Six years before their Golden Alumni Reunion, a dozen members of the Class of 1942 started kicking around the idea about doing “something big” for their upcoming 50th anniversary in 1992.
The late Robert Pohl, ChE’42, pushed for establishing an endowment to reward effective teachers. Fellow classmate Robert Brackbill, MinE’42, pushed to establish a scholarship for students.
During annual class reunion trips to Colorado, Florida, California, Virginia and Bermuda, Pohl would argue that professors – like C.J. Monroe, W.T. Schrenk, C.V. Mann, A.J. Miles and G.A. Muilengurg – should be rewarded for teaching. As Pohl witnessed an increased push for faculty to conduct research, he was determined teaching would not take a back seat. Brackbill, who already had established a scholarship, knew first-hand a scholarship’s importance. State funding was rapidly eroding, and Brackbill was determined that students should continue to have an opportunity to receive an outstanding education.
Class members – so persuaded by both – established both endowments to benefit teachers (now more than $67,000) and students (now more than $92,000) during their Golden Alumni Reunion.
“We pushed everyone pretty hard to get involved with our fund-raising efforts,” Brackbill says. “Even after our Golden reunion, we kept in touch through our outings (including Maine, Oregon, Wisconsin and New Mexico) until about four years ago, when there were only four of us able to make it to Hilton Head, S.C.”
One destination remains on their list: Rolla for Homecoming. Every year, at least one member of the Class of 1942 steps forward to present the Class of 1942 Effective Teaching Award. Their pace to the stage has slowed, but their enthusiasm has not.
“We all had been through the depression as children and so we learned to live frugally and to help others,” says George Bradshaw, ME’42. “We continue that expression of helping others through our endowments today.”
None of the original dozen dreamed of giving back when they graduated. With an accelerated graduation date – moved forward because of the outbreak of World War II just a few months before – the Class of 1942 found themselves thrust into the world. ROTC members deployed for their duty stations. Draftees and volunteers joined them. Others worked in fields critical to the war.
Sixty-seven years later, they remain grateful for the education that changed their lives. “It took me about 10 to 15 years to really appreciate everything I received at Rolla,” Bradshaw says. “I have very strong feelings about the school and want to help.”
Although Brackbill was quick to support students in the early days and today, he’s so proud that Pohl had the foresight to reward effective teachers. The first recipient, honored in 1993, – Ralph Flori, PetE’79, MS PetE’81, PhD PetE’87 – continues as a professor today and dined with Brackbill a few weeks ago while in Texas. “We really did something big,” Brackbill says.