We got some news from members of our class including members of the “Sperry Community” (a.k.a. University Hall 6). This news in a way reflects the reality late into the pandemic.
Jon Patterson, DVM ’81, recently retired from Michigan State U. in March 2019 after 32 years on the faculty of the College of Veterinary Medicine. In retirement, he is accomplishing goals of exercising more, reading more, and getting back to drawing and painting, hobbies that were sort of put on the back burner during his busy career. Jon and wife Karen manage a little ten-acre farm, with three horses, two dogs, and three cats. He has three grandchildren, thanks to his son, Geoff, and Geoff’s wife, Tonia, who live in North Carolina. Jon’s daughter, Kelly, recently moved to Colorado, and his stepson, Jason, and Jason’s wife, Rebecca, live in California. Jon hopes to visit them all again soon when the pandemic settles down. Spending time with Karen brings Jon his greatest satisfaction in life these days, and he shares that his biggest takeaway from the pandemic is that it has “shined a light on the importance of family and remaining connected to loved ones as best you can. Also, we are more grateful for what we have, as we see and read about those who are struggling in these difficult times. We must all try to come together and help others in need.”
Recently, I had the opportunity to get together virtually with several freshman dormmates from the Sperry Community. As anyone who has been up to the Cornell campus within the past 20 years knows, the University Halls, long a fixture of campus life and topography, have been torn down to make way for modern, somewhat glitzy residential houses named after Cornell notables (Hans Bethe and other venerable faculty members such as Flora Rose, William Keeton, PhD ’58, Carl Becker, and Alice Cook). The long-gone University Halls, which made up for their lack of charm (cinder block, anyone?) by providing a sense of community and an introduction to Cornell for generations of freshmen (freshmen now live on North Campus), seemed indestructible in their day.
The occasion for our virtual get-together was a sad one: the passing of a venerable member of the Sperry Community, Steven Hirschman. Steve was born and grew up in Brooklyn and was graduated from the highly regarded Stuyvesant High School in New York. He was graduated from the Engineering college at Cornell. His funeral was held on March 7, 2021, and, since we are in the wake of the pandemic, it was a virtual event that was recorded so those who could not see the event live could see it in its entirety later. Steve’s family provided the following statement: “Steven Hirschman passed away on March 4, 2021 in West Caldwell, NJ, after a prolonged battle with kidney disease. He is survived by his son, Burton, who is currently attending William Paterson U. in New Jersey.” To Steve’s family, please accept our deepest condolences.
To know Steve is to have met one of the most interesting people around. Steve’s son, Burton, in his eulogy, made reference to his father’s ability to make people feel good. I can personally attest to this. My most recent contact with Steve was via LinkedIn, where he reached out to me a few years ago. He asked me what I did, and after I described it he said, “That’s pretty cool.” Probably the first time anyone ever said that to me; I had a good feeling afterward.
The mastermind behind getting us together was Richard Rosen, another Sperry original. Rich, whom I have known since junior high school, lives in Edison, NJ, and has worked as a software engineer for a variety of companies including Bell Labs, American Express, and Dow Jones. He continues to use his prodigious musical abilities, jamming with old friends and recording his own music in an ever-expanding home studio. Joining us on the Zoom meeting after the funeral was Rich’s wife of 19 years, Celia Castro, who is an opera singer currently working toward her master’s degree at Columbia U. (How cool is that?)
Also joining us on the Zoom meeting was Joseph Zawistowski ’78. Joe lives in Sayreville, NJ, and started with the Class of ’77, but as an Architecture student in a five-year program, he received his degree in 1978. Yes, Joe was one of the late-night denizens of Sibley Hall. After graduation from Cornell, he joined an architectural firm in Princeton, NJ, helping it grow to almost 500 people with offices across the US and in Europe and the Middle East, eventually becoming a principal. After almost 30 years there, working on major buildings for Pfizer, AT&T, Hoffmann-La Roche, Procter & Gamble, Rutgers, and even Cornell, among others, Joe retired about ten years ago when he and his partners sold the firm.
Another former member of the Sperry Community who joined the meeting and attended the funeral is Mark Srednicki, together with his wife, Eloise. Mark graduated from the Engineering college with a degree in Engineering Physics. After graduation, he received a PhD in physics from Stanford and then held post-doctoral research positions at Princeton and CERN, which operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world. Mark has been a professor of physics at UC Santa Barbara since 1983. Daughter Julia is a lead character designer at Netflix.
The day after the funeral we paid shiva calls by Zoom. Shiva is an ancient Jewish tradition to provide comfort to the families of those who have departed. Later we again got together by Zoom to celebrate Joe’s birthday, his 66th.
Please be safe and well and maintain social distancing, keep wearing masks, and wash your hands. Of course, get vaccinated. We will get through this. We would be interested in hearing your stories about how you are dealing with the pandemic. Jon Patterson shared his biggest takeaways from the pandemic. Please share yours. Best wishes. Keep all of your news and views coming in via the Cornell online news form. Or write to either of us directly at: ❖ Howie Eisen, firstname.lastname@example.org; or Mary Flynn, email@example.com.