but that was enough. We could watch the football games, news and, if your were lucky enough to get back by 3 p.m., General Hospital. Yes, a soap opera. But it was much more than that. It was an event. Most of the floor gathered to watch and if you missed out on what happened with Luke and Laura, you were likely behind in the conversation for the rest of the day. Now, if you asked me three months before at high school graduation if I would ever choose to watch a soap opera, let along schedule my life around it, I would have said you were crazy. That’s what dorm life did. It gave me a family with diverse interests and perspectives that I could experience. It is precisely that diversity that helped me grow immensely during the college years. My soap opera-watching days ended quickly, which is just as well, but the expansion of my mind through this early full-immersion diversity training was one of the best benefits I obtained in college. There is a popular instrumental song from General Hospital that still, some 20-odd years later, brings me back to the lounge on Sol 5.

We weren’t “wired” like the dorms of today. In fact, one of my high school graduation gifts was a typewriter – electric nonetheless, which was high tech to the college student of the late ’70s. Each room had a phone; the black wall-mount kind with the dial. While this was great, we quickly determined we had a problem. Since we were fairly social and dorm rooms were usually left open, anyone’s phone ringing caused half the floor to run. Now, what is a problem to a college student but a challenge in disguise? An enterprising engineering student came up with the solution. He figured out how to wire a small LED to the phone that would flash when the phone rang. Taped outside the door, the light could be seen all the way down the hall. LEDs were fairly new then, and an ingenious application. Problem solved. After winter break, my roommate and I decided to loft our beds. Nothing fancy, but nothing allowed by the “powers that be.” As long as we didn’t damage anything, it was one of those “we’ll turn a blind eye” issues. Many rooms had lofts and we all made sure they were done safely. With beds about 18 inches from the ceiling, we now had a living room beneath! Add a fridge, TV, couch and this was living! Of course it only took a few nights of sitting up in bed and realizing that the ceiling was stucco. I had scars on my forehead for what seemed like years.

Dorm life taught me life-lessons as well. I remember an extremely smart fellow freshman from Ohio who discovered beer. With freedom comes responsibility, and we all ran afoul of that now and again, but we learned in our own time, hopefully without consequence more than a lost lunch and a headache the next day. There was a time and place and safety was paramount. This guy was not able, or willing, to learn the lesson. While he excelled in his course work, he failed in responsibility. A six-pack a night caught up to him and he didn’t return after the first quarter. We learn from our own mistakes, but I learned a serious lesson from his as well. We all learned.
We all really came to RIT for the education. With a great reputation and a diverse curriculum, RIT was my first choice for college. I was not disappointed. I came to RIT with a specific career goal in mind. After my first year, I was questioning that goal. I say this in a positive way because the diversity of the coursework and the professors exposed me to so much more than I expected. I had the opportunity to explore fields I never really knew or understood, and I credit the RIT faculty for expanding my narrow mind. Now, 21 years after graduating from RIT, I remain in the career I envisioned from my youth, but I believe I have been successful due in no small part to this understanding of the entire field. My education allowed me to explore and experience and solidify my choice to pursue the career of my calling.

The bread and butter of education are the professors. Yes, the administration, staff and support services are a critical component for a successful institution and I appreciate their efforts, but it is the classroom and field experience that make the difference. For me, several teachers defined the experience. Mr. John Ballard; the late Dr. Raymond Santirocco, Mr. Charles Pangburn; the late Mr. Richard Lewis; Mr. Paul Brule and so many others. It was in working with them that the RIT experience was made a reality and a source of great memories.

Reading textbooks, writing papers, researching in the library and working in the computer lab were some memorable events. The many experiences I had could fill volumes. Not all were great experiences, but all were positive in that I learned from them – the good and the bad – and for that they were beneficial. I recall the most difficult class I had was Scientific Methodology. I quickly learned that was a fancy name for “statistics.” The project was to run a computer program that actually worked. It was a Fortran-based program to run on the IBM mainframe in the basement computer lab of Grace Watson. It was a busy place, so I found the only time I could get the machine was usually on a Sunday night. Stacks of IBM punch cards, late in the night. If one of the cards had an error, it was hours of figuring out where the problem was. And if you dropped your stack . . . I shudder to think of the problem that would cause!

Mr. Lewis was an understanding professor. During a seminar class that met once a week we were assigned a research paper. Knowing his exacting standards and focus on reliable information and proper research, I started early on the project. I amassed a stack of books from the library and organized the paper in my mind early on. Then it sat on my dorm room desk for weeks. Coming to class one Thursday afternoon I quickly learned the folly of my ways. The paper was due that day. I hadn’t started writing it, or actually doing anything more than thinking about it. “But Mr. Lewis,” I said. “I thought you said it was due next week.” No luck. Keeping my schedule in my head had finally caught up to me (now I use a Palm Pilot – without it, I’m lost!)
He did agree to only take off one letter grade if I turned it in within 24 hours. What a guy! Actually, I appreciated that and went to work immediately. I wrote for the remainder of the afternoon and evening. Now the typing. That electric typewriter was looking pretty good come midnight! I was thankful to have the offer of assistance from a floor-mate who agreed to type as I dictated. At three pages an hour, we’d be done by daybreak. Deb, one of the orientation “upperclasspersons” on that fall day in 1979, was becoming a great friend and one ready to help me out in a jam. Daybreak came after several bottles of orange soda and junk food and the paper got done. More importantly, the friendship grew into something I hadn’t imagined. We celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary this past year and still tell the story of how we met and how, what started out as fellow students, turned into a friendship through shared experiences.

I am a firm believer that RIT not only provided me the knowledge to obtain a degree, it gave me an education in life; the good as well as the bad. My experience at RIT exposed me to life in a diverse atmosphere. It allowed me to experience success and failure, pressure and accomplishment, laughter and tears. If you look at life as a compilation of complex experiences all woven together in a mosaic, RIT was the canvas that formed the base. It was a base that caused me to reconsider what “home” is. While I still look upon where I lived during my growing-up years with appreciation and fondness, my “home” has been Rochester since my first day at RIT on that fall day in 1979. It is where I really “grew up,” settled in and was blessed with a wife and children.

Stories of our time at RIT continue to be told in other ways. Our eldest son is now a college freshman. We have recounted our experiences of college with him not only to grow closer, remember our past and share our history, but also to teach him. He knows about the freshman from Ohio, the phones and even the electric typewriter (since he has a new computer, that story was quite a laugh!). There are many other stories that have opened the door for discussion with him and our other children.

As he left for his freshman experience, I knew the issues and pressures he would face. I could identify with his wants and desires as well as his concerns. Will he listen and learn? I could only hope and pray, but you see, he is a recently graduated, independent high school senior who is ready for the adventure, the challenge and to be “on his own.” As a parent, I can only hope that his college of choice has as much opportunity and support to offer outside the classroom for this “I know everything” freshman as RIT did for me. The apple does not fall far from the tree, I guess.

It was a long drive, about six hours in the car. Again the excitement and anxiety was building throughout the trip. As I left him in his dorm room that late-August day after a sincere “good bye,” I understood what was going on inside him. I knew the adventure and challenge that lay ahead, and I was excited for him. I also understood, for the first time, I think, what my parents felt on that warm, fall day in 1979. It was a long drive home – alone. The circle of life is an interesting study.

On your 175th anniversary, congratulations RIT! And thank you. To the faculty, staff, administration, fellow students, friends and everyone else whose path I crossed, you have left your mark on my family and me. You are a large part of not only what I “do,” but of who I am. I look back on my time there fondly and realize I received more than a degree; I received an education.

John Letteney ’83 (criminal justice)

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Two tales of RIT

Event Number 1:
A U.S. Navy veteran enrolled at RIT based on it being the very best school of printing. So confident in RIT’s excellence, an on-site visit was not made. On the day school started I arrived in Rochester and started looking for RIT. I continued to ride around a block in the city and finally asked the policeman directing traffic where I could find RIT. His response was, “Son, you already rode around the entire campus at least three times ad the red brick building you are looking at is RIT.”

Registration for classes went well but then I learned housing was not available on campus. I was sent to an office arranging off-campus housing. While walking down the hallway a very distinguished gentleman greeted me and asked how he could help. I informed him I needed housing. His response was “Follow me.” He asked if I would accept housing in an old army barracks. My response was “YES.” The distinguished gentleman introduced himself as Dr. Mark Ellingson, president of RIT. From that day forward, during my four years as a student and years thereafter, Dr. Ellingson always remembered and greeted me by my name.

Event Number 2:
“Is there a PRINTER in the House?”
In September 1959 RIT arranged a printing alumni dinner meeting in conjunction with the Seventh National Educational Graphic Arts Exposition. To my knowledge it was the first of its kind for RIT. Many of us asked the question, “Will we be the only one in attendance?” To our surprise, 108 graduates and guests were in attendance. As a result of this very successful event, future similar events were planned and held in conjunction with other graphic arts meetings. A great way for RIT “printers” to network and talk about old times.

Bernie Lazorchak ’59 (printing)

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Food for thought
Marvin Finkelston ’51 and I were both from Kansas City, and were roommates in the men’s barracks on Spring Street. Our families were in the printing business, which is why we were both there in the publishing and printing department, trying to soak up some knowledge. I think it worked, at least for Marvin.

Money was in short supply in those days right after the World War II. Marvin and I would sometimes run out before the end of the month, but we had a couple of emergency backup plans. The barracks caretaker had a tomato garden, and we knew how to make fried green tomatoes. There was a bar close by where they had a free, all-you-can-eat sandwich buffet and nickel beer. They never objected when we filled up a napkin with enough lunch meat and bread to last for a couple of days.

We were both in Kappa Sigma Kappa fraternity along with a bunch of really great guys, mostly from P&P and photography, and I can still taste those delicious hamburgers they sold at the stands at Lake Ontario where we went on weekend outings along with the girls from our sister sorority. I would love to see the new campus, but the years keep going past and I
Haven’t managed to do it yet. Maybe soon.

Bruce L. McCurley ’51 (printing and publishing)

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Paul McMorris’ 1971 Ford Pinto
Paul McMorris’ 1971 Ford Pinto

I was in love with my RIT car
Fellow alums, please bear with me as we blast back through the time matrix to September 1978 when I first arrived in “brick city” as a transfer student from a campus with 40,000 wilderness acres in the Adirondack Park. In that year, disco was competing with the Grateful Dead and Neil Young on the musical charts, the so called “Vietnam War” was still a recent memory and Jimmy Carter was pushing drive 55 mph and thermostats at 65.

In those days, RIT was actively recruiting potential transfer students from “junior colleges.” Long story short: RIT accepted all my credits so I signed on and found myself assigned to a crowded triple dorm room. As an expatriate fraternity president with a lakefront room in a historic Adirondack “cottage,” these new living conditions would never do.

Not far down the East River Road, a few miles beyond the Racquet Club, I found comfortable lodging in a new townhouse development. The three of us who shared the three floor unit were living large for students – private rooms, dishwasher, fridge and the complex had a pool! I got quite creative cooking those three-for-a-buck Kraft Macaroni & Cheese dinners by adding mustard and other spices. Frugal and filling meals for a buck.

What was really exciting about my RIT days was my potentially explosive 1971 Ford Pinto with bucket seats, four-on-the-floor and a vinyl top. The gas tank in those models would explode if hit in an accident so I was able to buy my RIT dream car for a mere $400 – yes, inspected and all that. That little commuter student car served me well for years. When her starter finally failed and I couldn’t afford to buy a new one, I simply parked her on a direct downhill slope in the RIT classroom parking lot. To get her massive four cylinder pistons a-pumping, all I had to do was open the driver’s door, push a little bit, jump in and pop the clutch.

Back at our luxurious student paradisial off-campus digs, our neighbors enjoyed my morning Pinto start-up show. It was like something out of the Flintstones, running to get the car started. Once the engine fired, the “quadraphonic” eight-track sound system with a 65 watt power booster and equalizer would kick in with Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage literally blowing the Pinto’s doors open at times. I couldn’t compete against the “muscle car” Trans Ams and Camaros of that era in a street drag, but boy at the beach with the “quad” sound system cranking and equalized, the Pinto ruled the soundwaves. An RIT dream machine!

Paul McMorris ’80 (hotel and tourism management)
Woodstock, Vt.

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RIT first and last
I was the kid who wanted to go to college (or at least boarding school!) when I was in kindergarten. I grew up in the Hudson Valley and when I was 16 years old I had the chance to come to RIT to participate in a Girl Scout Wider Opportunity in graphic arts. The campus was a lot smaller in 1971 than it is now, but I fondly remember living in the dorms and attending classes
in photography and other graphic arts.

When I was nearing completion of my Ph.D. a couple of years ago I interviewed with 10 different schools – but RIT was my Number One choice. When I was given the campus tour it was wonderful to reflect back on my “first” college experience! I feel like I have come full circle – and I love being part of the history of RIT.

M. Pamela Neely, assistant professor
Management Information Services
College of Business

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Professor Hobart Cowles
Professor Hobart Cowles

The art of teaching
I dedicated Ceramic Art – A Vehicle for Cultural Awareness. my M.F.A. thesis. to my late but still very dear Professor Hobart Cowles.

The ceramics department of the School for American Crafts only could accommodate eight freshmen in fall of 1977, yet Professor Cowles preconceived my determination and squeezed me in. I now believe his name meant “C” for Compassionate, “O” for Overwhelming, “W “for Wisdom, “L “for Loyalty, “E” for Exceptional, “S” for Service. Noble qualities attributable to manifestations in Professor Cowles’ professorship not only to RIT but also especially to all students privileged to download from his archive wealth of ceramics and ceramic sculpture prowess.

Without this golden experience during my ceramic art papillary, I would not be a senior instructor cum head of ceramics programs at Shawnee State University today. Ergo, I’ll humbly just say THANK YOU “Ho Ho Hobart” and take solace in the thoughts that he is proud of the seed he sowed in me 25 years ago.

Except for July 4, when grief reminds me of my late father passing on that date in 1975, that hindered my RIT education till 1977, my sincerest gratitude is wholeheartedly extended to Rochester International Friendship Council, particularly to my beloved host family friends, the late Mr. Irvin and Mrs. Beverly Koval. They accentuated RIFC’s motto, making “ Rochester home away from home” during and long after my RIT student tenure. Mom and Dad Koval, I love you both dearly ad-infinitum.

“Raison d’etre Intellectual Tutelage,” my interpretation of RIT makes me “Rejoice In Trust” of kind-hearted people who stuck their necks out to teach, nourish, protect and care for me during that first winter blizzard experience that left me mildly frost bitten fingers, or those starving moments when sweet apple cider juice became apple cider vinegar that burnt my throat and other cultural shock scenarios that could have discouraged me, but for such on-campus selfless Mother Teresa-like good Samaritan qualities of Mrs. Barbara Letvin, our International Students Advisor, or Mom as I’d like to refer to her, who found furniture, clothing, food and sometimes “In God We Trust’ slogan-carrying paper called almighty dollar. My deepest thank you, Mrs. Barbara Letvin. You are my heroine, lifesaver and in a very special cozy place in my heart. Con amore siempre.

Finally, to all those whom students’ epoch of four or more years duration are and will be entrusted upon directly or otherwise contingent in your daily official responsibilities at RIT, your gestures will definitely sow seeds in the minds of those fertile minds. Please remember the adage that “we all shall reap the fruit of our labor.” Thus, I humbly implore your right-thinking faculties, to cultivate with utmost kindness and sow cheerfully with selfless compassion, so that RIT will continue to reap harvest of dignified alumni and alumnae who see RIT as avenue to life’s joie de vivre in abundance.

Michael O. Olugbile
Michael O. Olugbile

R I T, congratulations on your 175 years of fruitful educational endeavors. I still cherish my 2” x 1” x. 5” brick memorabilia, celebrating 150 years in 1979. As far as generation in embryo is concerned, you still have many millennia years of endless education business to administer. More grease to your elbows!

Let me know when you start a doctorate degree program in ceramics and ceramic sculpture. I’ll take the bull by the horn with gray hair because I am one RIT TIGER!

Thank you RIT, my Brick City.

Michael O. Olugbile II ’79, ’81
(Ceramics and Ceramic Sculpture)
Portsmouth, Ohio

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Dave Page and President Mark Ellingson with Bengal tiger cub, SPIRIT.
Dave Page and President Mark Ellingson with Bengal tiger cub, SPIRIT.

A Tiger’s story
When RIT Vice President Mary-Beth Cooper came to Duke in 2004 for the gathering of the Raleigh-Durham alumni group, she commented that we once had a live tiger on campus but that she did not know a whole lot about it. I filled her in, as I was part of the effort to handle the tiger. I also was, as the RIT Reporter once put it “. . . the human stand in.” The emotion that discussing him brought back surprised me and when I read that RIT was looking for campus stories for your 175 anniversary project, I prepared this history.

The concept of the Tiger as a mascot for RIT only came into being in the mid- to late fifties. In 1962 I was given a Tiger suit by a Theta Xi friend and wore it till I graduated in 1966. For many years after that, it was handed down through the brotherhood of Alpha Phi Omega until the Athletic Dept. took over responsibility. In those days cheerleaders really led cheers and the RIT Tiger was allowed do more than be a silent character with choreographed “moves.” The headpiece often remained off and the mascot performed with the fencing team, “shot hoops,” skated with the hockey club/team in warm-ups and generally greeted fans, led cheers and harassed opponents during games.

I once had a Brockport hockey defenseman swing his stick over the boards at my head. He missed and we got a three-on-two fast break out of it. The RIT Tiger would also show up at school events, carry the flag at the annual parade and represent the school at Town-n-Gown activities. We also put Tiger paws all over campus with directions to buildings for “Freshman Daze” orientation well before Clemson made the tiger paw famous as their logo. The local ESSO/EXON wholesaler gave us their Tiger advertisements and cardboard cut-outs for use on campus.

With a rising interest in Tigers mainly do to a really great, all-Canadian, hockey team in September of 1963, Denis Kitchen, Roger Kramer and Jim Black formed an ad hock Tiger committee and convinced Student Government to loan them $1000+ for the purchase of a baby Bengal Tiger that would be our mascot, be kept at the Seneca Park Zoo and brought on campus till he became too big. The Zoo promised to purchase a mate so that there would always be a real mascot.

The plan was to repay council by selling one dollar shares of stock in the Tiger, which were printed up by students and donated by the school of printing. This was a kind of back-door donation in which the administration was clued in after the fact. The response was overwhelming and over three hundred shares were sold the first week. The zoo personnel acquired the baby and made arrangements with the Dallas Zoo to fly him to Rochester. They acquired the second cat a couple of months later.

A caravan with more than 50 students, Dr. Cambell, vice president for student life and RIT’s director of student activities, and Steve Walls met the plane after midnight, surprising the tired passengers on the plane. The pilots were presented “stock certificates” and joined us as we opened the burlap over the cage. We were awed by a 40-pound bundle of striped fur that was all head and feet, with big brown eyes.

With the tiger on campus, the loan was repaid quickly. Stock certificates in the tiger were the “IN” thing to give any important visitor to campus, whether it was a date from out of town or a visiting lecturer. A big “name the tiger contest” was held and SPIRIT was chosen as his name. Classmate and now distinguished photography professor Andy Davidhazy was credited with the name, which derived from “Student Pride In RIT.”

A group of us, many from A-Phi-O, took lessons at the Zoo and became SPIRIT’s “handlers.” We were taught how to read his motions and predict his movements. We had to protect him from the public as much as protect them from him. He never hurt anyone on purpose although he gave me a nasty puncture wound on my finger as he was teething on my hand. Another time when we were playing out of public view in the gym, he hit my upper arm with his claws out. When he saw the look on my face and my bleeding arm he quickly retracted the claws and whined and snuggled in apology.

He appeared on a local children’s TV program where, with all the excitement, he relieved himself as he sat on a table. The host deftly covered his indiscretion with the comment, “He sure sweats a lot under these hot TV lights.”

We would take him to the RIT picnics on the land that was purchased for the “new” campus, bring him out before and between periods of basketball and hockey games and walk him around our concrete campus. While the games were in progress I would often be in charge of keeping him entertained. Often that meant his chasing me around the unused Clark gym during the hockey periods. SPIRIT loved his time on campus and was very comfortable with students. He truly loved being with people. He and I became good friends.

As winter quarter ended and he got big enough to require two handlers at a time, we noticed that he had soft bone problems, which was diagnosed as a calcium deficiency. As much as the zoo personnel tried to hide calcium pills in his food he would dig them out and push them away. SPIRIT knew more than we did about his health. When all his food was soaked in calcium and he had to eat it, his calcium deficiency was mitigated and the larger problem – a pelvic constriction – was revealed. As long as his bones were soft it was not a fatal condition.

It was a profoundly sad day when I was summoned to the zoo to spend time with SPIRIT, in pain, just before he was put down on Sept. 28 1964. The RIT Reporter printed a eulogy in their next issue.

Knowing that we could not do the stock selling thing again in order to acquire another cat in hopes of breeding more RIT Tigers, I went to the Alumni office and falsely reported that Student Council had agreed to provide $500 for a new tiger if the Alumni Association would match it. That evening I went to the Student Council meeting and told them the same story and won their approval. By noon the next day the $1,000 was procured and was on its way to Seneca Park Zoo where more money was added and plans were put in motion to purchase another cat of the right age to mate. SPIRIT II was acquired but was too old to safely be brought on campus. Apparently the breading program failed. The current tiger in residence at the zoo, Sasha, is Siberian and weighs almost 400 pounds. He won't be visiting.

Today the SPIRIT of the RIT tiger resides on campus in the form of a student-commissioned, life-size, bronze sculpture near the Campus Connections bookstore. Students visit him every day where he sits on a pedestal at his newly acquired conversion den and sitting wall. Student Pride In RIT is alive and well at the “new” campus.

David Page ’66 (photography)
Durham, N.C.

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From Laos, with love
I was given a Fulbright scholarship from the Institute of International Education (IIE) to undertake MBA studies in the U.S. When I began my first quarter at RIT in fall 2001, my feeling was mixed – lonely, nervous and excited at the same time. Why did I feel lonely? It was because I was far away from home and my family in Laos. How about nervous? There were many things that I worried about – courses, exams and projects. Lastly about my excited feeling – this was because I considered taking an MBA at RIT was a good opportunity for me as well as for my country.

Quarter after quarter, exams and projects kept me busy all the time. I faced a lot of difficulties, but I never gave up. I gained support from the academic advisers, professors and instructors at the College of Business. In addition, the International Student Services office provided assistance and guidance any time I asked.

I still remember the day that I received my MBA degree. It was the day of joy and success. I could scream to myself that I did it! I couldn’t imagine how happy I was when I was on the stage and the MBA degree was handed to me.

Before I end my memory sharing, I would like to express my thanks to RIT and IIE for giving me the opportunity to take an MBA program. As Laos is a developing country, education plays an indispensable role. I work as a production manager at a pharmaceutical factory, a state-owned enterprise. I also teach English to my subordinates at the factory as English is an important means of communicating with foreigners. Thus, my study at RIT is very useful and of great benefits for me, the factory, and my country as well.

Sengphet Phongphachanh ’03 (MBA)
Vientiane, Laos

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An unforgettable day
When I think about memories of RIT the strongest one took place on Nov. 22, 1963. I was in class in the Clark Building and headed out into the quad after class to meet my wife-to-be who was in Rochester scouting for an apartment. We were to be married in December and ended up in Penfield for the next year and a half until I graduated.

When I reached the quad, everyone was standing quietly and most seemed to have transistor radios to their ears. The news quickly passed to those without them: John Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. No one alive at that time will ever forget exactly where they were or what they were doing when they heard the news.

Of course I have many other RIT memories: of living in a corner room in NRH; of meeting Mel Rinfret, the director of housing, downstairs at the bar next door; of shooting pool or getting a haircut in the basement of the NRH, the mens’s dorm; of being out on the streets of downtown Rochester photographing the denizens of the streets for class projects; of the great profs we had, some even famous, Todd and Rickmers and Shoemaker and Engdahl; of long hours in the darkroom and the studio; of the RITSkeller and endless games of hearts at the APO table; of Spring and Fall Weekends. But the one memory that will be with me as long as I live is of that November afternoon when the world changed for all of us, there in the RIT quad.
Thanks you so much for letting me share all of this with my RIT family.

Robert M. Frank ’65 (photo illustration)
Somerset, Mass.

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Members of RIT’s first Mini Baja team at the 1980 competition at the University of Delaware.
Members of RIT’s first Mini Baja team at the 1980 competition at the University of Delaware.

Mini Baja takes off
The Society of Automotive Engineer’s Mini Baja competitions involve student built all-terrain vehicles competing from all around the U.S. RIT’s first ever entry in the Mini Baja East Competition was in 1980.

The event that year took place at the University of Delaware and RIT’s entry placed second in the overall competition and won the coveted “endurance race” event to emerge from the position of true underdog. It was the first year we had competed in such an event.

Some great history precedes the events that got our team to this victory. In 1978 our RIT student chapter of the SAE took the responsibility upon ourselves to enter into the Mini-Baja East competition. In the fall of 1978, as the president of the RIT SAE student chapter, I found it relatively easy to get the chapter excited about the undertaking with some great motivation being that the competition was to be held in Florida that spring. Our chapter unanimously agreed it would be a great idea to get an entry together so we could travel to the University of South Florida, who was the host of the spring 1979 competition. Dr. Alan Nye, faculty advisor for the student chapter SAE, added his support with acknowledgement he would need to travel with us and so we were off.

It took almost the entire school year (three quarters) to find resources for purchasing or donating the materials we needed to build our car. Our RIT SAE student chapter pooled resources with the RIT American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) student chapter (whose president was Donald Cary’80, mechanical engineering). Fundraising events like “road rallies” were organized to conjure up money for materials and road trip money.

Our program really got life when we secured a grant from RIT’s Student Development Program for $2,000. Managed by Elaine Spaull, who reported to the vice president of RIT student affairs, the grant required the involvement of the entire institute as opposed to just the College of Engineering. In the grant application we indicated how we would utilize the resources of art students, photography students for designing the vehicle and for PR work. We opened the participation of construction of the vehicle to all in the entire institute that wanted to help.
Unfortunately, because the grant money did not come through until the end of the spring quarter 1979, we were unable to compete in the Florida event. We immediately started our plans to enter RIT in the 1980 competition, to be held at the University of Delaware.

Finally, after the efforts of a super team of students working to construct the vehicle over three quarters, we were ready to travel to Delaware. In the spring of 1980 with “our baby” that we had worked on so diligently loaded into a rented van, we car-pooled down to the University of Delaware. Most of the schools did not know who (or where) RIT was. A lot of the schools confused us with RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute). One thing is for sure, they knew who we were when we left.

To this day I remember the rush of the RIT school spirit that went through me that day as our vehicle crossed first place in the endurance race. I would never have imagined the impact of our efforts and am grateful for receiving such a lasting “graduation gift.”

The following year, 1981, RIT captured first place in the overall Mini Baja East event and in 1982 RIT hosted the entire competition in Rochester. Since that first entry the involvement by RIT in the Mini Baja and other similar design/build vehicle competitions has blossomed to provide tremendous opportunities for RIT in education and recognition nationwide.

RIT’s early proud history in the Mini Baja competitions is recorded at http://www.sae.org/students/mbehistory.pdf, which is the Web site for the Mini Baja competitions sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers and Briggs Stratton Motorsports.

Pete Romocki BSME ’80
Atlanta, Ga.

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Don and Anne Stanton
Don and Anne Stanton

Love and learning
What do I remember about RIT? I met my husband there. Don was from Brooklyn and I was from Corning, N.Y. It was my lucky day when I met him at Sibley’s, where we were both working. Don mustered out of the Air Force fresh from the Berlin Airlift and fortunate to use the GI Bill to finance his education. We both pursued careers in retailing, working at such great stores as Sibley’s, Halle Bros., Bonwit Teller, Wanamakers-Rikes, and Dillards. Some of those carriage-trade stores are now gone.

Teachers like Ms. Hogadone, Ms. Stampe and Mr. Droste bring back fond memories. The downtown campus was wonderful and so close to “House of Fran” and “Jakes,” were we drank more than our share of beer. I am still in contact via e-mail with several classmates and treasure their friendship. All in all it was the very best choice for me. I did love the old, smaller school – we had such a great time in those days.

We were married for 47 years when Don passed in 2000. I still work parttime for Dillards. I do hope to be able to visit the new campus and see all the changes that have been made since I was there 54 years ago – somehow it doesn’t seem that long ago.

Anne McElhaney Stanton ’50 (retailing)
Fort Worth, Texas

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Professor Hans J. Barschel
Professor Hans J. Barschel

Driving Professor Barschel
As a student, I never realized how RIT would produce such a significant imprint upon my life. Several professors stamped an indelible Brick City mark, but one stands out among the crowd.
A short and very distinctly German RIT professor named Hans J. Barschel, whose life demonstrated an array of creative work and an introspective mindset, provided that imprint in 1974. That year, Professor B introduced my impressionable and malleable mind to his neo-realistic creative logic.

What was neo-realism? By exploring Rochester with him, I would find the ultimate answer.
My initial introduction to Professor B occurred in typical RIT fashion. Coming from the distant cultural landscape of Ohio, I ventured 500 miles from home to pursue my love of photography. As a young RIT pro photo major, I enrolled in Professor B’s photo design class. As first-year students quickly make judgments about a class by first impressions of their professor, when I saw a stodgy German slowly saunter into the classroom, I wondered if RIT was the right place for me.

At first glance, he appeared as a lost German grandfather teaching us – but our class ventured boldly into photo design. Most of us immediately became entranced with Barschel’s stories of his past advertising and design prowess.

Little did I know that his early designs graced the pages of Fortune and his work hangs in the New York Museum of Modern Art.

Barschel’s early experience included studies at the Municipal Art School of Berlin, graduate work at Berlin’s Kunsthochschule and design work for the 1936 Olympic Games. Consequently, he arrived in New York City without a penny in 1937, after abandoning the Nazi turmoil of his native Germany.

After the first class, the stout and stodgy German asked for a student volunteer who could drive him home after each class, as his eyesight was failing and driving prohibited! Falsely thinking my grades might improve, I quickly raised my hand and became Dr. Barschel’s designated home driver of 1974.

Just driving Dr. B around Rochester became more of a wild RIT educational ride than I ever anticipated.

My 66 Lemans guided the professor home that first spectacular fall day, through the Can of Worms, to his flower surrounded Hartfeld Road home, located next to his beloved Ellison Park. I immediately met his wife, Marga, along with Blackelein, their favored and well-fed family cat.
On the second trip home, he requested a stop at the fruit market and a short Wegman’s visit. In an augenblink (eye blink) as Professor B would say, after each class, another small adventure developed.

Downtown Rochester for some design class photography defined one trip, then Highland Park to the flower conservatory for another. He included Ellison Park, the Eastman House, Irondequoit Bay, Don and Bob’s, Campi’s, a German pastry shop, and of course, a Brighton garden store to purchase his dearly loved plants.

On these lengthy drives, Dr. Barschel espoused his life philosophy, experiences in Germany, and details of his 15-year artistic journey in New York City that laid the design framework for his eventual teaching at RIT. Trip days often ended with Kuchen und Plätzchen (cake and cookies) with Professor B and Marga in their garden, and more philosophical conversation.

He often said, “My neo-realistic approach was prompted by my exploits into the Neo-Cosmos, or ultra minute micro-cosmic abstract imagery . . . yet, no mortal will ever surpass the conceptual daring, the colors and shapes, the creative imagination of the Infinite Mind (God)!”

The infinite mind of God was his creative model used throughout his distinguished career – and nature provided the template. Evidently, I had become his needed vehicle to explore nature that year – and most of our adventurous stops included his artistic inspirations.

When I left RIT in early ’76 to pursue a photography career back in Ohio, my fast friendship with Professor B continued without wheels. For 12 years, a steady stream of artistically adorned letters arrived detailing his neo-realistic philosophy, along with tidbits about his retirement, photography, and of course, Marga.

I returned to RIT in the late ’80s and my Volvo worked its way through the worms to Professor Barschel’s home for a last reunion. We spent a fall afternoon sitting near his treasured garden and relived RIT memories. His colorful communication finally stopped in ’89 when his wife Marga passed – then he passed in 1998 and my adventurous ride into neo-realism abruptly ended.
Professor’s B ashes were scattered in the Adirondacks Garnet Lake where he met Marga for the first time in 1943. His ultimate embrace of nature was complete.

His design work filled the pages of Fortune, PM, Art& Industry, Idea and Gebrauchsgraphik. Barschel’s RIT teaching career spanned 22 years of developing new artists, photographers and designers.

Driving Professor Barschel granted me the ultimate educational experience during my short stay at Brick City. Perhaps it illustrated a true Socratic experience students seek. His friendship, inspiration and eternal optimism, along with his indelible creative spirit honors RIT.

At the twilight of his teaching career, Barschel’s ardent efforts still inspired the next wave of creative thinkers. Years after leaving RIT, his nature-based philosophy motivated me in my daily endeavors.

By the way, I only got a B from Professor B. Nonetheless, his magical neo-realistic year represents the educational bargain of my life – and his RIT photographic imprint upon me remains intact.

One of his letters from 1981 summed it up: “Give me some advance notice before you come to Kodak City again . . . and WE shall have lunch in a quiet spot, where we can talk freely, OK. It's more like spring today again with a warming sun and that beguiling smell of reviving soil . . . and I better get out there and do something worthwhile for MY God, which reveals ITself in every blooming Snow Drop and Crocus, in the friendly blue sky and the puffy clouds which come quickly from your direction and disappear fast over the eastern horizon. With kindest regards and all good wishes, I am, your former teacher.”

Robert S. Weber ’76 (professional photography)
Hamilton, Ohio

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RIT’s first B.S. class in Photographic Science, 1956, on a field trip to Ansco Corp. in Binghamton. Seated, from left: Vincent Tassone, Richard Norman, unidentified Ansco representative, Joe McCarthy, and Professor Hollis Todd. Standing, from left: unidentified person, Willie Watson, unidentified Ansco representative, Hayden Peake, Professor William Shoemaker, Mike Durkot, Peter Ciccerallo, Frank Vetare and Dick Zakia.
RIT’s first B.S. class in Photographic Science, 1956, on a field trip to Ansco Corp. in Binghamton. Seated, from left: Vincent Tassone, Richard Norman, unidentified Ansco representative, Joe McCarthy, and Professor Hollis Todd. Standing, from left: unidentified person, Willie Watson, unidentified Ansco representative, Hayden Peake, Professor William Shoemaker, Mike Durkot, Peter Ciccerallo, Frank Vetare and Dick Zakia.

RIT role model
Professor Hollis Todd, I am certain, is well remembered by all photo students from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. His dynamic and energizing teaching awed most freshmen. Some even felt a bit intimidated.

I recall one lecture in which a student had the nerve to challenge him on a statement he made. We were all flabbergasted: A freshman challenging professor Todd, who some students referred to as “Todd-God” when not in class.

A silence of fog covered the room as Todd paused and thought about what he had said. then he looked directly at the student and remarked, “You’re right. I’m wrong,” and went on with his lecture. Wow! Never in all my years as a student had I ever heard such a remark from a teacher.
Professor Todd taught more than subject matter. He taught by example. He taught me what it meant to be a teacher, to be humble and to care for your students. He is the prime reason I became a teacher. In my 34 years at RIT, I tried to pass on his quality to my students.

Along the “quarter mile” walk on campus you will find a loving brick that reads “To the memory of Hollis Todd.”

Richard Zakia ’56 (photography), professor emeritus
Apex, N.C.

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Catherine L. Doering
I attended RIT in 1964 - 66. Just after the city riots, so we had security guards patrolling the dorms and the streets. I remember how they patrolled Kate Gleason Hall with flashlights at night. So many things that left a lasting impression. Kate Gleason hall with it's kitchenettes, now that is a memory! Sharing space with 5 roommates was a lesson in itself! I will never forget one of my first roommates in 1964 was a gal who had so many clothes there was no room for the 4 other girls sharing the closet! It was a lesson in diplomacy and patience.

My fondest memories of those days are too numerous to detail. The design class with Mrs. O'Connell were memorable. Barry Avedon has to be named as my favorite and most inspirational professor. He taught drawing class and I would say was able to extract the best from his students. I am happy to say he is still teaching at a college in Michigan. Figure drawing was my other favorite class which Robert Conte taught. Another instructor I would award the title of my favorite. Those were the days! It was all so good and I cherish the memories.

Catherine L. Doering (Newman) '66 (Art and Design)
Angola, NY

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