July 8, 2014

THE WEEKLY BLAB

Volume 9, Issue 2 – July 8, 2014

 

Settling In

For the past week, I’ve been mostly involved in “settling in” and “getting to know you” sorts of efforts. Until I close on a house (which could be as soon), I’m staying in the college’s beautiful Alumni House, located just two minutes from the campus. The Alumni House is a really nice split entry house, with an elaborate huge kitchen, a large formal dining room, a living room with windows all along one side looking out onto the backyard and the river, and a two-car garage on the main level. Half a flight upstairs takes you to three bedrooms and two baths, and half a flight downstairs takes you to another bedroom, an office, and two large meeting rooms, one of which is a sunroom. Outside, there’s a small deck for a table and some chairs. The backyard itself is huge, with nice flowers about halfway down, and it abuts the Grasse River on one side. There’s also a path through the woods that abut the house on the other side that goes down to the covered bridges from the campus that cross the river into town.

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The bridges are beautifully restored. The first crosses the river from the campus onto an island, where you walk down a paved path for about 0.2 miles to the other bridge that goes to the village on (appropriately enough) Riverside Drive. From there, it’s a short walk to downtown. There are several islands in the river, which formerly housed various industries that took advantage of the waterpower. One has now been restored into Heritage Park, which has a nice walking path with lots of signs indicating what had previously been located there. There are still some ruins of some of the factories. Interestingly enough, the day after I first walked the path at the park, I went to my first Rotary meeting in Canton, and the speaker was a person on the development board of Heritage Park. Rotary meets every Monday, and the members are a very friendly group.

I’ve had several meetings with groups on campus. This included the folks in Public Relations, the Deans Council, one-on-ones with some of my reports, and several other individuals. It’s interesting how the same issues pop up on every campus. One issue discussed at the Deans Council, for example, was whether one could come up for tenure and promotion to associate professor simultaneously as well as issues related to prior tenure credit, topics that had been discussed at the working group meetings for the SPSU-KSU consolidation.

The Public Relations team took me to lunch in a nice restaurant in town called “The Club”. If you want a really good meal at an unbelievably low price in Canton, go there pretty much any night and they’ll have some sort of special. Tuesday features their famous $5 menu. I ordered the roast beef dip (one of several choices), which was a full sized roast beef sub, dipping sauce, French fries, and coleslaw. Wow!

Speaking of nice places to eat, I’ve also tried out one of Canton’s pizza restaurants—Josie’s. Metro-Atlanta has many nice restaurants, but in my time down there, I never found a really great pizza place like you can find in New York City or Boston. There were a few that were good, but none that I thought were great. Well, Josie’s is darned good, and I’ll definitely be going back again. We ordered the deluxe pizza, and the large was more than sufficient for me and my parents. The crust was just right, the toppings were plentiful, and instead of cutting the pizza into the normal slices, they cut it cross-wise so that there are lots of smaller pieces. They have a pub underneath the restaurant as well, which I’ll have to check out.

photo[5]My father, mother, and a Josie’s pizza

Shopping-wise, between Canton and Potsdam one can find pretty much everything you need. There’s a huge Wal-Mart about 8 miles away, just before you hit Potsdam, with an Aldi across the street from it. Canton also has a Price Chopper grocery store open 24 hours a day. The usual range of fast-food places is also available in Canton, including McDonalds, Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, Pizza Hut, and Subway, and there are no less than three dollar stores in town. There’s also a KFC and a Taco Bell on campus, and a Starbucks in the library. My son Mark will be glad to learn that there’s a Little Caesar’s in Ogdensburg, so he’ll still be able to get crazy bread.

About the only problem I’ve run into so far is in trying to get a New York driver’s license. When I went to the DMV, they wanted as proof of identity my old license and a valid passport, both of which I had, and my social security card, which I haven’t needed for the past 30 years. Nothing could substitute for it, I was told. I called Jill to see if she could find it back in Georgia, but she couldn’t, so I had to drive to Ogdensburg (18 miles from Canton) to the nearest social security office location. To get a new card, I had to fill out a form and show them my passport, and I should receive it in the mail in 10 days. The logic of being able to get a social security card with a passport, but needing the card AND the passport to get a license escapes me, but there you are. The good part was that since I was in Ogdensburg, I was able to stop and have lunch at an excellent restaurant there I’d been at twice before, the Little Italy.

Opening a bank account was much easier, and the folks at North Country Savings Bank in Canton couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful.

 

Visiting Hospitals

As president, you also get to attend various community meetings. My first week included two associated with local hospitals. The first was in Potsdam (10 miles away) at Canton-Potsdam Hospital. There was a small reception before the main meeting, where I got to meet some of the hospital folks, as well as Chuck Thorpe, the provost from Clarkson University. The reception was followed by an information session about the hospital. Hospitals in small towns have big challenges when it comes to their budgets, since they don’t have a large population base to draw support from and they have a lot of fixed costs. The data presented indicates that Canton-Potsdam Hospital is in strong financial shape. The hospital was also instrumental in helping provide quality health care in Gouverneur, NY (30 miles south of Canton) by having established Gouverneur Hospital on January 1, 2013 to replace the financially troubled E.J. Noble Hospital.

Last Wednesday, I attended the 20th anniversary celebration for the Richard E. Winter Cancer Treatment Center at Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center in Ogdensburg. This is a remarkable center, even more so considering the size of the city (11,000)—I’m told it’s the most comprehensive cancer center in the state north of Syracuse. They had recently purchased a new linear accelerator, which allows for more specific targeting of tumors, allowing significantly shorter treatments.

Both hospitals score very high on measures of patient satisfaction, and it’s a wonderful thing to know that the quality of health care is excellent in northern New York.

These community meetings are excellent opportunities to network, and I was pleased to find out that both hospitals were very happy with the quality of the nursing students from SUNY-Canton who are doing internships there. Several of the major administrators were also graduates of SUNY-Canton, and there was interest in working with us to develop some new programs in the health area.

In the “it’s a small world” department, I had the pleasure of meeting Ravinder Agarwal, a retired doctor, at the Claxton-Hepburn event who was originally from India and had lived in the area for 45 years. When I asked him where one could get good Indian food in the area, he said “I’ve just opened a new restaurant”. When I asked him where it was, he smiled and said “my house” and invited me for dinner the next evening. The dinner was delightful and delicious, with several other couples also invited. It turns out that his wife was a graduate of Merrimack College, which many BLAB readers are aware was my first college, where I worked for 17 years. She graduated before I started there, but knew another faculty member in the Chemistry department with whom I had co-written several textbooks. Another person at the dinner had studied for his MPA degree at Deakin University in Geelong Australia, a place I had given a microscale workshop many years ago. In one way or another, I had a connection to each of the couples at the dinner!


Fourth of July

My first official workweek was a short one, due to the 4th of July holiday. To celebrate, my parents and I went up to Norwood (about 15 miles away to the northeast), where they had what I read was the largest parade in St. Lawrence County. I love small town parades because they have such a pleasant local flavor to them. This one was very nice, from the several fire department contingents to the local merchants to the Dairy Princess winners car. The parade lasted a solid 45 minutes, with lots of candy being strewn for the children by the participants.

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We went back on Sunday night for a concert on the Norwood village green. The concert consisted of the All Star Big Band with special guest star Tony Desare, an excellent jazz vocalist and piano player. His album “Last First Kiss” debuted at #5 on the Billboard jazz chart in 2007. Desare did a number of his own compositions, and several Frank Sinatra charts. While most members of the All Star Big Band had a connection to SUNY-Potsdam’s well-known Crane School of Music, the bass player, Dan Gagliardi, is from SUNY-Canton. Dan is part of an excellent jazz trio that played at the President’s Gala I mentioned in a previous issue of the BLAB. Norwood has an excellent music series, and I know I’ll be going back for future offerings.

 photo[3]

 

Who Do We Think We Are?

There was an interesting op-ed in the Sunday New York Times by Maureen Dowd, entitled “Who Do We Think We Are”, talking about how the United States has changed in its viewpoint of itself, after recent hard times. She asks: “Are we winners who have been through a rough patch? Or losers who have soured our sturdy and spiritual DNA with too much food, too much greed, too much narcissism, too many lies, too many spies, too many fat-cat bonuses, too many cat videos on the evening news…Are we still the biggest and baddest? Or are we forever smaller, stingier, dumber, less ambitious and more cynical? Have we lost control of our not-so-manifest destiny?

It’s a good question to ponder on the 4th of July. If you listen to the news, especially the various talking heads on TV, it would be easy to conclude that Americans are at each other’s throats, politically able to agree on absolutely nothing, unable to deal with the important issues of the day, and that these problems are unique in our history. All the talking heads seem to be concluding that things have never been worse.

It’s true that many things have changed in the past 100 years, some for the good and some not so much. America is more globally engaged than ever before, though we have somewhat less of the monopoly of power and influence we did at the end of World War II. The oceans are no longer the impassable barriers they once were, and we face threats in the virtual world as well as in the physical world. America is far more diverse than ever before, and sadly, some Americans are uncomfortable with this. American society has higher levels of equality than ever before, though many old problems persist at disturbing levels. There seems to be less willingness to compromise, and less willingness to believe we can do great things. We’ve come out of a huge recession, and the recovery has been agonizingly slow.

I think a large part of the issue is that we’re not very good in history, and tend to forget how hard it was to arrive at where we are. We tend to look at the American Revolution and much of the past as being a period when everyone was united in a magnificent common cause, but of course, it was never actually like that. In the book “Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, a Revolution”, author Nathaniel Philbrick put it really well:

They weren’t better than us back then; they were trying to figure things out and justify their behavior, kind of like we are now…From the beginning to the end, the Revolution was a messy work in progress. The people who we hold up as paragons did not always act nobly but would then later be portrayed as always acting nobly. It reminds you of the dysfunction we’re in the middle of now…We’re not destined for greatness. We have to earn that greatness.

To me, that’s the true greatness of America—we’re a messy work in progress, always striving to be better, always disagreeing on the path that will get us there, always innovating and trying new things, and always (though in fits and starts) expanding the boundaries of who is a “real” American. Our ingenuity and diversity as a nation are our strengths, and allow us to constantly reinvent ourselves. As long as this continues, our future remains bright.


Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last time’s trivia challenge was the first produced at SUNY-Canton, and appropriately enough, had all answers featuring the word “first”. Our winner was David Guccione from SUNY-Canton. Others getting all five included Robin Gittings, Marcy Randy, Rhonda Rodriguez, and Alexander Lesyk. The top SPSU scorer was Jamie Garrett, with 4.5 correct. Here are the correct answers:

  1. It prohibits the making of any law regarding establishing of religion, or abridging freedom of speech and of the press. First Amendment to the Constitution.
  2. When you’re sixteen, you obsess as to whether you should kiss on this. First Date.
  3. Traditionally, the bride does this with her father. First Dance.
  4. Three parter expression of firsts about Washington. First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.
  5. Performed by Christiaan Barnard on Louis Washkansky on December 3, 1967. First heart transplant.

 

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

Today’s trivia challenge focuses on the word “second”, since this is my second week living up in Canton.  I promise to come up with a non-numerical theme next week! No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL to president@canton.edu, since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. A common cause of cancer, even if you don’t use cigarettes.
  2. Love is lovelier then, according to the song.
  3. You share a grandparent with them.
  4. Musical expression meaning “to play a subsidiary role”.
  5. The entropy of the universe or any other isolated system never decreases.
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