September 23, 2020

William H. Hausdoerffer, class of 1936, dies at 97; Alumnus’ presence lives on in campus community after 75 years

William H. Hausdoerffer designed and donated the sundial outside of the Student Center. (Tom O’Dell / Photo Editor)

The sundial sitting outside the Brower Student Center is the creation and donation of William H. Hausdoerffer and can be viewed as an artifact of his ardor.

Hausdoerffer, 97, passed away on Saturday, Feb. 5 from natural causes, according to Emily Dodd, communications officer for media relations and marketing, on behalf of the College’s public relations department. But his legacy will continue to live on for many in the College community.

The solar structure is only one of many contributions that the mathematician has shared with the College.

As the sundial’s inscription indicates, the structure is an original design by Hausdoerffer and the Trenton State College (TSC) Sundial Committee. It was contributed by colleagues, students, organizations, family and friends in order to honor Hausdoerffer, who was a member of the graduating class of 1936. Hausdoerffer was also pro-fessor emeritus of mathematics, department chairman, dean of men, TSC Athletic Hall of Fame honoree, alumni executive board member and an advisor to many. He was officially a part of the College community from 1940 to 1979.

This only begins to list the myriad of roles Hausdoerffer fulfilled. He served in the Navy during World War II. Friends also described Hausdoerffer as a ballroom dancer, bridge player, ice skater, multi-sport athlete and photographer, whose most interesting subject was perhaps Albert Einstein.

Evidence of his influence still surrounds the campus today — such as the apartment complex adorning his name.

While the school’s name has undergone several changes over the past century, Hausdoerffer’s presence has remained a constant.

“(Hausdoerffer) has been part of the College’s history for more than 75 years — that’s almost half of the College’s life,” President R. Barbara Gitenstein said in an e-mail. “His commitment to excellence and to the promise of our students’ future is extraordinary.”

Another unwavering presence has been the company of his other half.

Hausdoerffer is survived by his spouse of over 70 years, Rosemary Canning Hausdoerffer, who also attended and taught at the College.

“He was almost always accompanied by his wonderful wife, Rosemary, who has also been a great supporter of the College and its students,” Gitenstein said.

Former president of the College, Clayton Brower, agreed.

“You don’t know Bill Hausdoerffer, unless you knew Rosemary Hausdoerffer,” he said.

The pair spent time living in an apartment in Bliss Hall while he was the dean of men, Brower said.

According to former student Grace Starrett, 1953 alumna, who was in Hausdoerffer’s personal finance and astronomy classes, back when the school was called the New Jersey State Teacher’s College.

“We would meet outside in the athletic fields at nights, and therefore we were seeing the stars, not just reading about them in books,” Starrett said.

According to Siegfried Haenisch, professor emeritus and 1958 graduate, every year in May just before graduation, Hausdoerffer “would have the senior (mathematics majors) invited for picnics at his house in Pennington.”

While Haenisch first met Hausdoerffer as a student back in 1954, during a time when “the entire mathematics department consisted of only three faculty,” the two eventually

William H. Hausdoerffer and his wife Rosemary, have become a distinct part of the College, with a dorm named for him.

became colleagues.

“He was a great influence on the department,” Haenisch said. “He’s the gentleman who pushed for a requirement that all students, regardless of major, should take two courses in mathematics.”

His spreading of knowledge extended beyond the classroom setting, and often onto athletic fields or even ice rinks.

As a music major, Edith D. Ries, ’56, did not have Hausdoerffer as a professor but had asked for his assistance in ice skating. Ries would take weekly trips to the Princeton Skating Club with Hausdoerffer and his wife.

“He and Rosemary could not have been nicer,” Ries said. “They were extremely encouraging, and anytime I took ice skating dancing tests, (Hausdoerffer) would always be my partner.”

“What I would like to say,” Ries reflected, “is that he was a gentleman from his skating blades to his fingertips.”

Hausdoerffer frequently shared with friends his love for playing bridge — a skill he taught Brower and Brower’s wife, Dottie. Brower described Hausdoerffer as “an avid bridge player” and someone with whom he formed a life-long friendship.

“Mrs. Brower and I became very close friends with the Hausdoerffers through the years. He was a dear close personal friend from 1962 on,” Brower said.

Speaking of Hausdoerffer’s relationships, Pete Manetas, assistant vice president for Development and Alumni Affairs, said, “His was a friendship that hundreds, if not thousands, share.”

Through visits with alumni, Manetas realized how many lives Hausdoerffer touched.

“If I would mention Bill Hausdoerffer’s name in my introductory remarks, it was an automatic bonding experience,” he said.

“It’s been a marvelous walk hand-in-hand, with him for 60 years now,” Len Tharney, professor emeritus, said, who first met Hausdoerffer as a student in 1950.

“We hit it off very well,” Tharney said. “He found out I had military experience, and I found out he had had it. He was in the Navy and taught navigation and aviation skills, and I was in the Army.”

After receiving his bachelor’s degree and beginning to teach at his alma mater, Hausdoerffer served in World War II.

According to Manetas, “He had been to every commencement, except during his service in World War II, up until a few years ago.”

“He considered it a privilege to work in higher education and at an institution that grew the way it did,” Manetas added.

Over the years, Hausdoerffer participated in several of the school’s significant events.

“I have so many wonderful personal memories of Bill’s engagement in the life of his alma mater,” Gitenstein said.

Events that Gitenstein mentioned as memorable were when Hausdoerffer lit the cauldron in an Olympics-esque ceremony commemorating the school’s 150 years of existence. In 2009, he spoke to crowds of students at a ceremony for the opening of Hausdoerffer Hall.

“He adored (the school) as Trenton State Teacher’s College, and loved it just as much as The College of New Jersey,” Manetas said. “What mattered to him more than anything else, was the person in the classroom, or lacing up their shoes before an athletic event.”

Hausdoerffer served as the College’s dean of men. (Photo from 1954 edition of ‘The Seal’)

According to Manetas, Hausdoerffer made it his mission to recognize the accomplishments of those whose efforts had not been adequately acknowledged.

“He would always call (the Alumni Department) whenever he felt there was a piece of history no one would know,” Manetas said. “He would be the champion for the overlooked professor, faculty member, student, athlete.”

After a moment, he added, “I use the word ‘champion,’ but Bill would never refer to himself that way.”

Hausdoerffer’s humility was also brought up by Tharney, who described him as a “marvelous man. Very human, very humble, very enlightening and just a great friend to have.”

As a former assistant football coach and collegiate athlete, Hausdoerffer combined math with sports during frequent visits during the school’s football season, Manetas said.

“Even when he had knee and hip surgery, he would still find his way up (to the press box),” Manetas said. “He would love to scour statistics at half-time and make commentary about what they should be doing.”

Football wasn’t his only extracurricular interest. Haenisch recalled Hausdoerffer’s love for tennis, while Brower spoke highly of the man’s ballroom dancing.

“He was a great golfer. He would be constantly intrigued with analyzing his golf swing,” Brower said. “He would always have a statistical analysis of my golf score, which I didn’t enjoy sometimes,” he added, with a laugh.

Tharney shared one of Hausdoerffer’s favorite anecdotes — his encounter with Albert Einstein in Princeton. “He and Bill spent the morning together. He allowed Bill to photograph him. Photography was really one of his favorite loves,” he said.

Another love of his was sundials. Haenisch recalled, “That was his hobby … He lived in Pennington Point, in a semi-retirement community, and even there, on his little patio, he created a little sundial.”

Brower, also speaking of Hausdoerffer’s enthusiasm for solar clocks, said, “He would see sundials that were placed and positioned at the wrong angle, and he would … write letters to the people who installed the sundial, instigating that they install the sundial with more accuracy.”

Meticulous and accurate were adjectives many used to describe the man who made a profession of precision.

“He really encouraged me to be the best possible teacher I can,” Haenisch said. “I tried to follow his example.”

Tharney similarly viewed Hausdoerffer’s career as one he wished to emulate.

“Just seeing Bill over the change of time was always bittersweet for me,” he said. “It was so consoling to see how well he carried himself in his later years, and it gave me a sense of propriety about how I want to carry out my professional life.”

“We lost a real gem of a person, whose life has mirrored the evolution of the College, from it’s original location in Trenton to here (in Ewing),” Manetas said.

“He was just a great friend, and a great critic,” Brower concluded. “I will cherish all these personal associations that I have, to all these interests of skating, dancing, bridge playing, sundial, photography.”

The College’s current president’s remarks agreed with Brower’s.

“Bill was a true ‘renaissance’ man, an avid football fan, a thoughtful mentor to students in their life outside of the classroom, and most importantly, a demanding and inspired professor of mathematics,” Gitenstein said. ?“He will be missed.”

Jamie Primeau can be reached at

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.