Former IC Librarian - 95
Leopold (Leo) Rechnitzer Rift, former head librarian at Ithaca College, passed away on the morning of May 3, 2013, age 95. He was appointed to the position in 1969 and retired in 1982. Born in Austria in 1917 to Hugo Rechnitzer and Amelie Turczany, he apprenticed as a pastry chef while studying at night for University. As observed in an Ithaca Journal Tompkins County Profile article entitled "If the Need Arises, You Can Do Anything", unlike many Jews living in Austria in 1938, his foresight probably saved his life as he arrived in the United States soon after the occupation and annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany. His parents stayed on and both were eventually killed. After emigrating, he served as pastry chef for United Airlines, which ended after Pearl Harbor when war was declared, and he found himself classified as an enemy alien because of his German passport. Two years later, despite that fact, he was drafted into the US Army which bestowed on him American citizenship and the changing of his last name from Rechnitzer to Rift. His assignment was to a POW camp for captured German soldiers in South Carolina as a translator. After discharge, he was asked by the military to work as a civilian translating technical data from captured German documents on jet engines. This work steered him to a career as a Librarian. The GI bill afforded Leo an opportunity to attend the University of Denver where he received both Bachelor's and Master's degree in library science. Assignments at University of Missouri, University of Illinois and Bowling Green State University led to his appointment at Ithaca College. Leo Rift is survived by his wife of 48 years, Clara Ann Kuhlman Rift and children, Sharon Rift of Cortland, Daniel Rift of Oak Park, IL, and David Rift of Chicago, IL, as well as three grandchildren, Emily Katharine Rift, Melissa Elizabeth Rift and Jessica Joy Rift.
Published in Ithaca Journal on May 14, 2013