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Sage Hall: Experiments in Coeducation and Preservation at Cornell University

by Jennifer Cleland and Robert P. Stundtner

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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
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Cajun Carnival

Like many others in Ithaca, I had read about the collapse of the brick wall at Sage Hall in the local newspaper, but sitting in Micawber’s one afternoon I was surprised to learn that Bob was the project manager for the renovation.I had a vague idea that he was some sort of engineer, and had never heard of project management, though I’ve learned since that the job has been compared to conducting an orchestra, in that it consists of getting disparate groups of people to work together harmoniously.One Friday early in October, Bob surprised me again when he invited me to go to hear a classical Indian flute concert at Barnes Hall with him the next Wednesday.I took a deep breath and said yes, and when Bob called on Monday to confirm the date, I suggested, and he agreed, that we have dinner together before the show.

We ate Middle Eastern food in Collegetown and walked up to the concert through a campus in full fall foliage.When we got to Barnes, a group of people, many clothed in colorful Indian textiles, had lined up to enter the small building.It became clear that the hall was full and we wouldn’t get in.Bob proposed that we get his set of universal access keys from his car, so that we could enter via the back door to the concert hall and sit on the back stairs to catch the show.But his keys weren’t in his car!We decided to drive to his house on the south side of town and get the keys, and we got back in time to enjoy most of the music.The flutist that night, Hariprasad Chaurasia, remains a favorite of ours.

Thursday morning Bob called to say that he’d enjoyed our date, and invited me to his house for dinner on Saturday.On Friday afternoon we were in our places at the round corner table by the window in Micawber’s with Art Stern, a coworker of Bob’s and one of the few people in Ithaca who had known both of us before we got together. Art mentioned to Bob that a blues band, Big Daddy Kinsey and the Kinsey Report, was playing at Key West, a bar by the inlet, that evening.It sounded like Bob might go, so I called him later to say I could join them.Bob and I danced together for the first time that night, laughing at the band’s name and the potential implications of it all.

Saturday was a revelation for me.I had seen Bob’s house briefly at night, but arriving in the afternoon I wasn’t prepared for the natural beauty of the property.Encompassing 2.5 acres on South Hill, the land has a steep rise from the street to the defunct railroad bed that marks the boundary near the top of the hill.A small creek with a few waterfalls runs through a narrow gorge on the property, one of the many feeder creeks that cut through the Devonian sedimentary rock and glacial till to reach the level of the lakes, gouged out in former river valleys by the glaciers.

That afternoon, Bob and I carried hors d’oeuvres up to the “picnic rock” by the falls, and enjoyed goat cheese, a baguette, and a bubbly rosé from Australia.We were favored with a beautiful day, auspicious and affirming.Dinner was a rack of lamb, followed by dancing by the fire.Bob’s plan was coming together…

In fact our relationship developed steadily, and the following e-mails, sent sporadically over the last half of October, chronicle its trajectory.I hadn’t used electronic mail before, so it took me some time (and some help from Patrick) to get used to the technology.The flirting tone of the messages belies the underlying questions of a new relationship and what that might mean for all of us.

Jenny: Bob, it seems you have got me hooked on-line; the fun zone now! Still, it doesn't quite measure up to face-to-face communication.

Bob: No, it doesn't. But if it isn't a perfect substitute, it is a useful tool.Jenny: Do high-powered managerial types ever get coffee/lunch breaks? I plan to be on campus tomorrow, and we could have a cup together if you feel like it and have the time.

Bob: For you? I'd make time most any ol' time, but I don't have to this time 'cause I have the time so what time? After 9am that is. Lunch is good. I think the weather is turning to poopy or at least rain tomorrow. Let me know what's convenient or play it by ear.Looking forward to seeing you. Your e-"pal" B-O-B