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Remembering RIT

As part of the commemoration of the university’s 175th anniversary, we asked readers to share their memories of RIT. Excerpts of some of the responses are printed here. You’ll find longer versions of these and additional stories on the 175th Anniversary Web site at www.rit.edu/175.

Anniversary documentary
now available on DVD

RIT 175: Rochester and its Institute, a film produced last year in commemoration of the university’s anniversary, is now available on DVD.

Malcolm Spaull, film and animation professor, and David Cronister, director of RIT’s Educational Technology Center, produced and directed the 55-minute film. Students in the School of Film and Animation assisted in the project. In addition to the documentary, the DVD contains another 30 minutes of content, including extended interviews and student- produced mini-films.

The film, co-produced by RIT and WXXI public television, was first shown at RIT in November, and in December aired several times on WXXI-TV.

The DVD is available in the RIT bookstore, Campus Connections, for $18.95, plus shipping and handling, and tax. For more information, call 585-475-2504 or visit http://bookstore.rit.edu

The art of teaching

Michael O. Olugbile II ’79, ’81 (ceramics and ceramic sculpture)
Sr. Instructor / Head of Ceramics Programs
Fine Digital and Performing Arts
Shawnee State University
Portsmouth, Ohio

Michael O. Olugbile

I dedicated my MFA thesis, “Ceramic Art – A Vehicle for Cultural Awareness,” to my dear professor, Hobart Cowles. I now believe his name meant “C” for compassionate, “O” for overwhelming, “W” for wisdom, “L” for loyalty, “E” for exceptional, “S” for service. The School for American Crafts/Ceramics only could accommodate eight freshmen in fall of 1977, but Professor Cowles understood my determination and squeezed
me in. Without this golden experience during my ceramic art studies I would not have become a senior instructor and head of ceramics programs at Shawnee State University.

“Raison d’etre Intellectual Tutelage,” my definition 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 1977 winter blizzard experience, or other cultural shock scenarios that could have discouraged me except for the selfless good Samaritan qualities of Barbara Letvin, our international students advisor or “Mom,” as I’d like to refer to her.

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

Thank you RIT, my Brick City.

From Laos to RIT

Sengphet Phongphachanh ’03 (MBA)
Vientiane, Laos

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.

Driving Professor Barschel

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

Robert S. Weber

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.

A short and very distinctly German RIT professor named Hans J. Barschel provided that imprint in 1974.

Coming from the distant cultural landscape of Ohio, I ventured 500 miles from home to pursue my love of photography. As a pro photo major, I enrolled in Professor B’s photo design class. At first glance, he appeared as a lost German grandfather. Little did I know that his early designs graced the pages of Fortune and that his work hangs in the Museum of Modern Art.

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.

My ’66 Lemans guided the professor home that first spectacular fall day, through the Can of Worms to his flower-surrounded home. I met his wife, Marga, along with Blackelein, their well-fed family cat.

On the second trip home, he requested stops at the fruit market and Wegmans. 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 beloved plants.
On these drives, Barschel espoused his philosophy, experiences in Germany, and details of his 15-year artistic journey in New York City that laid the design framework for his 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)!”

When I left RIT in early ’76 to pursue a photography career back in Ohio, my friendship with Professor B continued. 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. His colorful communication finally stopped in ’89 when Marga passed – then he passed in 1998. Professor B’s ashes were scattered in the Adirondack’s Garnet Lake where he met Marga in 1943. His ultimate embrace of nature was complete.

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.

I was in love with my RIT car

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

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.
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 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.

What was really exciting about my RIT days was my 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. That little 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. 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 paradise, 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. An RIT dream machine!

Holding that tiger

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

When Mary-Beth Cooper, vice president for student affairs, came to Duke in 2004 for a gathering of a Raleigh-Durham alumni group, she commented that we once had a live tiger on campus but that she did not know a whole

David Page, SPIRIT, and President Mark Ellingson.

lot about it. I filled her in, as I was part of the effort to handle the tiger – and also served as the human stand-in.

The concept of the tiger as a mascot came into being in the mid- to late 1950s. 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 department took over this responsibility. In those days cheerleaders really led cheers and the RIT Tiger performed with the fencing team, shot hoops, skated with the hockey team in warm-ups and generally greeted fans, led cheers and harassed opponents.

The tiger also showed up at school events, carried the flag at the annual parade and represented RIT in the community.

With a rising interest in the Tigers, Denis Kitchen, Roger Kramer and Jim Black formed an ad hoc tiger committee and persuaded Student Government to loan them $1,000-plus for the purchase of a baby Bengal Tiger, which would be our mascot, to 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 $1 shares of stock in the tiger. The response was overwhelming and the zoo personnel acquired the baby.

A caravan with more than 50 students and officials met the plane. The pilots 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. A big “name the tiger contest” was held and SPIRIT was chosen. My classmate and now distinguished photography professor Andy Davidhazy was credited with the name, which derived from “Student Pride In RIT.”

A group of us took lessons at the zoo and became SPIRIT’s handlers. He appeared on a local 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 took him to picnics on the land that was purchased for the new campus, brought him out before and between periods of basketball and hockey games and walked him around our concrete campus.

SPIRIT loved his time on campus and was very comfortable with students. He and I became good friends. As he got big enough to require two handlers at a time we noticed that he had soft bone problems that was diagnosed as a calcium deficiency. When his calcium deficiency was mitigated, a larger problem, a pelvic constriction, was revealed.

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.

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 book store. Students visit him every day. Student Pride in RIT is alive and well.

Mr. President

Bernie Lazorchak ’59 (printing)
Toano, Va.

As a U.S. Navy veteran, I enrolled at RIT based on it being the very best of printing schools. 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 a policeman where I could find RIT. His response was, “Son, you already rode around the entire campus at least three times and 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. 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.

True love blossoms

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

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 was 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.

Don and Anne McElhaney Stanton in 1955, left, and in 1993.

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” where 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 part time 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.

The day the world changed

Robert M. Frank ’65 (photography)
Somerset, Mass. 

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 to meet my wife-to-be, who was in Rochester scouting for an apartment. We were to be married in December.

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: President 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, the men’s dorm; 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; 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.

Mini Baja debuts

Pete Romocki ’80 (mechanical engineering)
Atlanta, Ga.

In 1978, our RIT student chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) took the responsibility of entering into the Mini Baja East competition. As president, I found it relatively easy to get the chapter excited about the undertaking: Our chapter unanimously agreed it would be a great idea to get an

Members of the pit crew at the Mini Baja East competition at the University of Delaware in 1980 included, from left: unidentified, Pete Romocki, unidentified, Doug Jurusik, Jerry Scheller, Joe Raleigh and David Vadney.

entry together so we could travel to the University of South Florida, host of the spring 1979 competition. Professor Alan Nye, faculty advisor, added his support – providing he could make the trip.

It took almost the entire school year to find resources needed to build our car. Our SAE chapter pooled resources with the RIT American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) chapter (whose president was Donald Cary ’80, mechanical engineering).

Fund-raising events like road rallies were organized, but our program really got life when we secured a grant from RIT’s Student Development Program for $2,000. Unfortunately, because the grant money did not come through until the end of the spring quarter 1979, we were unable to compete in Florida. We immediately started our plans to enter the 1980 competition at the University of Delaware.

In the spring of 1980, we loaded “our baby” into a rented van and we car-pooled 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 took 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.”

In 1981, RIT captured first place in the overall Mini Baja East event and in 1982 RIT hosted the entire competition in Rochester. Since this 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.