William “Bill” Vanneman ’31, an extraordinary alumnus who helped organize – and was planning to attend – Cornell’s first 80th class reunion in June, died April 26 at age 102.
Vanneman, of Cape Cod, Mass., had served as president of his class since his graduation eight decades ago and had become a fixture at Reunions, which he attended annually as a member of the Continuous Reunion Club.
He had become the embodiment of Big Red spirit – he was the namesake and the first recipient of the Bill Vanneman ’31 Outstanding Class Leader Award, established in 2005 to honor alumni service.
When Vanneman found out in 2005 that the Class of 2000′s treasury was low as they faced their first Reunion, “he jumped in on behalf of his own Class of ’31 to prop up our reunion funds,” recalls Andrea Wasserman ’00.
Vanneman called the gift as much “smart” as “generous.” “Some day, some of them will make it big and donate millions to the university to build buildings and other things,” he explained. “This may be the greatest gift we could ever give to Cornell.”
“Bill’s Cornell pride and enthusiasm were contagious,” Wasserman says. “I’ll never forget his jovial nature and his affinity for dressing in full Cornell regalia at every event. I’m crushed to learn of his passing and grateful that his spirit and generosity will live on. Personally, Bill inspired me to look for ways to help future generations of Cornell alumni. I hope my class can ‘grow up’ and give back just as Bill’s class did.”
Vanneman had planned to join classmates Rosemary Hunt Todd and Ethel Bache Clark at Reunion.
He graduated with a degree in English and economics and was a vice president of Matthew Bender & Co., a legal publisher.
The Cornell Vanneman legacy also includes Bill’s sons, William Vanneman Jr. ’65 and Reeve Vanneman ’67; his daughter-in-law, Jane Wallace Vanneman ’68; his granddaughters, Michelle Moore Vanneman ’89 and Kara Vanneman Klein ’89, and Kara’s husband, Kenny Klein ’87. His father, C. Reeve Vanneman, was a member of the Class of 1903.
Share your memories of Vanneman on this tribute page.
- Joe Wilensky