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West Hall Memories

Thanks for the article on West Hall. It brings back lots of fond memories of CCHS and RPI. I went to Catholic Central High School for four years. My class was the first to graduate from the new building in North Troy in 1953. My first three years were in what is now West Hall. I remember some fall and spring days watching RPI’s grounds crew cut the lawn by letting their reel mowers roll down the hill and then haul them up by attached ropes to realign them for another pass. In 1953 I entered RPI and graduated with a BChE in 1957. During my time at RPI I had a few classes in West Hall: Geology, Economics, and English. My fraternity (Phi Kappa) used to be located just across the street.

Bill Smith ’57
Holland, Pa.

Aside from the persistent rumor that it was slipping into the Hudson, West Hall, in the mid to late ’60s, had a cafeteria. Before the Union was built, it was one of the few places for commuters to go without a large crowd. The cafeteria also served some very, very nice soups during the winter and also had free portions (albeit small) of potato chips, a very welcome thing for those of us without any other “home” on campus, at that time. The auditorium was also home to the large lectures given to freshmen and also some film showings since there was no where else. I’m glad it’s still around.

Howard Henze ’69
Gloversville, N.Y.

I really enjoyed the article on West Hall, both from a personal and historic point of view. I have many fond memories of classes in that structure, particularly the humanities ones taught by Professors Douglas Washburn and Ted Sanford — they provided an enjoyable but stimulating respite from all my math and science courses. The cafeteria was also a great place to catch a quick burger or sandwich when there wasn’t time to get to the other side of campus between classes.

The historic photos are fascinating, but raise a question not answered in the article. The pre-1895 exterior view shows two prominent wings, with the central tower area recessed. All the later views, including the current one, show a single prominent central structure with the wings recessed. There must have been a major rebuilding sometime in its history, but when?

Dave Messer ’60
Royersford, Pa.

Editor’s note: The west wing was added to the hospital in 1896. It is believed the tower was removed at that time. The original structure followed the H-plan design representative of hospitals of that era. Subsequent additions to the west facade included interior staircases c. 1923 when the building became Catholic Central High School. These staircases, which still exist, were built into the recessed area created between the west wing and the earlier corner wings.

Swayed By the Chrinitoid!

Writer Tom Payne ’86 struck a chord with his essay “In Search of the Chrinitoid” in the Winter issue. Many readers wrote to him, identifying with his devotion to the stainless-steel George Rickey sculpture that resided on campus 1972-84.

Iguess there are two kinds of people — those who were intrigued by the thing and those who… weren’t. I am, like you, intrigued by it, and enjoyed sitting and watching it for longer than is probably healthy. On the other hand, my wife would probably get along quite well with yours.

As a mechanical engineer, I always wanted to create a piece of similar nature, twisting slowly, silently, randomly in the wind. Haven’t done it yet — guess it’ll have to wait a few more years until I retire.

Jeff Gorss ’66
Greenfield Center, N.Y.

I was on campus in November, for the first time in 17 years, and right away I noticed that the Chrinitoid was missing. Googling it was on my “to do when I have a chance” list, and I just plain forgot, until seeing your article.

The way you described your obsession, your Googling, your digging and digging, etc., was me exactly. I’m afraid to show your article to my wife, lest she freak. Right now, she thinks I’m the only one in the world like that. Must be that little school in Troy that does it?

I probably could have spent my time getting a reasonably good education at a school where I’d have had a lot more fun than I did at RPI, but every time I talk with a friend from college, the memories and laughs come pouring back.

Dave George ’83
Fairport, N.Y.

Rickey sculpture

Rickey's "Six Random Lines Excentric" graces campus today. Photo by Gary Gold.

I am currently a senior at RPI, on co-op in Connecticut and staying with an RPI grad. He showed me a copy of the most recent alumni magazine and the article you wrote. Of course when I saw the picture, I recognized the football field in the back and then saw this interesting structure. My first thought was “that’s not there.” I went on to read the article and learned of your discovery of the location of the structure. I read one line in there that I’d like to comment on: “But for the rest of us, it left a huge gap in the middle of campus that remained empty, the threaded bolts protruding...”

As I was reading that I thought to myself, “but there’s something there now.” I’m not entirely sure when the last time you visited RPI, but in 1996, there was a new Rickey installation that was put in and that is still there. As a freshman, I used to stand there and look at the spikes of “Six Random Lines Excentric” sway with the wind and thought it was magic. If you haven’t seen it, I think you should [pictured at right]!

Charlene Chotalal
Troy, N.Y.

I enjoyed your essay about your search of the Chrinitoid. I was a professor of physics at RPI from 1955 to 1986, and I still have an office space in the physics department. I am a native of Zurich and visit every year. I saw George Rickey regularly during his last few years [and] he told me about his negotiations with the UBS people after I had asked him where the sculpture was. The next time I went to Zurich I looked at the Chrinitoid as an old acquaintance and since then sometimes make a detour to look at it again. The new Rickey sculpture “Six Random Lines Excentric” is a very fine beautification of the campus. There is still another Rickey sculpture on campus, on an outside wall of the Folsom Library, donated by a senior class.

By the way, the Schanzengraben is a water-filled trench outside the fortified wall, since Zurich being a city had a wall for its protection around it. I hope that you can visit Zurich and see the Chrinitoid. It is within walking distance from the center of town.

Heinrich Medicus
Troy, N.Y.

Horse Play

I was thrilled to see the notes on RPI students making it to Nationals in horseback riding. I actually founded the RPI Equestrian Team back in the fall of 1984 when I was president of the Equestrian Club, which had some 40-50 members. We started out as a group of 13 riders and grew to form complete teams of 20 riders at every show throughout the year. The person who provided a huge impetus to the formation of the team was Mark Buscher ’86, a “local” northern New Yorker who was familiar with the players at the time. Mark was instrumental in getting RPI into the IHSA and gathering the information we needed to get started in the competitions. Debbi Beebe ’86 was our treasurer, and Mike Fallon ’87 our secretary. I acted as captain from 1984-87.

The RPI equestrian team won a Team High Point award and numerous individual Rider High Point awards at various shows from 1984-87. In the spring of 1987, for the first time, we sent two riders to the Regional finals: myself and Pam Pearson ’89. I remember the horse I drew to ride that day — he was a big grey gelding named G.H. (for General Hospital — yes, those were the ’80s!) who was a dream to ride. Pam and I narrowly missed qualifying for Nationals, as we placed 3rd and 2nd respectively in Intermediate Hunt Seat Equitation. Pam qualified for Nationals (the first RPI rider to do so) in the spring of ’89, but was unable to compete as she was a part-time student that semester.

Congratulations to JoAnn Johnson, Alison Lorig, Mariah Hughlock, and others for making it to Nationals!

Ingrid Pavilanis ’86
Chicago, Ill.

I had no idea that RPI had an equestrian team. I started riding 10 years ago at the age of 50 when a friend twisted my arm into getting on a horse for the first time since I was 8 years old. I got hooked and have been riding competitively ever since. I am an English hunter/jumper and compete as an adult amateur all over New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Florida. When I am next at RPI, I would love to visit with them.

Paul Sa ’67
New York, N.Y.

JumpStart Update

Thanks for your coverage of JumpStart International in the Fall 2004 issue. I received a number of great letters of support, and yes, even checks from Rensselaer alumni in response to the coverage of what we are doing in Iraq! I’m writing to update those who wanted to know what happened next.

After the article came out, I decided that the continued targeting of humanitarian workers, especially those with a Western connection, made it too foolish for me to personally continue operating without armed guards in Baghdad, and rather than do that, I decided to leave the country and leave the management of the organization in local hands. Today, despite many setbacks and continuing death threats, we are attempting to continue to help in the rebuilding of the country. Many brave Iraqis continue the work of the organization, but the outcome of our efforts is uncertain. We hope that the recent election portends progress, but realize that the future in the short term is rather bleak. But with any luck, and with God’s good graces, we hope to continue to provide some light and hope to those who choose the path of building and creation rather than death and destruction.

For more up-to-date info, I refer you to www.jsintl.org.

Sean O’Sullivan ’85
Madrid, Spain

We’d love to hear from you! To provide space for as many letters as possible, we often must edit them for length. Please address correspondence to: Rensselaer Magazine, Office of Communications, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180, e-mail to alum.mag@rpi.edu, or call (518) 276-6531.

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