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Meredith Gourdine

Meredith Charles “Flash” Gourdine was born on September 26, 1929 in Newark, New Jersey. His father worked as a painter and janitor and instilled within his son the importance of a strong work ethic. Meredith attended Brooklyn Technical High School and after classes he helped his father on various jobs, often working eight hour days. However, his father believed that education was more important than just developing into a hard worker and he told him “If you don’t want to be a laborer all your life, stay in school.” Meredith minded his father’s advice, excelling in academics. He was also an excellent athlete, competing in track and field and swimming during his senior year. He did well enough in swimming to be offered a scholarship to the University of Michigan, but he turned it down to enter Cornell University. He paid his way through Cornell for his first two years before receiving a track and field scholarship after his sophomore year. He competed in sprints, hurdles and the long jump. Standing 6′ and weighing 175 lbs., he starred for his school, winning four titles at the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America championship and led Cornell to a second place finish at the 1952 NCAA Track and Field Championship (The University of Southern California won the meet but boasted 36 athletes while Cornell had only five c). Gourdine was so heralded that he was chosen to represent the United States at the 1952 Summer Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland. He received a silver medal in the long jump competition, losing to fellow American Jerome Biffle by one and a half inches. “I Would have rather lost by a foot,” he would later say. “I still have nightmares about it.”

After graduating from Cornell with a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering Physics in 1953, he entered the United States Navy as an officer. He soon returned to academia, entering the California Institute of Technology, the recipient of a Guggenheim

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