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Professor John Gowdy: Lloyd Rittenhouse '35 Still "Making a Difference"

Virginia and Lloyd Rittenhouse

Virginia and Lloyd Rittenhouse '35

Though it has been 70 years since Lloyd Rittenhouse—fraternity president, student-athlete, artist, band member—graduated from Rensselaer, his presence is still strongly felt.

On July 1, Rensselaer Professor of Economics John Gowdy was named the inaugural chair holder of the Virginia and Lloyd W. Rittenhouse ’35 Teaching Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences. This is definitely an honor for Gowdy, but it is Rensselaer students who will ultimately benefit the most.

“I will be spending more time with the First-Year Studies program,” says Gowdy, “to give incoming students a flavor of humanities and social sciences. We really try to get students engaged—to get them to work together on topics that interest them.”

One of the benefits of holding the new chair is that Gowdy receives an annual stipend. This fall, when he introduces First-Year Studies students to “the blues as oral history,” that money will be used to bring in blues singers. It is not hard to imagine that Lloyd Rittenhouse would be pleased.

Though he earned his degree in electrical engineering, Rittenhouse had originally wanted to make a career of art. In his youth, he was a prize-winning painter. Circumstances intervened, however, and he ended up taking over the Rittenhouse Company, which was founded by his father.

Under Rittenhouse’s guidance the company grew and expanded significantly, becoming one of the country’s leading manufacturers of door chimes. In 1961, as the president and principal owner, he sold the business to Emerson Electric and then retired from Emerson in 1969.

Throughout their lifetimes, the Rittenhouses made several gifts to Rensselaer, but it wasn’t until after their deaths (Virginia died in 2002 and Lloyd in 2003) that a gift from their estate established the Rittenhouse chair.

“It is exciting seeing the students develop self-confidence, seeing them get interested in something and follow through in depth,” says Gowdy. “Having this chair gives the school a chance to make a difference in the First-Year Studies program.…We’ll be making a difference in the lives of students.”

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