A comprehensive, in depth study

     At the January, ’93 Class Officers (CACO) Meeting in NYC, Bob Schmidt proposed that ’44 produce a "Class Portrait" and provide copies of it to attendees at our subsequent 50th Year Reunion in ’94. The ’44 Officers attending CACO approved Bob’s proposal and the highly detailed statistical analysis of ’44 got underway . . "Highly detailed" is a cop-out . . As you’ll see, the only thing Bob appeared to miss was the "Decaffeinated - Regular" question.

     "We’ll be asking our classmates to submit personal information on themselves voluntarily which, when collated and counted, will yield an interesting and diverting "portrait" of us collectively. I hope our open-ended, "answer whatever questions you wish" questionnaire will intrigue our fellow ’44's enough to draw some 200 responses, and that would be a most satisfactory 33% return."

     Bob got his "satisfactory return" - 181 classmates responded to his 75-question survey. Direct distribution was made in Ithaca on June 9, 1994 to 277 classmates attending our 50th with an additional 139 duespaying classmates being sent a copy by mail. Some 416 of us found out about ourselves through his efforts . . Let’s let Bob take it from here:

Who are we . . and what do we believe?

     "How good is man's life - the mere living! How fit to employ all the heart and soul and senses forever in joy!"

     This quote of sybaritic Robert Browning over the fireplace in the Ivy Room has always puzzled me - would it have been more appropriate to exhort us to employ our minds, work hard, bolt our food? However, the picture emerging from the Cornell Class of 1944's 50th Reunion Questionnaire is very upbeat. Despite 50 years of study, hard work, travails, and tragedies, most of us are finally living out the Browning observation and hope the joie de vivre continues.

     Some 181 classmates (16% of the "actives" on CU’s lists, but 44% of our duespayers) completed the questionnaire. Last year, the Class of 1963 drew a 15% response and the Harvard Class of '58 a 38% return. Vassar '44 came across with a whopping 68%!

     Records show that in the beginning there were 1,673 '44's (451 women and 1,212 men), although World War II limited 54% of us to graduation in '44, while 40% received degrees before or after June, 1944. Currently, there are 825 men and 346 women still alive and kicking with known addresses, and 199 men and 56 women who are presumed alive but have "bad addresses" at Cornell Records. The U.S. white average (all right, we’re not all white!) death rate for men our age would find only 751 alive while we stand today at 1,024; for women our age the death rate should be a 1994 body of 322 and our '44 women are 402! . . . We’re ahead of the stats and we must be doing something right!

     Of our women, 48% majored in home economics, 38% in liberal arts, and 14% in the scientific or technical disciplines. Since that time homemaking and teaching are the most frequent followings - each was mentioned equally by 26%. A number are so in love with teaching that they continue with it in a variety of settings. One-third of our ladies report a variety of other careers and businesses.

     In the '40's environment of "Ladies belong in the home," our class produced the first lady editor of the "Cornell Daily Sun," Guinevere Griest, and the first woman editor of the "Cornellian," Barbara Gans Gallant. Barbara relates the gender obstacles prevalent during those and subsequent years; a major publishing house told her women only started as secretaries. In 1962, with three children and a divorce, she was at first denied family housing at a state university where she was to do graduate work, but her "fighting attitude" developed at Cornell won the day.

     Technical and engineering studies were pursued by 48% of our men, 12% had ag-related studies; and the remainder followed liberal arts, economics, and pre-med disciplines. Since graduation, success describes us - more than half report being a "director, manager, CEO, VP, owner." Yet 14% have stuck to technical specialties - perhaps thermodynamics and differential calculus are viable! Teaching and administration have been the pursuits of 15% and sales and sales administration 5%. An impressive 33% of us obtained graduate degrees. Of the 181, 15 are PhD's; 14 are MD's or DVM's; five were LLB's and JD's.

     Among us there are a few diplomats, public servants, and politicians. Yet we are heavily involved in church-related activities. (This came as a surprise to me since Alma Mater has been accused of being unreligious - one irreverent classmate often claimed that Sage Chapel was a perfect place to sober up). Participation in school boards, service clubs, and community organizations - mostly on a volunteer basis - are mentioned by nearly all of us. We are actively engaged in the control of crime, pollution, and peace - often providing financial backing. Interestingly, five of us have worked with Rosalyn and Jimmy Carter's "Habitat for Humanity."

Special Memories

     Special memories of our Cornell days include 19 of us meeting our spouses on campus! One wiseacre answered the "special memories" question, "All three ladies are still alive!" Were they serial or simultaneous? Pearl Harbor and the complications of war disturbed just 12 of us in December, 1941, but the enjoyment of outdoor walks and events, the beauty of the campus, the Libe Tower chimes, fraternity life, athletic attainments, and leadership roles in various extracurricular organizations more than made up for the inconveniences.

     Surprisingly, academic achievement is only mentioned twice. We were already on the road to Sybaris? One of us who partied all night appeared in her evening gown for a Saturday test - she doesn't say how well she did. ("Interestingly, President Rhodes read our ‘Class Portrait’ and in ad-dressing our 50 Year Reunion attendees at our opening dinner in ’94, he picked up on this ‘partying all night and showing up for a test in an evening gown!"--Art)

     In retrospect, the most frequently mentioned influence Cornell had on our lives was the value of the education itself which led to rewarding careers and the habit of hard work and the pursuit of excellence. Of nearly equal importance was the broadening of our interests, tolerance for diversity, and the development of friendships and social skills. Even in the Dark Ages of the '40's Alma Mater was no one-track, Archie Bunker sort of place - and it is no surprise that we can now claim to be one of the truly international institutions on Earth.

     We were quite fecund - 3.4 children on the average. One respondent indicated they had 14 children; another cited 26 grandchildren. ("Note the ‘Legacies-1’ and ‘Legacies-2’ pages in this website). Our children - most of whom will have passed the child-bearing years by now - average but 1.2. Is it any wonder, then, that immigrants from practically everywhere are interna-tionalizing Alma Mater; in six years of interviewing 36 freshmen candidates, I have only met three who were native born!

     Our stability is noteworthy. 84% of us still live with our spouses and 54% in our own homes. 31% have moved to smaller houses or apartments but only a very few live in retirement commu-nities. Nearly half of us have second or third homes in Florida; at the seashore; or in exotic mountain, lake, or desert paradises. ("Note the ‘Snowbirds’ pages in this website"). We didn't ask addresses for this questionnaire so I cannot tell you how many of us live in Tompkins County; some winter lovers might look into the likes of Kendal at Ithaca.

     Our 44 divorce rate is exceptionally low. (7% is but 15% of the national average). About half of us live in the suburbs, 20% in cities, and 30% in the country - and nearly all of us are happy with our domicile location. 70% of us believe our lives have been better in most respects than those of our parents and the survey shows that our children's lives are practically the same - a few better - a few worse.

     Some 90% of us agree with our children on contemporary issues. Surprised? . . We were not asked to classify ourselves on a liberal-conservative scale, but half of us consider our children as being liberal, or more so than we. During the turbulent '60's and '70's nearly a third of us lost rapport with some of our children, but a like number have regained it. We emphatically did not miss the sexual revolution! Around a third of our children married outside of our religion but most of them are in the same socio-economic status as ourselves.

"There’s not enough time to . . . "

     Retired? 70% of us are retired, but few miss features of our active lives Those who are still working simply enjoy it. The most common complaint is that "we don’t have enough time to do what we enjoy or choose to do." 85% consider ourselves "comfortable" and 10% "wealthy." Our present lifestyle celebrates independence, freedom, and relaxation, and the time to enjoy family, friends and travel. 10% of us are vigorous enough to continue civic and volunteer work and a like percentage enjoy outdoor sports (Please remember that our bones are brittling).

     A few of us have started new businesses. We are heavy readers culture vultures (Yes, movies and TV included!), outdoor exercisers and gardeners spectator sports freaks, travelers. Notably few of us are into crafts and no one mentioned cooking - do we all hire cooks? A quarter of us have been or are involved in writing.

     We're candid about our health problems, but keen on survival and keeping fit. Exercise, especially walking, is a near obsession. Though 2/3rds of us weigh more than we did at Cornell (Fewer hills to climb?) at least we are not wasting away and only one of us admits to being just plain fat. Half of us feel at least ten years younger than we are, although a minority find significant reduction in their strength and stamina. Cornellian Everett Koop claims that a leading cause of early death is inactivity: we know that!

     Half of our classy lassies list a health complaint but there are no critical situations (breast cancer, e.g.) reported, and 18% "feel fine." Cardiovascular and joint problems are mentioned equally by 10%. Our lads are more troubled. 82 total complaints from 130 of us are clearly more dramatic. 9% of the men report serious disorders - heart attacks surgery cancer. 14% have cardiovascular problems, 9% joint problems, and that darned little prostate (5%). Why, then, do 35% claim they "feel fine" - is this a bit machismo?

     Half of us take medication although I surmise that we are on top of "preventive medicine. " More of us drink less than when we matriculated and drugs are someone else’s problem. Don't expect a Milk Punch Party at Reunion - beer and soda are in. ("Wrong! The 2004 Milk Punch Party will be held at noon, Friday, June 5 at '44's luncheon tent .. We have the brandy, ice cream, and milk but donations of two pair of freshly laundered red and white sweat sox are welcomed!")

     Health problems among our family members are distressingly common. Ten of the 50 ladies reporting have lost their husbands and our men report 20 instances of death of their spouses or children. A few of both genders are tied down by care required by relatives. Among occurrences in life we didn't expect - other than deaths, divorces, World War II - there are 18 (10%) career changes or loss of jobs and involuntary changes of geography.

     In a Harvard '58 survey taken last year as many as 20% of the men who thought their Harvard connection was a lifetime guarantee of success crashed, in some cases from affluence to food stamps, In the '40's we were romanced by companies for lifetime commitments; in the '50's consulting firms were advocating periodic changes for those reaching the top rungs. Since then - and especially now - the guillotine is the hot ticket. Weren't most of us lucky?

Our views on Cornell, the institution

     Nearly all of us would recommend Cornell to prospective students to prospective students, although many of us feel it has become too big and too expensive. A welter of alternatives are suggested - a few Ivy Leagues, some top-rated state universities, and a melange of prestigious but small liberal arts institutions. A majority of us believe coeducation was a winner . . Remember that a shortage of skirts was never a problem with Wells and Elmira Colleges "for Cornell men" so close and the Seven Sisters hot for Cornell house parties.

     Only 9% of us have named Cornell in our wills although 31% of us maintain a "wait and see" attitude. ("See ‘Cayuga Society’ page in this website"). What a juicy list we could provide Jerry Tohn, our 44 Reunion Fund representative - or the Office of Planned Giving - if we were not bound to confidentiality. If you haven't yet, you really should look into the options available some of which might save you money.

     Finally, our obsession for the future ("The next five years") is TRAVEL with Australia - and New Zealand, a close second, the most mentioned. Dotty and Art , you two unfatigables - please take note! We’re at a point in life where we want to and can enjoy traveling so where are you taking '44's next? ("See ‘CLUB 44' in this website").

     I wish that I could convey the uniqueness, the humor, the pathos, and the enthusiasm and richness of your individual responses. Alas, space does not permit this; hence, we suffer the dullness of generalizations. Art and Dotty spent so much time parsing and then tabulating the responses to make my task easier and I - and you - were the major beneficiaries. Perhaps a few profiles of randomly selected classmates would have been more appropriate. Maybe in 1999?

     Viva La Class of '44! . . . Classaffectionately,

Bob Schmidt,
 VP, NY City & Long Island

 


     We lost Bob Schmidt in October, 1991, more than seven years after he wrote the foregoing to accompany the four pages of hard copy "statistics" that supported his survey. But "Portrait" wasn’t the end of Bob’s creative efforts on behalf of his classmates . . He came up with the idea of "Tales" - a 55th Reunion "giveaway booklet" in June, 1999 that captured the on- and off-campus "Ventures, Adventures, and Misadventures" of 63 voluntary ’44 scribes . . Yet another great "Schmidt Project" that’s covered elsewhere in this website.
     It was like pulling teeth to get Bob to tell us a little bit more about himself than the few brief words that appeared in our Yearbook, and his death in 1991 prevented us from obtaining even basic website "bio" information on him. We’ve tried our best, however, and offer his bio below . . . Art


 
 
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