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Take A Leap

More than 200 Badgers share a connection to a calendar oddity.

John Allen
February 22, 2016

The Wisconsin Alumni Association sends its congratulations to Howard Tennent PhD’42. At the end of this month, Howard will pass his 25th birthday, making him 100 years old.

Tennent is a leap-day baby — the oldest of twelve UW-Madison alumni who share that birth date.

Statistically speaking, if human births are evenly spread around the calendar, then one of every 1,461 births is on February 29. (Actually, the number is 97 out of every 1,46,097. Thank you, Pope Gregory XIII and your .002 percent correction to the Julian calendar.) The UW’s alumni database indicates that 240 living alumni have leap-day birthdays.

Over the last seven decades, the number of leap-day babies to enroll at the UW has remained relatively constant, between 15 and 20. The biggest year for producing leap-day Badgers was 1984: 28 babies born that day eventually graduated from the UW. The largest classes with leap-kids were 1990 and 2006, both of which graduated 13.

Tennent has made a lot of his century. A chemist, he became a pioneer in the field of nanotechnology. He hobnobbed with Nobel laureates, including two-time winner Linus Pauling. So while he may not get birthday cake every year, if you’re lucky enough to get an invitation to his party, you know it’s an occasion worth waiting for.

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