February 13, 2018


Volume 12, Issue 7–February 13, 2018


Catching Up

The theme of this issue of the BLAB is catching up.  I’ve let a few weeks slip again between issues of the BLAB, so there’s some news to catch up on.  Also, I’ve been able to catch up with some old friends, on some reading, and on some music.  So, catch up it is.

February is birthday season in the Szafran household.  On February 8, my father Daniel celebrated his 91st birthday.  He’s out in Las Vegas during our cold weather, and every time I talk to him he reminds me of how perfect the weather has been out there lately.  Here, not so much—we haven’t had that much snow, but we did have some ice this weekend, so scraping off the car Monday morning was a bit of a hassle.  It’s sunny now, and the weather report calls for tomorrow to be in the 40’s so much of it will all melt off.  Anyway, my father is very active out there, going to the synagogue each morning for prayers, followed by exercising at a local gym.  He’s still shooting 3-pointers and pulling other people in to exercise with him.  A friend of his got him a Fitbit for his birthday, so I’m sure I’ll be hearing how many steps he’s taken each day.  It’s great that he’s in such good health and is enjoying himself.

My son Mark’s birthday was on February 9, and we celebrated by going to his favorite local fast food restaurant, Dairy Queen, which reopened that day after being closed for much of the winter (as they do each year).  We’ve been binge-watching the television show Monk lately and finished the final episode on Saturday.  It was a great series, with almost every episode worth watching.  What’s funny is that I remember watching it religiously the first time it came around, but I had no memory of the final episode whatsoever, so I’m wondering if I ever saw it.  Anyway, all his friends wished him a happy birthday, he got several cards and gifts, and several people took him out during the week, so he was happy as a clam.   

Jill and I caught up with the TV show Riverdale this weekend, which seems to be getting more popular with the public, but less popular with me as the plots get more and more ridiculous.  Jill is doing a lot of watching of the winter Olympics, since she loves the figure skating.   I’ve watched nearly none of the Olympics coverage, spending my time instead listening to two good boxed sets of CDs I’ve picked up recently—one is the complete recordings of the pianist Aldo Ciccolini on his major label (Erato), and the other is recordings of almost everything Antonio Vivaldi ever composed.  Ciccolini is one of the best pianists of the 20th century, well known for his exquisite style—he’s a favorite of other pianists.  I especially like that he has an unusually broad repertoire, especially of French composers who are recorded relatively infrequently.  The clarity and sound quality on the discs is uniformly excellent.  I bought the Vivaldi set (on the Brilliant Classics label) despite having tons of recordings of his music already, because it got really good reviews.  Many of the reviews said that the recordings, even his best-known works, were a revelation and I have to agree—they’re great and very true to the composer’s original intent.  The Ciccolini set has some 56 discs in it (I’ve gone through the first 15 thus far), and the Vivaldi one 66 discs (I’ve gone through 45 of them), so it’s going to be a little while before I finish.  There are half a dozen additional boxed sets awaiting their turns thereafter.


State of the University

Chancellor Kristina Johnson gave her State of the University address on January 22, so I flew down to Albany with Lenore VanderZee (Executive Director for University Relations) on Sunday afternoon in order to be there to hear it.   Doug Scheidt (Provost) and Geoffrey VanderWoude (Director of Planned Giving) drove in for the address as well.  There was a breakfast honoring Chancellor Johnson Monday morning, held in the new Albany Capital Center, which is very nice.  The Chancellor’s speech touched on four major themes: the need for an individualized education path for all students; increasing research innovation, outreach, and entrepreneurship within SUNY; increasing use of renewable energy and sustainability in the system (wanting to move toward zero net carbon); and increasing partnerships and philanthropy.

After the speech, Lenore, Doug, and I met for lunch at Jack’s Oyster House with SUNY Canton’s former acting president Joe Hoffman (who is now interim provost at SUNY Maritime) about ways that SUNY Canton and SUNY Maritime might be able to work together to do a program focused on river pilots for the St. Lawrence River.  It’s always good to see Joe and the discussion went well.  That evening, it was back to the Albany Capital Center for the Legislator’s Reception, where we met with a number of legislators and business people.  After returning to Ogdensburg the next morning I stopped back at the College for a while but had to go home to pack because I was going on yet another trip the next day.


Florida Trip, Part II

After the debacle with my return flight from Florida earlier in the month, I had some concerns about my second trip, but they were unfounded—both the trip down and back came off without a hitch.  I left on Wednesday January 24, flying from Ogdensburg down to Sanford, FL and arrived there on time, with Peggy Levato (our Director of Alumni and Development) picking me up at the airport.  We drove from there to The Villages, which is a rather large (more than 100,000 people!) set of properties meant for retirees.  A fair number of our alumni live in the area.  We checked in to the TownePlace Suites by Marriott where I’ve stayed before—it’s very nice—and I was promptly upgraded to a two-bedroom suite, since the hotel was filled with performers from the Helsingborg, Sweden Symphony Orchestra, who were performing the next evening.

That evening, we went out to dinner with John and Rosella (’68) Valentine at a very nice fish restaurant, Eaton’s Beach Restaurant.

The place is very popular, and we had seats along the wall (more like a set of nice garage doors) nearest to the lake.  It was a cool evening, so the doors were closed, but I’m told they open them when the weather is warmer.

L-R: Peggy Levato, Rosella Valentine

The food was excellent, as was the conversation—the Valentines had recently returned from a trip to England, and John had assembled a CD with pictures and music related to the trip.  We also talked about the College and about music—John and I are both lovers of opera, and discussed some upcoming performances and some recordings I had purchased since I saw him last.  The Valentines are really nice people and have been strong supporters of SUNY Canton for many years.

On Thursday, we drove down to Leesburg to attend an alumni gathering at the Olive Garden Restaurant.  It was nice speaking to everyone and hearing their SUNY Canton stories and catching them up on what’s been happening at the College.  Present at the gathering were Eugene Christopher (’61), Gordon and Connie Myers, Gordon Ahners (’59), and John and Rosella (’68) Valentine.

That evening, I was able to join my close friend and colleague Mono Mohan Singh, who lives in the Villages only six miles from where we were staying.  I drove over to see his house which was quite nice, and we went from there to a very nice rib restaurant nearby.  I’m usually not a big rib fan, but Mohan spoke well of it, so I agreed to give it a try.  I’m glad I did, because the food was first-rate.  I hedged my bet by getting the half rib, half chicken combo and it was very good, but the ribs were indeed the best part.  I worked with Mohan for about 15 years while I was at Merrimack College and even after I left for New England College.  Together with Ron Pike, we co-wrote several books and many papers on Microscale Chemistry, and we were co-founders of the National Microscale Chemistry Center.  Mohan’s daughter Pam is a lawyer and will be getting married this spring.  Mohan now has grandchildren from his sons Nick (who has two daughters) and Bill (who has a son).  Both Nick and Bill were students of mine when I was at Merrimack.  We caught up on old times and family stuff, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing him again.  Plans are for Mohan to visit Canton this coming summer.


On Friday, we were off to Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grille in Ocala for another alumni gathering.  Along the way, I picked up a rental car, since Peggy was going to Tallahassee for another alumni visit, but I was heading to Sanford to go home the next day.  Harry’s is another nice restaurant, and it was great to see Louis (’57) and Evelyn Harmin, Fred (’50) and June Snizek, and Joseph and Connie Parisian (both ’50).  Everyone was very interested in what was new at the College, especially about the new majors and eSports.  After the gathering, I drove up to Sanford to spend the night, taking the flight back to Ogdensburg at 1:20 PM and arriving on time at 4:20.



Entrepreneurship Accelerator

As we all know, the North Country is a small place where (like on the old TV show “Cheers”) everybody knows your name.  On Thursday, February 1, a group of us from SUNY Canton went over to the site of the old Jubilee Grocery to look at the building as a possible site for the entrepreneurship accelerator we are trying to establish and to see how much it might cost to transform the site into what would be needed.  Someone must have noticed us being there and we quickly got a phone call from the Watertown Daily Times wanting to find out more.  You can read the article they wrote here, which details that we are in the very, very preliminary stages of discussion and investigation.  A lot of people have responded positively at what we are trying to do with the accelerator, and an editorial supporting it appeared collectively in the Watertown Daily Times, the Advance News, and the Journal of Ogdensburg a few days later, which you can read here.


Women’s Ice Hockey Game at Potsdam

When I spoke to SUNY Potsdam’s President, Kristin Esterberg, a few weeks ago, she had an excellent idea: if our schedules permit, whenever SUNY Canton plays SUNY Potsdam, we should both attend, going to the campus hosting the game as the other’s guest.  Since the next time this was happening was on February 6 at Potsdam, I went over there to attend the Women’s Ice Hockey game.  President Esterberg met me at the door and we walked through their athletic center to the hockey arena, which is quite nice.  The attendance was rather small and the game did not start off too well (from Canton’s point of view), with Potsdam scoring four goals in fairly rapid succession in the first period.  Things settled down in the second period, with Sydney Jordan scoring her eighth goal of the season at 16:27 minutes in.  Brooke Susac, goalie, made 29 saves for Canton, keeping the Bears scoreless in the 2nd and 3rd periods.  The team has gone on to split with Becker College, losing the first game 1-0, but winning the second 4-1.


This Just In

By now, everyone knows that SUNY Canton has added eSports to its intercollegiate athletic lineup, the first college in SUNY to do so.  I’m proud to report that Rob Snow, our Head Coach, tells me that our brand-new team now has its first win under its belt, defeating the University of Maine Farmington in League of Legends, defeating them in game 1 in a sweep, and securing the win in game 2 after an uphill battle.  Congratulations!



Last Time’s Trivia Contest

Last time’s contest had to do with songs about Upstate New York.  Our fastest responders with all five correct were Robin Gittings and Terri Clemmo.  Just come to my office on the 6th floor of MacArthur Hall to get your prizes—a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository.

Here are the correct answers:

  1. Frank Baum from Chittenango wrote the book, and Harold Arlen from Buffalo composed this theme song sung by Julie Garland in the movie “The Wizard of Oz”. The Wizard of Oz.
  2. In the Broadway show 42nd Street, a couple goes on their honeymoon here, with the lyric “To ______ in a sleeper, there’s no honeymoon that’s cheaper, and the train goes slow. Ooh-ooh-ooh.”  And no, it’s not the city that they’re shuffling off to.  The lyric goes “To Niagara in a sleeper, there’s no honeymoon that cheaper, and the train goes slow.  Ooh-ooh.  Off we’re gonna’ shuffle, shuffle off to Buffalo.”
  3. In the Grateful Dead’s song Truckin’, while going to this upstate major city, the lyric goes “Been thinkin’, you got to mellow slow. Takes time, you pick a place to go, and just keep truckin’ on.  Buffalo.
  4. In the folk song “Erie Canal”, the lyric goes: “Get up mule, here comes a lock, We’ll make _______ ‘bout six o’clock.” It’s a small city, just past Utica.  Rome.
  5. Name of Bob Dylan’s song about professor Jeffrey Owen Jones (who taught film at the Rochester Institute of Technology) that starts off: “You walk into the room with your pencil in your hand; You see somebody naked and you say, “Who is that man?”; You try so hard but you don’t understand; Just what you will say when you get home. Because something is happening here but you don’t know what it is; Do you Mr. Jones?  Ballad of a Thin Man. 


This Time’s Trivia Challenge

This issue’s challenge, in honor of St. Valentine’s Day, will be snarky songs about love. 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. Carly Simon wrote this song about a big-headed ex. Who’s the guy?  She hasn’t told.
  2. Kelly Clarkson had a hit with this song about how “We started out friends, It was cool, But it was all pretend.”
  3. The Corrs had this revenge song, starting “You bored me with your stories, I can’t believe I endured you for as long as I did.”
  4. Very cool song by Soft Cell with lyric “I love you though you hurt me so, Now I’m going to pack my things and go.”
  5. The J. Geils Band summed it up with their anti-homage to Valentine’s Day, with lyric “And so it goes, Till the day you die, This thing they call love, It’s gonna make you cry.”
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