September 15, 2022

The long view

Centenarian Cynthia Corsi ’39 recalls her Day Dodger days at Earlham.

In the 1939 Sargasso, Earlham’s yearbook, Cynthia Corsi ’39 is mentioned as “a sweet little lady with luminous black eyes.” The description is as apt at the age of 105 as it was when she was 22. Those sparkling eyes have seen a lot in the years since graduation, but her outlook remains the same. We sat down with her and her children, Julie and David, to discuss memories of Earlham.

Cynthia Corsi, née Clark, was born in her South 7th Street home in Richmond to a Quaker household. And despite the Great Depression, her parents, Lawrence and Frances, sent all of their children to Earlham College.

Corsi was a Day Dodger, Earlham’s affectionate name for local students who didn’t stay in dorms. Social life for Day Dodgers included a room dedicated to their needs in the basement of old Earlham Hall. Students could store their books and coats there, play bridge or swap snacks. Corsi recalls that before returning home for the night, Day Dodgers would open a basement window of Earlham Hall for any late-night wanderers who needed a discreet entry back into the dorm before the bed-check curfew.“ The girls were glad to get an invite from people in Richmond, away from the dorms,” Corsi said with a smile.

In the late 1930s, classes held about 25 students and classmates were close-knit. She and her friends—the Hecathorn sisters from Dayton, Ohio, and her dearest friend Louise Catron—floated between several clubs. One year it was the Democratic Club, for example, another year the Republican club, chosen more for reasons of friendship than anything else.

Attending sporting events was a welcome source of entertainment and social life. One of the sportsmen that Cynthia’s siblings would introduce her to was Myron Corsi ’42, known to all as “Babe” because of his sporting prowess in a time when Babe Ruth’s playing days were well remembered.

Earlham was always a family affair, sharing friendships between siblings, learning privately from instructors, and even years later, introducing her children David and Julie to Earlham’s traditions. “It seemed so different of a place from what I was used to in Richmond,” David describes. “It seemed peaceful. It seemed beautiful.”

Julie and David grew up influenced by Earlham, coming to campus for May Day celebrations and art lessons from Elmira Kempton, an instructor of art at Earlham and also a mentor for Cynthia’s younger siblings. “I remember occasionally having to pose while someone did my portrait, or I’d watch other students doing their still lifes,” Julie mentions. “And Elmira was always ready to make comments and offer suggestions.” David attributes his career in education to the early lessons his mother and Earlham offered him.

After graduating from Earlham, Cynthia took her social studies and English training to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where she was a social worker. But her career would soon change after graduate studies in library sciences and a new position closer to Earlham as a librarian for Centerville Senior High School. In some years, she’d also teach English for the high school or provide lessons for students who weren’t able to attend school for medical reasons. Cynthia retired in the late 1970s.

When asked for advice she’d give current students, Cynthia took a moment and answered, “I hope they take in the concept that there’s a big world outside of Earlham and Richmond, and you have to prepare yourself to deal with all the problems that we have today. It’s a hard world to get along with.”

Considering the world events she has already seen, Cynthia has known a lot about a “hard world.” And with every year, it’s a world she has answered with kindness.

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Cynthia Corsi '39 playing piano
Cynthia and husband
Cynthia in present day
Planned giving info graphic
For Good.
Spark good—
For Good.