Friday night Dinner, October 10, 2014

Over 50 years ago, Nelson Rockefeller challenged us to change the world.

We we're deeply affected by the Kennedy Assassination and by the Viet Nam War. In fact, many of us served in the military, took deferrable jobs in the defense industry, or continued schooling on a student deferment. Others got married earlier than they would have. Later, some had babies earlier than they planned.

As for me, I was typical, and became a computer programmer at Boeing. But, two years later, I was accepted to the Harvard Business School as part of that strong connection between Troy and Boston.

So, I wrote my draft board to switch back to my student deferment designation. I was all set, until I got a letter saying that I'm not allowed to switch to a student deferment. So, I flew all the way down to Miami, and went to the draft board office. The nice lady there explained that student deferments need to be continuous - you can’t become a student again.... I pleaded with her. After all, I have a chance to go to Harvard!

She looked at me and said, "Earl, I notice that you stutter.”

Yes,” I said, “I’ve been stuttering since I was four years old.”

She described a plan, “You're probably 4-F and un-draftable. Here's what you need to do: as soon as you get back to Seattle, send me a letter asking to be drafted. I'll draft you, and you'll be set up for a physical right away. If you pass the physical, immediately write to me that you are staying at Boeing and I'll reinstate you as 2-D. If you fail the exam, you can go to Harvard or do anything else you want to do."

I love this lady!

So, the day came for my physical, and I had stayed up all night and I was over-tired and... I WAS SO RELAXED THAT I COULD NOT STUTTER...

I had to practice stuttering on the pledge of allegiance – and other things I usually can do without stuttering – it looked bleak…

I passed all the elements of the exam that day, except for the one where they showed you pen & ink drawings of fruits and produce and asked to you circle the farm implement that matches the produce. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

As every one else was going, "Yeah, this is easy!", I was thinking, “Is this a pear? Is this a tractor or a reaper? Is that what a Thrasher looks like? What needs thrashing?” It was the toughest exam I’ve ever taken…

Finally, the leader asked anyone who feels that they should fail to wait to see a doctor. So, when my turn came, I handed the doctor a letter from my pediatrician FROM THE BRONX, who last saw me when I was 6! It said that I’ve been stuttering since I was 4.

The doctor looked at the letter. He looked up at me. He asked, “So where do you work?

I replied in my normal pattern, “B-B-B-B-B

He said, “Ok, you’re out of here!”

Thank God, Boeing starts with a B. Now, that’s stuttering!

But, let’s look back at our lives at RPI – socially, academically, and school spirit-wise:

"WHEN THE TWILIGHT HAS GONE" -- “The audience was supposed to respond spontaneous with “WA-A-A-A-A!”, yet with my pleading and lifted ukulele all I got was a discordant soft “waa””


So, RPI will stay in our hearts. I'm here to say, that "Dear ol' RPI will never die."

We all remember Frosh Camp... when we realized that we were at the wrong school!

Everyone was smarter than I could ever imagine.

Right away, we had a Physics assignment - question 11 on page 109 in Professor Resnick's classic textbook: I know, I really looked it up!

"If everything were to change to half its size overnight, how would you refute it?

All I knew was that I wouldn't bother refuting it as long as Marilyn Monroe looked exactly the same.

Sure enough, one kid in Dorm A told someone that the speed of light is a constant...

My response? Oh, yeah! I would have thought of that... by the time I'm a senior!

But, Frosh Camp was full of fun. A great talent show at West Hall topped it off, but the highlight was the Phalanx Dance... where girls were bussed to the Field House and we were matched up by height! Yeah, who needs Facebook or MATCH.COM ? RPI USES A RULER.

And... It works!

Yes, just quantify anything and kids get married! Did anyone here marry their Phalanx date? Many did. Not me.


My Phalanx date was, predictably... short.

But, holy moly, Bobbie Jupiter from Sage was in my 1st grade class at PS-114 in the Bronx!

I moved to Miami twelve years earlier and got fixed up with the TWERPY girl who screamed when the bird flew in the window in 1948!

That kind of thing became a pattern for my social life at RPI. With football, student council work, and studying, I relied on my friends to fix me up.

What I learned is that every pretty girl at Sage… knows a lot of losers who need a date.

For example, at a hockey game, after an RPI goal,


I reached over to hold Judy's hand in mine. It was sort of a casual "reach out and touch someone" moment. Immediately, she pulled her hand away and loudly proclaimed,


Yes, I know, I never heard of that before either, but I was cool... I suppressed my immediate retort:


Another Sage fix-up, showed a lot of promise... until I met her and I said, "Hello."


WHEN THE BEATLES SANG "SHE WAS JUST SEVENTEEN... YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN. My friends, who were philosophy majors or sociology majors (whatever that is) thought that they “knew what they mean”. BUT, AS AN RPI ENGINEER, I KNEW PRECISELY WHAT THEY MEANT...

17 is a prime number!

So, you can tell that my heart was broken many times at RPI. In fact, my heart was shattered in my Junior year... when my date actually announced, “I don’t want you to be the father of my children…

It was bad. My heart had been broken and shattered so badly at RPI that I'm still afraid to

"ask my doctor if my heart is healthy enough for sex"! Like they suggest in that TV ad.

But, I live in very progressive SEATTLE, where they invented Cialis, and they felt compelled to warn men to

"call a doctor if your erection lasts more than four hours!"

When I heard that, I decided that if that happens to me...

I'M CALLING EVERYBODY I KNOW... I'm sure that I'll reach some doctors.

Hell, FOUR HOURS! Every Rensselaer guy I knew was so horny that he had an erection that lasted for FOUR YEARS!

Think back, we were VERY COLD, horny, and tired...

We were so tired that we could barely make it through class. Now... I realize I was sleep deprived and a victim of undiagnosed sleep apnea.

Back then, I could not stay awake for a whole sentence! I took great notes –“the square root of the sum of the squares of the Vector segments at right angles yields a Sub-vector that equals the dum da da zap. My bobbing head allowed my hand to relax and the writing became a scribble.

The start of my sentences were clear. I knew everything they were trying to teach... I just didn't know what I was supposed to learn!

My Freshman year, I sat in the back of Faigenbaum's lecture hall.

He kept telling us that the difference between a C and an A was just to try 10% harder. I concluded that rather than try harder for a "chance" at an A, I'll just try less and "hope" not to have a D...

So, one day, I'm copying down everything he says and my head starts to nod and nod again... sentence after sentence into oblivion.

Then, I wake up to commotion as a piece of chalk zips right beside me in the 13th row and hits Phil Newman on the head.

Phil immediately stood up and shouted, WHAT WAS THAT?

Faigenbaum replied, "the guy sitting beside you fell asleep, and you're responsible to keep him awake!"

Phil retorted, "You wake him up! You're the one who put him to sleep!" ...

My senior year, I had confidence and learned a lot.

In Dr. Carter's OPERATIONS RESEARCH course, he distributed the graded exams that surprisingly had little boxes to record your answer. Since I never had time to actually compute an answer FOR ANY EXAM AT RENSSELAER, I thought that was novel challenge.

When the graded exams were passed out, I was able to see why I was hearing so many groans... I saw a paper with a score of 8 and another with a score of 12.

With no fear of embarrassment, I raised my hand and asked, "Sir, I just want to know if you're grading on a curve because I wrote 9 pages of formulas and my grade is a TWO!

Carter replied, "Well, if you got a TWO, you did twice as well as the others who got a ONE!

John Amazigo, the genius soccer player prep school graduate from Nigeria, earned a 98 on that exam...

What was he doing IN MY CLASS!

So, considering that my social life was a disaster and academic life was short of expectations… at least I had football…


Listen, we played during the peak of the streak - 6 1/2 years of losses and we were playing for 4 of those years. We lost every game. Our opponents scored an average of 37 points. In 1961, we opened at home against Vermont. The coach had seen their practice game, and told us that they would probably score on us, but that we will be able to "hold our own".

Well, ALL we held THAT DAY WAS… our own! Every time they touched the ball, they scored. Every time we touched the ball, they scored. At the end of the third quarter, I turned to my friend on the bench and said, "If they score 100 points, I'll never play football again."

The score was 75 to ZERO! Yes, the score was once 69 to ZERO. That's ten touchdowns with one missed extra point - After their eleventh touchdown, they gave their third string tackle another chance to redeem his failure and he missed again, so they hit that magical 75 number.

In the fourth quarter, they played people at whatever position they wanted to try, and we "fourth-quartered" them and… we scored a touchdown. That means that they gentlemanly failed on a fourth and three yard play so they turned the ball over to us without punting to us – usually, you see, we’d fumble the punt, they would recover and then they’d score – Yes, they scored on their own punts!

We had already fumbled three punts that day. So, from their 35-yard line we made a few first downs... and we scored on a quarterback sneak - taking no chances on a hand off!

The score was 82 to 6 and it ended that way, because, seizing the opportunity, we went for the two-point conversion... we had, after all, no one who could kick. It was, in the end, a moral victory, 12 touchdowns to one.


The other, "only at RPI cheer", was:

3 POINT 14159

Although it might seem like a long Football season, lots of Saturdays were spent on other beautiful campuses in front of large Homecoming crowds. Yes, we did Chemistry homework on the bus rides through the breathtakingly beautiful fall foliage. You can imagine how happy they were to host us!

That's when the chant we'd hear was simple and direct -


I must pause to tell you that all the athletes were in awe of the TRULY DIVISION I hockey players. I watched Ned Harkness fire slap shots at Stu Benton in a non-stop fusillade of rapid-fire tennis balls and continuously shouting at him to stand up. Once in the lonely emptiness of the Field House, I stood mesmerized as a solitary Bobby Brinkworth religiously and systematically sprinted up and down the ice as fast as he could - over and over - alone - in the empty darkness with lights only on the ice - long after everyone had already left.

It made me know that in the citadel of knowledge and thoroughness, you are in the end, what you take time to become.


Well, the TWILIGHT HAS COME AND WE'VE LOST TOO MANY SONG BIRDS. But, we came with high SAT SCORES and a feeling that technology could make a difference in our lives and in the world. We know through direct experience that Rensselaer changed our world and made us what we took time to become.

It's no wonder to us that the theme here is "why not change the world?" We stand today to recall our past and praise the memories that shaped our lives:


Here's to old RPI.
Her fame may never die!
Here's to old Rensselaer.
She stands today without a peer!
Here's to those olden days.
Here's to those golden days.
Here's to the friends we made
At dear old RPI!