June 12, 2011

Todd ’31 Attends Cornell’s First 80th Reunion

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This week, Cornell held its first-ever 80th alumni reunion as part of alumni weekend 2011. The Sun sat down with Rosemary Todd ’31 and her daughter, Sally Solmssen, to talk about the changing face of the campus, the origins of Human Ecology and the lost joy of reading Virgil.

The Sun: How has your visit been so far?Rosemary Todd ’31: My visit here has been terrific; it’s passed my expectations. I can’t get used to all these high rises because when I was here there was no such thing as a high rise.  Lots of green grass, too.

Sun: When was the last time you were here?R.T.: The last reunion, five years ago. Sally Solmssen: For her 75th reunion.

Sun: A lot has obviously changed on campus since you attended Cornell, but is there anything in particular that you still recognize?R.T.: I don’t recognize much, I’ll tell you. I was looking for Willard Straight, I was looking for Sage, I don’t know. I didn’t get anywhere. S.S.: How about the Drill Hall?R.T.: Oh, the Drill Hall.S.S.: Which is now called Barton.R.T.: Barton, yes. We called it the Drill Hall.

Sun: How was it that you were able to come to Cornell in 1931, given the economic circumstances at the time?R.T.: I guess it was difficult time for the economy but we weren’t really aware of that. I had a Latin teacher from my high school; she had gone here and she was big at Cornell. She was a big influence in my life. I took Latin all four years at Cornell — Virgil. Sun:  Wow, I don’t know too many people who study it here now. R.T.: Oh nobody studies it — they’re missing fun.

Sun: Were you involved in any organizations on campus?[Todd points to a pin from the Delta Delta Delta sorority]S.S.: She was President of her Tri-Delt class. And you did some sports.R.T.: I was quite involved. I remember out at Taughannock Falls, I went in the water there a lot.S.S.: Near the Tri-Delt house, at the bottom of the hill, the Tri-Delt girls used to sit out there and sunbathe, but they must have closed it because it was a liability.  R.T.: I also played Field Hockey.S.S.: And you were on different committees.R.T.: I was, but I had to be away part of my sophomore year. That kind of messed things up.

Sun: Why did you have to be away?R.T.: Oh, because of a home condition, I’ve forgotten what it was.S.S.: I think her father was sick or something.R.T.: Yes, I think so.

Sun: Do you keep in touch with any of the people from the Class of ‘31?R.T.: Not many now, but I have in the past.S.S.: She has one friend, Toots, who is 101. She came to the 70th and 75th reunion and we called her on her 101st birthday, but she said there was no way she could make it to this reunion. But that’s about the only person she keeps in touch with.

Sun: Can you tell me a little about what your studies at Cornell were like?S.S.: Well, at Cornell she started out in Home Ec. She said there wasn’t much opportunity for women in Home Ec — they wanted you to be chamber maids or something like that.R.T.: Oh yes, when I was in Home Ec there was not much for women, except chamber maids and I thought, ‘the heck with that,’ so I switched to economics.S.S.: Home Economics is now Human Ecology, and it used to be all women, basically. That was sort of where they sent you. But she didn’t like what the future was; it looked like chamber maid city or something so she went to economics, but afterwards she was not involved in things connected to economics.She did public relations in New York and she met my father and they had a short courtship and she moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and raised us. Then when she was in her 50s — early 50s, I guess — she decided to go to Michigan State, and she got her Master’s degree in education. She taught middle school English and then she became the reading consultant for the middle school and did that for 10 years. But she also did a lot of volunteer work over the years. She was president of the PTA and active in the Junior League and did a lot of volunteer work.R.T.: That’s about all we can tell you, I think.S.S.: And now she has three children, 12 grandchildren and 21 great grandchildren.

Sun: Any favorite memories from Cornell you’d like to share before we end?R.T.: I’ve had a good life and we [Stanton Todd, her husband] were married 63 years.S.S.: You’ve always been very proud of being a Cornell graduate.R.T.: Oh, of course I have. So, here I am.

Original Author: Liz Camuti