More Small World Stories

We had far too many submissions to fit all of our wonderful small world stories from alumni in the print version of the Cornell Report. Here are the original stories, and below are the rest, which find Cornellians meeting in places as far flung as Vietnam, Dubai, the American West, and right at home wherever they are.

Dick Hodges ’68, Don Jackson ’68, John Watson ’68, and I all ended up going to Vietnam after graduation. In 1970 as I came down from the northern part of Vietnam to go out of country on an R&R, we met at Long Binh Army post and went out to dinner in Saigon. It was all arranged by mail. I told Hodges I would be there, and Watson, who was the 18th Military Police Brigade colonel’s driver, picked me up. Watson had been injured in the war. Jackson, his Delt brother who worked in the brigade personnel office, saw when Watson was returning from recuperation and got him assigned to the 18th MP Brigade, basically keeping him out of the war. That night we were Gammas and Delts again. It was a good break, and we all made it out in the end. — George Haffke ’68

Leslie Tweeton Behaunek ’09 and Amy DeGroot-Hammer ’91
Amy DeGroot-Hammer ’91 and Leslie Tweeton Behaunek ’09.

I’ve been working on a training program for Democratic women (Emerge Iowa), and one of the women in our first training program (Amy DeGroot-Hammer ’91) is both a Cornellian and a Kappa Theta alumna (as am I), which we realized on the first training program day. She’s also friends with my high school Spanish teacher, Mindy Kruckenberg Eckhardt ’91, and was dance coach to a fellow Theta Merci Wolff ’12. —Leslie Tweeton Behaunek ’09

In the early 2000’s I was working as a clinical coordinator for Oregon Health & Sciences University Physician Assistant Program. I arranged, facilitated and monitored clinical rotations for physician assistant students in central Oregon. I had placed a student at a family practice clinic in Madras, Oregon, and went for an onsite visit to make sure things were going well. I was waiting for the physician preceptor in his office during his busy day. As I studied the walls of his office, my eyes fell upon his college diploma—Cornell College, Mount Vernon, Iowa! Dr. Leland Beamer Jr. ’64 and I were fellow Rams! Not expected so far from the mother ship and definitely a small world experience! —Lisa Richards Howe ’81

My family and I moved to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in 2011. I discovered a very close friend of mine, Najib Takieddine ’82, was also living in Dubai at that time. It was great to be able to see a wonderful friend in the oddest of places. We were able to maintain that personal friendship for a couple of years until the time he left. … At the same time, another of my closest friends from my years at Cornell, Edgar Thornton III ’80, we call him Gar, was working for USAID and stationed in Afghanistan. He worked for two months and had one month off when he was able to go back to the U.S. to see his family. The Gar always connected through Dubai, and so we got to spend quite a bit of time together as he traveled back and forth. Both Najib and The Gar were brothers of mine in the Miltonian Literary Society (Mu Lambda Sigma). Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be spending time with either Najib or The Gar in of all places Dubai, UAE. —Elie E. Saad ’81

In the summer of 1966, I was on a bus tour of Denmark with my parents. We arrived at Kronborg Castle, known as “Hamlet’s Castle,” the model for Elsinore in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I was walking around the grounds inside and ran into Joy Strausbaugh, a professor of piano at Cornell. After greeting each other warmly, we chatted a little and then went back to our respective tour groups. —David Klaus ’67

Merle Griffith and Sheila Kruse Boyce ‘85
Merle Griffith and Sheila Kruse Boyce ‘85

I was biking with my husband Tom and another friend in Key Biscayne and we decided to take a tour of the lighthouse in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. I was wearing my Cornell College bike jersey, and as we were waiting for the lighthouse to open, a man asked, “Is that the Cornell in Iowa?” Of course! It was Merle Griffith, a retired United Methodist pastor who I had known pretty well during my youth involvement with the Iowa Annual Conference. He had also been a friend of my father. —Sheila Kruse Boyce ’85

Spring of 2018, I received a card in the mail. The sender congratulated me for being recognized as a “Top Doctor” in the recent issue of Portland Monthly, and included a gift for a free sitting fee at the portrait studio where she is employed. While I appreciated the kind words and the gift, it took me several minutes to clarify the sender’s identity. Carol Jambura Bull ’90. Wow! I had recently added Carol to my Facebook friend list, based on a “friend of a friend” connection. Yet, as I reflected, it occurred to me that while the Hilltop is a close-knit community, my memory informed me that Carol and I had never connected during our overlapping years at Cornell. Sure, we had many friends and acquaintances in common  We knew “of each other,” yet I had no recollection of a conversation, shared class, or connection. Therein lies the magic of this recent connection! Nearly 30 years later and 1900 miles away, we connected, united by our Cornell roots. A few months later, I was able to schedule a photo shoot for our kids. At proof review, I was able to connect with Carol, and thank her for her generous offering. In our brief encounter, we covered many Cornell connections. Then, she really surprised me several weeks later with a beautiful, framed photo of our kids … as a gift! We are still in the process of scheduling a time to meet and connect in more depth. Yet, I am so thankful and grateful for our Cornell connection and value the Hilltop family, despite time and miles. —Jay Andersen ’89

I was attending an Economics Club luncheon in Lansing, Michigan, sometime in the mid-’70s and sitting at the same table as a bearded professor and several of his students from a nearby college. We began talking about what makes the small college experience worthwhile. Soon the shared reminiscences of the professor and it seemed too coincidental (where else had required chapel attendance, for example!) and I asked where he had gone to college. It was Cornell! We exchanged names again. He was Jim Mueller Jr. ’65, who graduated a year ahead of me. —Carol Zarko Manning ’66

Tom Durham ’77 (right) with a Cornell parent.
Tom Durham ’77 (right) with a Cornell parent.

In 1985, Martha Hemenway Durham ’78 and I went to Club Med in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. After a day or two there, we spied Tom Vawter ’78. I succeeded in sneaking up and surprising him from behind. … The next encounter takes place in San Francisco, where I was working for a bank client. I was wandering the halls, which I sometimes do when I am thinking, and I walked by a door which had a nameplate for Arlynn Friesen ’76, who lived next to me in Altoona. He was out of the office, but I made some inquiries and was able to confirm it was the same person. On a later visit back to the bank, we were able to meet up and reminisce over dinner about life in Altoona. … Finally, last month a friend and I went on the four-day Cycle Zydeco bike ride in Lafayette, Louisiana. The ride started from Blackham Coliseum, a cavernous building on the University of Louisiana campus. On the morning the ride started, I was walking through the Coliseum when I spied someone in a Cornell bike jersey. I stopped him to ask where he got the jersey, and he said his son had attended Cornell. I can’t remember the father’s name, but I think the son was named Mike, a 2016 politics grad who now works in the cannabis industry in Colorado.—Tom Durham ’77

In 2017, at a Pretty Lights concert at Red Rocks, I ran into a recent graduate named Rio, (How Duran Duran?). She was a Phi-O and a proud Cornell alumna. Not much more than a “Hi, was your Cornell time fab?, Yes! You?”  —Cherie Coombs Ostrander ’97

In early 1970 I was new to my real estate career in suburban Chicago and I received a call from someone wanting to buy their first house. After one day of searching, Norm Mills ’66 spotted the Cornell Ram decal in the back window of my car. A few years later I sold Norm and his wife Carolyn a home located two houses from our home. My wife Ann Pollnow Oswald ’60 and I have been friends and neighbors with the Mills for over 40 years. —Chuck Oswald ’59

While going through security in Cancun on Feb. 24, 2019, I noticed a man standing in line a couple people behind me wearing a Cornell College T-shirt. I introduced myself to Adam, a Delt, class of ’94. We’d both just attended a three-day Phish festival in Riviera Maya. Later I posted this on the Ram Rendezvous Facebook page and learned Adam’s last name when Adam Babcox ’94 posted, “that was me!” Dirk Van Kempema ’98

I spent the summer of 1972 in Pretoria, South Africa, doing some coaching clinics. I read in the local paper that Coach Dale Thomas ’47 and an American team were scheduled to wrestle an exhibition match that evening. Thomas was the honorary captain of Cornell College’s 1947 NCAA champion wrestling team and went on to a hall of fame career as a coach at Oregon State University. I went to the auditorium before the match and introduced myself. We shared some memories of our different eras on the Hilltop and he recalled Coach Paul Scott ’29, teammates, and those Cornell College glory days on the national wrestling scene. —Dave Adkins ’62

I was in Minneapolis for my uncle’s 100th birthday party. We were telling stories and I got up and shared mine. Afterward this woman walks up to me and says, “I’m Mary Louise Paulson Beimborn [’69]!” She graduated in my class at Cornell, and her parents were close friends with my uncle and aunt. —Sydney Smith Hicks ’69

I was attending a Unitarian church conference in 1977 at the other Cornell campus. You know, the one in Ithaca, New York. Walking across the campus coming toward me, I recognized Maggie Lievense Funderburg ’47, a fellow graduate of “the original Cornell,” the one in Iowa. We had kept somewhat in touch, so recognition was no problem. As we got closer, we broke out in song (in that mocking manner that only true rivals use!): “High above Cayuga’s waters …” —Jean Newton Box ’47

This past June, Buddy Mattern ’16 and I were in Los Angeles for vacation. On our last day, as we were checking out of the hotel and loading our car, someone who was just checking in and unloading his own car noticed Buddy’s Cornell Rams baseball shirt. He was very excited, and approached us to make sure that we had gone to the “right” Cornell. Turns out his mom had gone to Cornell! He called her on the spot to ask what sorority she’d been in (she was in Phi Omega, for those wondering)! We chatted for a bit, remarked on how small of a world it was, then went our separate ways. —Ella Peitz ’16

Strolling with a friend in New York City in 1993 or so, I bumped into Ben Cell ’90 running in Central Park. I only get up there every two years or so for events, so it was quite amazing. —Ming Lowe ’89

I teach high school and a few years ago a retired substitute teacher filled an empty position in the classroom next to me: Jim Hafke ’78! It turns out that his daughter had been one of my students, and he is a former Delt! My second job is part-time during the tax season at a firm in Lakewood, Colorado. Doug Everhart ’77, tax preparer, saw my Cornell sweatshirt last year, and we discovered our mutual Cornell status! Doug is a former Milt .—Lauren Hope Kott ’06

A friend recommended a dentist to us that he’d been going to for years and commented that a picture in the office looked a lot like the chapel at the college he’d attended. It was in fact King Chapel! The dentist, Thomas Olson ’75, his wife Robin Vessels Olson ’75, and two of their three children attended Cornell. —Jennifer Hanson Stumpff ’01

After a day working at Breck Ski School, a couple of friends and I went to one of our favorite places for happy hour, Briar Rose. When I turned around I saw Gilda Vinzulis Boyer ’84 and Barry Boyer ’84! It is one of their favorite restaurants in Breckenridge as well. So great to see Cornell friends. —Annie Hettinger ’11

My friend Nicole Cook ’15 got accepted to a grad school in Florida and I live in Florida as well. Somewhere around this time, Carol Cook ’89 posted to our sorority alumna page on Facebook inquiring if any of us knew of a Cornell grad going to grad school in St. Augustine. It turns out the daughter of another Cornellian, Glenn Cline Jr. ’90, was going to be Nicole’s roommate. I helped Nicole move in and got to meet Glenn. We exchanged stories and tales of our time at Cornell. —Holly Herzig ’15

I am a middle school special ed teacher in Fort Collins, Colorado, and have a small caseload. One of the parents of my students was also a Cornell alumnus. —Stacy Denham ’05

I was helping my mother-in-law, Pat, sell some furniture in a suburb near Fort Worth, Texas. I got a response from a guy, Mitchell, so my husband, Alex, met him to look at it. A few weeks later, Alex met Mitchell and his wife at the house to complete the deal and help them haul it back to their house. On this day, Alex was wearing an old Cornell hoodie. This led to a conversation that revealed that Mitchell’s wife went to Cornell. My husband assured them that couldn’t be the same Cornell. Turns out it was. Same Cornell, same dorm, same years. Fawna Taylor, Pfeiffer Hall, 1979-81. Thirty-nine years later and 900 miles away, a random online transaction, two husbands who did not go to Cornell, and revealed only because one happened to be wearing an old hoodie. —Laurie Fredrick Harrington ’83

When Jim Nicholson ’59 was drafted into the Army in 1960 and sent to Fort Meade in Maryland, I obtained a third grade teaching job in Savage, Maryland—a very small elementary school with only about 12 professionals. At the first parent-teacher meeting we were asked to introduce ourselves and provide our educational background. As we went down the line, two of us were graduates of Cornell College! The other Cornellian was the daughter of Charles Henry Parr, of Charles City, Iowa, Jim’s hometown. Her father had developed the first manufactured tractor, Hart-Parr. Jim’s grandfather had also worked on the development of that tractor. —Donna Mease Nicholson ’57

In the early fall of 2018, I was wearing my Cornell College T-shirt and was approached by a woman one weekday morning at my local commuter train station.She asked how I was affiliated with Cornell. Though there was a decade or two between us, we quickly realized that we were both Cornell alumni and even shared affiliation with the same social group, Alpha Sigma Pi. I mentioned that I would be returning to the Hilltop for Homecoming and encouraged her to attend. Though she wasn’t able to make it, some of her Arrow contemporaries shared a story for her at the halftime Arrow Tea and part of the sentiment and memories shared involved the chance meeting with me a week earlier! —Jennifer Quindry Shorr ’04

We (Andrea Bakker ’99 and Carrie Hall ’00) have followed each other through three states, and were enrolled at Cornell in the same major during the same time period, but somehow didn’t meet until we both settled in Ohio. Both of us hail from the Chicago suburbs. In 1994, Andrea enrolled at Cornell for her freshman year, eventually majoring in psychology and Spanish. Two years later, Carrie enrolled and also majored in psychology. Despite being at Cornell during the same time period, enrolling in the same major, and having several friends and acquaintances in common, we never crossed paths on campus. … A few years after graduation, Andrea moved to Oxford, Ohio, where she enrolled in the graduate program in psychology at Miami University. The following year, Carrie considered enrolling in Miami’s graduate program. Dr. Sue Astley, who worked with both of us during our time at Cornell, connected us so that Carrie could ask Andrea about her time at Miami. We had a lovely phone conversation, but Carrie ultimately decided to enroll at Ohio State University instead of Miami University. However, after one year at OSU, Carrie transferred into the graduate program at Miami (2001) and we FINALLY met. We both graduated with our Ph.D. in psychology from Miami in 2007, and we both opted to take jobs at Miami. We continued to work at Miami for 12 years after finishing our graduate studies together. … For the first time in 18 years we’re working in different towns, though we’re still within 40 minutes of each other. However, we’re sure our paths will cross again! —Andrea Bakker ’99 and Carrie Hall ’00

The 2017 spring Cornell Report featured an article about Richard “Dick” Landis ’64. After reading the article, I knew I had to reach out to Dick: he is both a fellow Delt Phi Rho alumnus and Montana resident. I contacted the school and asked them to pass along my contact information to see if he was interested in reaching out. Dick and I met for a drink and quickly realized how small the Cornell College connection, and Montana worlds, are. My grandfather built a house in Big Sky in 1983—right next door to where Dick built his house. Dick’s wife, Toini, and my grandmother have run in the same social circles and have known each other for years. Since that article and our initial meeting, Dick and I try to get together on a regular basis. I’ve had other Delt alumni come out to visit and we meet up with Dick to exchange various Cornell and Delt stories. In late 2017 my girlfriend Hannah Altman ’13, Rob Ash ’73 (former Montana State University football coach!), and I were invited by Vice President Pam Gerard and President Brand to join Dick and Toini for lunch to discuss our Cornell experiences and visions. —Rick Simkins ’15