THE WEEKLY BLAB
Volume 10, Issue 15–January 22, 2016
I hope everyone had a nice Winter Break, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. I know I did. We didn’t go anywhere outside the North Country, just stayed mostly at home and had a nice relaxing vacation. As everyone knows, the weather was abnormally warm, with no snow until a few days after Christmas (and that didn’t last long), and temperatures above 50° on both Christmas Day and New Year’s. The temperatures have dropped more into the normal range since then, but there’s still not much snow, and we really haven’t had any of the multiple days with a low of -20° that we “enjoyed” last year.
Martin Luther King Day
Monday was Martin Luther King Day, and I gave a short speech on the occasion, welcoming some 50 kids from the Ogdensburg Boys and Girls club who were on campus to celebrate with us. The program also included a benediction, songs, and poetry, followed by some service work and then fun at the Athletic Center.
It’s interesting how Dr. King had connections with several places I’ve lived. Georgia, where I lived from 2005 to 2014, is the place where Dr. King was born and grew up, and both the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change are located in Atlanta in a neighborhood called “Sweet Auburn”, which was the center of the Black community during the segregation period.
The very first mass movement in the modern civil rights period with a goal to desegregate an entire community took place in Albany, GA and was known as the Albany Movement. It began in November 1961, with the joining together of the major black improvement organizations in the city. Protesters marched, and by December, more than 500 had been jailed. To gain more national attention, leaders of the Movement called in Dr. King, who after speaking at a rally and marching in a protest, was arrested. He accepted bail thinking that city leaders had agreed to some concessions, but this later turned out to be untrue. When he returned the following summer for sentencing, his fines were paid by a white attorney anonymously, he was released against his will. In further protests, he was stymied by Albany’s police chief, Laurie Prichett, who arrested protesters in a non-violent way and dispersed them to the small town jails in the surrounding counties. This kept the protests from being covered by the national media. Dr. King left the area for more successful protests in Birmingham and considered his efforts in Albany to be a failure, but the Albany Movement succeeded in registering enough Black voters that year that they were able to force a runoff election for a city commissioner position. The following spring, all segregation laws were removed from the city’s statutes.
New Hampshire, where I lived from 1981 to 2005, has the dubious distinction of being the last state to ratify a separate holiday in honor of Dr. King. The first time people tried to establish a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday there was in 1979, but the bill was defeated because Dr. King was controversial—some legislators felt he was too left wing or was a communist. Others couldn’t forget that he was against the War in Vietnam. Also, the state legislature of New Hampshire is notoriously cheap and did not want to pay for an additional state holiday.
Finally, in 1991, New Hampshire converted an existing state holiday known as Fast Day (originally celebrated as a “day of humiliation” to ask God to “bless us with peace and prosperitie” and to “favor spring and seede time”), replacing it with Civil Rights Day. The idea of changing Civil Rights Day to specifically honor Martin Luther King Jr. was defeated in 1993, 1994, 1995, and 1997, before finally being passed in 1999. What is now known as Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Day was celebrated for the first time in January 2000.
SUNY Canton did rather well in the SUNY grant competition. You may recall that we submitted eight proposals to the competition, all of which made it through round one into the money round. To date, only the results of grants submitted to the Investment Fund have been announced, and we got two funded from this pool—one for establishing a new Jump Start program this coming summer ($570,000) and one for improving college opportunities for veterans (jointly with SUNY-Jefferson, for $500,000). A third proposal, to implement a computer-based retention program at the college, seems to have been consolidated into a system-wide proposal for which funding is being sought. We were the only college in the North Country that had any successful proposal in this fund. Congratulations to Molly Mott, J.D. DeLong, and John Kennedy for writing these successful proposals, and to Joanne Fassinger for her excellent facilitation and support.
The EOP proposals (we submitted one) will be announced separately in a few months. The capital proposals (we submitted two) will also be announced separately, but I’ve heard that ours weren’t funded. We do have a plan B on the business accelerator proposal which we are pursuing and looks promising. More on this as it develops.
Stand with SUNY and the Governor’s Budget
On Monday, Lenore VanderZee (Executive Director for University Relations) and I went down to Albany for the Chancellor Zimpher’s annual State of the University speech. The theme of this year’s speech was “Stand with SUNY”, to show that SUNY is preparing students for work and life, and to ask for increased state support for current and future efforts. She highlighted achievements from the past year, including successes in seamless transfer, expanding diversity, and enhancing degree audit and financial planning for students. New initiatives included SUNY Path, a set of predictive analytics to identify at-risk students and to guide them to support and interventions; InternShop, a database that matches employers and prospective student interns, and Open SUNY 2.0, to take the system’s online teaching initiative to the next level, including incorporation of prior learning assessment, competency based education, stackable micro-credentials, etc.
Following the speech, we met with various members of the Assembly and the Senate on Monday and Tuesday, to discuss and gain support for SUNY Canton’s budget priorities, as well as to support the “Stand with SUNY” initiative. The various initiatives we discussed were well received, and will hopefully result in some resources coming our way over the next year.
I wasn’t there to hear it (though Provost Doug Scheidt flew in to attend), but Governor Cuomo announced his executive budget update on Wednesday, and the following items of higher education interest were contained in it. The Predictable Tuition plan was continued for another year (up to a $300 increse), with authority based with the Board of Trustees. The SUNY 2020 Challenge Grants and the Investment and Performance Fund will continue with the same funding as last year ($55M and $18M, respectively), as will the additional funds for EOP and EOC/ATTAIN. New initiatives include a $5M Apprentice SUNY program, $3M for Next Generation NY Job Linkage, and $1M for Community College Community Schools.
NCAA Meeting in San Antonio
After dropping Lenore at the airport on Tuesday evening, I drove to Syracuse, where I was taking a flight at 5:40 the next morning to Atlanta and then San Antonio for the NCAA national meeting. There was a winter weather advisory for the Thruway, especially for Syracuse, but as I left Albany at 4:45 PM, there was a tiny bit of light snow and everything was otherwise clear. The weather stayed fine until I passed Utica, whereupon a squall came in with lots of snow and a high wind. The snow was blowing essentially horizontally, giving the illusion that the car was standing still, making it somewhat difficult to drive. Fortunately, the Thruway was being continuously plowed and treated, so the going wasn’t too bad. The squall stopped about five miles from Syracuse, so I was able to get to the hotel by the airport without much trouble. I was pretty sure that the morning flight was going to be cancelled due to bad weather, but that turned out not to be the case so I got up at 3:30 AM and took the shuttle to the airport.
The flight loaded up on time, but takeoff was delayed for about an hour to allow them to deice the plane. This was a bit of a problem, because my connection time in Atlanta was also an hour. Fortunately, the pilot made up a little time on the flight, and the connection gate was in the same terminal as the arrival gate. I hurried down the corridor and made it to my connecting flight just as they were calling zone 1. Thus, against all the odds, I arrived in San Antonio exactly on time. Courtney Bish (VP for Student Life) and Liz Erickson (our Faculty Representative to athletics) had arrived the day befor, and Randy Sieminski arrived that evening, having flown out of Syracuse later that day but missing his connection.
I was staying in the Mariott River Center Hotel, which is where the NCAA had all the Division III school meetings, so that was very convenient. The Hotel is located on San Antonio’s Riverwalk, which (if you’ve never been there before) is well worth a trip—it’s literally a walk along a river, a few miles long, with hundreds of restaurants, shops, and other attractions there. Other attractions in San Antonio include the Alamo, various Spanish Missions, and a Japanese Tea Garden, all of which are worth visiting.
The conference had meetings for new presidents discussing athletics-related enrollment management, budgeting, fundraising, and evaluation. The meetings were generally worthwhile, with some good ideas being presented that we’ll be looking into implementing appropriate parts of in the future. One of the pleasant things about national meetings is running into friends who are presidents or athletic directors at campuses around the country, and I saw a bunch from my old days in New England and Georgia, as well as several from SUNY.
One disappointment was that both we and Alfred State had both hoped to be accepted into the North East Athletic Conference (NEAC), but it was not to be—they voted not to expand their membership at this time. We will be working to explore other options, with a goal of getting into a conference by this time next year.
My sister Drorit and her partner Suzanne joined me on Friday afternoon from their home in Houston. I hadn’t seen Drorit since my inauguration, so it was a really nice get-together, and we had a nice dinner at a Tex-Mex restaurant. After I attended the voting session on Saturday morning that closed out the conference, we got together again and drove out to the Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo, which was quite beautiful and interesting.
Lunch was at the “world famous” Bombay Bicycle Club. I don’t know why they call themselves “world famous”, what they have to do with Bombay (since they don’t serve anything Indian on the menu), or what they have to do with bicycles, but the food was good and we enjoyed ourselves.
Afterwards, we drove over to the Japanese Tea Gardens, which were quite spectacular. There are beautiful walkways between flowers and ponds, going up and down a series of hills. The location is a popular spot for wedding and quinceanero photographs, and there were several young ladies wearing beautiful gowns doing just that.
I left San Antonio on Sunday morning, taking an 8:00 AM flight to New York City. When I checked in at the kiosk, I was asked if I wanted to upgrade to first class using mileage or for $99. I said “yes” on the mileage, but the system responded that no seats were available in first class. When I got to the gate, I asked the gate agent if that was true, and she said “no—there are two seats available”. She suggested I call the airline. When I did, they said I couldn’t use mileage to get one, and to upgrade for cash would cost $600. I passed on the opportunity, and the gate agent said “let me check if I can do something”. Several minutes later, when I asked if she had had any luck, she handed me a first class boarding card. The last time this happened, I was flying from China to Atlanta, and for no reason whatever that I’m aware of, the stewardess came over and asked if I’d like to be in first class. Needless to say, my answer was “yes”!
I had a three-hour layover at JFK airport, and then the flight was late. To make matters worse, after getting on the plane, they had to deice it, even though it was barely snowing. There were lots of planes ahead of us getting deiced, and then it took more time until we were allowed to take off. All for a 38-minute flight to Syracuse! It was 7:30 by the time I got my car, and it was snowing a fair bit. Nonetheless, I-81 was mostly smooth sailing (except when I was stuck behind a phalanx of snowplows for 25 miles), as was US-11, and I was back in Canton at 10:00 PM, stopping at the A-1 for some takeout pepper steak.
Prince Valiant Comes to America
What did I do over the winter break? Glad you asked! I spent much of the time just relaxing and catching up on some of my hobbies that I’ve neglected over the course of the year. I found one of the two remaining volumes of Prince Valiant reprints (of a series of 50) that I needed online at a reasonable price—now there’s only Volume 36 to go (currently selling on eBay for $80, which is way too high)! Prince Valiant is a Sunday newspaper comic strip by Harold Foster that has appeared since the 1930’s, telling the story of the deposed king of Thule’s (Norway’s) son, who grows up to become a knight of King Arthur’s round table. He has adventures all around the ancient world, with the story set roughly in the year 500. It is beautifully written and drawn, and considered by many to be the greatest comic strip of all time. The strip is still published today, by a different author and artist. I resolved to reread the entire run over the Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, and enjoyed them thoroughly.
There’s an interesting local connection to Prince Valiant’s story. About nine years into the strip, Valiant has to chase after a renegade Thule navigator who has kidnaped his wife. The sea chase extends through the Hebrides Islands, Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland, and ultimately, down the St. Lawrence River to Niagara Falls, where justice is finally done and his wife rescued. Since winter is coming, Prince Valiant and his Viking allies set up winter camp along the river (perhaps near Canton!), befriending the local Indians. His rescued wife, Queen Aleta, has their first child there. I had read this sequence many years ago, but had forgotten it over time. I especially enjoyed reading it now that I’m living in the location where it took place! I mentioned the storyline in the office when I reread it, and was wonderfully surprised when Lenore VanderZee gave me a framed copy of an original Sunday page of the strip for a Christmas present—the one when they first sailed down the St. Lawrence. How cool is that?
I also bought the last five volumes of Spirit hardcovers (of a series of 26), completing my set. The Spirit is another great Sunday newspaper comic, written and drawn by Will Eisner, who is widely considered the father of the modern graphic novel. As to the movie version of it that came out several years ago—forget it. It was horrible.
DVD acquisitions included 3D versions of some recent superhero movies: The Avengers—Ultron Imperative and Ant-Man, both good and worth watching. On the other hand, the new (not 3D) Fantastic Four movie? The less said the better. We also watched Hotel Transylvania II in 3D, which was excellent in all ways.
Speaking of 3D, I also did some bidding on eBay to expand my collection of view-masters. While view-masters today are mostly on children’s subjects, originally they were made for adults and sold at tourism attractions, featuring 3D views of the sights. They were made from the late 1930’s to the present, though the really collectable period runs to the late 1970’s. In addition to tourist attractions (sets exist for the Adirondacks and the Thousand Islands, for example), packets were also made on all sorts of other subjects, including classic TV shows (Batman, the Addams Family, the Munsters), scientific areas, and amusement parks (Disneyland, Sea World). While none are super-expensive (the rarest ones go for in the $500 range), there are plenty of scarce ones, especially those made in Europe at the view-master plant in Belgium. I won several rare ones on eBay, including packets for the 1962 Greek Royal Wedding, the Wieze Oktoberfest, and of Oran and the Sahara in Algeria, all of which are pretty obscure and collectable. It’s absolutely true that everything is better in 3D!
Last Week’s Trivia Contest
There wasn’t one!
This Week’s Trivia Challenge
This week’s challenge is about words that begin with the letter “w”. The first five winners win a CD, DVD, or whatever else I come up with from the vast Szafran repository of duplicates or good stuff I want to get rid of. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize. No looking up the answers now! SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO firstname.lastname@example.org since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them.
- Most of your body is made up of this, but you can still drown in it.
- Studio that produced all the Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoons.
- All around the mulberry bush, the monkey chased this.
- Napoleon was defeated there, but Abba made it into a hit song.
- Commonly misattributed to Mark Twain, everybody complains about this, but nobody does anything about it.