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Rochester Review--University of Rochester magazine

The Review welcomes letters from readers and will print as many of them as space permits. Letters may be edited for brevity and clarity. Unsigned letters cannot be used, but names of the writers may be withheld on request.


Good to See Gates

I am sure the young chemists of today do not have the same appreciation of his synthesis of morphine as we did then, for the structure looks so simple now compared to that which is being synthesized at present. But if they would put aside all their modern instruments and much of the specialized knowledge of the last four or five decades, they will begin to see what an extraordinary feat it was.

Ellis Glazier ’57 (PhD)
La Paz, Mexico

Remembering "Speed" Speegle

The University, when I arrived in 1948, was just emerging from the dislocations of WWII. Nearly half of the student body were veterans, war-hardened adults. . . . All of this was unsettling to me, a naďve, small town, 18-year-old freshman. Except for my equally insecure freshman friends, it was hard to find anyone here who could provide warmth and understanding. But then there was "Speed" Speegle.

Roman L. Speegle was the swimming coach and a physical education instructor. For reasons obscure, everyone called him "Speed." He was from the deep South, Alabama as I recall, and spoke with a slow drawl. A bushy, unkempt moustache decorated his amiable face.

I tried out for the swim team as a freshman. I had little experience in competitive swimming, but the team needed warm bodies, so I was accepted. In our sophomore year, the frosh were promoted to the varsity. We had two speedsters, Bob Koch ’51 and Jim Pitts ’52.

I swam the 100, 220, and sometimes 440 freestyle. As the years went by, my times gradually improved, but seldom got me better than third place in meets. In my junior year, I was working hard, trying to break a minute in the 100. My times hit a plateau at just over a minute and wouldn’t budge. Discouraged, I went to Speed one day and told him I wanted to quit. My slow times weren’t any good to the team. "Go ahead and quit, then, if you want to, Warren," said Speed.

I was crushed. Speed meant more to me than anyone else on the faculty and all he said was "go." Then he added, "Let me put the watch on you once more before you go." So with fists clenched in anger, I got on the starting block to swim a 100. I pounded out two laps with all I had, and then looked up at Speed. He showed me the watch: 59.5 seconds. "That’s pretty good, Warren. Why don’t you stick around awhile?"

Later that year, we had an exciting away meet at Oberlin. They were good; they had a string of 31 consecutive dual meet victories. They won most of the individual events that day, but we kept the score close with second- and third-place finishes. In the final 4-by-100 freestyle relay, the Rochester team of Koch, Turner, Dillenbeck, and Pitts pulled out a victory, winning the meet and setting a school record that lasted several years. Speed was satisfied.

Our swimming exploits wouldn’t impress present-day swimmers. My own daughter eclipsed my best time in the 100 freestyle when she was just 13! But the lessons Speed Speegle taught us live on in our lives. I hope that these days there is a Rochester faculty person somewhere who has the common touch, who reaches out to timorous students as Speed Speegle did to us.

Warren H. Dillenbeck ’52
Harrisonburg, Virginia

Ahoy, Yellowjackets!

Navy V-12 Unit, 1943

I was one of "the Lucky Ones," arriving at the University as a member of the Navy V-12 contingent on July 1, 1943.

Assigned to Company F, we were quartered on the first and second "decks" of Burton Hall—90 seamen strong. I put in 12 months (three full semesters) on the River Campus and found it academically and athletically challenging, and personally rewarding. It was truly a vintage year.

I recently came across photos of the full V-12 unit, 859 Navy and Marines, drawn up on the parade ground and also our Company F on the lower quadrangle. I feel that they somehow belong at the University.

Great year! Great university! Thanks for the memories!

John M. Thompson
Merrick, New York


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