50th Reunion

Fifty years ago it seemed that industry was hiring even naive liberal arts physics majors, ended up at the GE Research and Development Center in Schenectady, NY as a Staff Physicist, joining a group devoted to R&D in lamps and lighting. Over time I became the resident expert on optical spectroscopy, photometry, and radiometry. Astonishing at it may seem, I stuck with it until retiring from full time employment in 1990. Looking back, I feel most fortunate that despite normal ups and downs, I actually enjoyed my career so much. Great colleagues, fabulous facilities, and work that in its modest way seemed quite worthwhile. (We had a hand in invention and development of almost all the high efficiency lamp designs you now see lighting streets, factories, and sports facilities.)

Working in the group when I joined was a mathematician from the University of North Carolina, Joann Johnston. Nature took its course, we were married in 1954, and remain so now. She became one of the very first computer programmers at "The Lab", but left after a few years to pursue an incurable passion for the piano. This effort as student, teacher, coach, adjudicator, and performer continues even now. All through these years, I have actively participated in the local musical scene as a French horn player, working professionally with area symphonies and chamber orchestras, and on occasion playing in the pit for touring Broadway shows. Tremendously satisfying, though not without hours of sweat and moments of terror! Joann and I have shared in the commissioning of new music for our respective instruments, and commend that as a truly rewarding way for music lovers to "make a difference".

Reflections on the Amherst experience? Aside from a warm rosy glow, I hadn't thought about it much at all until a recent reading of Robin Varnum's treatise "Fencing with Words". This history and analysis of Prof. Baird's teaching of English writing truly woke me up. Way back then, when we were forced to share the English 1"2 adventure, I felt that I would never "get it'', standing in awe of those who so easily did. But now I realize that quite a bit penetrated and has stuck. After reading the book, Joann said "Wow! That explains why you think the way you do". An exaggeration, of course, but with some truth. Other courses had lasting impact, and we all have our list. For me, Prof. Stifler's "Electrical Measurements", Prof. Latharn's "Constitutional Law", and Prof. Mishkin's "Bach" come right to mind. One activity that didn't appear in either college catalog or publicity was the year of nights and weekends I spent assembling Heathkit oscilloscopes and other instruments for the physics department. As I recall, the going wage was the same as for bussing trays at Valentine ($1/hr?). It was fun, I became good at it, and my fascination with fixing and tinkering with circuits and mechanisms persists.

Theodore Rautenberg

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