often to view updates.)
Update: On February 26, 2016, I lost my husband Jay following cancer surgery. While I feel overwhelmed by sadness I also can rejoice in the memories of the 35 years we spent together... as husband and wife, parents, business partners, and traveling companions. Jay was so looking forward to the June reunion and meeting the classmates I talked about as I added so many stories to the Allegheny66.com website. He was determined that I would get to Meadville no matter what ... so I will be there!
Suzy Spence Miller
Most of you would have a tough time remembering me from Allegheny as I was the quiet one who was afraid of my own shadow, didn’t date, and knew few students other than the girls in the dorm. Attending Allegheny was such a logical choice. Both of my parents, two sisters, an aunt and two uncles all went to Allegheny. Before I was 10, I had attended half a dozen Allegheny reunions with my parents, but none in the last 50 years! I cannot wait to attend our 50th reunion in June.
I was a math whiz kid through high school but as a math major at Allegheny I really struggled. I transferred to West Virginia University after my 2nd year at Allegheny (roomed with Judy Selvage both years). Funny thing – I was in over my head in math there too! When I was just 10 academic hours away from graduation at WVU I started to panic. Here I was about to face the real world, shy and unprepared! My math advisor suggested my best bet would be to teach math. I knew that was not my calling. “No I don’t want to teach.” His immediate response: “Then you will never use this math.”
I was frustrated and confused – my dad had already spent big bucks to provide nearly four years of college room, board, tuition and spending money. Bravely I called him and asked him to come get me. “I quit.” I spent about a month a little confused and depressed trying to figure out how to spend the “rest of my life.” The courses I loved the most at WVU were two computer programming classes (the only two at either Allegheny or WVU, as the computer industry was in its infancy.) I enrolled in a technical school in Pittsburgh that specialized in computer training. With my college background, I was the star student. Upon graduation, I accepted a job as a programmer at Eastern Airlines – I liked the flight benefits to employees and parents, perhaps a way to help compensate my parents. Somehow I missed that the job was in Miami, Florida. Scared out of my wits and not knowing a soul there, I boarded a flight from Pittsburgh to Miami with $250 in my wallet. That was tougher than anyone could ever imagine. I found a furnished apartment for $50/month and bought a Chevy Corvair the first day in Miami and found my way to work the next day. My office was at the terminal building at Miami International but the computers were in a hanger on other side of the runway. In 1966 we would take a shortcut, driving across the main runway, to test our programs. Imagine taking a shortcut across a runway in 2015! The computers (one was 4K and one 8K) took up the entire second floor of the hanger.
Lucky to get in at the ground level as a programmer, I quickly learned the ropes, the people, and a young computer industry, rising in stature as a member of a new team with Eastern, a leader in the computer field. I stayed with Eastern for 15 years and my husband will tell you I ran the company! Not at all true – but I was proud of my accomplishments there.
I never finished those last 10 hours to get a degree and have never regretted it. (But I did miss not being in The Kaldron with the Class of ’66.) I’ve been so satisfied with how things turned out. I had a great career and have two fabulous sons, two great step children, eight wonderful grandchildren, and a tall good looking husband!
Jay (Frontier Airlines pilot) and I gave up our airline careers and moved to Islamorada in the Florida Keys in 1981....paradise with a wonderful small town environment. After moving to the Keys we started our own real estate company. So after nearly 35 years out of the computer/tech business, I loved being asked to create our reunion website and embarking on my first attempt at web design. It was a challenge—and I am thoroughly enjoying it!
As probably the only one on the ’66 Reunion Committee who checks the “some college” box, I feel blessed to be reconnecting with my Allegheny years and my ’66 classmates. It’s great to be back with you!
Kathé Tunnell Cairns
When I left Allegheny, as it turns out, I really didn’t leave. After spending a few months as editor of an engineering society magazine, I got a call from the Cleveland Press asking if I’d like to go to work there. In a heartbeat, YES! Being a features writer led to fascinating assignments, culminating in covering Lynda Bird Johnson’s pre-wedding week activities in Washington in December 1967. OK, so I was covering one of the 10 groomsmen who was band director at the Chagrin Falls high school, but it was still a blast being in on the behind-the-scenes drama and intrigue.
But back to not really leaving Allegheny. Some may recall our first night of Senior Week (and last day of finals). A large celebratory crowd gathered at the bar at the edge of town on Main Street (can anyone remember its name?). It was there that I had a conversation with Mr. Cairns; we had both come from final rehearsal of a Playhouse production of The Mikado--he was the Mikado and I was a Little Lady of Titipu. The conversation lasted the whole week (I eventually learned to call him Don) and I missed the rest of Senior Week. (Sorry.) It was a year and a half later, the weekend after the White House wedding, that Don and I talked of marriage and in June of ’68 I returned to Meadville/Allegheny as a faculty wife (not an archaic term then).
The 17 years we spent in Meadville were idyllic. We gutted and rebuilt a great 1820 house on North Main Street (took almost 17 years to complete…), had two daughters, a Siberian husky, a succession of cats and a great life bridging the academic and town worlds. With friends I helped found an organization to promote social services for women and coordinated a life-changing project to create a shelter for women in distress. They became multi-million dollar organizations, still serving Crawford County. The bonus for me was working with so many savvy, talented, funny, thoughtful women, creating life-long bonds and making a difference. In that time I was also elected twice to the School Board which was another education...
In 1980, I was approached about starting an insurance agency. I treated it like a joke (What?! Sell insurance? I’m a child of the ’60’s! Hah!) until Don suggested I’d be good at it. So I took another look and six months later I opened my own State Farm Insurance agency on North Street (across from Teddy's…). It was a blast, too. A few years later I was offered a position in management but it meant a move to the Philadelphia suburbs and asking the family to give up our wonderful Meadville/Allegheny life. It took Don 5 minutes to jump on it; it took me three months, but finally I said yes and off we went. Best Decision Ever.
Life in the Philly suburbs was a big but exciting change for all of us. Don took up acting and I loved helping others become agents and building another agency there, as well as helping our daughters adapt to the new environment and maneuver successfully through the middle and high school years, church and civic activities and hosting two exchange students. Both Megan and Shannon went to Macalester College in St Paul, MN (Meadville winters weren’t enough to scare them off). Megan stayed and has made a great life for herself there as a crackerjack Pilates instructor and owning her own studio. Shannon migrated to Berkeley for her graduate degree and settled in San Francisco where she and her husband are both in transportation planning and raising two fabulous little boys, Finn, 6, and Patrick, 3.
In 201I, I retired and the next year we moved to California: another best decision! We miss our Pennsylvania friends on opposite corners of the state but being near the boys in San Francisco and creating a new life again is invigorating. The sun shines every day (OK, so there’s a drought), Don does some acting, I sing in an exciting 65-voice mixed chorus (thank you, Wright North!), we walk the valley, climb the hills, take BART into the city for theater and family events and welcome visitors—so we still see our old friends!
Between my Allegheny experience and Don, with his can-do California free spirit, I have been propelled to see possibilities, take chances, get out of my comfort zone. Our first travels were extended trips to the Soviet Union (in 1967), then Mexico (in a Cadillac hearse in 1969). Thanks to our exchange students, we have had wonderful, personalized visits to Belgium, Sweden, Prague and Crete. We have visited Europe from Scandinavia to Turkey, South Africa, Canada, and all the US states. Next is New Zealand and Australia in December.
I am so very much looking forward to our reunion in June and to seeing your post-Allegheny story on this website. Mooching off the ’65 reunion last spring, I learned even after 50 years, when you are there it seems like no time at all; the campus has never been more beautiful and the people are just the same, though hair styles (and color?) may be a bit different, with stories to tell and old times and new times to share. See you there.