The William "Bill" Vanneman '31 Outstanding Class Leader Award recognizes class officers who have provided long-term exemplary service to the university and to their classes.
Bill served his class tirelessly for 80 years and was helping to organize Cornell’s first 80th class reunion in June when he died on April 26, 2011 at age 102.
He was well known and well beloved among Cornellians from across the full spectrum of alumni classes. CACO is proud to honor the example he set by sponsoring this award named in his honor.
Send us your nominations!
The 2013 award nomination deadline is November 1, 2012.
If you know a class officer whose dedication deserves the spotlight, let us know! Help us pay special recognition to our class leaders who give their all to planning Reunion activities, keeping class spirits high, raising funds for Cornell, and more.
Click here to complete a nomination.
- Class officers are eligible for nomination after they have celebrated their 40th Reunion
- Recipients are selected solely on the basis of their contributions as class leaders
- Recipients of the Frank H. T. Rhodes award and current or former trustees are not eligible
The CACO Board is very pleased to present Robert “Bob” Persons ’48 with the 2013 William “Bill” Vanneman Outstanding Class Leader Award.
Bob came to Cornell as part of the U.S. Naval Officers Training Program, also known as the V-12 program, along with more than 1,000 other sailors. His education was temporarily interrupted by the declaration of peace after the atom bombs fell. After several months of active duty, he was discharged with advanced service points and reentered Cornell in the Navy ROTC program. Two days after graduating from Cornell with a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering degree, he was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy.
Tagged at his 20th Reunion by Dave Cutting, then ’48 class president, he was asked to take on the role of class correspondent for a five-year period. As the self-proclaimed “networking curmudgeon” of the Cornell Class of 1948, Bob has been the class correspondent since that time: 45 years and counting! Says Bob,
“I will continue this enjoyable practice until God sends me a message to rest my pen. It’s fun! Our ranks are thinning, but there are still enough of us to make a lot of noise if not a lot of sense.”
Adele Robinette, Class Notes Editor at Cornell Alumni Magazine, has this to say. “Bob’s columns are unlike all the other class columns. He creates a different news form every year full of questions about family, politics, the meaning of life, favorite possessions, eateries, vacation spots, etc., and his classmates respond in droves. Bob writes up the news in long-hand, all at once, and mails me enough material for at least four columns. He was the one of the first correspondents to simply quote his classmates. Bob lets them all speak for themselves; this has given a very personal tone to the Class of ’48 column.”
While Bob was collecting interesting tidbits about his classmates’ lives, he was living a full life himself. For nine years, he worked at Ebasco Services on design, construction and start-up of electric utility steam-electric and hydro-electric generating stations in Mississippi, Washington, Texas, and North Dakota. Bob was self-employed as a Forensic Consulting Engineer, investigating “Murphy’s Law” events: fires, floods, explosions, collapses, machinery breakdowns, system malfunctions, lightning damages, and windstorm damages, and the occasional arson. He conducted 9,250 investigations in 46 states plus the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, the Virgin Islands, Canada, and England.
Bob and his first wife, Blanche, had four children who are now an engineer, an orthopedic surgeon, a librarian, and a “man about town.” After Blanche died in 1999, Bob dated girls for coffee, dinner, golf, Broadway plays, and concerts. Finally, after courting 32 women, he happily ended five years of bachelorhood with his marriage to date #33 in June 2004. Between him and his wife, Cathy, they have nine kids, 18 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.
For 26 years, he worked on building a model of the 1799 U.S. Frigate Essex. The model has been donated to and is on display at the USNA Museum in Annapolis, MD.
Through it all, Bob has made it to all NYC Mid-Winter Meetings and CALCs held in Washington. Bob found time to attend all but one of his twelve Cornell reunions. He looks forward to his 65th in June of this year.