February 16, 2004

Memorial Service Honors Professor

Print More

Yesterday at 3 p.m., friends, family and former students went to pay their respects at the Kendal at Ithaca life-care facility for John Philip Windmuller, Martin P. Catherwood Professor Emeritus of Industrial and Labor Relations collective bargaining, law and history. He died Dec. 2, 2003, two days before his 80th birthday.

“He became the world’s leading expert on international and comparative labor relations” said Edward Lawler, dean of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Windmuller’s son, Thomas S. Windmuller, read the eulogy and spoke of his father’s challenging early years.

Born Dec. 4, 1923 in Dortmund, Germany, Windmuller was held for four days by the Gestapo before leaving on a children’s transport to the Netherlands. He was also a passenger on the St. Louis, a ship carrying Holocaust survivors which was turned away by Cuba and the U.S. and forced back to Europe. Windmuller entered the U.S. in 1942 and in 1951 received a doctoral degree and was appointed to the Cornell faculty.

“He always had a kind of quiet dignity, had an encyclopedic memory and treated everyone equally and with respect” said Thomas Windmuller.

John Windmuller received many honors, including Ford Foundation and Fulbright fellowships, as well as a silver medal from the Netherlands Ministry of Social Affairs and Public Health for his book Labor Relations in the Netherlands.

“He was a scholar who already spoke four languages and spent a lot of time arguing about foreign language requirements in graduate school, [requirements] which were proficiency in two languages other than English” said former Cornell president Dale R. Corson.

Gordon Law, director of the ILR Catherwood Library, said that “it’s hard to find some out-of-print copies of [Windmuller’s] books because people who have copies of his books don’t want to let go of them.”

After the speakers, prayers and classical piano interludes, a microphone was passed around for people in the audience to share their thoughts on Windmuller.

“From a student’s perspective, he was the greatest teacher I ever had, and the hardest” said Prof. Kate Bronfenbrenner ’76, director of labor education research. She added that “he really inspired a great number of students and truly believed in the rights of all workers to have collective bargaining in the workplace.”

Benjamin Kahn, a relative of Windmuller, said that “he was quiet, but you got a feeling of dignity and decency and felt, as a young kid, when he spoke to you that he respected you and took you seriously.”

About 120 people came to honor the memory of John P. Windmuller and numerous people have written in a memory book for him on the ILR website.

Archived article by Vanessa Hoffman