THE WEEKLY BLAB
Volume 11, Issue 11–February 10, 2017
This Just In
Our new degree programs in Game Design and Development (B.S.) and Agribusiness (B.B.A.) have now been fully approved! More on this next issue.
We’re well into the Spring Semester, though it really doesn’t look a lot like spring. There’s a little bit of snow on the ground and it has gotten a bit cold at times, but nothing too serious. All in all, it has been a mild winter up until now. Hopefully, February and March won’t go the other way, though some snow is predicted for the weekend.
As anyone who lives up here knows, the weather can vary tremendously in just a few miles. I just returned from an alumni visit trip in Florida (more on that below) and when I landed in Syracuse, I was surprised to see that there was no snow whatsoever on the ground. When I drove onto I-81, after a few miles I saw an electronic warning sign saying “heavy snow between exits 34 and 40.” For those who don’t know, these exits correspond to the Tug Hill region between Parish and Adams NY, where the wind comes whipping in from Lake Ontario, often bringing lake effect snow with it. Sure enough, a mile after exit 34, the weather instantaneously changed from clear to very fine (but heavy) snow, and it got worse quickly. At first the road stayed clear, but soon it was covered and the plows hadn’t come out yet. I had to slow down to 35 mph since it was a bit slippery. The snow was sometimes lighter for a time but it always came back to heavy, until about one mile from exit 40 where it stopped as suddenly as it started. I stopped in Watertown for dinner at the new Indian restaurant there, and had an easy ride up to Canton thereafter.
It’s birthday time in the Szafran household. My father Daniel just turned 90 on February 8, and son Mark turned 33 on February 9. True story: When wife Jill was pregnant with Mark, my father was hoping that he’d be born on February 8 so that they could celebrate their birthdays together. When February 8 came, Jill hadn’t gone into labor, so I called my father and told him that it looked like he wasn’t going to get his wish. Just as we were preparing to go to bed, Jill came over to me and said “It’s time”, and sure enough, she delivered Mark at about 3:00 AM on February 9. When I told my father he had just missed having his wish granted, he said “What are you talking about? I was born in Poland—there’s a 7 hour time difference between here and there, so you made it!” So, for many years, they indeed always celebrated their birthdays together.
The trip I got back from was a long one, starting on January 17th and running to the 29th. Leg one had me driving from Canton down to Syracuse to catch a flight there on American Airlines to go to Nashville for the NCAA National Convention. SUNY Canton became a full member of NCAA Division III this past year.
The drive down was mostly fine, though it rained as I got closer to Syracuse. The temperature had dropped to 29°, but it never turned to snow. The flight took off on time for Chicago, where I was changing planes, and was uneventful. My connecting flight was only three gates away, so that was very easy, and we got on the Nashville flight right on time. After taxiing out from the gate, we sat there for about 45 minutes (which the pilot initially said was due to heavy traffic), and were then told there was a mechanical problem—fuel wasn’t being pumped to one side of the plane’s tanks. The plane returned to the gate, we sat there a bit longer while a repair crew looked things over, and were then taken off the plane. After about an hour or so, they announced that we would be going onto another plane in a short while, and after about 45 minutes, we did. I arrived in Nashville about 2.5 hours late, and by the time I took the bus to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, all the restaurants were closed so I had to content myself with a pretty dismal pre-packaged sub.
For those who have never been there, the Gaylord Opryland Hotel is a pretty impressive place—they say it’s the biggest hotel in the US that doesn’t have a casino associated with it. After checking in, I had a rather long walk from one area of the hotel complex to where my room was, involving a couple of escalators, a sky bridge, and two elevators before I got there. The hotel reminded me of San Antonio’s Riverwalk—there are several “rivers” inside (you can even take a boat ride on one of them) with restaurants alongside, and the skywalk was over a “jungle” area with lots of exotic plants. My room was quite nice, with a TV that also provided internet access, so I connected to YouTube and watched a few episodes of What’s My Line from 1953 while eating my sub.
The next day I registered for the conference, ran into several people I know, and the first big event was the NCAA Honors Celebration. The Honors Celebration is really something, showcasing students who have overcome great adversity or challenge to excel both scholastically and athletically. There were also others who were chosen on the 25th anniversary of their graduation. The Theodore Roosevelt Award for Astounding Accomplishment went to Beth Brooke-Marciniak, who was a great basketball player who went on to become a business leader at Ernst and Young and is now their Global Vice Chair of Public Policy, serves on the Women’s Advisory Board of the World Economic Forum, is the co-chair of the International Council on Women’s Business Leadership, and was named by Forbes Magazine as one of the world’s 100 most powerful women.
Other sessions during the week focused on the Fair Labor Standards Act, social justice in in college sports, and the usual business meetings. Our own Courtney Bish (VP for Student Affairs) was selected to attend the Athletics Direct Reports Institute at the NCAA Conference, one of only 43 selected nationwide from Division III.
On Saturday, I got to look around the area a little bit, including a walk down to the Grand Ole Opry. Unfortunately, they were doing renovations there and the concerts were downtown, but it was still a cool place to see.
I left Nashville on Sunday morning, taking an early United Airlines flight to Washington DC. By an odd coincidence, the person sitting next to me on the flight was Skip Sullivan, president of Alfred State College, and a friend from back in Georgia days. My connection time in Washington was supposed to be an hour, but after getting on the plane to Albany, we had to get off because of mechanical problems. This time the delay was five hours before they could get us on another plane. The airport was filled with women who had participated in the National Women’s March the previous day and were returning home. It was interesting to hear their stories about the March, and how excited and energized they were to get more politically involved. The flight finally took off at about 5:30 PM, and was otherwise uneventful. I got into Albany, checked into my hotel, and went down to Jack’s Oyster House for a great seafood meal. While there, I got a news announcement on my phone—all domestic flights on United had been cancelled due to a computer malfunction, so I had barely made it onto the flight on time.
On Monday morning, I went over to the Egg in Albany to attend a breakfast honoring SUNY’s Chancellor, Nancy Zimpher. Chancellor Zimpher will be leaving her position at the end of the academic year, so this was our chance to say “thanks” for everything she has done and to wish her well in the future. The breakfast was followed by the Chancellor’s annual State of the University Address, where she talked about two new initiatives. The first, the SUNY Impact Foundation, will be created to raise funds to support degree completion and student success on all campuses. The second was the creation of the SUNY Center for Systems Change, which will focus on continuous improvement within the system. There were several pictures of SUNY Canton in her presentation, thanks to the good efforts of our PR folks.
Following the Address, I joined Lenore VanderZee (Executive Director for University Relations) to speak with our own State Senator Patty Ritchie. Senator Ritchie is a strong supporter of SUNY Canton, and is especially interested in our efforts in agriculture, nursing, and economic development. She noted: “Centers of learning—like SUNY Canton—are key to helping people have bright futures, and I’m looking forward to continuing to work together to improve higher ed opportunities for students.”
We then met with Deborah Glick, the Chair of the Assembly’s Higher Education Committee. Assemblymember Glick is a strong supporter of SUNY, and of higher education in general. We discussed some of the new initiatives we are taking at the College, as well as Governor Andrew Cuomo’s new Excelsior Scholarship initiative. Our third meeting was with members of State Senator Kenneth LaValle’s staff on the same issues, and they were strongly supportive.
That evening, we attended the Business Council’s Legislator’s Reception, where we met several colleagues from other SUNY campuses and several business leaders, including one I found out was our own alumnus—Tom Landry (no, not the football player, though he’s met him!), who works at blueRock Solar.
On Tuesday morning, I met with our local Assemblywoman, Addie Jenne. I’ve met with her many times, both at formal meetings and at various events around the region, and I always enjoy hearing her viewpoints. She is also a strong supporter of the College and is interested in several of our new initiatives. From there, it was down to SUNY Central to meet with Gloria Lopez, who is the System – wide Affirmative Action Officer in SUNY’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and a Fulbright scholar. We chatted a bit about world music, and then went to lunch at LaZeez (an Indian restaurant) where we talked about some of the initiatives we are planning that will increase diversity on our campus. Gloria has lots of interesting ideas that I look forward to sharing with our Executive Diversity Council.
After lunch, I checked out of the hotel and went to the airport for the third leg of my trip—visiting alumni in Florida. The flight was a non-stop on Jet Blue, which is a pretty nice airline with above average legroom. There was no one in the middle seat (which is unusual these days), so I was able to stretch out a bit. They also have free wi-fi on the flight, and also had those little TV screens that gave access to three movies and some 60 TV channels. Unfortunately, the wi-fi was wonky and never really worked, and the TV conked out from time to time. Still, the flight was fine and I arrived in Orlando on time. The moment I walked out of the terminal, Peggy Sue Levato from our Advancement Office was there, having correctly guessed which door I’d emerge from. We went to the Courtyard Marriott, which was a nice enough hotel, but it had a really strange room numbering scheme—there were two wings on the second floor, but they don’t connect anywhere. I made the mistake of taking the elevator to the second floor on the wrong side, and the room numbers ended at a number lower than the number on my key. I called the office to tell them I had the wrong room number, but they laughed and told me I had to go back to the first floor, go around to the other side of the hotel, and go up to the second floor there.
On Wednesday we got together with Bob Raymo, his wife Kathy, and some friends of theirs for a very nice fish dinner. Bob was the Director of Development for 10 years at SUNY Canton and is a Foundation Board member. On Thursday, we drove to New Smyrna Beach and met with Carol Roche for lunch. She has a lovely home painted in pastel colors, with an office area that opens out to an indoor porch and then an enclosed pool area. I loved the layout of the place, and may try to do the same enclosure thing on our patio at home. Carol is an accountant who has a thriving business in Florida. We then checked into the Best Western, which is right on the beach. My room had a very nice beach view and even had a small balcony.
I joined up with Peggy Sue and we went to Norwood’s for an alumni gathering. The gathering was well attended, and I was very happy to see former SUNY Canton President Joe Kennedy and his wife Dine there, as well as foundation board members Gil White, Bob Raymo, and Chris Gray. I gave a short presentation updating everyone about what’s going on at the College, and they all were very pleased at our progress on multiple fronts.
On Thursday, we drove down to the Villages, a new and very large city that has been established near Leesburg.
On the local news, they reported there had just been an incident that was all over the local press (but I never saw in the national news) about some local middle school students who had gotten guns and intended to carry out a Columbine-style massacre at their school that morning, but had been caught at the last minute when other students who had heard about it said something to the right people. Pretty shocking!
We met with Rosella Valentine (’68) and her husband John at a very nice restaurant. It’s always nice to see them—Rosella is a long-time member of the foundation board (I learned it was her 40th anniversary of service on the board!) and John and I share a love of classical music and opera. On Saturday, we went to another alumni gathering, this time in Summerfield. Joe and Dine Kennedy had made the trek out to be at this meeting too, and it was another well-attended gathering.
Afterwards, it was back in the car for the ride up to Orlando, to stay at the Airport Fairfield Inn. We left Orlando on Sunday, getting to Syracuse at about 4 PM, and after a stop in Watertown for dinner, I finally got home at about 8 PM. The next morning? Back to work on campus for a bunch of meetings that had stacked up in the 12 days I was gone.
Last Time’s Trivia Contest
There was none.
This Time’s Trivia Challenge
Continuing our trek through the alphabet, this issue’s challenge is about words that begin with the letter “R”. The first five with all five correct wins a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository, or whatever else I’ve dredged up as a 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.
- You can rent a dvd from this in front of Price Chopper, Walmart, and many other places.
- Fairy tale female with very long hair that was locked up in a tower.
- Best known boxer from Philadelphia, better known as Sylvester Stallone.
- City that’s home to Eastman Kodak.
- Small streaming TV and media player—it’s either a separate box or may be part of a smart TV.