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Remembering Bill Vanneman '31

Bill Vanneman Bill Vanneman '31
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William “Bill” Vanneman ’31, an extraordinary alumnus who helped organize—and was planning to attend—Cornell’s first 80th class reunion this year, died April 26, 2011, at age 102. Cornell has lost a real treasure.

Vanneman had served as president of his class since his graduation and had become a fixture at Reunions, which he attended annually. He had become the embodiment of Big Red spirit, and was the namesake and the first recipient of the Bill Vanneman ’31 Outstanding Class Leader Award, established in 2005 to honor alumni service.
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If you would like to post a tribute on this page, please contact Jennifer Cunningham '92.


Big Red Love Stories 17 messages
Nuntica Tanasugarn commented on Jun 3, 2011 at 8:10 PM:

Those of us who were fortunate to meet Bill will always be inspired by his love of Cornell. His spirit lives on through our volunteer work. May we always remember his Big Red smile as we show alumni leaders the Vanneman way!

Sarah Lynn Doherty commented on May 6, 2011 at 3:09 AM:

I went to a lot of Reunions when I was a student and then a staff member at Cornell. Bill's fabulous candy striped jackets and overall cheery Cornell spirit made me very happy. He'll be missed.

Lorraine Aronowitz Danzig commented on May 4, 2011 at 3:27 PM:

It was always a pleasure to see Bill's smiling face at various Cornell events. We thank him for his enthusiastic efforts on behalf of Cornell and we will all miss him.

Esther Tang commented on May 4, 2011 at 1:36 AM:

Dear Mr. Vanneman,

Singing the Alma Mater without you simply won't be the same.

But I am comforted to know that actually, we will still hear your singing in our hearts.

Looking forward to Reunions with you again in a city on another hill!

Until then, Esther Tang, Hotel '04

Maya Gasuk commented on May 3, 2011 at 6:35 PM:

Bill Vanneman was as consistent a sight at a Cornell campus event as the clock tower. He was always gracious, kind, enthusiastic, and happy to meet and speak with anyone who loved Cornell. In the later years, it was wonderful that his family would continue to support his participation in events-- the sight of Bill Vanneman standing and cheering at Cornelliana Night during reunion weekend was an inspiration to us all. He will certainly be missed.

Alice Katz Berglas commented on May 3, 2011 at 3:55 PM:

there are no words truly to describe Bill Vanneman: Elegant and Exuberant; Gracious and Giving, are but four that come a bit close. Infectious and Inspiring, Vibrant and Ever-Present are a few more. i came to know Bill through my Dad, his '31 classmate, who became grand Cornell friends after meeting at their 30th Reunion. I have loved him since I met him when i was about 22, and shall miss his scooping me up and showing me "the Cornell way." He was the Grand Marshal at my Dad's Big Red Band Parade even BEFORE we had an official Grand Marshal. We plotted together and partied together, and he seemed to make the decades between us collapse. I shalll have him always in my heart and have him tucked in my pocket whenever I tread the Hill or find myself marching down Fifth Avenue with Trombones and Tubas.

Lynne Williams commented on May 3, 2011 at 2:38 PM:

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch until at last she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, "There she goes!"

Gone where? Gone from my sight ... that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says, "There she goes!" there are other eyes watching her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!" A Parable of Immortality Henry Van Dyke

James Grady commented on May 3, 2011 at 1:09 AM:

I recall reading about Mr. Vanneman for several years in the back pages of Cornell magazine. What a treat it was to finally see him at my 10 year reunion in 2009! At Cornelliana night we all sang him Happy Birthday (it was shortly after his 100th) and he stood up and waved at all of us and beamed a huge smile. You were an inspiration to all of us and God Bless you somewhere, Far Above Cayuga's Waters.

Mike O'Hara commented on May 2, 2011 at 3:55 PM:

Bill, You are an exemplary human being, not just exemplary as a Cornellian. I met you through Cornell and I will always remember you for what you gave to each and every person you met - a little piece of goodness and selflessness. Thank you for all you have done as a Cornellian, a leader and as a great, great person.

Jack D. Vail Jr commented on Apr 29, 2011 at 9:04 PM:

I am so sorry to hear of Bill's passing. He and his wife Rosebud were great friend of my parents, Sally and Jack Vail. They would often stop at our house in Binghamton on their way to and from Ithaca. Bill and my Dad were classmates and for years, since they were such great friends, I thought they were fraternity brothers. I never knew otherwise until recently when I looked Bill up in the '31 Cornellian. For the past 3 years attending CALC meetings, I was pleased to see him there and went up to him to say hello for my parrents. He remembered them and each time, greeted with me with a smile. He was a great man and will be missed by the many who knew him and of his dedication to Cornell

Brenda N. Tobias commented on Apr 29, 2011 at 12:31 PM:

I met Bill when I was director of the Office of the Councils. Every year, during Trustee Council Annual Meeting, amidst the sea of Cornellians, Bill's smile would shine through the crowd. He always made a point of saying hello and stopping to chat. He positively glowed with the love he had for Cornell. I'll never forget the last time I saw him on Fifth Avenue at the Sy Katz parade.

Cynthia M Golos commented on Apr 28, 2011 at 7:12 PM:

I'll never forget the first time I met Bill.

It was at Mid-Winter Meeting 2006, the first year in Philadelphia after a 100-year tradition of holding the event in NYC. Being a new location, there were some changes staff and alumni had to adjust to, like being in two separate buildings that meant some of the sessions were 20 minutes walking distance apart. This was really challenging for everyone - trying to find the rooms and just making it to the next session on time!

In walks Bill to the Reunion session (his 75th that year) with a huge smile on his face, and he introduced himself to me as if greeting and old friend. I asked if he had found the room OK; it was the last room in the far side of the overflow building. He said, still smiling, "Oh yes, it was a little further than expected, but I left a little earlier and so I got here just fine. I'm happy to be here."

This upbeat, grateful manner is how he approached everthing. An extraordinary person. His legacy lives in everyone who had the fortunate chance to know him.

Evan Fay Earle commented on Apr 28, 2011 at 4:31 PM:

I will always treasure my chats with Mr. Vannenman about his time on the hill. It is very special that one person could help so many of us aspire to be great Cornellians.

Diego Benjamin Cassina commented on Apr 28, 2011 at 3:50 PM:

Bill Vanneman will definitely be missed, but so will his life be celebrated. He is an incredible image of what alumni should strive for and I am incredibly grateful to be a member of the same Cornell community that he embraced and will continue to watch over. Thank you for everything Mr. Vanneman.

June Losurdo commented on Apr 28, 2011 at 2:49 PM:

I had the good fortune of dining with Bill at his retirement community in MA about 4+ years ago. He was such a wonderful host, so positive about life, and so willing to be friendly and welcoming to everyone around him. Then of course, I saw him on campus; then at CACO; then on campus again! He became one of my favorite alumni to visit with!

His wonderful smile will be missed at the Continuous Reunion Club this June, where all the staff knew they could find Bill.

Allen Ward commented on Apr 28, 2011 at 2:09 PM:

I'm truly impressed by this man. I'm happy to know that Bill's Cornell pride and enthusiasm were contagious. People like Bill are amazing alumni that make me love what I do at Cornell.

Thank you to God for this great man, he has touched so many lives. God bless his family and friends.

Allen Ward - Alumni Affairs & Development - Cornell University

Chris Marshall commented on Apr 28, 2011 at 1:45 PM:

Bill was one of the first people I met when I arrived at Cornell three years ago. One week on the job in 2008 and I meet a 99 year old alumnus who was already talking about his 80th Reunion coming up in 2011...!?!? Needless to say, I was blown away.

Over the next three years I got to know Bill a little bit and discovered the humble man who was a legend in the eyes of so many Cornellians. He quickly became one of my favorites!

Even though I knew him for a relatively short period of time, he touched my life profoundly as he did so many countless others. When we heard the news of his passing my reaction was as if I had lost a dear friend. He had that special way about him that made a lasting impact and a deep connection.

We will miss him dearly but he will never be forgotten. His spirit and memory will live on forever at Cornell.

And come to think of it... he won't be missing his 80th Cornell Reunion... I bet he is already planning a Heavenly Big Red Reunion right now!

Chris Marshall Associate Vice President for Alumni Affairs Cornell University