Everett Emil Hanke ’38 entered Colgate in 1934, when FDR was president and Bonnie and Clyde were captured. He played varsity soccer and spent too much time on the golf course when he should have been studying. Hanke majored in geology and sang in the university chorus. When he graduated in 1938, the world was on the brink of its second war (Hanke lived through both) while Billie Holiday was crooning over the airwaves.
Now 102 years old, his mind and memory are still sharp. We first spoke when Hanke called to set up the particulars of our upcoming meeting. With his old-school New Yorker vernacular, it sounded like the past had made a collect call to my desk. A few weeks later, sitting down with Ev (as he’s affectionately known) in his Brunswick, Maine, condo, Colgate memorabilia surrounded us, and I listened to a man from another era tell me about his student days.
Colgate in the 1930s: “It’s a different college now, with different students,” Hanke says — which makes sense. It’s been 80 years since he left the Chenango Valley. He came to Hamilton to get a change of scenery from his native Brooklyn. There are many more buildings than when he was on the hill, and now female students. Plus, the pool was smaller; in his day, students had to swim across as a freshman phys ed requirement.
Ev Hanke in the 1930s (and beyond): While at Colgate, Hanke was a self-proclaimed math whiz. He won the Sisson Mathematics Prize, which awarded him $25. “Years later, I found a copy of that exam, and I said, ‘Holy mackerel!’ I don’t even know how to do that now!” His aptitude for math eventually led him to become a financial adviser, his career for more than 40 years.
“It’s been a family institution”: Hanke wasn’t the only Colgate man in his family. He was the third to graduate, after his father, Emil, Class of 1907; and brothers, Homer ’32 and Byron ’33. In honor of Ev, Byron, and Homer, family members established The Hanke Brothers Endowed Scholarship in 2003, which provides annual scholarship aid.
Why he doesn’t look a day over 80 (hint: do all the things your doctor tells you to do): He eats a healthy diet, exercises, and keeps his mind moving by reading and doing research about Colgate’s history. Mainly a pescatarian, Hanke attributes his health, in part, to his lack of meat consumption. He eats fish because his mother hardly ever prepared it for him as a child (she was sick of the food because his grandfather fished constantly near Niagara Falls).
He’s also not much of a partier. “I never smoked. I never had a drink until, maybe at a college fraternity party,” he says. “I never cared for the taste of any liquors or beer.”
His not-so-secret talent: Hanke can still sing a jubilant rendition of “In Eighteen Nineteen.” The beginning lyrics are: “Long ago, in the valley of Chenango, gathered thirteen…” Upon which Hanke reflects: “Yes, it was long ago that I was at Colgate.”