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Alumni Profiles

George Duffey '42

George Duffey ’42 grew up on his family’s farm in Iowa, surrounded by cattle, horses, sheep, goats, and plenty of chores. Learning came from the local one room schoolhouse and Popular Science magazines that he and his older brother Loren Duffey ’41 read from cover to cover. For fun, they would build crystal radios and experiment with a Tesla coil, powering it with a battery and their Model T coil. In stark contrast to the gadgetry that children turn to in this generation, George would often return to the schoolhouse to read the unabridged dictionary. 

After studying physics at Cornell, he found himself amidst a sea of scientists who had fled Europe to collaborate on world changing work. Albert Einstein, whom he recalls as shy, taught at Princeton while George pursued his advanced degrees there.

The world has changed since then. “There is less respect for science. It shows up today in the attitudes of politicians who aren’t willing to accept the results of science on climate change. I think going back even to the ‘40s there was concern among scientists about the environment. There were some who were uneasy about the atomic bomb,” he says. “I’m disturbed that the population knows so little about science. They seem to equate science with technology, and it’s not the same. In science, the fundamental question is why. In technology, it’s how.”

Loren worked on gliders during World War II, then in aviation and NASA. George spent a lifetime teaching and writing physics textbooks at South Dakota State University.  

Retirement is an relative word for this Cornellian. Since retiring in 1991, he has continued to write physics textbooks, trading in his typewriter for a computer, “It makes it easier since computers come with a special program for math equations.  We weren’t necessarily smarter than students today, we just had to work harder,” he says. George also has an amateur radio license, whiling away the hours conversing with his son in Albuquerque, N.M., and people in 100 different countries. 

George Duffey '42

Nancy Kleihauer Adams '64

Unlike most politicians and government leaders, Pequot Lakes, Minn., Mayor Nancy Kleihauer Adams ʼ64 never planned to enter politics. “I just felt I had more to offer than the two men who were running," says the second-term mayor.

When there is a need, Adams is the type of person to step to the front of the line. She remembers running the summer migrant program for the Palatine, Ill., school district for five years as a profound experience. “I took the job on the condition we used no textbooks, workbooks or ditto sheets—just hands-on learning," she recalls. "The teachers believed in it and worked so hard to develop an amazing program for 250 Hispanic students. We saw the results of our efforts by extremely high attendance and enthusiasm on the part of students and parents alike.”

She says her volunteer and work experience since graduating from Cornell, beginning as an early childhood teacher, has helped to cull three keys to a successful life: “Not being afraid to try new things. Having the willingness to listen to what others say and pick the best thoughts, whether they are yours or not. And understanding that saying 'thank you' costs nothing but goes a long way in making people feel appreciated.”

Adams was an elementary education and Spanish major at Cornell, and appreciates the emphasis on writing and rewriting papers. Education professor D.J. Newberry was especially inspirational to her affinity to tackle a challenge. “She set an example as she was never afraid to dig in the mud or anything else," Adams says.

Kismet played a hand in her future when Cornellʼs registrar called her about a new student teaching program in Chicago. That was ultimately how she connected with her husband, Tom Adams ʼ63, then in graduate school at the University of Chicago.

After vacationing in Pequot Lakes since the '70s, the Adamses decided to move to the rural community of 2,000 year-round after Tom’s retirement from First Chicago, and leapt into volunteer work in the community. Tom, a Life Trustee of Cornell, was pulled into planning and zoning, as well as chairing the lake association.

Before becoming mayor, Adams wrote the local food column for five years and was a major force in starting a library. “Now in its eighth year, it continues to be operated by volunteers who raise 90 percent of the operating costs," she says. "Two years ago, the library board purchased a new building for $200,000 and only have $9,000 left to pay off. It is an amazing accomplishment that gives credit to many, many people who believed it could be done.”

Nancy Adams '64

Clay Bauske '73

It took one demanding course in Russian History from Cornell's Eric Kollman to hook Clay Bauske '73 on history. "I used to chuckle when I looked at my old course textbook. Nearly every sentence was underlined! I guess I was still a novice at trying to identify the really critical events and concepts. Trust me, I got better with time," he says.

Completing graduate work in international studies and diplomatic history, Bauske abandoned his plans to pursue life as a professor, grabbing opportunities in the museum field. "I was attracted to museum work because it enabled me to continue my interests in history and historical research, while allowing me to interpret history through a variety of media," he says, adding, "Actually holding a letter written by Thomas Jefferson, the pens used to sign the German surrender in World War II, or Amelia Earhart's pilot's license creates an emotional as well as an intellectual connection to history."

After working for the Missouri State Museum, he became the curator of the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Mo., in 1983. Notably, he is the senior presidential library curator.

Clay lives with his wife, Lennie, in the country just outside of Weston, Mo. And for curious future historians, this note: "The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library—the smallest of the Presidential libraries—is in Cornell's backyard in West Branch, Iowa."

Clay Bauske '73

Heather Secrist '00

Heather Secrist ’00 never would have guessed that she would be living near the small town where she grew up. “Working with the land and being self-employed as a small sustainable farmer is wonderfully fulfilling and a creative challenge,” she says. “I think I needed to go away from my home area to fully appreciate it and make the conscious choice to move back and raise a family here.”

Majoring in biology and psychology, Secrist planned to become a veterinarian.   “Sometimes I think it's easier to understand an animal than a person,” she says. Finding professors like Barbara Christie-Pope and Marty Condon both passionate and guiding, Secrist recalls a particularly inspiring Cornell experience which helped to seal her ideologies. “I lived with the Bob Black family one summer while doing field research with Bob. They are an amazing family living true to their values and ate from the gardens and preserved for the off-season. Their family has a special place in my heart even though I haven't seen them in a long time. I also first learned about the ‘CSA’ concept from seeing (former lab instructor) Laura Krause's operation on her small farm.”

Secrist took time after college to travel and explore, which helped her discover her passions. “I became more and more interested in sustainability on multiple levels and started making life choices that lead me further toward the farming lifestyle. I then discovered the pleasures of feeding people food either I'd grown or created.”  Recalling meals at the Cornell Commons, Secrist enjoyed seeing the creations of the guest chefs, especially appreciating the vegetarian fare that she was introduced to for the first time.

Running a CSA farm has profound moments. “It’s amazing to watch a family transform into a healthier eating family who truly looks forward to the seasonal eating experience and the realm of vegetables that grow in this area, especially when there are children included in this food evolution.”

Weekly wood-fired pizza nights have surpassed the CSA vegetables in sales for the farm. Secrist uses surplus and blemished vegetables in a value-added way such as making pizza, a great way for a farm to increase overall profits. “Usually people think of farming as purely production, but direct marketing farming is as much about the people, their experience, and your relationship with them as it is about the food,” she says.

Secrist urges current students to give themselves the time and freedom to discover who they are after college if possible. “If I hadn't done this, my life would look a lot different than it does now but I know that I am very happy engaging in work that I love and sharing this passion with others,” she says. “Doing something you believe in gives you the strength and motivation to create your dream into a reality. It doesn't always come easy, but passion and enthusiasm sure make the journey more enjoyable.”

Heather Secrist '00

Maggie Rudick '08

Growing up on the East Coast, Maggie Rudick ’08 was drawn to Cornell by its diverse population in a small community, boasting students from 48 states and 14 countries. Intent on travel during her college years, she knew the block plan would allow both domestic and international adventures.

“One of my most memorable moments at Cornell was living in Harlan House,” Rudick says. “I loved the community of women there and living in such a historic landmark in Mount Vernon was amazing. There were some blocks where I moved onto the 2nd floor, the quiet floor, of the library. I admire those people who can study while listening to music, watching TV, or with people around, but I unfortunately could not learn that way. I was really glad to have options!”

Majoring in international politics with a minor in anthropology, Rudick found a mentor in Alfrieta Monagan. “She helped me prepare for learning and appreciating other cultures in the world,” she says.

As a junior Rudick says her studies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, “opened my eyes to the world.” She knew then that she wanted to go back to Africa with the Peace Corps, which she did—in Gambia.

Serving as an Environment and Natural Resource Management volunteer, Rudick worked closely with rural subsistence farmers. But her most rewarding project was planning the country’s first HIV Bike Trek. “This was a goal of mine from day one. HIV rates may have been low in Gambia, but the only way to keep them from growing is educating youth,” she explains. “We had field days and lessons at 15 schools and reached over 2,500 at-risk youth. I just heard that the current volunteers will be having this event again this year in a different region of the country!”

Always being passionate about environmental conservation, Rudick wanted to work in environmental or agricultural fields. “After the Peace Corps, I talked to so many people about their jobs. I organized dozens of “informational interviews” to learn about different career opportunities.  After a few months of “soul searching”, I knew working at the EPA was my top choice government Agency and was lucky enough to meet some wonderful people and be at the right place at the right time.”  Working in her position at the EPA in the Office of Pesticides Program, Rudick knows that she’ll learn quite a bit and, yes, satisfy her wanderlust.  “Cornell got me hooked on traveling and I look forward to incorporating that into my future.” 

Maggie Rudick '08