GHD-1978

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SEASONS GREETINGS TO ALL OF YOU FROM THEA HODGE

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We’ve had several big events in the family this year which is why I’m writing to you collectively. The biggest event was the arrival of our first grandchild, April Hodge Greenberg, daughter of Dr. Susan Hodge and Dr. David Greenberg (both are Research Fellows at Washington University of St. Louis). April is a lovely and delightful infant. Is there a special sweetness to having a grandchild because one is spared the daily chores? Unfortunately, we are also missing the daily seeing and hearing and cuddling since wee April lives more than 500 miles away. Well, we shall be properly doting grandparents and plan to “spoil” her as often as we have the opportunity.

The other reason for writing this long and collective Christmas letter is that Phil received two honors this year. So, in addition to telling you about children and grandchild, let me tell you about husband and how his honors have been enjoyed by me.

The first event took place in a spectacularly furnished set of rooms in the State Department Building in Washington, D.C. in November. At the desk on which John Hancock or somebody of his time signed one of our historic documents, Phil signed a book thus signifying his formal acceptance of election to the National Academy of Engineering. I was enormously impressed by this process and by the surroundings. I wandered around touching tables and books, stroking cloisonne jars, checking out the lounges, looking at paintings and other early American period art including intricately carved wardrobes and some statuary. Much of this is normally out-of-bounds to sightseers; I knew that I might never have such a lovely opportunity to see and touch again. The next evening we attended the Academy banquet in formal “bib and tucker”, feeling rather grand. Phil’s mother came into town to attend with us, an extra bonus to have her there, too.

During the day Phil attended business meetings, discussed problems , and generally worked. But the astonishing part of that day was the way the Academy wives were treated. About 60 of us were shepherded around in Washington to a few places of tourist interest but in a decidedly non-tourist manner. We were taken behind the scenes, into semi-private or working areas, and escorted by curators rather than guides. I was completely willing to be treated as a VIP but had to remind myself several times that I had done nothing specific to deserve it and needn’t develop a swelled head nor expect it as my due henceforth. However undeserved it was, I enjoyed it all quite thoroughly.

Phil’s “elevation” to Honorary (Life) Membership in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers took place later in November with a multi-media presentation of his life and works (so far!). It was beautifully done, for me rather sentimental. Lisa, our youngest, was able to take a few days of vacation to be in Atlanta with us which made it even better. For the presentation-show, they used slides of photographs of Phil as a baby, of him with April asleep on his chest, and of many events in between including a unique shot of Phil on top of Mt. Ritter (taken by David Bogy) and several of his own beautiful and artistic nature photographs.

I am happy to report that none of this has affected him in any noticeable way. He’s the same relaxed, informal person he’s always been, wears shorts and sandals to the office from May to October, might wear them to the Guthrie Theater if I would agree to accompany him in such garb! He seems to face each new class with the same anticipation and concern, and he continues his research with papers and books spread across and around our large dining room table (while a handsome desk collects dust in the study).

Our two younger children are doing essentially what they were doing last year. Philip T. is a design engineer in a company which builds industrial buildings in the steel mill area of Northern Indiana. He passed the professional engineers’ tests last spring and can now add PE after the BSCE on his office door. This makes him the first “real” engineer in the family even though his father has been called an engineer for many years. Elizabeth (Lisa) is a programmer-analyst with Control Data Corp. in Sunnyvale, CA. She has been working on a project very closely related to the computer operating system my Center is about to acquire. CDC has sent her to Minneapolis-St. Paul (where their computers are built) 3 times since early November to help debug part of the system. Having one of our far-flung family in town has been a rare and true pleasure.

I continue as Assistant Director of the University of Minnesota’s instructional and research computer center. My particular area of responsibility includes, among other things, many of the activities organized to make our computers easy (or easier, at least!) for the university staff and students to use. I have no doubts about the importance of computers to the modern world, but considerable doubt is creeping upon me about the importance of my job to me and vice Versa. I have had two careers: full-time housewife and mother; then part-time housewife and mother plus full-time involvement with computers (with a little extra school and grad school thrown in along the way). Perhaps the time has come for a third modification. Recently, I read an article in which the authors posed a question something like this: if you suddenly discovered that, instead of 15 more years of professional life, you had 40, how would you use that time? I found this a most provocative question and I leave it with you as we approach the fresh new year of 1978. May it be a happy and productive one for you.

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Phil joins me in sending best and happiest wishes to you, everyone. –

Thea

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Groundhog Day 1978

Dear Friends-and-Relations,

The alarm clock was set for 4:30 a.m., but as is so often the case I was wide-awake at 4. So I rose from my soft bed in a cozy cabin in Sequoia Park, moving quietly so as not to disturb my lovely bride of a mere 34+ years, donned warm clothes for this chilly August morning, grabbed my already-loaded light pack, and sallied forth. A short drive to the empty parking lot at the base of 600′ Moro Rock, and I was on my way.

By day, Moro Rock is infested by ladies in high heels, men in business suits, and barefoot teenagers all puffing up the easy trail to the top. But in the starlight I was alone. And with each step I felt more alone until soon I was at the level top. Alone between the sleeping park below me and the canopy of uncountable stars above. Between was a ring of hill silhouettes—and a complete circle clearly defined against the luminous sky. East was marked by an almost painfully brilliant Venus and a very slightly lighter sky color. West, below the horizon the lights of a distant town sparkled through a valley.

I unshipped my faithful Rollei camera and guessed wildly on some hand-held time exposures. Got a beautiful one of Venus I’d be happy to show with very little urging. I snacked from my knapsack. I sat on the rock, and I slowly paced the top, looking all directions, but chiefly East as I waited for the new day which was scheduled to begin just for my benefit. Do you recall the scene from Black Orpheus where Orpheus tells the boy that the sun would not rise unless he played it up on his guitar? Well, this morning of August 22, 1977, Orpheus could take the day off. Even without a guitar I knew the sun would rise for me.

Meanwhile, I think back over the past eventful year. It began on GHD 1977, an unseasonably warm day (with no shadow for the Groundhog) so I jogged home for the first time in 1977—and got caught by a TV Camera! So, at 6 p.m. that evening, there I was, sweatshirt and all, on the evening news—for all of 10 seconds!

The East is definitely lighter. Around the horizon again with my camera, now set at 2.8 and 1/5th.

Some seven weeks later, on March 23, I appeared on TV for the second time in two months—which was also the second time in my 56+ years. This was part of a delayed documentary of our particular Minneapolis neighborhood which had been shot the previous fall and showed me alongside my 5-foot tall Brussell Sprouts.

Most of the stars have faded now and Venus is dimming fast. There is a red spot on Sawtooth Peak just south of east. The sun is coming.

It was really a year of public exposure. Friday, July 1 dawned cloudless and comfortably cool and Thea and I easily persuaded each other that the weekend would probably be sweltering thunderstorms (or maybe snow—I’ve forgotten the details) so we should play hooky and pack a picnic lunch for nearby Pike Island. While there, we encountered the only other hiker on the Island who turned out to be Ben Kern, the nature columnist for our Minneapolis Tribune. And sure enough, there in his column July 10, we were mentioned by name, together with our wise observations about the relative advantages of engineering, computing, and hiking.

Venus has gone. A solitary little cloud in the northeast has turned from red to pink to white. Several swallows are swooping about Moro Rock. Time for just one more thought.

And that thought concerns, of course, the most important event of the year. Namely, the birth on March 5, 1977 of April Hodge Greenberg, the most beautiful and wonderful baby ever born anywhere (I know—Thea already told you about it. But with such understatement!).

Time to stop thinking and cock the camera. The Eastern sky is about to burst. There it is! A sliver of deep red. Click. Decrease the exposure. The sliver grows. Click. Still less exposure. Now a jagged semicircle. Click. Smallest opening at 1/500th. One more click as the sun bounds free of the distant mountains. A new day has begun, started by me—TV star, newspaper celebrity, and, most important, Grampa.

May this year be as good for you as the last one was for me.

Original letter was hand-written on plain paper (actually on the back of The American Society of Mechanical Engineers/Journal of Applied Mechanics stationery)

Extra bonus: some of Philip’s notes for this letter, written in early 1977. View notes.