A Seasoned Engineer’s Look Back to his Time at RSE
Roger L. Whiteley ’52 is an accomplished engineer and alumnus of RSE. The building and the community looked much different at the dawn of the 1950s, but the formative experiences and friendships that Whiteley had at the time remain the same at RSE today. Here’s a look into what RSE was like three-quarters of a century ago.
Whiteley’s brother, Harold E. Whiteley ’42, was an alumnus of RSE and inspired Whiteley to pledge nearly a decade later. At the time, RSE was an impressively reputable organization for the school. “We were the leader on campus,” said Roger. “When I was there, both the Grand Marshal and the President of the Union were RSE members.”
During his time at RSE, Roger participated in the distinguished touch football team with fellow students George Boisvert ’52 and Don DeBacker. Roger played an end on RSE’s decorated team. One of his favorite memories is the year that they won the fraternity championship and went on to play the winner of the non-fraternity teams where they lost to a team of naval officer grads from Annapolis. “They wiped us out,” said Whiteley, with good humor. “They were bigger and stronger.” Still, he appreciated being a part of a winning team. (So just who was on the RSE 1952 Football team? Read on to find out!)
Another core memory for Whiteley was an interfraternity ski race at Pico Mountain on Saturnalia (RPI’s winter dance) weekend. “My date (my wife, Marilyn, of seventy years) was standing in the snow all day. By the time I finished, everyone had gone but one other couple. They had an old Ford coupe with a rumble seat, so we put our skis in the rumble seat and squeezed in, exhausted. When we arrived at RSE, we sent out for a pizza for dinner (it was so lousy that I’ve never liked pizza since that day). We fell asleep in front of the fire in the Living Room at RSE. We never did get to that dance.”
Roger and his wife Marilyn (who studied to become a medical secretary at Rider University) got married in his senior year. Whiteley then went on to get his Master’s at RPI in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics while Marilyn worked for a series of doctors in Troy while he was in school.
While he pursued his master’s degree, Roger was employed by RPI to work on a government funded research project to investigate the response of different rock strata to large explosions, and which was best to safely survive an atomic bomb.
He joined Bethlehem Steel Corp in 1953. His initial plan was to go into their fabricated steel construction division, but he changed his mind when he realized they had a research department. “Because I’d been in research, I thought that I’d like that! They said, ‘Okay if they’ll accept you, you can go.’ They did.”
Over the next 32 years, he worked his way up from a young research engineer to assistant manager of research, and then VP of production technology before retiring in 1984.
Whiteley credits RSE with helping to bring him out of his shell. “I was not a very social person. Being at RSE, with a group of guys from different backgrounds. I lost my reticence. I learned to be open with everybody. That changed my life.”
He gives back to the RSE community because he wants to make sure that the next generation can experience the same transformation that he had. “It was such a good life, a positive life. I hope RSE continues so that others can experience the same.”
Without RSE, I wouldn’t have these wonderful memories.
Thanks to Roger Whiteley ’52 for the photo and Jim Cypher ’52 for helping identify the members.