THE WEEKLY BLAB
Volume 11, Issue 17
July 27, 2017
Summer Hurtles By
I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but we’ve had a very odd summer. On the one hand, it has been extremely wet—the rivers are running high, some people’s basements have flooded, and we really haven’t had any sustained length of normal sunny summer weather. Usually, it’s been a nice day followed by a cloudy day, followed by a downpour, then a day of rain tapering off, and repeat. In other words, it feels a bit like April or October, only 10 degrees warmer. The rain has been good for everything growing—I have lovely flowers of all different colors in the back yard, and the new tree we planted in honor of my mother is doing very well.
Just this week, we had a pretty nice Saturday, a cloudy Sunday, and a weather report that said after rain on Monday it would be clear sailing until Friday. We actually got almost the opposite of the weather report, with torrential rain on Monday, tapering rain on Tuesday, and spotty showers predicted until Friday, when its supposed to be nice all weekend. We’ll see.
On the other hand, the summer has been going by really quickly. June went by in an eye blink, and my birthday on July 15 shot by soon thereafter. July is now nearly over, and everyone is talking about all the work that needs to be done before the students return at the end of August. Sheesh!
I hope we get out of this weather pattern soon, or else this is going to be one snowy winter.
I took the week of July 4 off for vacation, and actually managed to stay away from work type things for almost all the week, save for an off-campus lunch with Doug Scheidt, our provost, to discuss a few things. We didn’t really do too much during the week other than hang around the area and relax. I barbequed two of the nights on our nice patio and we drove over to Brockville Ontario (a nice small city of about 25,000) one day to eat Indian food at the Tandoori Mint restaurant, and to go along the river and do some shopping there.
On the 4th itself, we went up to Norwood for their annual 4th of July parade. This is something I’ve gone to every year since I’ve been up here. For a village of less than 2000 people, they put on a great parade—small town America at its best.
There were several marching bands (including one from Canada with bagpipes), lots of fire engines, and multiple floats (not the super fancy kind you see on Thanksgiving, but rather ones that look like real people made them) on the theme of “Christmas in July”. The people in the fire engines and on the floats threw candy to the crowd, and all the little children at the parade ran to scoop it all up. A few people I knew were marching in the parade, and they stopped to say hi, shake hands, or get a hug. Afterwards, we drove into Potsdam for some lunch, and that was about it, other than lazing around the rest of the day.
On Thursday, July 6 we got some terrible news—there had been a motor vehicle accident on Route 11 and four people had been killed. Bad as that was, I found out I had connections to two of them. One was the uncle of my son Mark’s best friend. The other was Greg Williams, whose wife, Anne Williams, had recently retired after working at SUNY Canton for 38 years, most recently as Secretary to the Vice President for Advancement.
Greg was well known and well-loved throughout the North Country area. He had served in the Navy from 1977-1982, and was a member of the reserves from 1983-2000. He worked as an engineer at SUNY Upstate Medical Center, SUNY Canton, the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center, the Department of Corrections in Ogdensburg, and retired as Plant Superintendent at Riverview Correctional Facility. He then worked part-time as an ambulance driver for R.B. Lawrence Ambulance in Canton. He was a sports fan (especially of the Philadelphia Flyers, Ottawa Senators, and New York Giants), traveling across the state to watch his son play basketball in college, and supporting his daughter and son-in-law as they competed in truck pulling with “The Hulk”. I had the honor of attending his funeral and burial on July 10, and both were filled to overflowing with family, friends, neighbors, and people who had benefitted from the many things Greg did for the community. Rest in peace, Greg.
On Saturday July 15 (my birthday!), a team from SUNY Canton competed in the annual Dragon Boat Races, supporting Claxton-Hepburn Hospital in Ogdensburg. The races were held at Waddington Beach, and some 18 teams competed. If you’ve never seen a dragon boat, they’re long and narrow, holding a drummer up front, followed by ten pairs of rowers, and finally someone steering the tiller at the back. Old man that I am, I was the drummer.
We set up two tents with food (potluck!) and soft drinks, and several people came from the College to cheer us on and watch the fun. The day started out cloudy with a wet mist, but soon cleared up and wound up being sunny and a bit hot. How’d we do? Well, to be honest, not too well in the first race, but we pulled it together and hit our stride, winning our second race by a little more than one second. Everyone had a good time, and I’m going to see if our engineering technology students will have any interest in building us our own dragon boat, so we can get in some practice before next year’s race.
Meanwhile, Back on Campus
On Sunday, July 16, students began arriving back on campus for our summer Jump Start Program. People began arriving early on Sunday morning, and several of us were there at Rushton Hall to help greet them and help unload the cars. It was very nice meeting the students and their parents, and it was fun to see how differently people packed—some students came with a few large suitcases of clothing and other stuff, while others came with a full car of goods—TV sets, microwave ovens, coffee makers, gallons of laundry detergent, and so on. I saw them again (and lots of additional students) at an orientation session on Monday in our Field House, where I got to tell them about what they can expect from us and what we expect from them in that partnership we call college. The stands were packed, and it looks like the incoming class will be larger than last year’s, as well as being highly motivated to succeed. I’m looking forward to a great year.
Engineering Summer Camp
On Friday, July 21, SUNY Canton’s Engineering Summer Camp held its RC Competition, featuring radio-controlled cars that the participants had built themselves. It was a cool event, with the first round consisting of speed trials down a parking lot, around a cone, and back to the starting line.
There were lots of wheelies which resulted in a few cars flipping upside down, a collision or two, high speeds, and lots of fun.
Round two was a very tough obstacle course, where the car had to go around a circular track hemmed in by a rubber pipe, then up a stairway avoiding (or jumping over) wooden blocks, down a straightaway and around a cone, down a water hazard, and back to the starting line. This round turned out to be a bit of a demolition derby, with a few cars losing vital parts as they tried to jump uphill or slam downhill. The students and spectators all enjoyed it, and it goes to show that engineering not only teaches lots of skills, but can be a real blast as well!
On Monday, July 24, I attended an advisory board meeting for the College’s TRiO program. TRiO is a federally-funded grant program that provides enhanced academic advising, tutoring, and counseling assistance to students who are first-generation college students, come from low-income families, or have documented disabilities. Successful TRiO students can even earn scholarships.
It’s a wonderful program, and a very successful one—graduation rates for students participating in TRiO are amazingly high—well above national average graduation rates! We’re now looking for ways to extend similar kinds off support to all students to try to replicate this success. The folks in our TRiO Office do a fantastic job mentoring and supporting our students, and it was wonderful meeting all of them and learning how the program works.
Something we’ve gotten some publicity for in recent days is giving out challenge coins to our students. When I first arrived at SUNY Canton, a member of our Veterans Association gave me a challenge coin to encourage me as I assumed the presidency of the College. I liked the idea so much that I decided to give them to students at the end of each fall semester who had completed enough credits and gotten a high enough GPA. I asked the Veterans Association if they would mind if I did this, and they agreed, so I wound up buying several hundred first year coins from them (our mascot Roody on a white background on the front, our college seal on the back) to distribute. We then ordered additional coins for the second year (green background), third year (blue background), and fourth year (gold background—it’s gorgeous!). This coming year will be the first year that students can earn the fourth coin and complete their set, so we’ve also bought little display cases to give those who have all four to keep them in.
It’s always nice when the students come by to get their coin after receiving an email from my office telling them they’ve won it. They’re often quite excited, and I’ve seen lots of postings on Facebook and the like where they show their coin and tell their friends and family how it’s going to motivate and inspire them to keep moving forward and complete their studies.
Last Time’s Trivia Contest
Last time’s contest dealt with word that begin with the letter “W”. Our fastest five responders with all five correct were Rebecca Blackmon, Janel Smith, Jacob Yaeger, Lenore VanderZee, and Karen McAuliffe. Just come to my office on the 6th floor of MacArthur Hall to get your prizes—a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository. Others getting all five right included Jesse Clark-Stone, Anne Drake, Terri Clemmo, Patrick Hanss, Carmela Young, Ben Thompson, Joel Canino, Christina Lesyk, and DianeMarie Collins. Here are the correct answers:
- First president of the United States. Washington.
- Superheroine whose secret identity is Diana Prince. Wonder Woman.
- The tennis championships are held here, in England, this July. Wimbledon.
- If one of these grocery stores opened in St. Lawrence county, people would die of sheer happiness. Wegman’s (Whole Foods was also acceptable).
- Mozart’s first name. Wolfgang.
This Time’s Trivia Challenge
Almost at the end our trek through the alphabet, this issue’s challenge is about words starting with the letter “X”. 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.
- Video game console brand made by Microsoft.
- Superman’s vision of this type is blocked by lead.
- The original Marvel comic team consisted of the Angel, Cyclops, Beast, Iceman, and Marvel Girl. Wolverine and a whole bunch of others joined later.
- Duplicating machine company (two x’s in this one!)
- Drug used to treat anxiety disorders (two x’s in this one!)
Bonus Question: The element under Krypton on the Periodic Table of the Elements. Its name comes from the same root as in the word for “fear of strangers”.