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CORNELL CLUB MEMBER PROFILES

Would you like to be featured?  We plan to have a new profile of a Cornell graduate on our Home Page every week, and maybe it will be you.  All you have to do is answer the questions at the bottom of this article  and send those answers, along with a picture, to Nancy Mills at NLM5@cornell.edu.  All profiles can be accessed here:  http://www.cornellclubla.com/featured_members.html  

 

Michael Ernstoff '62

Retired Engineer

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Tell us about how your experiences at Cornell influenced your path.

I was not the healthiest kid growing up; I never learned how to play baseball, football, basketball and like.  I was the skinny nerd in high school.  However, at Cornell, I did escape a strong over-protective mother and learned that I could do physical things. Heck ... just climbing libe slope from University Halls every day was a physical conditioning program.  At Cornell I learned how to ice skate on Beebe Lake, a skill I'd later use to snag my wife at the Culver City Ice Rink.

How did you come to live in Los Angeles and what you are doing now?

As a child, I loved the music of Al Jolson and, in particular, a song of his, “California Here I Come.” Hence, when I had my degree and Aerospace was hiring, there I went, along with many other Cornell Engineers from the classes of ’62, ’63 and ’64.

After arriving in Los Angeles, I spent 30 years doing interesting work for Hughes Aircraft Co. On retiring, I decided I finally needed to two things, (1) get good at Windsurfing and (2) supplement retirement income.

A tip from Jim Hoffman (’62) clued me into the high wind location of Lake Isabella, and after that I was hooked on Windsurfing.   Google “Senior citizen windsurfer” on YouTube for the video.

How did Cornell help prepare you for your post-grad life?

Big Daddy Osborn’s engineering courses at Cornell taught me to seek to solve problems economically by making astute approximations.  Others thought the course in electrical machinery was just a tool to flunk EE’s out of the school.

Prof. Lester Eastman pushed me into learning all about microwave devices. As a result, the outcome of a key job interview was not just an offer, but the question, ‘Why can’t you start work tomorrow?’ I didn’t realize it at the time, but Cornell had given me the tools to contribute to what was then very much a state-of-the-art technology, traveling-wave tubes.

Tell us a favorite memory of your time at Cornell.

When I was a graduate student, my office overlooked the Engineering Quadrangle, a favorite place for friends Bill Rustay ’62, Ron Schendel ’63 and others to go skateboarding at night.  My role was to keep an eye out for the campus police.  If I turned off the lights, that was their cue to make a fast get-away.

A story often shared with Jim Evans ’62 is that of one special trip to Purity Ice Cream after a Cornell Crew race. Jim Dupcak ’62, the Stroke on the lightweight crew team, downed a half gallon of ice cream in celebration…. On the way out, he topped it off with an ice cream cone to go.

Tell us a favorite memory shared with another Cornell alum in L.A.

I’m not sure of the year, probably 1960, but as I recall it, I and some friends had come back from winter break on the Friday before classes were to start. The next day, Ithaca received nearly 36 inches of snow.  Early Monday morning, the buses were running and I and fellow engineers were trudging up the hill to make that 8 o’clock class as if nothing had happened.

Another Cornell-related event happened a few years after arriving in California. A friend, Stan Pliska, http://tigger.uic.edu/~srpliska/ convinced me to go to a theater presentation at UCLA. It was adjacent to a sculpture garden containing a copy of “The Song of the Vowels.” When it came into view, I said to Stan … ah a Lipchitz.  His replay …No Sh… .  Stan, a well rounded MIT man, could not believe that I, a slide-rule hugging engineer, could really be familiar with art.  Fellow Californian Cornelian friends, Jeff Moskin ’63, Carl Moore ’63 and others were glad my Cornell education showed him he was wrong.

What advice would you give, personally and professionally related to your line of work, to Cornell grads looking to come to L.A.?

Find yourself a life partner. A good part of my happiness in California is attributable to my wife of 43 years, Donna, as well as my son Alan, daughter Elana, daughter-in-law Chelsey and grandson Ethan. 

In terms of business advice… Technology in California is continually marching on into directions unknown. Be prepared to spend at least 10% of your working hours to stay current with what is happening in your field and in the world around you. 

My specific advice for grads coming to LA is not to look to Hollywood, television or the movies to make your fortune; focus on what is going on in Silicon Beach.

Finally, in this day and age of telecommuting, don’t ignore maintenance of the old boy/girl network. Lifetime employment at one company is essentially gone; keeping the good projects coming requires a tight connection with your community, perhaps through the Cornell Alumni Association.

Bipasha Shom '90

Documentary Film Editor

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Tell us about how your experiences at Cornell influenced your path. How did you come to live in Los Angeles and what you are doing now?

I graduated from Cornell with a degree in Cultural Anthropology. My first job was at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Although the museum was an interesting place to work, my job in the development department was not. So I enrolled at the Annenberg School at U. of Penn for a Master's in Communications. It was in Philadelphia that I met my boyfriend (who later became my husband). When he got into film school at the American Film Institute in LA I decided to move there with him. I'd been thinking about pursuing a career in the film industry and wanted to live in a big city. I had done some editing work in Philadelphia and realized I really loved it. My hope was to be an editor in Los Angeles. I eventually started cutting commercials, music videos and documentaries. After about 10 years I took time off to have kids. I think the education I got at Cornell laid the groundwork for my ongoing interests in media and culture. Now, I'm working on starting my own non-profit, called GivePhotos which provides photos to people in developing countries who have no visual record of their lives. 

How did Cornell help prepare you for your post-grad life?

My time at Cornell really helped me develop my critical thinking skills. The level of learning I was exposed to there was so much higher than what I had gotten in high school. Meeting people from many different backgrounds really prepared me for living in a cosmopolitan city like Los Angeles. My work-study scholarship gave me real world experience and I was a campus tour guide which gave me the confidence to speak in front of large groups of people. Cornell shaped me in so many ways. 

Tell us a favorite memory of your time at Cornell.

There are so many fond memories that I have of Cornell: spending time on the arts quad with friends, going to see movies at Cornell Cinema, hanging out at Ruloff's, bonding with friends in Balch Hall, participating in Dragon Day, living off-campus.

Tell us a favorite memory shared with another Cornell alum 

This past December one of my closest friends, Julie Black Nicholas (who also graduated from Cornell), and I traveled to India along with my husband to give away 1,000 Fujifilm Instax photos over a month long period to poor people who have no family photos. Before the trip I reached out to Fujifilm and they agreed to donate the film and cameras. It was an incredible experience. It's hard for us to imagine not having any pictures of yourself or your family but this is the reality for millions of people who consider a photograph to be a luxury item. We traveled into slums and villages, train stations and temples to give away photos and people were absolutely thrilled. You can see the reactions we got on our Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/givephotos The experience led us to connect with other people around the world who are also giving away photos and we  recently started an Indiegogo fundraiser to give away more photos by connecting with local photographers and supplying them with the film and cameras. https://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/givephotos--2/x/7333104

What advice would you give, personally and professionally related to your line of work, to Cornell grads looking to come to L.A.?

I would say decide which company or field you want to work in and swallow your pride. In the entertainment industry you might start out as someone’s assistant and they’ll ask you to do something menial that you might think is beneath you. I came to Hollywood after getting an M.A. and took a job where I was answering phones and cleaning up the kitchen. But I worked really hard and went above and beyond what they asked of me. I was able to move up pretty quickly in the company by making myself indispensable. The most important thing is finding something that you really enjoy doing. Oh, and another piece of advice ---- turn off your cellphone. Focus!

 

TO BE FEATURED IN MEMBER PROFILES, PLEASE ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS AND SEND THEM TO NANCY MILLS AT bartandnancy@verizon.net 

 

Tell us about how your experiences at Cornell influenced your path. How did you come to live in Los Angeles and what you are doing now?

How did Cornell help prepare you for your post-grad life?

Tell us a favorite memory of your time at Cornell.

Tell us a favorite memory shared with another Cornell alum in L.A.

What advice would you give, personally and professionally related to your line of work, to Cornell grads looking to come to L.A.?

 

ALL MEMBER PROFILES CAN BE VIEWED HERE:

 http://www.cornellclubla.com/featured_members.html