Hall of Fame Inductee – Reunion 2005

Drew is a special place.  Impressive trees tower over buildings, rare plants bloom in hidden corners, a red-tailed hawk hunts for lunch in the middle of the campus, talented professors teach unique courses to a new generation—and we have George Eberhardt.

Most of us can’t remember when George wasn’t here, but he didn’t arrive until 1967, when he retired from a long career with Bell Labs.  Many of his projects there involved making interpersonal and international connections with radio waves, as when he helped establish radio-telephone communications between the United States and Europe and between New York and Buenos Aires, not to mention his work with military communications in wartime.  At Drew, too, he has specialized in connecting people with each other.

How did George come to Drew?  In 1966, Professor John Ollom asked a friend at Bell Labs to recommend someone to help out Drew’s language lab, which had many tape recorders in dire need of repair.  When George retired the next year he lent his hand to the tape recorder problem.  He succeeded so well that he was made director of audio facilities, a job he held in addition to his own business teaching professional tennis—his second career, which he began while still at Bell Labs and continued until age 95.  (George also put his tennis expertise to work at Drew, resurfacing tennis courts and restringing racquets.)

Having ensured that Drew students would be better equipped to communicate in foreign languages, George turned his attention to other campus needs.  For many years, until new stadium facilities were created, he set up the sound system for every outdoor home game, plus many basketball games, giving a well-polished, professional edge to Drew’s athletic programs.

But George has not only connected athletes with spectators.  For years he has been a ubiquitous and welcome presence on campus, solving audio problems everywhere.  Now, when events are held in the Simon Forum, the audience benefits from the loudspeakers George installed on each of the 18 beams supporting the building.  Drew recognized his many talents and contributions with an honorary doctor of science degree in 1994.  He currently superintends the Drew’s audio archives, making sure essential records will be preserved.  Wherever he goes, this remarkable person, described by a reporter as a cross between “an elf, a grandfather, an electronics wizard and a stand-up comic,” puts everyone he meets in touch with the humorous possibilities of the English language through his puns and word games.  And his remarkable memory connects us to the story of the past 100 years.

George, who enjoys his family (his wife, Marie C’80, and 100 others gathered recently for a celebration) also immensely enjoys Drew’s young people and campus events.  Through the naming of Eberhardt Hall, his Drew connection will outlive him, but we are in no hurry to see him depart.  He says a phrenologist once told him he would live to be 119, so the word is “100 and counting” as we celebrate his 100th birthday.  We hope to count many more years with George Eberhardt, a Drew treasure.