THE WEEKLY BLAB
Volume 13, Issue 04–September 19, 2018
On the Road Again
The last week and a half was really busy, with three inaugurations and three remembrance events. Here’s some of what happened.
Inauguration at TC3
Whenever a new president is inaugurated in the SUNY system, we at Canton try to welcome them and extend our support. In all cases, we send a certificate of congratulations, as well as a certificate indicating that we have planted five trees in their honor in a New York forest. I’ve gotten a number of very nice thank you notes about this, and I believe that some other campuses may have adopted the practice themselves. If the inauguration is relatively local and my schedule allows for it, I try to attend the ceremony personally. If it’s a sister College of Technology, I’ll try to attend if at all possible.
On Friday September 7th, I drove down to Dryden, NY to attend the inauguration of Dr. Orinthia Montague, the new president of Tompkins-Cortland Community College (affectionately called TC3). The drive down was pleasant and the traffic was fine down to Syracuse, but there was some construction that led to lane closures on Interstate 81 going through the city which, of course, created a bottleneck. Everyone agrees that the highway needs to be rebuilt, but there has been more than ten years of debate on what the outcome should be, since the highway is only two lanes on each side and there’s not enough room to widen it without tearing down major buildings. The three main options are a new elevated highway, a tunnel, or a “street-level grid”, with the thru-traffic being diverted onto I-481 going around the city. All three options are estimated to cost between $1B and $4B and to take from 7-9 years to complete. In other words, don’t hold your breath! The congestion eased after that, and it was smooth sailing down to Dryden, which is where TC3 is located.
TC3 enjoys a very attractive campus with a substantial main building and everyone there was excited about the inauguration. Visiting delegates like me were provided a nice spread for lunch, and soon it was time to put the robes on and join the procession into the ceremony. The inauguration began with the national anthems of two countries—the USA of course, but also Jamaica, which is where Dr. Montague was born. The guest speakers came from various places in her past, with several from the University of Missouri-St. Louis (where she started as a student service coordinator and was subsequently promoted to director of student life, assistant vice provost, and associate vice provost and dean of students) and from Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minnesota (where she served as vice president of student affairs and chief diversity officer). I had met the Dr. Montague at a previous SUNY presidents meeting, and was very impressed with her plans for TC3, and I look forward to working with her in the future. The inauguration finished at about 3:30 PM, so after taking off my regalia, I hopped back into the car and headed back north.
Memorial for Ike Cook
From Dryden, I drove back through Syracuse to go to Watertown, arriving at about 6 PM, where I stopped for a quick bite of dinner. I then drove over to All Souls Church to attend the funeral service for Francis A. Cook at 7 PM. “Ike”, as everyone who knew him called him, had tragically passed away on September 2 in a UTV accident at the age of 46. Ike earned his associates degree in Civil Engineering Technology from SUNY Canton in 1993, going on for his bachelors degree at RIT in 1996. He spent several years as an engineering project manager in Oneonta, before moving back to his home turf (he was born in Adams, NY) in Watertown, where he was a project manager at Bernier, Carr and Associates, and then as a quality-control manager at Chugach Industries at Fort Drum. He started his own company, Blue Line Engineering, with his close friend and fellow SUNY Canton alumnus Jeffrey Turbolino (class of ’96). The two of them gave a talk as part of our Excellence in Leadership series this past March, which was very well received.
Ike was one of those people who you couldn’t help but like from the moment you met him. He had an inviting and outgoing personality, which instantly welcomed you into his circle of friends. I was still about a quarter mile from the church when I noticed that cars were parked on both sides of the road, and as I got closer saw that the parking lot was absolutely full and the line of parked cars extended for another quarter mile. I walked back to the church, where I saw almost 100 people outside in the parking lot, giving a toast to Ike. I later learned that they were mostly members of his fraternity and associated sorority (Delta Kappa Sigma and Delta Sigma Tau) and graduating class from SUNY Canton, paying their respects in the way that Ike would have liked best. Over the years, he had organized many annual reunions and kept in close contact with them ever since graduation. Inside the church, there were several hundred additional friends and family members, many of whom told touching reminiscences during the service about what a wonderful father and friend Ike was, and about the good times he shared with everyone at his favorite place in the world, Little Kildare camp in the Adirondacks.
Ike lived life to the absolute fullest, a valuable lesson for us all. Rest in peace, Ike. You live on in the memories of your family and multitude of friends.
The Jewish high holiday Rosh Hashana(New Year) came relatively early this year, on Monday and Tuesday, September 10-11. On the holiday, tradition has it that each person’s fate is written in the book of life, and ten days later on Yom Kippur(Day of Atonement), that fate is sealed. The days in between are known as the Yemei Tshuvah(the Days of Repentance) because sincere repentance, charity, and self-reflection can cancel any harsh fate.
The services were held at Temple Beth-El in Potsdam, the only synagogue remaining in St. Lawrence County, and were quite beautiful. I had been asked to give the sermon on the first day and I spoke about the origin of the word “Israel”, which comes from the well-known story of Jacob wrestling with an angel in the Book of Genesis, and its relationship to the Rosh Hashanah holiday.
Memorial Ceremony for 9-11
I left services a little early on the second day of Rosh Hashanah to come back to campus for the 9-11 Memorial ceremony. SUNY Canton has had a memorial ceremony every year since 2002, and I’ve attended each year that I’ve been at the College.
I think that everyone remembers where they were when the airplanes crashed into the twin towers, and I remembered walking into the Student Life office at my second college, seeing what was happening on a TV screen, and asking “what movie are you watching?” It didn’t occur to me that it might be the real thing, but of course it was. It occurred to me that as of next year, this will be a historical event for many of our new first-year students, who will have been born after 9-11.
At our ceremony this year, I said a few words about the importance of memory and Will Fassinger gave the keynote talk. It’s important to remember those who were lost. A poem that I have always found to be comforting is ”Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” by Mary Elizabeth Frye which I’ll share here:
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
Trip to New York—Rockland Community College
After a few meetings on Wednesday morning, I drove to Ogdensburg to catch a flight on Cape Air to Albany, and then took a train into New York City. The flight was just fine and the taxi got me to the train station early enough so that I was able to change my ticket onto a train leaving one hour earlier (and at no charge, which is unusual these days). It’s a good thing that I did, because the train wound up getting stuck just before the Spuyten Duyvil bridge, which is a swing bridge between the Bronx and Manhattan that can swing open to allow ships to go by. It had recently been repaired and when they swung it open a little earlier that day, they apparently couldn’t get it to completely close again. A work crew was called, and the train I was on had to wait until they gave the all clear. It took about 20 minutes (though it seemed longer), and we slowly crept over the bridge (which is actually quite small) and then got into Manhattan without too much additional delay.
The next morning, I walked down to Penn Station to take a New Jersey Transit train to Suffern, home of Rockland Community College (RCC). All New Jersey Transit trains from Manhattan make their first stop at Secaucus Junction, a very large station that allows you to change onto trains that originate in Hoboken. There are eight tracks at the lower level and a bunch more at the upper, and trains go pretty frequently to one place or another. I’d never gone on New Jersey Transit before, but the trains were quite nice and comfortable and the scenery was pleasant for the hour ride up to Suffern, where I arrived right on time. There weren’t any taxis around, so I used Lyft for the first time in my life and a car picked me up about ten minutes later and took me to RCC with no problems. RCC is quite large with very nice facilities, and its campus is in a suburban setting of single family homes.
I went over to the building where they were having a luncheon reception and met a number of faculty and staff from RCC. We were then led to another room where they had put all the regalia, which mercifully was quite cool, because I was beginning to melt due to the heat and humidity that day. We robed, but I was then taken to a separate robing area in their Field House, where the various delegates, faculty, and staff were assembling. We then marched to a third building, their Student Center I believe, where the ceremony took place.
RCC’s new president is Dr. Michael A. Baston. The very first thing you notice about him is that he is one positive and happy guy with a big grin that regularly breaks out on his face. His positive outlook has certainly impacted the campus quickly, because so many people at the inauguration spoke about it in one way or another. Dr. Baston began his career as a public interest lawyer, only later turning to education, where he served for ten years as Berkeley’s Dean of Student Development and Campus Life and then became LaGuardia Community College’s Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs for six years before becoming president at RCC. He is an expert on integrating student success initiatives to advance college completion through guided pathways and has written many papers and articles on the subject.
The inauguration ceremony was quite interesting, beginning with an elaborate invocation involving three different clergy representing three different faiths. Dr. Baston’s speech focused on his own personal pathway to the presidency, and his plans to support students and make RCC the top community college in the nation.
Chancellor’s Inaugural Gala
The RCC inauguration ceremony had run a little late and I wasn’t able to get a Lyft car back for 19 minutes, making me positive I had missed my train back to the city. When we reached the train station, lo and behold, a train pulled in at that very minute. I leapt onto it and paid the Lyft driver from my phone, which is a very nice option. I was able to get into Manhattan just a little later than the original plan, which was good because I needed to get to my hotel, wash up, change into a dark suit, and go to the Chancellor’s Inaugural Gala (fortunately only four blocks away), all in less than an hour.
The Gala was held in the beautiful New York Public Library building on W42ndStreet. The event was very nice and well attended, with many of the other SUNY presidents present, as well as three previous Chancellors and many other SUNY supporters. Several musical and dance performances were given by students from Stony Brook, SUNY Potsdam, Oneonta, Fredonia, Purchase, University at Buffalo, and New Paltz. The performances were all were quite good, as was the meal and the master of ceremonies, Wolf Blitzer of CNN fame, who is a graduate of the University at Buffalo. Funds raised at the Gala went to support the SUNY Impact Foundation.
Chancellor Kristina Johnson’s Inauguration ceremony was held on Friday morning at SUNY’s Fashion Institute of Technology. I took a taxi there, having to walk the last little bit on W. 27thStreet because the street was closed for the event. The breakfast and robing areas were on the 8thfloor and I had enough time to chat with several of the other SUNY presidents. We were then called to don our regalia, and marched in campus-founding-order onto the elevator, into another building, and up some stairs to a large theatre where the ceremony was held. Doug Scheidt was there for the inauguration as well, as a flag-bearer for SUNY Canton in the Chancellor’s procession.
As we walked into the theatre, we were greeted by members of the Stony Brook University symphony orchestra playing Bach’s 3rd Brandenburg Concerto, one of my favorite classical pieces. It was all I could do to keep from conducting along! The invited speaker, Robert Freelen, was very interesting, telling a number of stories from the Chancellor’s past, including the time when she was moving into her first-year residence hall at Stanford. Mr. Freelen (who later became Stanford’s Director of Public Affairs) was the dorm advisor in the room next door. He heard some banging of boxes and the like as she moved in, but then things got quiet and he heard a knock on his door. It was Kristina Johnson, who wanted to know if he could lend her a drill, because the dorm rooms were quite small and she wanted to rig up a chain and pulley system so that the beds could be lifted onto the walls when they weren’t in use. Obviously, Chancellor Johnson was an innovative engineer from the very beginning!
There were a number of other stories including hiding that she had bought a motorcycle from her parents, as well as being a proficient lacrosse and cricket player that supplemented her many professional achievements, which include being a member of the National Academy of Inventors and the National Academy of Engineering, her 118 patents, her induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and her serving in the Obama administration as Under Secretary of Energy. Her academic background includes being a faculty member at University of Colorado-Boulder, dean at the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University, and Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Johns Hopkins.
Chancellor Johnson’s speech was quite uplifting, focusing on her vision of creating opportunity and impact, and of making SUNY “more than the sum of its many remarkable parts, and the individual campuses better for being a part of the whole.” She talked about several initiatives, including enhanced collaboration between academia, government, and industry, and the launch of PRODI-G (Promoting Retention, and Opportunity for Diversity, Inclusion and Growth), a program to attract and retain an increasingly diverse and inclusive faculty, with a goal of hiring 1,000 faculty with named chairs within the next decade. She sees SUNY as an engine in the state’s economic growth, which can help the state thrive in challenging times.
The reception after the inauguration had a lot of good food, including some impressively sized shrimp, salads, sandwiches, and some very tasty farm-to-inauguration ice cream courtesy of SUNY Morrisville.
The Rush Home
I walked the short distance from FIT to Penn Station and got there at about 1PM. I tried to get onto the 1:20 PM train to Albany but it was sold out, so I took the 2:20 train which arrived only slightly late. I wanted to get the earlier one because I had a very tight connection with my flight to Ogdensburg—the train arrived at 5:00 PM, and the flight was at 6:05 PM. I hopped into a taxi as did two others, one of whom was dropped off downtown and the other, by a nice coincidence, who was also going to Ogdensburg. The traffic on I-87 toward the airport is always busy on a Friday afternoon so we got caught in the inevitable traffic, and about a mile from the airport exit, she got a call from the airline asking if she was going to make the flight. Assuring them she would, I called out “tell them I’m with you as well” and she did. Two minutes later, I got the same call and assured them we would be there within three minutes. We got ticketed and through security in no time, and actually got to the gate with 15 minutes to spare.
The flight was quite nice—clear skies and no turbulence at all, with very nice views of the Adirondacks—and we landed on time. I rolled into Canton at about 8 PM, exhausted but satisfied that everything planned had been accomplished.
I had promised to write about some of the things I did over the summer, but I’ll have to leave it to my most favorite thing, which was attending a concert in Watertown featuring the double bill of Peter Frampton and The Steve Miller Band. I joined Joe Rich, our own College Council member and a promoter of the concert (the proceeds support charities in Watertown), his lovely wife Carol, and North Country Community College’s president Steve Tyrell in the VIP section which gave us a very good view of the concert. Peter Frampton was very good, but I was really ultra-excited to be able to see The Steve Miller Band for the first time, since they have been one of my favorite groups ever since I first went to college. In fact, the very first record I bought at college was a twin album of his “Children of the Future” and “Living in the USA” albums. Steve Miller did not disappoint and both Steve Tyrell and I were singing along with each song.
Another highlight was when we were invited over to possibly meet Peter Frampton. That didn’t happen, because he was exhausted after his set (the temperature was almost 100° that evening), but one of the road crew brought by one of Frampton’s guitars, which had been given to him and autographed by Steve Miller (who I’m told never meets anyone and doesn’t even want his picture on his album covers). The roadie asked “Would you like to see the guitar?” Needless to say, our answer was yes, and then I took it a step further, asking “Would it be OK if I held it?” “Sure,” he said, so I took the guitar, handing President Tyrell my iPhone to take a picture, which you can see below. Of course, I returned the favor when President Tyrell held the guitar.
All in all, it was a wonderful evening filled with great company and fabulous music. A big thanks to Joe Rich for making it possible and for all the support he always gives to SUNY Canton.
Last Time’s Trivia Contest
Last time’s contest had to do with things related to Disney movies. Our winners were Stacia Dutton, Kelly DeHaut, Carmela Young, and Terri Clemmo. Just come to my office on the 6th floor of MacArthur Hall to get your prize—a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository. Here are the correct answers:
- Donald Duck’s girlfriend’s name. Daisy Duck.
- Mickey Mouse’s dog’s name. Pluto.
- First full-length movie released by Disney, way back in 1937. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
- Movie in which “Be Our Guest” was a featured song.Beauty and the Beast.
- Disney’s middle initial was “E”. What does it stand for? Elias.
This Time’s Trivia Challenge
This issue’s challenge has to do with things related to the Constitution, in honor of Constitution Day.
The first five entries with the most correct answers win a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository, as well as the admiration of their peers. No looking up the answers now! SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO firstname.lastname@example.org if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them.
- Which single amendment gives us the rights of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, and the right to petition the government?
- What the first 10 amendments to the constitution are collectively called.
- What right does the second amendment address?
- What governing document did the Constitution replace?
- Which of the following has no official role in amending the Constitution: the House of Representatives, the Senate, the States, or the President.