The unconscious body of Harry Swift ’50 plummeted through the open sky, 30,000 feet above the earth. Two years earlier, before the start of World War II, his father had enlisted him in the National Guard to “straighten him up,” but he probably never imagined his son in this unlucky position.
Swift’s run of bad luck had begun when he was called up to report to Tennessee headquarters. Originally, he was with a crew of fairly well-trained soldiers, he says, but soon he was restationed with a group of new, untrained soldiers like himself. Only 19, Swift was shocked when he was assigned as copilot for his first mission.
In June 1943, he and his crew deployed to Europe for that first mission. Good news seemed to come his way when he learned that his fleet would consist of new B-17 Straggler bomber planes. Unfortunately, his crew’s new plane was being repaired, so they were forced to leave for their mission in an older plane that severely lagged behind the rest of the fleet.
After successfully completing their mission by bombing a German power plant, the planes headed back to home base in England. However, due to mechanical problems, his crew was unable to fire on the German planes chasing them. Still trailing behind the rest of the group, his plane became an easy target for German militia. Just over enemy lines in Holland, Swift’s plane was hit by enemy fire.
While the pilot tried to control the disabled plane, Swift went to check on his 10-man crew. He found that two had been killed, and a fire had broken out. He knew he had to jump to survive, but as copilot, he felt a responsibility to stay and help straighten the plane. However, before that could happen, he passed out from lack of oxygen at the high altitude.
When Swift awoke from unconsciousness, he was falling through the sky, parachute unopened. He quickly pulled his rip cord and landed hanging from electrical lines in Holland. He carefully maneuvered himself out of the lines and dropped into a ditch below. More bad luck followed his good luck in surviving the plane crash, however, when he was immediately arrested and sent to Stalag Luft III, a German POW camp, where he stayed for almost two years until the end of the war in 1945.
Despite Swift’s streak of wartime bad luck, he was fortunate to live past 19. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, out of more than 16 million individuals who served in World War II, 130,201 were POWs. Of that number, 116,129 POWs returned alive to the U.S. There are no statistics, however, on National Guardsmen who free-fell thousands of feet through enemy airspace, landed in electrical lines and still lived to tell the tale.
Soon after being released, Swift returned to America and married his wife, Betty, in 1945. The next year he enrolled in classes at Millikin. The couple and their newborn baby lived for two years in on-campus trailers used to house married couples and veterans. After finishing his degree at the University of Illinois, he worked as an insurance adjuster in Arizona. Eventually, though, after having enough of the Southwest heat, and missing the Midwestern values of his home state, he and Betty returned to the Champaign area, where they live today among memorabilia of Swift’s war experiences.
Whether the subject is city-wide disasters, the history of San Francisco or the finer points of basketball, Roger Lotchin ’57 is as reliable as an encyclopedia.
His most recent publication, “Narratives of the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906,” a collection of written accounts from the disaster that still scars the bay today, was released in December 2011.
Lotchin teaches history at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill and has been studying the urban history of San Francisco since his graduate school years at the University of Chicago. His study began with the California Gold Rush.
He was orginally advised to research Los Angeles, but “San Francisco looked more exciting,” Lotchin says. “During the Gold Rush, it was an explosive, dynamic out-of-control place,” so he dove into the study and found a historical gold mine of his own.
He cultivated his knowledge of San Francisco while writing a large collection of books on the subject, including “The Bad City in the Good War,” which highlights the accomplishments of San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles during World War II, despite the common misconception that the city was solely a land of danger and corruption.
Although experienced in the urban dynamic of the City by the Bay, Lotchin did not write specifically about the disaster in San Francisco until Charles Morris’ “The San Francisco Calamity by Earthquake and Fire” was released, for which Lotchin wrote the introduction.
Taking notice of his work, publisher R.R. Donnelley asked Lotchin to edit a 2011 addition to their Lakeside Classics collection, “Narratives of the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906.”
Lotchin gladly accepted. “All I had to do was validate it,” he says, “and I couldn’t think of any one of them that I would have thrown out. For example, the first narrative was a painter. He’s crucial, because he was one of the last people to see San Francisco whole before it burned down.”
According to Lotchin, the disaster was largely due to poor planning. “From a planning standpoint, I think almost all of the great American cities shouldn’t have been put where they are,” he says.
Despite San Francisco’s inopportune location, there was little chance that its inhabitants would leave, even after the earthquake and fire. Beneath all the destruction were their lives and infrastructure, not to mention the importance of having a place to call home. “At that time, San Francisco was well-loved,” Lotchin says. “There was a tremendous emotional attachment to the place.”
Lotchin is similarly attached to his alma mater. He attended Millikin as a physical education and history major, and continued his study of history in graduate school in Chicago.
In addition, the 6’ 5½” Lotchin was an all-star player on Millikin’s basketball team and was inducted into the Big Blue’s Athletic Hall of Fame. He averaged 23.3 rebounds per game his junior year, graduated as the school’s second leading scorer, and was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) Hall of Fame in 1997, an honor he shares with his coach from his undergraduate years, Ralph Allan ’37. More recently, Lotchin was honored at a home game in February, receiving a framed jersey bearing his name and number from Men’s Basketball Coach Matt Nadelhoffer (see above photo).
His pride in his success is dwarfed by his ever-present pride for his teammates, whether they were running in the frigid cold as punishment for a loss or banding together in the last seconds of a game to clinch a victory.
Lotchin was recognized both for his service to Millikin and for his accomplishments in his field with the Merit-Loyalty award in 1985. He was also one of only 100 living alumni inducted into the Millikin Medallion Society in 2003, which honors those individuals who have had the greatest impact on the university in it’s more than 100-year history.
When asked about his accomplished basketball career, he does not dwell on his success. He shrugs and, with a small smile, says, “Yeah, I had a good run.”
Lotchin attributes much of his professional success to the influence of specific Millikin faculty during his undergraduate years. “I was very much influenced by Daniel Gage, the late professor of history and political science, who influenced any number of students,” Lotchin says, “and his partner in crime was the late Willis Walker ’52,” both of whom Lotchin says pushed him towards his “ultimate destiny” and career.
He recalls seeking the guidance of the late Glen Smith, dean of the School of Business and Industrial Management, when Lotchin found himself teaching economics in Shelbyville, knowing nothing about the subject. Even though Lotchin had already graduated, Smith took the time to coach him on the lessons he needed to teach his students and himself.
Lotchin’s passion for history was fueled during his undergraduate years, but it was cemented in 1959, when he participated in a tour of the Soviet Union led by the school’s president at that time, Dr. Paul McKay.
“It was the first time I had been abroad,” Lotchin says. “We got to Russia and went to nine cities in 23 days. It really opened my eyes to the depth and breadth of culture and ideas. That was a life-transforming experience for me.”
After seeing the Soviet Union, Lotchin attended the University of Chicago and attained his doctorate in 1969. He and his wife, Phyllis “Smokey” Jo Morris Lotchin ’59, have both taught at UNC, though Smokey has since retired.
“She’s a really gifted teacher,” Lotchin says of his wife. “She can light the room up just by walking in.”
Lotchin even had the opportunity to teach his son, Theodore, for a semester. “It was scary at first. I was nervous, he was nervous, but I was over it after about two classes. I probably learned more from him than he did from me that semester.”
As a father, Roger Lotchin is content to watch his son reach success, and be bested by him in tennis, but as a historian he will continue to open up the world to his readers, just as Millikin opened up the world to him.
Max Pygman’s love for cars started during auto mechanics class at Decatur High School in 1949. While life has taken this 1959 Millikin graduate on many detours, the road always leads back to his first love, the Mercedes-Benz. "I restore Mercedes from the 1950s; they are my favorite," says Pygman, owner of Maximum Benz.
At MU, Pygman, (who was known in those days as Richard or Dick) spent many hours with friends in "Campus City," the housing provided for veterans. He estimates that Korean War veterans made up 20 percent or more of the student body at that time. Spending time with fellow veterans helped, he says, "There was a social structure and a bond." He recalls fondly that professor Edward Ploenges, then assistant dean of veteran affairs, "made a difference; he was a fantastic instructor," Pygman says. Pygman also credits Carl "Doc" Head, professor of engineering and industry, and Bryce K. Brown, assistant professor of mathematics, for making Millikin a worthwhile experience for him. "One of the proudest moments of my life was when I was handed my diploma and graduated from Millikin," he says.
In the 1970s, he rediscovered his joy for restoring automobiles. Since that time, he has restored several cars as a hobby, the most famous being a 1954 Mercedes-Benz 220 Cabriolet A owned by folksinger Arlo Guthrie. He met Guthrie while living in Connecticut. After Pygman had done some work for Guthrie’s fellow musicians, Guthrie approached him and an agreement was struck. The "ground-up job" (total restoration) took more than 6,000 hours, and Pygman presented the car to Guthrie last September. When Guthrie came to town to retrieve his car, he made a special concert appearance at Millikin’s Kirkland Fine Arts Center.
Since that time, Pygman was featured in the September/October 2003 issue of Star, the Mercedes Club magazine. This restoration buff doesn’t just work on other people’s cars, however. He is also the proud owner of a Millikin blue 1967 Mercedes 250s, which he hopes to drive in the 2004 Homecoming parade alongside his brother, Don, also a 1959 graduate.
The scenic route is the road Pygman travels these days. His philosophy is that life should be enjoyed, and restoring cars is one of many things that he does for fun. What’s his next fun project? He has a 1953 Mercedes-Benz 170 Sb in his garage, calling his name.
Read the complete profile in the Summer 2004 issue of Millikin Quarterly magazine.
In the spring of 2002, Millikin University will award an honorary degree to respected professor Dr. Guido Guidotti '54 of Newton, Mass. He is the Higgins professor of biochemistry at Harvard University, where he began teaching in 1963.
Guidotti was born in Florence, Italy, and grew up in Naples. He came to Decatur in 1950 as Decatur High School's first American Field Service student. Millikin University offered him a scholarship to attend college once he finished high school, and he entered as a sophomore in the fall of 1951.He attended Millikin for two years, and then transferred to Washington University in St. Louis in a special program where selected students could enter directly into medical school beginning with their senior year of college.
"Decatur and the Midwest were very different from Naples, Italy, in 1950. The university was less formal than in Italy. I enjoyed the science classes: organic chemistry, physical chemistry, embryology, physics and optics."
After completing his M.D. in 1957, Guidotti served his internship and residency at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis. In 1963 he earned a Ph.D. at the Rockefeller Institute in New York. He was then hired to teach and conduct research at Harvard, where he has now been for nearly 40 years..
Guidotti’s research is focused on the function and regulation of membrane proteins involved in the transfer of solutes and of information across the plasma membrane. The National Library of Medicine lists 131 scholarly articles published by Guidotti, including eight in 2001. He considers teaching and supervision of graduate students among the most rewarding of his responsibilities. Based upon nomination by students, Guidotti won Harvard’s Phi Beta Kappa Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 2000.
The complete article appeared in the ????? issue of Millikin Quarterly magazine.
Dr. Bill Heyduck of Heyduck Stoneware in Charleston, Ill., gives his job title as "owner, manager and only employee." He could also add painter and his current role as award-winning ceramics artist to that list. He also considers himself retired, following a long career as an educator.
"I taught school for 41 years," he says. "I was a traveling art teacher for several small-town schools, an art supervisor and, from 1966 to 1995, a member of the art faculty at Eastern Illinois University."
When Bill went to Penn State to complete his doctorate, he discovered he was required to take another art medium course. He didn’t want to take painting again; he wanted to try something different. And that choice changed his life.
"I chose a ceramics class, and I haven’t painted since," he says. "I found out that was where I belonged."
So when he returned to Eastern after completing his doctorate in 1974, Bill began teaching ceramics. And a question from a ceramics student set him on the path to a new world as an award-winning artist and entrepreneur.
He set up his business, Heyduck Stoneware, in the ’70s, while he was still teaching. And so for nearly 20 years, he taught at Eastern and ran his ceramics business concurrently. When he retired from teaching in 1995, Bill was able to devote more time to his chosen art.
Although Heyduck Stoneware offers many functional ceramics intended for home use, some of his new creations are causing excitement in the world of ceramics. Lately, he has been making sculptural pots and large ceramic masks, which appear to have Mayan or Aztec influences. Many of his sculptural pots are in the shape of birds, with the bird’s legs as the stand and the bird’s body and head as the pot. These items not only represent a new phase in his pottery, they have also been accepted into ceramics exhibits and competitions.
In fact, this year he was invited to exhibit in a prestigious national show –the 15th San Angelo National Ceramics Competition in California. He not only was honored with an exhibit, but his entries in the competition were purchased. Also this year, his work was accepted into the Mid-States Craft Exhibition at the Evansville Museum of Art and Science at Evansville, Ind. Ceramic pieces were chosen from work by ceramic artists in 13 Midwestern states, and Bill received a merit award for his work.
His many honors and achievements also include a feature in the summer 2003 issue of Studio Potter magazine. Studio Potter is published twice yearly, and focuses on critical issues of aesthetics, technology, history and personal development in the international community of ceramic artists and craftspeople. Bill was one of only 20 Illinois artists to be featured in the issue.
Does this sound like retirement to you?
To see Bill’s creations stop by his shop, Heyduck Stoneware, at 1604 Madison Street in Charleston. But be sure to call ahead (217-348-7808) – he may be off somewhere winning another award!
by Margaret Friend
The complete article appeared in the Winter 2004 issue of Millikin Quarterly magazine.