Born February 15, 1916 in San Antonio, Light Townsend Cummins is the 16th person in his family to be named “Light.”
Raised in his home town, where he still resides, Light’s light continues to burn brightly. On his hundredth birthday he was feted as the oldest living alumnus of San Antonio Academy (Class of 1929), his elementary and middle school. He’s also the oldest living alumnus of his high school, the Texas Military Institute (Class of 1933).
Entering The University of Texas in 1933 at the height of the Great Depression, Light knew he had to be practical. So at age 17 he enrolled in a business degree that was only as old as he was, and whose classes, until the construction of Waggener Hall just two years before, had been held in leaky wooden shacks on Speedway.
At UT, Light joined a fraternity (ΑΤΩ) and in his senior year served as President of the Student Body. It was his one and only foray into politics. “I knew I didn’t want to be a politician after that experience,” he says with a chuckle.
Light had actually always wanted to be a dentist, but felt that finance and accounting would be more useful. “And boy they were!” he says of the business subjects. “They set me straight as far as money was concerned.”
That’s partly because his degree helped him land a job in New York City with the American Steamship Company, where for four years he solicited freight shipments in the North Atlantic.
But it’s also because his business savvy shaped his life. After returning to Texas for dentistry school, and serving as a First Lieutenant in the Army, Light planned out his life financially.
“At the time, everyone thought you just worked until you couldn’t work anymore and then you retired,” Light says. Taking a more deliberate approach, he devised a strategy that would allow him to retire in 25 years. True to his plan, after a quarter century of dentistry practice in San Antonio, Dr. Cummins retired in 1976 at age 60.
Retirement, of course, simply meant the freedom to pursue other things. Until age 90, Light was actively engaged in charities connected to the poor and homeless. He volunteered actively at several museums and his two former schools, SAA and TMI.
What’s the trick to reaching 100? “Keep breathing!” Light says with a hearty laugh.