Thursday, June 12, 2008

Fathers of Connectedness

This Sunday is Father's Day. Here's a great picture of my dad growing up in St. Louis (far right, age 9):
My dad is first on the list of Fathers of Connectedness, naturally, because he's my dad. But he's also first on the list because his gift for letters and sense of humor inspired my own love of writing, which is the main reason Connectedness continues to exist.

My grandfather (wearing the tie) is next after my dad. He was a shoe salesman, but in that seemingly common role he had the singular opportunity to tour the country with Robert Wadlow, the tallest human being who ever lived. (Presumably Mr. Wadlow also wore the biggest pair of shoes ever cobbled.) Kudos to Grandpa for his marketing savvy, a quality I strive for with each post to this blog.

On my mother's side of the family, two more fathers have clear ties to Connectedness. My mother's father, Alan Foust, is the source of my inner engineer. He co-founded the Department of Chemical Engineering at Lehigh University, later served the College as Dean, and is the one grandparent I knew best. I was too young to appreciate his academic stature at the time, but I certainly understood his inexhaustible energy for explaining things. Whenever people wonder how I can go on and on about the same thing --long after the original question is answered-- that's me and my Grandpop doing our thing.

My mother's mother's father (aka my great-grandfather) was also a professor: Ralph W. Aigler. I never knew him at all, but he is certainly my most famous relative. Someone on Wikipedia really thinks he is famous, anyway. My favorite parts from the Wikipedia article include:
Ralph W. Aigler, law professor at the University of Michigan from 1910–1954, was a renowned expert on real property law and one of the advisors to the American Law Institute in the drafting of the Restatement of the Law of Property.

He is best known, however, for his contributions to the athletics programs at the University of Michigan. Aigler's contributions included leading Michigan back into the Big Ten Conference, leading the effort to construct Michigan Stadium, and negotiating the Big Ten's exclusive contract with the Rose Bowl starting in 1946. He was inducted into the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor in 1982.

Aigler was the voice of the University, and at times of the Big Ten, on athletics eligibility and rules issues. In 1925, Aigler defended intercollegiate athletics against charges that they had a negative effect on institutions of higher learning. Aigler said that the harm done by athletics was almost nothing when compared to the evils caused by "common loafing." "The greatest vice in American college life today is loafing," said Aigler. "There is no doubt that this far overshadows the harm created by intercollegiate athletics. No one would be more pleased than I to see a Phi Beta Kappa (honorary scholarship society) man receive as much recognition by the public as do our leading athletes. But such a condition would be contrary to human nature. Intellectual attainments do not make such an appeal, and that is why athletics are so prominent in colleges and universities today."
It's great to hear voices from the intellectual mountaintop offering humble encouragement to regular human nature.

Speaking of regular human nature... The Wikipedia article on Great-Grandfather Aigler omits the part of his life story I know best. When he was 58, his wife died of breast cancer. When he remarried at the age of 60, his new wife was 27 (5 years younger than her new step-daughter, aka my grandmother). Here are the newlyweds, enjoying the beginning of their 19-year happy affair that lasted until his death at 79.

Thanks, Dad! And thanks, all my other fathers!
Love, Bruce

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