GHD-1988

Philip G. Hodge, Jr.
2962 West River Parkway
Minneapolis, MN 55406

Groundhog Day, 1988

Dear Friends-and-Relations,

Two consecutive Wednesday evenings in December. So near in time, so far apart in significance. But with some surprising similarities: both involved something unusual in the way of clothing and both involved applause.

Let me tell you about the insignificant event first. Early on the morning of Saturday, December 19, Thea and I and our three suitcases boarded a plane in Minneapolis. Later that same day Thea and I raced the length of the Miami airport to make a 50-minute connection with a flight to St. Thomas; our suitcases didn’t. About 6 p.m. Thea and I and 74 other passengers boarded the SS Colonial Explorer; our suitcases didn’t. For the next four days Thea and I cruised and sunned and swam and snorkeled and explored one after another of the U.S. and British Virgin Islands; who knows what our suitcases did — maybe they shuttled back and forth between Miami and Minneapolis or maybe they went to South America or the Orient. Fortunately, we had been forewarned by our similar but briefer experience in Hawaii a few years ago and had included our bathing suits and one change of underwear in our hand luggage, so our enjoyment of the sun, sea, and surf was hardly at all curtailed. Every day from a different port the ship’s Purser would call Eastern Airlines in vain pursuit of the errant luggage.

And so it was until Wednesday, December 23. We were sitting topside enjoying a drink before dinner when suddenly the loudspeaker squawked “Will the passengers in 215 please go to their cabin to claim their luggage.” We whooped; we went; it was there; all three pieces, intact. As the call to dinner came over the speaker we hauled the cases into our cabin, opened them, took out clean (and dry) clothes, donned them, and proceeded to the dining room where everyone else was already seated. And we were applauded!

Why? With my clean shirt I was probably better company, but I hardly felt I deserved credit when for the past four days I had started dressing by sniffing my two t-shirts and deciding which one had the stronger reason for airing another day before wearing. People said later they were impressed by “what good sports we had been.” But what was our alternative? To grouse and try to spoil not only our vacation but everyone else’s? No way. Having spent more than we should have for the cruise, I was bound and determined to have a good time no matter what. But if people want to cheer me for enjoying the potpourri that life serves up, I’m quite willing to be the center of attention and say “thank you” for it.

Wednesday, December 16 is a little harder to write about. It’s always easier to be flippant than serious. I don’t want to sound arrogant or vain or any of those nasty things, but I do want to share with you something of what that evening meant to me. The facts were that the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) had picked me out of its more than 100,000 members to award its gold ASME Medal to in 1987 “in recognition of more than 35 years of dedicated and unselfish service to the engineering profession in both national and international organizations and his outstanding leadership in education and research into limit load analysis and computational plasticity and for his unique viewpoint and organizational abilities which have profoundly altered these organizations.”

Now, I’ve served on Honors Committees in ASME and I’ve nominated others for ASME recognition so I probably know better than most how these things work. Granted that you need a candidate who’s not a complete nonentity, but all the accomplishments and ability in the world won’t get you an award. You need people who are themselves prominent and who think that giving you an award is important enough to devote considerable time and effort to that end. They need to fill out forms and document achievements and write letters with real content in your behalf. I know that there are dozens if not hundreds of members of ASME who are as well or better qualified to receive the ASME Medal, but that fact adds to, rather than diminishes, my happiness in the occasion. I got the award because among the students I have taught, the researchers I have worked with, and the colleagues I have served on committees with, there were those who wanted me to have it enough to take the initiative and work for it. And what greater happiness can a person have than the feeling that those who know him best appreciate his work and like him as a person?

But just as in the affair of the clean shirt, I did what I did because I liked doing it. All my working life I have been lucky in being challenged by research problems that I could do something with, by having students who wanted to learn something I could teach them, by working on committees with colleagues who shared my goals. I’ve had fun doing my job — and even gotten paid for it. And, as I said before, if people want to cheer me for enjoying the potpourri that life serves up, I’m quite willing to be the center of attention and say “thank you” for it.

The clothing connection? The one drawback to the otherwise fun ceremony in which the medal was presented was that I had to wear a tuxedo. On the scale of a life time, that event is more unusual than the wearing of a clean shirt was on the scale of a week.

Speaking of lifetimes, my searches for ancestors is proving to be lots of fun. This past year I’ve been accumulating information far faster than I can process it. In June we had a fabulous trip to New England in which I more than doubled the number of identified ancestors. At the start of the trip the only thing I knew about the ancestry of Nana (my mother’s mother) was that her father’s name was Isaac Drew. I now know that she is a descendant of, among others, Cerdic who was a Saxon King in 520, of Clovis the Riparian who was the Frankish King of Cologne in 420, of his great-grandson Cloderic the Parricide (guess how he got that name), of his great7-grandson Charlemagne, of John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley who were on the Mayflower, and of Thomas Strong who was the great7-grandfather of Princess Diana (thus making her my eighth-cousin-once-removed). My father’s mother, on the other hand, was descended from John Gibson who was forced to publicly apologize for having accused one Winifred Holman of being a witch, and from Rebecca Towne Nurse, who, at age 70, was hanged as a witch in Salem in 1692.

Closer to home, my children lost their last grandparent when Thea’s mother, Rose Drell, died in her sleep last September. She was a remarkable woman, and we all miss her. Not only did she bear the beautiful woman who has been my wife for the past 45 years, but she painted all of the oils and watercolors which adorn every room of our house and help keep her alive in our memories.

No weddings or births to report this year. A high point of family relations was taking a four-day camping trip with daughter Sue and 10-year-old granddaughter April on Catalina Island this past summer. It was even better than last year’s one-night trip. There is something very satisfying about three generations sharing the elemental existence of a camping trip. If you forgot to bring something, you do without. If you run out of fuel, you eat cold food. If you’re still cooking at sunset, you clean dishes in the dark. Consequences are so simple and so direct. So different from Irangate, Nicaragua, Black Monday, trade imbalances, and soaring deficits. I have known this for decades, I helped my daughter learn it years ago. And now I have the multiple pleasure of re-learning it myself, seeing my daughter experience it as an adult, and both of us helping April learn it for the first time.

The shift in responsibility is interesting, too. In the 1960s I was totally responsible for the advance planning and arrangements and for the day-by-day activities of camping. This time Sue did all the advance planning — and it was a real pleasure being a carefree guest. But once we were actually camping, she wanted the assurance that “Daddy was in charge, so everything would be all right” — and that was fun too. And so was giving April her chances. She cooked her own dinner one night; on a hike she’d have a turn deciding which fork of the trail to take.

Other news from Los Angeles is sort of like progress reports. Sue and David are having what should be their last “crisis” with UCLA. They have several irons in the fire which should either move them into more congenial departments or move them across the country — we’ll keep you posted. When Thea and I bought our new Macintosh SE last year, we took the old reliable FatMac to California where April and Miriam are learning how to use it for school work and for fun.

The rest of the family sounds almost like a soap opera. In Sunnyvale, Bill is working full time for Cray Research (the company Thea retired from last year), half time for Kelly-Hodge Associates, and quarter time finishing the work for his college degree. Meanwhile, Lisa is working full time for Kelly-Hodge Associates and half time for Zero-One (the company Bill resigned from last year). A major contract of Kelly-Hodge Associates, to develop software for a truss design program, is with HABCO, the consulting firm of our son Philip in Beaver, Pennsylvania. All clear? There’ll be a quiz next week.

Speaking of quizzes, I am really enjoying my one-third retirement. This past quarter I taught only my one graduate course in plasticity. Ever since I came to Minnesota in 1971, whenever I’ve taught that course I’ve had a sophomore course with 150 or so students at the same time. I’d forgotten what fun it can be to teach advanced material to bright students when you have the time to do it right.

Thea is standing in the doorway demanding her turn on the Macintosh (next year we may have to own two), so I will bid you all adieu with the fond hope that you, too, have enjoyed the potpourri that life serves up and that you will continue to do so in the coming year.

GROUNDHOG DAY, 1988

Hi, Folks,

Phil has given you all of the Hodge philosophy and most of our news. I will just fill in a little bit.

I retired officially from Cray Research last spring and accepted a special appointment on the faculty of the Computer Science Department of the University of Minnesota. As the department director for planning, I have my nose into everything and love it. It’s not far different in variety from being a department manager at Cray but it differs greatly in its people-aspects. Professors, particularly tenured professors, are not very much like systems programmers, however senior the programmers may be. I work with 26 prima donnas — sorry, one prima donna and 25 primo dons! I expect to continue in this position (part-time) until an associate head of the department is appointed, since that is really the job I am (partially) doing.

Phil was concerned that I would be bored after retirement, but that is not the case. In addition to my job, I am involved in the Women in Engineering Council of the IEEE, the Association for Women in Computing, The Minnesota Genealogical Society, and the board of the North Star Opera Company. However, I have learned at long last to say no to some heavy duty requests and can find time for handicrafts, swimming, and more or less regular exercise. We have also done more traveling than we expected to do. California 3 or 4 times (I’ve lost count), Boston 3 times, Washington, D.C., and last but not least, the Virgin Islands (ah, bliss! you must go there some day; take a swim suit and snorkel gear and leave most of your clothes and all of your cares at home).

I wish you all a very good 1988.

Thea

APPENDIX

“We’re going through!” The Commander’s voice was like thin ice breaking. Thus begins James Thurber’s classic “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” about the middle-aged man with day-dreams of glory. And I must confess that this middle-aged ex-runner also has had his day-dreams of glory. I find a dentist’s chair is a good place for day-dreaming that I’m winning the Twin Cities Marathon. Not just as a bald fact, but by going over the course in my mind mile by mile and imagining myself running with and finishing ahead of all the other runners.

But a day dream can only rearrange familiar concepts, it can’t create brand new ones. Thus my day dreams were always of coming from behind and overtaking the leader in the last strides; after all, in real races I had sometimes overtaken someone at the finish line. But in my real races there were always runners in front of me so that I couldn’t imagine leading all the other runners for any length of time. I couldn’t, that is, until Saturday, February 21, 1987.

We spent Friday night in Grantsburg, Wisconsin to be there and ready for the Frigid Five circle course at noon the next day. There was an inch or so of snow in the morning, but it had stopped and was partly melted when the group of 14 walkers lined up at the starting line for a 30-minute head start over the runners. I started off at a pace of about 11-minute miles, confident that I wouldn’t tire within an hour — and no one matched my challenge! I heard one woman say “I couldn’t keep that pace for five miles” — and I never looked back. Oh, I did sort of sneak a glance whenever the course rounded a corner, and each time the closest walker was further away.

“We only live once …,” said Mitty, with his faint, fleeting smile. And what a heady and exciting feeling it is to be first. The muscles all working as they should, the stride smooth and easy, and the opposition trying in vain to catch up. To be sure, there were no crowds lining the route — in fact, I had to be careful not to get lost — and the opposition only numbered 13. But at that instant and in that micro-universe, I alone am number one.

After one mile I am comfortably in the lead, by two miles I am sure no one can catch me, at the three-mile corner no one is in sight, as my pace holds for four miles I dare have a new goal — to use my head start and not only beat the 13 other walkers, but stay ahead of the 68 runners. I round the last corner with no runners yet in sight behind and the finish line in view ahead. The small crowd spots me and starts cheering. I increase my pace, still no footsteps behind me, the line comes closer. I cross it! I have won! Just 53 minutes and 55 seconds after I had started and 39 seconds before the first runner got there. A new course record for walkers and the first time in the 13-year history of the race that a walker has been first across the line.

Now I can hardly wait for my next dentist’s appointment.