Thinking Ahead: Alum101

Remember bridges: both real, figurative

The word “bridges” carries a built-in fascination. Young or old, we all like bridges—they represent a triumph of humanity.

As you all know, our school is linked to bridge-building and design in a very special way, such as the Brooklyn Bridge, among many others.

The Brooklyn Bridge is a National Historic Landmark. The detailed plans and specifications for it were prepared by Washington A. Roebling, Class of 1857, a Rensselaer alumnus.

The bridge is a technological milestone. With its neo-Gothic style, it is an architectural jewel that has endured the test of time.

When chief engineer John Roebling died while surveying for the bridge, his son Washington Augustus took over the project, with the vital assistance of his wife Emily.

Emily Roebling, in the purest example of love, conviction, and determination, took the initiative to acquire the necessary technical knowledge for the enterprise to succeed. Surprisingly, this is 1882.

I encourage you to read this most romantic story; it is embedded in the soul of Rensselaer.

What about the other bridges we build during our lives? We reach out to other people, we reach out to knowledge for new techniques or information, and we reach out to art and music to stimulate our sensibilities.

Bridges connect our energy and work to a good cause; through bridges of love we reach out in a caring or romantic way.

Bridges—a two-way street initiative, a permanent connection. There are always passages, besides linking over the East River, to be created by building a bridge.

Get up every morning and build your bridges! Just remember, in keeping with our Rensselaer legacy, they had better be beautiful.

Columnist’s Note: Raul Palm received his master’s degree from Rensselaer in 1977, and currently serves on the board of directors of the Rensselaer Alumni Association. Palm is also president of Patterson Palm Builders Hardware, in Escondido, Calif.

Founded in 1869, the RAA is one of the oldest alumni associations in the country and is made of approximately 95,000 alumni. It is represented by an alumni board of trustees who work to empower and engage current and future alumni in meaningful and strategic partnerships with Rensselaer. If you have questions about the Rensselaer Alumni Association and its programs and services, contact the Alumni Office at 276-6205 or