Alums Honored at the Breakers – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Alums Honored at the Breakers

At an event for Hobart and William Smith alums held at the Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla., Dr. Howard Martin ’59 and Dr. Robert Keppler ’52 were awarded honorary bachelor’s degrees more than 50 years after leaving Hobart. The men are among a small cohort of their classmates who earned enough academic credit to apply and be accepted to dental school after three years. In leaving early, none received their bachelor’s degrees. Martin and Keppler went on to serve their country and lead successful medical careers. Trustee Herbert J. McCooey Jr. ’76, P’04, P’09 and Trustee Chair Emeritus L. Thomas Melly ’52, L.H.D.’02 presented the official diplomas for the Bachelor of Arts, honoris causa, to Martin and Keppler as President Mark D. Gearan read the citations.

“These men so distinguished themselves at Hobart that they earned seats in reputed medical and professional institutions after only three years of undergraduate study. With the encouragement of their dean and president, they left campus without their bachelor’s degrees to go on to lead lives of consequence – in professional practice, teaching, research and in their personal lives,” said Gearan.

Martin is a distinguished endodontist who has served both the country and his profession admirably. Since leaving Geneva in 1958, Martin earned a doctor of dental medicine (D.M.D.) degree from Tufts University Dental School. He went on to military service as a Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy, serving at the Naval Medical Research Institute in Bethesda, as research consultant for the Naval Dental School, a research scientist for the U.S. Army Dental Institute, and the endodontic research co-director for Walter Reed Army Medical Center.  In addition to his devotion to his patients, Martin has committed himself to his colleagues, publishing prolifically in professional journals and text books, lecturing nationally and internationally, and teaching as an associate professor at Georgetown University. Martin holds 28 patents in the dental and chemical fields. 

Keppler, who was a member of the sailing team while at Hobart, left the College in 1951 to begin dental studies at Western Reserve University. He went on to earn a doctor of dental science (D.D.S) degree in 1955.  Before growing a successful practice of 41 years in his hometown of Garden City, N.Y., he was a member of the U.S. Navy Dental Corps stationed in Japan. 

“As the Provost and Dean of the Faculty will attest, honorary degrees carry the full weight of the history, traditions and ideals of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. They are given with care, with respect and with an honest affection for the life and deeds we are privileged to honor,” said Gearan. “In awarding these degrees, the Board of Trustees affirms the values that stand at the core of these Colleges: community service, leadership and a commitment to academic- and civic-excellence.”

Also honored at the brunch was James Caird ’56, who celebrated his 75th birthday in February, and his wife Cindy, both generous supporters of the Colleges. Caird was presented with a gift reflecting his skills, talents and philanthropic deeds, as well as his sense of humor.

the cairds

“When I first met Jim six years ago, he gave me a name card with several strange monikers related to his talents,” explains K.C. Cassell, Associate Vice President for Institutional Advancement. Among these were: ‘War Fought,” “Governments Ruined,” “Uprisings Quelled,” “Tigers Tamed,” and “Bars Emptied Excuses Verified.”

To commemorate Caird’s birthday, Cassell wanted to choose a gift that, as he says “…would both stress how much he has secured a lasting legacy with his benevolence to his alma mater, and still poke some fun and humor at him.” Inspired by that first meeting and the unique name card (which he still has), Cassell decided to have a Hobart-orange pillow embroidered with a birthday message and one column of text denoting Caird’s personality while at Hobart: “Kappa Sigma member, Statesmen hurler, Twin Oaks regular, Class Cut notary, Hobart original,” and a second column underscoring his and Cindy’s generosity to HWS: “Scholarship established, Residence Hall constructed, Athletics Center created, Seneca Society inducted, Legacy ensured.”