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As classmates graduating in 1927, William F. Hart and Robert E. Tinsman Sr. didn’t know each other very well. Now residing in the same Bethlehem, Pa., retirement village, they share the distinction of being the Lafayette community’s centenarians. Tinsman turned 100 in October and Hart in January.

Hart came to Lafayette from Hopewell, N.J., on the recommendation of his Presbyterian pastor and soon discovered a passion for organic chemistry. He was selected for membership into Phi Beta Kappa, America’s oldest and most respected academic honor society. A member of Kappa Sigma fraternity, he served as its alumnus adviser for nine years.

“Lafayette, when I entered there, was not much better than a cow college compared to today,” he says, noting the College’s current reputation for resources and technology. “The facilities weren’t great, but it had some very fine buildings and some excellent professors.”

After receiving his master’s degree from Princeton University in 1928, Hart taught chemistry at Lafayette for one year. Upon completing his Ph.D. at New York University in 1936, he returned as a chemistry professor until his retirement in 1971, when he was elected to emeritus status. His tenure included service as head of the chemistry department from 1957, when he succeeded J. Hunt Wilson ’05, through 1969.

Hart recalls several experiences that marked his career as an educator. He is especially proud of his role on the committee that recommended the College become co-educational in 1970. He also served on the professional committee that assisted students in finding medical school placements.

During World War II, Hart taught elementary chemistry to several groups of men that the U.S. government sent to Lafayette. Among them was Henry Kissinger, who would become the 56th U.S. Secretary of State and win the Nobel Peace Prize. For years, Hart kept his record book showing Kissinger’s high academic marks.

After his retirement, Hart split his time between Easton and Florida and remained active in his research, often publishing in Journal of the American Chemical Society and Journal of Organic Chemistry.

He was married to his second wife, Hilda Schug, for 45 years. His daughter, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren celebrated his birthday with him on Jan. 8. One of his grandsons, William Von Neida ’87,is an A.B. engineering graduate.

Born in Dennison, Texas, Tinsman came to Lafayette at the urging of his uncle Robert Tinsman 1901, president of the Alumni Association from 1927-28 and a member of the Board of Trustees from 1931-56. Tinsman was a member of Zeta Psi fraternity, graduating with an A.B. degree with a liberal arts major.

Tinsman has remained an active alumnus. He took over as class correspondent at his 25th reunion, collecting and compiling updates and notes from the Class of 1927 for the alumni office; he still holds the position today.

“I liked putting pictures together,” he recalls of his work with fellow alumni.

During the Great Depression, Tinsman owned and operated an ice cream shop, a business that one of his fraternity brothers helped him start. He went on to work as a business administrator for Western Electric Company (later Lucent Technologies) until his retirement in 1966.

After his retirement, he and his wife, Lucia MacNicol, devoted their time to family. His children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren celebrated his birthday with him on Oct. 30.

Tinsman is part of a legacy that has made a lasting contribution to the College. His wife’s grandfather, Erastus Bloom,was a member of the Class of 1874. The Blooms donated a parcel of land to Lafayette that the College still owns. His son, Robert Tinsman Jr. ’56, was an industrial engineering major. Theodore Tinsman ’86, one of his grandchildren, graduated with an A.B. degree with majors in art and philosophy. In 1996, Tinsman made a gift that eventually will establish the Robert E. Tinsman ’27 Scholarship Fund.

A third living member of the Class of 1927 is John Tucker.

Categorized in: Alumni Profiles