October 3, 2017


Volume 12, Issue 2–October 3, 2017


 One Tragedy After Another

The last few weeks have not been good ones across the United States.  Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston and Beaumont, TX areas, with more than 80 people losing their lives, more than $15B already allocated for disaster relief, with total damage estimated to be $180B.  As bad as this was, by all accounts it could have been much worse, given the amount of flooding and the number of buildings and hospitals that had to be evacuated.


My sister Drorit lives in metro-Houston (and used to live in Beaumont), and I was very worried about what might happen to her.  While I’m relieved to tell you she came through the storm very well, never losing power or having her house flood due to her proximity to three storm drain systems, I know many people were not so lucky and lost everything.  Drorit kept up a regular stream of Facebook posts so we knew she was OK hour by hour, but given the strength of the storm, we were all on pins and needles until it was over.

A few days later, Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean area, causing massive damage to the islands of Barbuda, St. Maarten, St. Martin, British and American Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Cuba.  It then turned to Florida, causing destruction in the Keys and then on the state’s west coast.  While it was quite fortunate that the tidal surge turned out to be much less than anticipated, the evacuation in the state was still the largest in its history.  A total of 124 people lost their lives, and the damage came to more than $60B.

Hurricane Jose missed most land areas and eventually petered out over the Atlantic, but was quickly followed by Hurricane Marie, which devastated the Lesser Antilles (Dominica, Guadeloupe, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), and especially Puerto Rico.  As of this writing, 68 people were killed and there was more than $50B in damage, with much of Puerto Rico still without power, phone service, or fuel.

Yesterday, on waking up, I heard the horrible news about the mass shooting in Las Vegas.  More than 50 people were killed and over 500 injured, making this the worst such incident in American history.  Details are still unknown as to the killer’s motivation.  My father Daniel had just returned to Las Vegas a few days ago having spent the previous month with me in Canton, so I was concerned about his safety, and I also have an aunt and a first cousin who live there (all are well).  I can’t imagine the pain and suffering of all those who lost loved ones or had their friends and relatives injured.

Several SUNY Canton students were affected by these hurricanes and by the shooting.  Some have family on the Caribbean islands that were hit, and many were quite worried until they were able to get in contact with them.  Some students are waiting to hear that their families were able to survive Hurricane Marie, and what the extent of damage was to their families’ homes.  I just learned yesterday morning that one of our student’s father was shot in the Las Vegas tragedy.  He had to have surgery and is hospitalized, but thankfully, I’ve heard that the operation went well.  Our student is leaving soon to be with his family, and our thoughts and prayers go with them.

I’d like to ask everyone to say a prayer of support and comfort for all those who have been lost in or affected by each of these tragedies.  Even when we are lucky enough to have had our family and friends come through them safely, there were all too many who didn’t—who lost loved ones, lost all their possessions, or who are still waiting to find out.  If you would like to take direct action by donating money for hurricane relief, SUNY Strong is collecting funds online here, the Red Cross here, and UNICEF-USA here.



Playing Catch-Up

It has been really busy for the past few weeks.  The crunch began when I drove down to Albany on Friday, September 15 for the Association of Council Members and College Trustees (ACT) conference.  The meetings were interesting, touching on the SUNY Impact Foundation, an update on Excelsior Scholarships, issues related to shared governance, and a session on how to influence government leaders to better support SUNY.  The ACT conference was followed on Monday by a breakfast meeting in Albany with Hudson Valley Community College’s president (Andrew Matonak) and a lunch meeting in Schenectady with Schenectady County Community College’s president (Steady Moono), both on articulations and working together.


After the lunch meeting, I drove back to Albany to attend a meeting of the College of Technology presidents, where we went over a white paper we’re preparing for the new Chancellor, Kristina Johnson, to help her know a bit more about our sector.  That evening, the Chancellor threw a reception in her new house for all the SUNY presidents.  She had literally moved in that morning, so it was amazing that she was willing to do this!  The reception was quite nice, and I got a chance to meet and talk to her a bit.  In the immortal words of the Bangles, it was just another manic Monday.



I was still in Albany on Tuesday, September 19, for the SUNY Presidents Meeting.  We talked a bit about goals that the Chancellor has, then divided up by sectors to do a SWOT analysis with a person from SUNY Central.  The last session of the day was a report-out of the SWOT analysis, as well as a candid conversation between the presidents and the SUNY folks about how to address some major issues such as insufficient funding, slow degree approval processes, etc.  I drove back to Canton that evening, and the trip back was just beautiful.  After the four-hour ride, though, I was thoroughly exhausted when I arrived at home.

Wednesday was filled with back to back meetings that had accumulated while I was away.  That evening, the high holiday season started with Rosh Hashanah beginning at sunset.  I gave the sermon at services on Thursday, discussing how Rosh Hashanah is different from what most people think it is.  While it is indeed the Jewish New Year, it isn’t the first day of the first month of the Jewish calendar.  The first day of the calendar year actually occurred six months earlier, on the first day of the month of Nissan (which comes in the spring, the first new moon after the vernal equinox).  Confusingly enough, that does not mean we change the year number on the 1st of Nissan—we do that on Rosh Hashanah (which is the 1st day of the 7th month, called Tishrei).  Why?  Because, according to tradition, Rosh Hashanah is the day after the creation of the world was completed, and that’s when counting the years began.  If you think this means that there are two new year’s days on the Jewish calendar, you’re wrong, because there are actually four, but we won’t get into what the other two are here.  So, I’d like to wish a happy 5778 to everyone!  Rosh Hashanah is actually a two-day holiday, so I was in the synagogue on Friday morning as well, though I was on campus for meetings on both Thursday and Friday afternoons.

The following week was filled with more meetings, including catching up with our Union president, having our monthly lunch with the Student Government leaders, a Faculty Assembly meeting, and a co-Chief Diversity Officers meeting.  On Wednesday, I drove my father up to Ottawa, from where he flew back to Las Vegas.  He plans on coming back next May for a long stay—until October.


Campus Events

On September 14, SUNY Canton hosted a talk by New York’s Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul, who is also the chair of the New York Sate Women’s Suffrage 100th Anniversary Commemoration Commission.  The presentation was very well attended, with well over 100 students there–in fact, we had to set up dozens of extra chairs to handle the crowd.  The talk was very interesting, covering the history of women’s suffrage.  She also gave a strong push for women to become more active in the community in general, and more specifically,  in politics, using her own personal experiences as examples.



Lieutenant Governor Hochul also gave a shout-out to SUNY Canton about our programs to celebrate Constitution Day, which are seen as the best and most extensive in SUNY.  Our Constitution Day celebration took place a few days after her visit, on September 18.  I wasn’t able to attend this year because I was in Albany for various meetings, but I did pre-record a welcome for those attending, and I heard that the events went very well.  Events included a panel of women legislators and mayors (State Senator Betty Little (R-Queensbury), Waddington Mayor Janet Otto-Cassada, and former Canton Mayor Mary Ann Ashley), moderated by our own Karen St. Hilaire, a Constitution Day trivia contest, a voter registration drive, and historical displays.  My major thanks to everyone who helped plan, organize, and who participated in these events.


L-R:  Betty Little, May Ann Ashley, Janet Otto-Cassada

On Friday, SUNY Canton hosted the 2nd Annual Sustainability Day Conference on our campus.  The Conference is jointly sponsored by the four Associated Colleges of the St. Lawrence Valley.  I hosted a lunch for the various organizers and invited guests at the Alumni House, and then came back to campus to give the official welcome for the Conference.   I heard that the various workshops, presentations, and round-tables were quite good.  The Keynote Address was given by Ilarion Merculieff, on “The Real Human Being and Challenges to Our Survival in Today’s World, and it was an interesting talk, eye-opening in many ways.

Tree Planting

The day concluded with a participatory art event called Convergence—Collective Light on the Grasse River by our own Matt Burnett, a picture of which is below.  My big thanks to all the folks who planned, organized, presented, and attended the various Sustainability Day events.

lights on the grasse 2 1_

Special thanks for coordinating so many different campus events go to Diane-Marie Collins, for handling much of the running around, logistics, and behind the scenes requirements that need to happen for these events to be successful.

Bringing us up to date, I hosted a barbeque for the College’s Steel Bridge Team yesterday evening.  Our team had a fantastic season, coming in 2nd in the Upstate New York Region, and then coming in 7th in the national competition.  They’re a great bunch of students who really work hard and accomplish amazing results.  Congratulations team, and thanks to all the faculty and staff who support and encourage them!

 Steel Bridge


Last Time’s Trivia Contest

Last time’s contest dealt with word that begin with the letter “Y”.  Our fastest five responders with all five correct were Jennifer Church, Kevin Elliott, Christina Lesyk, Kirk Jones, and Joel Canino.  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 Jason Haggett, my sister Drorit, and Doug Scheidt.

Here are the correct answers:

  1. Children’s toy consisting of two connected circular pieces of wood or plastic, with a string in the middle. Yo-yo.
  2. One of the most popular search engines on the internet.  Yahoo.
  3. In the old days, you let your fingers do the walking through these to find a business’ phone number. Yellow Pages.
  4. You can find almost every old TV show or music clip on this app.  YouTube.
  5. A long haired wild ox, found in the Himalayas.  Yak.



This Time’s Trivia Challenge

We’ve finally reached the end of our trek through the alphabet, this issue’s challenge being about words starting with the letter “Z”.  What will next time’s challenge be about?  You’ll have to wait to find out since I haven’t figured that out yet.  As usual, 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 president@canton.edu since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them.

  1. Animal that’s either black with white stripes or white with black stripes, depending on how you look at it.
  2. The five-digit number you’ve had to put on letters since 1963 to help the mail move more quickly. The expanded number now has nine digits.
  3. Ruler of the Greek gods in mythology.
  4. The 12 astrological signs.
  5. Rigid airship filled with hydrogen—the most famous met tragedy at Lakehurst, NJ when it blew up.


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