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For Fuehrers, RIT is the family way

When David Fuehrer ’04 received his MBA in May, he was upholding a family tradition spanning four generations and 100 years:

• In 1904, William J. Fuehrer (David’s great-grandfather) graduated from RIT’s predecessor, Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute.

• Charles Edwards (David’s maternal grandfather) graduated in 1937 with a degree in mechanical engineering.

• Gerard Rossner (David’s third-cousin) earned a BFA in photography in 1961.

• Craig Fuehrer (David’s father) came to RIT to study chemistry in 1968.

• Martin Mendola (David’s cousin) earned his MBA in 1998.

• And next year, Eric Fuehrer (David’s brother) expects to graduate in 2005 with a degree in finance.

RIT is a living legacy for one family, whose members include, from left, Eric, Craig and David Fuehrer and Charles Edwards.

“My great-grandfather’s belief in higher education started the RIT tradition that includes both my mother’s and father’s side of the family,” says David Fuehrer, who works as research coordinator in the Technology Management Center at RIT’s College of Business.

Charles Edwards, who lives in the Rochester area, attended his grandson’s ceremony at RIT on May 21 – his 88th birthday. He considers May 21 a very
special date.

“On May 21, 1927,” Edwards recalls, “I was a young boy and delivering milk from our dairy farm when a neighbor called out to me, ‘Lindberg made it,’ ” he says. “May 21, 2004, carries even more meaning because someone in my family has ‘made it.’ ”

The legacy began with William Fuehrer, who became an architect and opened his own business in 1910 in Rochester. Among his notable designs are Rochester’s St. Boniface School on Gregory Street and Haddon Hall on University Avenue.

Rossner remembers visiting “Uncle William, the architect” on the job when he was a young boy. “He had a cigar box filled with new pencils and he would break each of them in half and sharpen both ends so no one would want to steal them if they were stubs,” he recalled. “He was a smart businessman.”

Following a four-year stint in the Navy as an aviation photographer, Rossner attended RIT because it was “the only place to go for photography.” He worked as an industrial photographer for Kodak until his retirement in 1989.

“I was taught by some of the big names in early photography: Charlie Savage who taught portraiture and C.B. Neblette, world-famous photographer, author and first dean of RIT’s College of Graphic Arts and Photography,” Rossner says.

“I learned the art of photography from the best of the best.”

Besides the high quality of the programs and the convenience of attending a local school, RIT was attractive to the family for another reason.

“The cost of education,” says Charles Edwards with a laugh. “When I went to RIT, tuition was $150 a year and it was raised to $200 during my third year. I paid my own way through college by making 40 cents an hour at Kodak. I’ve been told it’s quite different now.”

Craig Fuehrer enrolled at RIT in 1968 to earn a master’s degree in chemistry but attended classes for only three weeks. Now he is known as the family historian and record-keeper of many RIT milestones throughout 10 decades. His grandfather’s diploma hangs in his living room.

“I wanted so much to carry on the family tradition,” says Craig, “but I had just returned from Vietnam where I was awarded the Purple Heart after severe injuries in a major attack where everyone else was killed. I couldn’t deal with all those memories and ended up back in the hospital. So my two sons are my legacy, so to speak – to carry on what I couldn’t finish myself.”

David and Eric Fuehrer believe there are lessons learned by continuing the RIT tradition. They recently spent a few hours sifting through their grandfather’s college memorabilia – reminders of family history they never take for granted.

“Many students don’t want to attend college where their parents or grandparents went, but that idea never crossed my mind,” says Eric. “In fact, when I see how ambitious and successful my relatives have been in their careers and their lives, I figured those were good steps to follow.”

“We’ve all taken different paths but we all came back and have continued to be a part of this campus for 100 years,” adds David. “RIT has been a big part of my life and my family’s life and the breadth of experience and education this university offers is testimony to the diverse paths we’ve taken and will continue to take.

“Our family ties to RIT have been both an honor and a very wise investment.”