March 14, 2017


Volume 11, Issue 13–March 14, 2017


So Much For Spring

Sadly, as everyone suspected, winter was not done with us yet.  As I’m typing this, New York is in the midst of a blizzard, and a state of emergency has been declared for most of the State.  The North Country (at least for now) is an exception—while non-emergency employees everywhere else in the state are allowed to stay home without using leave, the six northernmost counties are not included in this and are required to go to work, or use leave time if they stay home.  On the plus side, this is also Spring Break, so there are essentially no students and faculty affected.  At the moment, it is snowing very lightly, but things are supposed to get heavier this afternoon. 

Due to the weather, Doug Scheidt (Provost) and I left Washington DC a day early.  We had been at the annual ACE Conference, but as the blizzard was headed north, airlines started calling attendees to try to get them out before it hit so that they wouldn’t be stuck there.  The ever-intrepid Michaela managed to get us seats on a flight on Monday afternoon, so we flew from DC to Toronto without any incident, other than National Airport being quite crowded with people who had the same idea.  When we landed in Toronto, the visibility was dropping and there was light snow.  We got into the terminal without any delays, but soon thereafter, they started keeping jets in the air waiting for the visibility to improve and the wind to die down.  Our connecting flight to Ottawa was delayed by a little over an hour, but once it took off, all was fine and the weather in Ottawa was clear and dry.  Followers of the BLAB will already be aware that Ottawa is the nearest big city to Canton, so we often fly out of its airport, which is only about an hour and a quarter away.  The drive back to Canton was fine—no snow on the road—so we timed things just about perfectly.

The prediction is for anything between six inches and 24 inches of snow from today to tomorrow afternoon.  My guess is that we’ll be on the low side of that total, but you never know.



Catching Up

It’s been a busy few weeks, so here’s a brief recap of what’s been happening.

SUNY Canton hosted another of our Excellence in Leadership Series, with Mark Bondoni (’82) being the speaker.  Mark has worked at Ford for 32 years in a series of important positions , including Luxury Car Manager (for the Lincoln division), Parts and Service Operations Manager (in Puerto Rico!), Ford NASCAR Motorsports Manager, Regional Manager for the Customer Service Division, Global Warranty Manager, Fleet National Service Manager, and his current position as Global Remanufacturing and Core Supply Manager (in Dearborn, MI).  That’s a lot of leadership!  Mark has also served on the advisory board of our Automotive Technology program for the past 18 years.  The talk was well attended and very interesting, tying in with Engineers Week on campus.

There were several other great events held on campus for Engineers Week (February 27-March 3).  On the 28th, there was an all-day Engineering Career Fair, sponsored by the Career Services Office.  I had a chance to pay a visit, and it was great to see the many interested students there, as well as representatives from more than 30 companies, many of whom were our own alumni.  Later that evening, our 3rd annual Engineering Open House was held for the community, featuring lots of demonstrations and hands-on opportunities for visitors, showcasing our engineering facilities.  We had a bit more than 200 attendees ranging from K-12 as well as their families, with the highlight being a zipline race competition where participants could win prizes (3rd to 8th grade division) and scholarships (9th to 12th grade division).  Each pair of students had 20 minutes to build a zipline racer from wooden blocks, pipe cleaners, and a balloon.  Everyone had a good time, and you can read more about it here.  A big thanks to everyone who participated in and planned these events.

I wasn’t able to attend the Engineering Open House because SUNY Canton was also hosting the annual Associated Colleges Presidents and Spouses Dinner at the same time.  It was nice to see my colleagues from Clarkson University, St. Lawrence University, and Paul Smith’s College (Kristin Esterberg from SUNY Potsdam was away and couldn’t make it), and we had some interesting conversations on the changing landscape for higher education in New York.  It’s always a challenge to try to find a day that we can all get together, and this was the only evening that we could even get four out of the five of us in the same place!  The dinner, catered by our SUNY Canton food service, was excellent as always.

On March 1, I hosted the Agriculture Subcommittee of the St. Lawrence County Economic Development Planning Group.  The meeting was from 5:00-6:30, and we had a very interesting conversation about year-round greenhouses and looking into interacting with the Canadian market.  Afterwards, I dashed home to pick up Jill, came back to campus, and popped in to the Out in the Country Student Activities event.  There was a very good country band playing there, as well as lots of booths with food and fun events.  We were only able to stay for a few minutes, because we were then off to a rather important basketball game.  SUNY Canton’s men’s basketball team won the first ever ACAA conference championship, and were then invited to participate in the ECAC Championship, for which we hosted the first round.  It was an exciting game.  SUNY Canton got off to a slow start, being behind as much as 15 points, but caught up before the half and took a small lead.  The second half was much tighter, with our lead growing as much as 12 points and shrinking to a tie shortly before the close.  Our players gritted it out and ultimately won, 90-86, defeating Pine Manor.  Unfortunately, we lost the next round to Penn State Behrend in another close one, by a score of 68-65.  Congratulations to our team for an outstanding season.  Congratulations also to our Women’s Ice Hockey team for their outstanding season, making it into the league quarterfinals!

Another Engineers Week event was held on March 2nd, namely an Industry Dinner for representatives of local engineering firms, to come visit and learn about SUNY Canton and to see our facilities.  The dinner was great, and there were lots of attendees including several student guides from the engineering technology programs.  A very nice video was prepared showcasing our facilities in Neveldine Hall, which you can see here:


The next week began on Monday with a quick hop to Albany for some legislative visitsI did another legislative visit on Tuesday morning, followed by my evaluation by SUNY (which went well) on Tuesday afternoon.  The main message was we’re doing the right things at the College, and we need to move forward aggressively to do them and to let the world know about them.  Thank you to everyone who participated in the 360° feedback.  I flew back to Canton that evening.

Whenever you’re away from campus, the meetings accumulate for when you get back, and that’s what Wednesday-Friday of last week were like.  On Thursday night, I also attended the Open House for the new St. Lawrence Health System Medical Campus that just opened in Canton—it’s a very impressive facility, and promises much improved local care in a number of vital areas.  On Friday, I had my most fun event:  I guest-lectured in Kirk Jones’ Comic Books as Literature class, giving a history of comic books and bringing in a bunch of items from my own collection, including a copy of Batman #25 (from back in the 1940’s), some original art used in making comics, and some comics from other countries.  The class was a lot of fun, and hopefully the students enjoyed it too.

On Saturday, March 11th, Doug and I flew to D.C. for the abovementioned ACE Conference, flying out of Ottawa.  The flight down was fine, and the conference had some interesting moments that I’ll be talking about on campus in the next few weeks.  The main topics of discussion centered on several recent freedom of speech issues that have arisen on campuses (such as the well-publicized protests at Berkeley and Middlebury), topics related to diversity, and public perception of higher education (hint: a lot of it isn’t good and is based on false information).

And that brings us back to the present!


Mascot Madness

It’s time for SUNY Mascot Madness once again.  Last year, our own Roody Roo did very well, getting into the quarter finals before losing out to Stony Brook’s Wolfie.  This year we’re determined to win it all.  Roody has been training hard for the competition, and you can see his regimen in the video below: 

You can vote for Roody in Round 1, where his opponent is SUNY Broome’s Stinger the Hornet.  You can read more about the mascots in our Region 2 competition here.  Voting starts today, and you can vote every 12 hours from every email account you have at this url:  So vote for Roody—the world’s greatest Kangaroo!




Last Time’s Trivia Contest

Last time’s contest dealt with word that begin with the letter “S”.  Our fastest five responders with all five correct were Patrick Hanss, Megan Warren, Jennifer Church, Alice Reed, and Martha Cole.  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 Marcia Sullivan-Marin, Terri Clemmo, Tony Beane, Christina Lesyk, and Kevin Elliott.  Here are the correct answers:

  1. Children’s playground ride where one side goes up as the other goes down. See-saw.
  2. Seattle football team.  Seahawks.
  3. Neutral country in central Europe, known for its mountains.  Switzerland.
  4. You pay into it each paycheck so you’ll have money when you retire. Social Security.
  5. The General Sherman, the tallest tree in the world, is one of these.  Sequoia.




This Time’s Trivia Challenge

Continuing our trek through the alphabet, this issue’s challenge is about words that begin with the letter “T”.  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 since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them.

  1. In a children’s game, what you say before “You’re It”.
  2. Art that you wear on your skin.
  3. Book that answers the question, “What’s another word for that?”
  4. Larval stage for a frog or a toad.
  5. Beautiful mausoleum in Agra, India. It’s one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.





Posted in Uncategorized

February 24, 2017


Volume 11, Issue 12–February 24, 2017


Happening ’17

Maybe it’s the thaw in the weather, and maybe it’s all the good stuff going on here on campus.  I’m feeling quite optimistic about things up here at SUNY Canton and in the North Country.

In the words of Paul Revere and the Raiders on their classic rock album Happening ’68,

People, something’s happening
Something in the air
Listen to the sound now
Come from everywhere.

You know you’ve got to hurry
You don’t want to be late
But people don’t you worry
What’s happenin’ is great.


As you will see below, two of our new degree proposals have been approved by State Ed, and will be offered beginning this Fall.  We’ve gotten good publicity and a lot of good comments about them, and I’m confident that they will be well received and attract new students SUNY Canton, thanks to our crack admissions team.

We’re seeing strong legislative support for what we’re doing, and I’m hearing lots of folks in the economic development sector telling me how critical SUNY Canton is to the success of our region, and how we’re moving in the right directions.  Our alumni are increasingly engaged, and they like what they’re hearing.

Our students are doing well, and are in high demand when they graduate.  Our Student Government is active, and a number of initiatives that they wanted to propose tie in perfectly with ideas we have had and are working to implement.  Several will be going to DC next month to advocate for higher education in general, and student empowerment in particular.  Our student athletes have done well, beating the local competition and some teams we’ve never beaten before by solid margins.

Every time I turn around, I hear about another faculty member who has won an award, is working on a book or has published a paper, or is doing something innovative in the classroom to support our students.  Our new Center for Diversities and Inclusion is planning a strong set of programs, and has started a weekly “Soup and Solidarity” series, that will feature free soup, music, and good conversations on a variety of topics.

There are lots of cool events coming up soon (including the annual Snow Ball this weekend) in the Student Life area, thanks to the hard work of our colleagues in those areas.  The campus has never looked better, and there are plans that will soon be implemented to take us to the next level with Dana  and Chaney Halls.

There’s still a lot to do to bring all of the above to fruition.  Like all good kangaroos, we need to keep a hop ahead and keep moving forward.  But like I said before, things are happening, and SUNY Canton just keeps getting better and better.


New Degrees!

We’ve gotten final approval lately about new degrees that we will be offering at SUNY Canton.  Getting a new degree approved is a long process–it can take more than a year to write the proposal up, get it approved on campus, send it to SUNY, respond to other colleges that may comment on it (or not want you to offer it), get approval from SUNY, and get approval from the NY State Department of Education.  It can get quite complicated, but we have some good news to announce.


Our first new degree is in Game Design and Development.  This is a 4-year Bachelor of Science degree that will focus on the design and production of modern video games.  Students enrolling in the program will learn how to design and program these games on multiple computer platforms and for different kinds of devices, and will get lots of hands-on experience creating video games for commercial, educational, and medical audiences.  Video games are a multi-billion dollar industry, and a major hub of video game manufacture is nearby in Montreal.  The program will be offered starting this coming fall semester.


The second degree approved is in Agribusiness.  This is a 4-year Bachelor of Business Administration degree that will focus on the management side of modern farming.  As many of you may know, SUNY Canton began its history way back in 1906 as a College of Agriculture.  Many of our most successful graduates in St. Lawrence County and across the state began their careers in the college’s agriculture programs.  Over the years, most of these programs were phased out, so offering this program is a way for us to tie in to our original roots.  Students in this program will learn principles of accounting, finance, marketing, strategy, operations, human resources, economics, ethics, and communications, and learn to apply them to agriculture.  We will also be partnering with local agricultural enterprises to provide internship opportunities for students.  The Agribusiness program will be offered starting this coming fall semester.

Several other degrees have been approved by SUNY, and are awaiting final approval from State Ed.  The most recent of these is a B.S. in Technological Communication.  The A.S. and A.A.S. in Business and the A.A. and A.S. in General Studies are awaiting approval from State Ed. to be certified as online degrees.

A big thanks to all the faculty who have worked hard to develop these degree proposals and to create the new courses that will be part of them.


New Athletic Conference!


I’m happy to report that SUNY Canton is now part of an athletic conference, namely the American Collegiate Athletic Association.  We just heard this past Tuesday that the ACAA has been given conference membership in Division III of the NCAA.  SUNY Alfred is also a member of this conference.   This conference is a good step forward for our athletic programs, and will provide our students an opportunity for post-season play.


Top 100 in Online Programs Again!


SUNY Canton’s online programs are in the top 100 nationally, for the third time, according to US News and World Report.  Only three SUNY schools have this distinction!


Top in Pet-Friendliness Again!


I’m also happy to report that SUNY Canton was named as one of the 25 most pet-friendly colleges in the country, coming in at #13, and was 1st in New York, and the only SUNY on the list.


Visit to SUNY

While some people got chocolates and flowers on Valentine’s Day,  SUNY Canton got to celebrate with a visit to Albany for our Campus Visit, which was an opportunity for us to speak with folks at the systems office about how we’re doing on campus relative to our performance improvement plan; what our current vision is for the College; what we think the College could be in 2025 if money weren’t an issue; what we think our strengths,  weaknesses, opportunities, and threats are; and to propose some areas that we’d like some funding from SUNY for.  A group of 11 of us participated in preparing our responses, including me, the vice presidents, our student government president Nikki Zeitzman, our associate provost, our co-chief diversity officers, our Faculty Assembly moderator (who got sick and wasn’t able to attend the meeting), and our UUP local union president.


We left Canton at about 7 AM for the drive down to Albany and fortunately the weather cooperated, so we had a pleasant ride.  We got there just in time for a quick lunch, and then went over to SUNY for our 1 PM meeting.

By all accounts the meeting went well, and I think our colleagues at SUNY now have a stronger understanding of the many great things going on at SUNY Canton today, and the even greater things we are planning and working toward for the future.  Hopefully, they’ll invite us to submit  proposals for funding on some of the ideas we presented.


Last Time’s Trivia Contest

Last time’s contest dealt with word that begin with the letter “R”.  Our fastest five responders with all five correct were Megan Warren, Patrick Hanss, Carmela Young, Christina Lesyk, and Douglas Scheidt.  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 Kevin Elliott and Bruce Hanson.  Here are the correct answers:

  1. You can rent a dvd from this in front of Price Chopper, Walmart, and many other places.  Redbox.
  2. Fairy tale female with very long hair that was locked up in a tower.  Rapunzel.
  3. Best known boxer from Philadelphia, better known as Sylvester Stallone.  Rocky.
  4. City that’s home to Eastman Kodak.  Rochester, NY.
  5. Small streaming TV and media player—it’s either a separate box or may be part of a smart TV.  Roku.



This Time’s Trivia Challenge

Continuing our trek through the alphabet, this issue’s challenge is about words that begin with the letter “S”.  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 since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them.

  1. Children’s playground ride where one side goes up as the other goes down.
  2. Seattle football team.
  3. Neutral country in central Europe, known for its mountains.
  4. You pay into it each paycheck so you’ll have money when you retire.
  5. The General Sherman, the tallest tree in the world, is one of these.


Posted in Uncategorized

February 10, 2017


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.


Welcome Back

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.


Happy Birthday!

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.


Long Trip

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 since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them.

  1. You can rent a dvd from this in front of Price Chopper, Walmart, and many other places.
  2. Fairy tale female with very long hair that was locked up in a tower.
  3. Best known boxer from Philadelphia, better known as Sylvester Stallone.
  4. City that’s home to Eastman Kodak.
  5. Small streaming TV and media player—it’s either a separate box or may be part of a smart TV.





Posted in Uncategorized

December 21, 2016

Happy Holidays to All!

It’s only a few days before Christmas and Chanukah and things are definitely winding down on campus.  I walked down the hall in Cook this morning and at the time, all the lights were off, with the only thing open being the Dean’s Office.  The parking lots are half-empty, with lots of people having begun their vacations.

While we’ve had some below zero nights, most days have been right around the freezing mark of 32°F.  There’s some snow on the ground, though not too much, and since the weather was warm enough for rain a few days ago (which then froze overnight), there is a bit of ice under the snow.  It’s gotten as high as 37°F today, which has caused the ice on the cars (at least) to melt, and the icicles on the house are going fast.  The weather report is predicting a cold but sunny Christmas day, with the day after rising to a practically tropical 40°F.

There have been tons of holiday parties on campus which are always fun.  Our college-wide party was on December 9th, and our College Association delivered the usual excellent spread.  Everyone was commenting on how nice the decorations were and how good the food was.  Live music was provided by a jazz quartet that included SUNY Canton family member Dan Gagliardi on bass and his son on trombone, and they were great too.  In fact, I was inspired enough to grab wife Jill and dance with her when they did a nice rendition of “Georgia on My Mind”.  On Saturday December 10th, the annual Children’s Holiday Party took place in Dana Hall.  The full report on that party is further below.  I also attended Governor Cuomo’s Holiday Reception in Albany when I was down for the Regional Economic Development Council announcements on December 8th–it was a very  nice affair as well.  There were lots of other potlucks, department parties, and secret santa parties as well.

I hope everyone has a happy and restful holiday and a fabulous new year, and I’ll see you all on the flip side.


Children’s Holiday Party

One of my favorite events of the year is the Children’s Holiday Party that is given by the Early Childhood Education Program’s faculty and students.  Many of the children in attendance started coming when they were babies and have come every year since.  The theme is different every year to keep things interesting, and this year’s theme was the game “Candyland”.


Jill, Mark, and I had fun greeting the children at the entrance table and seeing the excited looks on their faces when they saw all the great activities that filled our intramural gym.


The students from the Early Childhood program and the volunteers from Kappa Xi Omega Sorority each staffed either a game that children could play or a table at which they could do a crafts activity, so there were dozens of things to occupy each child.


The College Association provided ice cream, popcorn, drinks, and other snacks for the children, ably staffed by Sean Conklin and Nicole Fullerton.

The big event at the party, of course, was the arrival of Santa Claus, who spoke to each child and gave them a small present.


Santa and Finn O’Brien

All the children had a great time.  Big thanks to Program Director Maureen Maiocco, and faculty member Christina Martin for all their hard work organizing the event, as well as:


Our Early Childhood students: Morgan Morse, Jennifer Blair, Janel Gordon, Savanna-Lin Boadway, Mya Motley, Tianna Parkes, Sarrah Williams, Jenna Murtagh, Fatima Kamara, Lashay Pressley, Molly Atkinson, Jenna Holmes, and Alexandria McIntosh.

Our Kappa Xi Omega volunteers: Bailie Young, Peighton Laffin, Taylor Gray, Kristen Avellino, Carolyn Lorenzi, Ariel Mann, Aaliyah Guzman, Brittaney Carey, and Kennedy Casiano.

Shout Outs


Congratulations to the Betty J. Evans Tutoring Center in becoming CRLA-certified! This certification means that our tutoring program has met internationally accepted standards of assessment, skills, and training for our tutors. We are extremely proud of the tutoring center staff and tutors for achieving such a stamp of quality–it took several  years of preparation and training to attain this distinction and it was a true team effort.  A special shout-out to Paul Todd for leadership in this effort, both in the writing of the self-study and in the development and implementation of the training program   Congratulations on a job well done!



Two college ranking web sites have evaluated SUNY Canton as being among the best value colleges in their rankings.  According to, SUNY Canton is the best value online school in New York for 2016.  They wrote: “What makes SUNY Canton the best online college in New York? How about its impressive selection of more than 400 online courses and 10 majors? Or what about its extreme affordability and well-developed online support system? Or how about all of the above? All in all, SUNY Canton excels where online learners need them to the most – at student support! In addition to an active advising office and helpful Career Resources center, the school also provides a free “Mastering American ELearning” course for international students. And despite their already high standing, SUNY Canton is always looking for areas of improvement and employs a staff of dedicated online faculty that work to continuously enhance the distance education experience.”

SUNY Canton was ranked #14 in’s national list of colleges with energy research programs.  They wrote: “For students seeking a degree program in energy research, SUNY Canton offers an Alternative and Renewable Energy Systems major that covers a fascinating spectrum of study in this field. Some of the courses offered related to energy include thermodynamics, heat transfer, environmental science, and many more. Students following this major are taught to become solution-oriented professionals on issues pertaining to alternative and renewable energy.”  We’re in very good company on this list, with the only schools ahead of us being NC State, U. Colorado, Texas A&M, Georgia Tech, Iowa State, Ecotech Institute, Cornell, San Juan College, U. Michigan, U. California Berkeley, Stanford, the Colorado School of Mines, and Boston College.


In Memorium


SUNY Canton lost a great friend and benefactor in the passing away of John L. Halford, Sr. on December 7, 2016.  He was born on Jan. 24, 1925 in Gouverneur. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1942 and served in the South Pacific attached to the 3rd Marine Raider Battalion and the 3rd Marine Division. He earned his degree in Air Conditioning Engineering Technology at the Agricultural and Technical College at Canton (as SUNY Canton was known then) in 1949.

Mr. Halford worked for the Gouverneur Hospital from 1951 to 1953, and then at Brookhaven National Laboratory from 1953 to 1970, where he was a technical specialist whose primary responsibilities were in the development of liquid containment materials for nuclear reactors. He then worked as maintenance supervisor for Suffolk County in the Buildings and Grounds Department from 1972 until his retirement in 1988.

Mr. Halford was a dedicated believer in helping students to achieve their potential. In 1989 he established an endowed scholarship at SUNY Canton that is given annually to five students who are in need of financial assistance. In 1999, Mr. Halford established a memorial scholarship to honor the World War II service of the six Halford brothers, awarded to two Gouverneur High School seniors who are planning to attend one of our four-year programs.  In a 2005 article for the After Canton alumni magazine, Mr. Halford said, “College is all about opportunities in life. A lot of young people don’t see a future, but I hope that with these scholarships I can help them see all of the possibilities that lie ahead for them.

Mr. Halford had the distinct honor of being the alum with the most locations named for him on SUNY Canton’s campus. The college dedicated the John L. Halford, Sr. Lobby in 2005, Halford Suite in the Roos House in 2011, Halford Classroom in 2012, a Veterans Tree in 2014, and Halford Hall (which houses the CREST Center) in 2014. Mr. Halford also served on the Canton College Foundation Board of Directors since 2004.

He received the college’s Distinguished Alumnus award in 2010, was inducted into the College Hall of Fame in 2011, and was inducted into the New York State Veterans Hall of Fame by State Senator Patty Ritchie in 2014.

On a more personal note, Mr. Halford gave a generous donation to SUNY Canton in honor of my installment as president. I remember well when I first met him and introduced him to my father Daniel in  2014.  They became fast friends and saw each other many times, always talking about their military experiences, basketball, and their love for their wives.

John Halford did a tremendous amount of good in this world.  He served America in World War II, and served the communities that he lived in when he returned. He always wanted to help others, through his church, his town, and through funding scholarships and supporting his college. He will be sorely missed.

Donations in Mr. Halford’s memory can be made to the Canton College Foundation.


Last Time’s Trivia Contest

Last time’s contest dealt with word that begin with the letter “Q”.  Our fastest five responders with all five correct were Debbie Flack, Patrick Hanss, Kelly Carter, Geoffrey VanderWoude, and Kevin Elliott.  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 Christina Lesyk.  Here are the correct answers:

    1. Sound a duck makes.  Quack.
    2. The current one in England has set a record for the longest reign of any monarch.  Queen.
    3. The number of members that must be present in order to vote on something.  Quorum.
    4. Religious group also known as the Society of Friends, who refuse to participate in war or take oaths. The oats company has nothing to do with them.  Quakers.
    5. Formula that lets you calculate the solutions for any equation in the form ax2+bx+c = 0.  Quadratic Equation.


This Time’s Trivia Challenge

The trivia challenge is on vacation!  It will return in January.


Posted in Uncategorized

December 6, 2016


Volume 11, Issue 9–December 6, 2016



It’s December Already?

How can it be December already?  It seems like the semester just started and yet, in another two weeks it will be over.   I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving, ate lots of turkey, and is feeling invigorated to make the final end-of-semester push.

We stayed around the area for Thanksgiving, and after a little discussion (OK, argument), decided that we’d stay traditional again this year and get a turkey.  Jill had the nice folks at Price Chopper look around the back to find the smallest possible turkey since it’s just the three of us, and she really doesn’t like turkey all that much.  They found a nice 12 pounder, and after thawing it out, washing it, adding some stuffing, and rubbing the outside with some seasoning, it was quite delicious.  One of the best inventions of all time is the oven cooking bag—it keeps the turkey moist, requires no basting, retains the gravy inside, and even makes the bird cook faster.  What more can you ask for less than a dollar?  Anyway, after gorging on the turkey, stuffing, and rice for a few days, we had all had enough and dumped the little bit that was left.

This year, Chanukah comes on the same day as Christmas.  Since Jewish holidays are based on the lunar calendar, they float relative to the “normal” calendar.  Chanukah can come as early as November 28 or as late as December 27, so this year it is an unusually late one.  We have a number of Chanukah menorahs (candelabras) that we’ve picked up over the years.  Our favorite is one we got for Mark’s first Chanukah—it has Mickey and Minnie Mouse lying on the floor in front of a fireplace, playing with dreidels (little spinning tops).


Another one I like has eight different rabbis all doing various things, with the candle holder on top of each one’s head.  I’ve wanted an electric menorah that we could put in the window for a while now (you don’t want lit candles there, right?), but never seen one that I liked.  We finally found an acrylic one yesterday at the food festival at the synagogue in Potsdam, where by moving a pair of sliding panels in the back, each of the arms can be lit up in different colors, one by one.  It’s pretty nice, so look for it when you drive by my house this year.



Diversity Conferences

Back on November 8, Jill and I went to the Canton Fire Department to vote at about 6:45 AM, because I was heading out of town for a pair of diversity conferences.  The lines weren’t long at that hour, so finding a parking space and voting only took a few minutes.  Something I hadn’t run into before was that the lines were divided by district—since I live in the Town of Canton just outside the Village of Canton, there were a few village positions we weren’t eligible to vote on, so my ballot would be a little different from that of someone who lives in the village.  Everybody who’s not a New Yorker follow that?

After dropping Jill back at home, I turned around and picked up Provost Doug Scheidt for a drive down to Saratoga Springs to attend the Cultural Competency and Inclusive Excellence Institute for Senior SUNY Leadership (CCIEI, November 8) and the SUNY Diversity Conference (November 9-11).  The trip down was quite nice—a crisp fall day through the Adirondack Mountains.  There are several choices of ways to get there that are all about the same distance and time, but I usually go through Newcomb and Minerva on Route 28N toward Olmstedsville, and pick up I-87 in Pottersville.  This time I noticed a sign for Olmstedsville a bit earlier and turned off to go there, only to find myself on a road that I had never been on before (I think we were on County Road 24), in an area where there was no GPS signal.  I knew we’d be fine if we kept heading east, since we’d eventually run into either US 9 or I-87, and sure enough we did at Schroon Lake, which turned out to be quite beautiful.  Anyway, we got to Saratoga Springs just in time for the conferences.

The CCIEI was good, with a very interesting session on how we’re wired to see and do certain things in a particular way.  The speaker, Howard Ross, showed a series of words representing colors that were the same color as the word (i.e., the word “red” was colored red), and had us read them as quickly as we could.  No one had any problem with that.  He then showed a similar series of words representing colors, but this time, the word was colored in a different color (i.e., the word “red” was colored blue), and asked us to say what color each word was (blue in this example).  This caused a mental “disconnect”, since our minds are trained to read the word, not its color, and it was much harder to do it.  This phenomenon, Doug tells me, is called the Stroop Effect.

Ross then showed it wasn’t just our minds that work that way—our bodies do too.  He showed a film clip with people riding a bicycle that had been modified so that when the handlebars were turned in one direction, the bicycle would turn in the opposite direction.  People were offered $50 if they could ride the bicycle about 20 feet without falling off, and no one could do it, because we’re conditioned when we learn to ride a bicycle that it will react only in one way.

Both things illustrated that it’s really hard to see or do things in new ways, because we’re so conditioned to doing them in the way we’re used to.

In the same way, our prior experiences give us biases.  If you got ill after eating carrots when you were young, you might avoid carrots from that point forward.  The bias could be conscious (you remember the earlier bad experience) or unconscious (you’ve forgotten why you don’t like carrots but you still avoid them, or you may even shy away from all orange foods because you associated the bad experience with orange-colored foods in general).  There’s no particular harm to this kind of bias, since we all have individual preferences in food, style of clothing, and so on.

However, through their upbringing or experiences, some people associate negative traits with whole groups of people.  If one person from Potsdam treated you meanly, you may associate meanness (and other negative traits) with all people from Potsdam, and avoid going there, hiring someone from there, or simply being fearful of someone from there, without even being conscious that you are doing this.  This type of bias, even when unconscious, results in discrimination, since fear quickly triggers the more primitive part of the brain, whereas the intellectual part of our brain reacts more slowly.  Harvard University has a website where you can take a test to see if you have an unconscious bias (they call it implicit bias) in a number of areas.  If you want to give it a try, you can click here.

Since everyone has unconscious biases, that’s part of the reason it is important to make sure that decision-making groups are diverse. A diverse group will be less likely to have all had the same experiences or unconscious biases, and if group members are willing to speak up, less likely to arrive at discriminatory outcomes.  Also, when one is aware of unconscious biases in general, and one’s own biases in particular, it is easier to avoid acting in ways that result from them.

The SUNY Diversity Conference featured of a number of keynote speakers as well as parallel sessions of individual presentations.  A number of the speakers made last-minute changes in their talks to editorialize about the election outcome, with several expressing concern about what the future Trump administration might do regarding issues related to diversity, and resolved to fight anything that would push back on recent social gains.

As is always the case, some of the talks were more interesting than others.  I personally would have liked more talks to have focused on strategies that had been found to be successful and how they were implemented and fewer on advocacy, but on the whole, the conference was quite worthwhile.

At the very end of the conference, I was part of a panel of four presidents talking about how they were implementing the Board of Regents’ Diversity Agenda on their campuses.  I presented a PowerPoint on what we have done at SUNY Canton.  It was interesting to see the similarities and differences in the various campus’ approaches, and I was able to get a few ideas of new things that might be worth trying.

So what was the most interesting talk at the conference?  Other than mine (of course), I’d have to say it was the speaker who ended his talk on how to implement a strong diversity program with “The Wisdom of Yoda”, which he delivered in a very good vocal imitation of Yoda.  I’ll let you read the five bullet points for yourself and decide how accurate they are.


The Conference ended at about 1:30, so we hopped back in the car, had a nice ride back through the Adirondacks, and made it back to Canton at about 5:30, just in time for dinner.


Shout Outs

Congratulations to our Health Care Management program, which was just listed among the Top 10 Low Cost Online Degree Programs 2016 by


The website praised the degree, saying “SUNY Canton rivals even the most accommodating online colleges with its B.S. in Health Care Management, which allows students to select any combination of online, hybrid and face-to-face courses.”  Health Care Management (part of the general category of Health Administration) is a high demand field.  The website goes on to say “If you graduate with a B.S. in Health Administration, you’ll find yourself gazing into a future with explosive career opportunities. The BLS anticipates an immense 17% growth in health management positions before 2024 – that’s more than 56,000 new jobs…the data indicates that a degree in this discipline could be your ticket to a reliable future with high ROI and room to grow.”


Kudos to DianeMarie Collins for her good work with the SUNY Canton’s new electronic sign.


It’s a harder job than you may think—DianeMarie often stays late to create signs for events, rearranges the order of events to accommodate requests, and diplomatically fields requests or addresses complaints about submissions that don’t fit the agreed upon criteria.  The sign looks great, and I enjoy reading it as I drive in each morning!   


Congratulations to Emily Hamilton-Honey (English) who recently won the St. Lawrence County Chapter of the American Association of University Women’s (AAUW) Research Award for her in-depth study of young women’s serial novels.


She is the author of a book in progress titled Girls to the Rescue: Mixed Messages From American Girls’ Series Fiction in World War I. Her research is based on series books including The Red Cross Girls, The Khaki Girls, and the Ruth Fielding novels. The book is slated to be published next year.


If you liked the chocolates that my office sent out as a small holiday appreciation for your efforts all year, the people to really thank are the good elves that distributed them to everyone on campus.


Here’s a list of Santa’s helpers:  Brenda Mullaney, Lisa Perry, Memorie Shampine, Aimee Felt, Ellie Prashaw, Tammy Carr, Dianne Chappell, Karen McAuliffe, Toni Besio, Tina Demo, Mary Loomis, Linda LaParr, Brienne Rose, Patrick Harrington, Lisa St. Germain, Art Garno, Brenda Dean, Jennifer Jones, Michael Smith, Gisele Fleury, Penny Ames, Pat Hanss, Marty Avery, Nancy Rowledge, DianeMarie Collins, and Debbie Flack.


Last Time’s Trivia Contest

Last time’s contest dealt with word that begin with the letter “P”.  Our fastest five responders with all five correct were Megan Warren, Jacob Yaeger, Patrick Hanss, Renee Campbell, and Anne Williams.  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 Mary Rishe, Kevin Elliott, Jennifer McCluskey, Geoffrey VanderWoude, Drorit Szafran, and Doug Scheidt. Here are the correct answers:

  1. Head of the Catholic Church.  The Pope.
  2. Flightless bird found in the Antarctic.  Penguin.
  3. Germany invaded this country in September 1939.  Poland.
  4. Poet who wrote “The Raven”.  Edgar Allan Poe.
  5. Someone who does something exceptionally well, often at a young age.  Prodigy.



This Time’s Trivia Challenge

Continuing our trek through the alphabet, this issue’s challenge is about words that begin with the letter “Q”, which should certainly test your vocabulary!  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 since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them.

  1. Sound a duck makes.
  2. The current one in England has set a record for the longest reign of any monarch.
  3. The number of members that must be present in order to vote on something.
  4. Religious group also known as the Society of Friends, who refuse to participate in war or take oaths. The oats company has nothing to do with them.
  5. Formula that lets you calculate the solutions for any equation in the form ax2+bx+c = 0.



Posted in Uncategorized

November 15, 2016


Volume 11, Issue 8–November 15, 2016


So Many Thanks

Words can’t describe how much I appreciate how everyone rallied around my family last week after my mother, Simona, passed away.

The funeral was held in Syracuse on Sunday, October 30, at the Sisskind Funeral Home.  My father had flown in on October 27 from Las Vegas, and stayed in Syracuse with some family friends.  My sister Drorit had handled most of the arrangements from her home in Houston, and flew in with her partner Susanne on the 28th.  By 1:00 PM, the funeral home’s hall was packed—all the seats were taken and there were many people standing.  Several family members from Israel and Las Vegas weren’t able to come in person and skyped in through an arrangement my cousin Assaf (who flew in from Seattle) had set up.  Family flew and drove in from around the country, some making it to the funeral and others during the week where we sat Shiva. So many people came from Syracuse, where I grew up and my parents lived for so many years.  They included some of their oldest friends, many of the teachers and students (past and present) from the Syracuse Hebrew Day School where my mother had taught for so many years, and many other friends and neighbors.  Several people drove down from Canton representing the synagogue and the College.  Please forgive me for not individually listing those in attendance, as I’m sure I’d unintentionally miss someone.  Our deepest thanks to everyone who was able to come.

The service was officiated by Rabbi Yaakov Rapoport (from Syracuse University Hillel, who also did the benediction at my inauguration at SUNY Canton) and Rabbi Evan Shore (from synagogue Young Israel-Shaarei Torah).  Syracuse Hebrew Day School principal Barbara Davis spoke about what a fine teacher my mother had been for so many years, and how she never gave up on any student—she was determined that each one would be able to succeed.  I gave the eulogy, and my sister Drorit shared some remembrances and read a poem called “Letter from Heaven”.

My father Daniel then spoke, about how he and my mother had first met and dated, and how they were married after only three months.  He spoke about their early life together, how we moved to the United States, and how he surprised her by signing her up to take her first college classes, ultimately resulting in her getting her associates degree from OCC, and her bachelors and masters degrees from SUNY Cortland.  She originally agreed to teach at the Hebrew Day School for one year, which then turned into 26 years.  He talked about how close she was to my son Mark, and how proud she was at his bar-mitzvah.  He ended by saying even near the end, she would hold his hand in the hospice, and clap along to music.

After the burial, we drove back to Canton for the Shiva—the traditional seven-day mourning period—that was held in the College’s Alumni House.  So many people from the College and the community came by to pay their respects that I couldn’t possibly list them all, many bringing food for the mourners.  So many others sent sympathy cards and posted their condolences on Facebook.  Our deepest thanks to everyone for lending us support in this trying time. 

Some specific things we’ll never forget include Prof. David Penepent and all the Funeral Services Administration students who came by to give their condolences; our Student Government officers and all the students who drew and signed the beautiful angel poster—we’ll always treasure it; and the many kindnesses extended by Michaela Young, Peggy Levato, Sue Law, and Sean Conklin in going so far out of their way to meet the needs of my family during the mourning period.

My family and I feel extremely blessed to have such wonderful family members, friends, colleagues, and students to lend us support.  We’ll always remember how you were there when we needed you.


Presidential Inauguration

Congratulations to Dr. Margaret Venable, a good friend, a fellow chemist, and one of the best people I know, on her inauguration as president of Dalton State College in Georgia.  I flew into Chattanooga on October 20 (and it’s not easy to get there from Canton—Ogdensburg to Albany, Albany to Atlanta, and finally Atlanta to Chattanooga), arriving at about 10:15 PM, getting a rental car, and then driving the 30 miles or so from the airport to Dalton.  Dalton is a small city of 33,000 residents, and the hotel wasn’t hard to find as it was alongside the college.

The next morning, I drove onto campus and went to the administration building, hoping to be able to have a few minutes to chat with Margaret before the festivities began.  Fortunately, she was free and we were able to talk over old times—Margaret had been an ACE Fellow on the SPSU campus several years earlier, with President Lisa Rossbacher and me acting as her mentors.


The inauguration ceremony was preceded by a nice luncheon, where I ran into lots of Georgia friends, including Dr. Al Panu, another fellow chemist and ACE Fellow, who I learned was now the president at University of South Carolina—Beaufort.  Congratulations Al!

The inauguration itself was quite nice.  It had rained the previous day (good, because Dalton was experiencing a severe drought) and there was some concern it might rain again, but instead it was quite windy, which kept the temperature down—especially good since I was wearing my regalia.


There were the usual greetings and best wishes from various campus constituencies, and Margaret gave a very good speech.  And just like that, it was over and she was Dalton State’s first female president.  Congratulations Margaret!



In My Mind, I’m Going to Carolina

The next day, I drove from Dalton to Raleigh, NC for some alumni visits.  It’s a long ride, but the weather was good and the traffic was relatively light.  Since there are no good west-east roads in northern Georgia, the fastest way to go is to head southeast on I-75 until reaching the Atlanta beltway, then around on I-285, before heading northeast on I-85 through South Carolina and Charlotte.  I stopped for lunch at, you guessed it, an Indian restaurant there, and arrived in Cary, NC (a Raleigh suburb where we were staying) at about 4PM.

I was joined there by Director of Individual Giving Amanda Stopa and later by V.P. of Advancement Anne Sibley, whose flight in had suffered several breakdowns and delays.  While there, we had a very nice gathering of about 25 alumni who now live in North Carolina at the Tribeca Tavern in Cary, followed by several individual visits with alumni:  Louis Shaheen (’76), Lea-Ann Berst (’82), and Bill Blasko (’99), all of which went very well.

I left on the morning of October 25th, driving to Columbia, SC, where I was speaking at the Southeast Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).  On the way down, I stopped for lunch in Florence, SC, which I was pleased to find had an Indian restaurant that I quickly located and enjoyed.  The ride from there to Columbia is only a few hours, but when I got there, I was surprised to find that I hardly recognized the city at all.  I had been there for graduate school between 1976 and 1981, and had visited a few times since, but relatively recently, they had totally redeveloped the area where the Seaboard railroad station and tracks used to be.  It was now an area composed of upscale restaurants and clubs, several new hotels, and a new Alumni Center and Convention Center for the University of South Carolina.

The ACS meeting featured a symposium in honor of Dr. Jerome D. Odom, my research professor when I got my Ph.D., and I was delighted to have been invited to speak there.  Jerry and I got together for breakfast, and we then proceeded to the symposium where I was happy to see two other professors I had taken during my time at USC, Drs. Paul Ellis and Dan Reger, as well as several of Jerry’s other graduate students.  It was also wonderful to see Dr. Tom Moore, who had been a grad student in Jerry’s group at the same time I was there, and his wife Marcia.  Tom went on from grad school to teach at Lander College and then to become the president of the University of South Carolina—Upstate before retiring recently.  The symposium was a lot of fun, with lots of interesting chemistry and funny stories about when things had gone less than well in the lab.  After the symposium, we all went out to lunch where we joined Jerry’s wife Toni, who in a long convoluted way, I was responsible for his having met many years ago!


New York Frame of Mind

I left the lunch at about 2:00 PM, because I had to drive out to the airport, drop off the car, and catch the 4:15 PM flight to New York City, where I was attending SUNYCON, an annual SUNY conference that focuses on issues affecting higher education.  The flight actually got there a little early, but I quickly lost the time waiting in line for a taxi to take me into Manhattan.  The traffic was extra heavy the whole way, and I didn’t arrive in Greenwich Village until 7:45, where I was staying at Jill’s sister Ellen’s apartment.

The next morning (October 27th), I took the subway up to Times Square where SUNYCON was held and joined up with Doug Scheidt, Lenore VanderZee, Greg Kie, Lorrette Murray, and Travis Smith who were also there for the meeting.  The sessions were interesting with some good speakers (you can see the agenda here, and of course we ran into lots of people we know from around SUNY, including former acting president Joseph Hoffman.


After the sessions ended for the day, I walked crosstown in some miserable weather (fortunately, I had an umbrella) to join up with Megan Panek, the Director of Academic Advancement (Engineering) from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) for dinner.  WPI was my undergraduate college, and on the 40th anniversary of my graduation back in 1976, gave me their Goddard Professional Achievement Award.  Unfortunately, the WPI award ceremony had been back in June at their Alumni Reunion, which fell on the exact same day as SUNY Canton’s Alumni Reunion!  Needless to say I couldn’t attend theirs since I was at ours, and this was the first time we were able to meet up so they could give me the actual award—a very nice framed citation, and a very heavy obelisk made of green marble that has my name carved on one side and the award name on the other.


The conference ended on the 28th, and I took a taxi crosstown to meet two representatives of the Korean Consulate for lunch, Consul Hyun-joo Kim, and Director/Education Attache Yong Hak Lee.  As many of you will recall, Korean Consul Yunju Ko had visited our campus last year as part of our Excellence in Leadership series.  The talk he gave then was excellent and well-attended.  He contacted me a few weeks ago, asking if we could arrange for him and the Korean Consul-General, Gheewhan Kim, to come up and speak on campus again this year.  I told him we’d be delighted, but there was one small problem—I’d be in NYC at the time they’d be at Canton!  It turned out that was fine—Consul-General Kim gave a very good talk on campus, then drove back to NYC that evening, and we met at the Consulate the next afternoon after lunch!  The meetings went very well, and we’ll be signing some articulation agreements with several Korean universities in the near future, which will bring in some new students and provide some exchange opportunities for faculty.

After the meetings, I took the subway to Penn Station and caught the 4:20 train to Albany where I spend the night before flying up to Ogdensburg on the first morning flight.


Last Time’s Trivia Contest

Last time’s contest dealt with word that begin with the letter “O”.  Our fastest five responders with all five correct were Mary Rishe, Doug Scheidt, DianeMarie Collins, Jennifer McCluskey, and Patrick Hanss.  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 Megan Warren, Carmela Young, and Kevin Elliott. Here are the correct answers:

  1. President of the United States. Barack Obama.
  2. TV show where the host gave everyone a car. Oprah!
  3. Newspaper listing about someone who died.  Obituary.
  4. Japanese art of paper-folding.  Origami.
  5. Ancient Greek epic poem attributed to Homer—it’s the sequel to the Iliad. The Odyssey.



This Time’s Trivia Challenge

Continuing our trek through the alphabet, this issue’s challenge is about words that begin with the letter “P”.  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 since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them.

  1. Head of the Catholic Church.
  2. Flightless bird found in the Antarctic.
  3. Germany invaded this country in September 1939.
  4. Poet who wrote “The Raven”.
  5. Someone who does something exceptionally well, often at a young age.
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November 2, 2016


Volume 11, Issue 7–November 2, 2016


In Memorium

As many of you have heard, my mother Simona Szafran passed away last week, on October 23, 2016 at 3:00 AM Pacific Time in Las Vegas, Nevada.  This issue of the BLAB is dedicated to telling her life story, and we’ll return to the more usual contents next week.

She passed away at the Nathan Adelson Hospice, receiving wonderful care from my father and from the Hospice’s dedicated staff.  She died peacefully and without pain.  My father, Daniel, had been giving her loving 24-7 care for more than the past year, and had brought her back from death’s door more than once.  On October 23, her time to rejoin her parents came.

My mother was born on May 3, 1935, in Bucharest, Romania.  She was the oldest daughter of Bernard Dulzer, a well-known singer of Romanian folk songs (under his stage name of Bela Chitaristul—Bela the Guitarist) and Clara (Lupu) Dulzer.

My grandfather’s recording of Nunta Tiganeasca, a Romanian song

She is survived by her older brother, Reuven Avihai and her two younger sisters, Shulamit Ronen and Dina Rubin, as well as by husband Daniel, children Zvi and Drorit, and grandson Mark.

As a girl, Simona was an excellent student in many subjects, but she always especially loved languages.  It was an almost impossible time to be a student—she was four years old when World War II began.  Soon thereafter, King Carol II abdicated and the country came under the rule of Ion Antonescu and the anti-Semitic Iron Guard.  The family was caught up in the whirlwind of the Holocaust.  There was hardly any food, the family had to go into hiding at times, her father Bernard was forced to become a slave laborer (which he barely survived).  Her mother Clara kept the family together in a small unheated flat where they often had to subsist on soup and grain made from lobodiza, a local thistle/weed.

She attended the Tarbut School in Bucharest, which was where she learned Hebrew.  At the height of the war, the school had to go underground.  When the children wanted to quit school due to the hardships and danger, Clara would have none of it—she insisted that they keep studying.  When the children said “We may die tomorrow”, Clara said “Then you’ll die educated.”  Even in these most horrible of times, my mother told us of the goodness of strangers—while there were some who closed their eyes to the suffering of those around them, there was a also a family that hid them when things were at there worst, and there was a woman—a stranger—who bought her a winter coat when she saw her shivering in the winter cold.

After the war, she did well enough on an entrance exam to win a scholarship to the Chemical Technical High School in Bucharest, where her older brother Reuven had previously gone (Reuven went on to become a chemist as a profession).  When I first started studying chemistry many years later, my mother would sit down with me and tell me what she remembered from what she had learned so many years earlier, and what the various chemical terms and names were in Romanian.

The communists took over the Romanian government after the war, but a few years later, allowed Jews to leave the country.  Her family took the opportunity to emigrate to Israel in 1950.  Simona lived on a kibbutz for two years, and in 1953, while at a small party, met Daniel Szafran, my father.  Daniel was a Auschwitz survivor who had immigrated to Palestine after World War II, who had joined the underground army and fought in Israel’s War of Independence.  He asked her out on a date, but while she was reluctant since she knew Daniel would be leaving the country in a few months, she agreed.  After a whirlwind courtship, three months later on August 9, they were married.  They were the most loving couple ever, in a romance that lasted 63 years.


They went to Germany (where my father studied heavy machinery mechanics and his brother Nathan, also an Auschwitz survivor, was part of the American military occupation force) for two years.  When my mother got pregnant, they traveled by train and boat to Israel in the summer of 1955 to give birth to me.


My mother holding me, at 4 weeks old

Two years later, my sister Drorit was born in 1957.


L-R:  back:  My uncle Yosef Ronen, Daniel, my aunt Shulamit, Simona.  Front: my cousin Aviram, me, and standing, my sister Drorit.

In 1959, our family moved to Syracuse, NY so that my father could be together with his brother Nathan, who had settled there.

We lived in apartments on Clarendon Street and then on Judson Street in Syracuse before my parents bought the house they still own on Hazelwood Avenue, where we grew up.  Nathan lived two houses down with his family—my aunt Shirley and their two children Karen and Barry.  It was more like one big family—we literally did everything together, seeing each other multiple times every day.


Visiting New York City:  (L-R) Me, Drorit, my mother, and our cousin Charles Meltzer

As we grew up, Simona was primarily a mother and a housewife, but when I became a teenager, she returned to school, earning an Associates Degree from Onondaga Community College.  I remember quizzing her as she was taking a class in Botany and trying to memorize the various phyla and genera of plants.  After graduating, she continued her education, taking a bus from Syracuse to Cortland early each morning to take her classes, and taking the bus back in the afternoon so she could be back as we returned from school.  She earned her Bachelors Degree (cum laude) in Modern Languages from SUNY Cortland in 1969, and then her Masters Degree in Secondary Education from Cortland in 1971.  I remember how proud I was at each of her graduations.

Simona taught French in the Syracuse public schools at Blodgett Junior High School for a year, and then taught Hebrew at various schools for many years.  The longest tenure was at the Syracuse Hebrew Day School teaching 1st and 2nd grade, where she taught from 1975 to 2001, when she retired.  I remember visiting her beautifully decorated classroom dozens of times over the years, listening to her describe what she was doing in her classes and telling me how much she loved each and every one of her students.  Whenever I would visit Syracuse, I’d always run into several people who told me she was their teacher when they were little.  She leaves a legacy of more than 1000 students who adored her.

Over the years, Simona’s greatest pride came from seeing her children complete their educations and start their careers.  She was so proud when Drorit became a social worker and devoted her life to helping others.  When I completed my doctorate in 1981, she was certainly proud of the chemistry work I had done, but even prouder when I was able to pass the foreign language requirement in French on the first try, since languages were her forte, not mine.  She spoke English, Hebrew, Yiddish, German, Romanian, French, Spanish, and Russian, and could also understand Italian and some Polish.  When we were growing up, whenever my parents wanted to keep something private from us, all they had to do was speak in German or Yiddish. When I started to teach at colleges, earned tenure, and rose up the ranks and became a dean and then a vice president, we would always talk about teaching strategies and she would want to be sure that I was providing support for my faculty.

Simona’s only grandchild, my son Mark, was born in 1984.  She and my father came to Salem, NH to see us a few days after the birth.  From the minute she and Mark looked at each other, it was a mutual love at first sight.  Mark would always call her ‘my Mona’.


We always took our vacations together, going all over the U.S., Canada, and Israel on trips.





When Mark, who is developmentally challenged, was studying for his Bar Mitzvah, she helped teach him the Hebrew alphabet so that he could read the prayers.  I remember we were driving on vacation in Maine and Nova Scotia, with my parents in one car and us in the other, and Mark insisted on riding in their car.  It was Mona who taught him the blessings over the Torah on a single morning as were driving toward Halifax through the power of pure love.  When he successfully completed his Bar Mitzvah ceremony and realized he was finished, it was Mona that he immediately ran to first—to kiss and hug her.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the synagogue.


After retirement, my parents lived in Las Vegas during the winter months and Syracuse as the weather got warmer.  Each spring, they would drive from Las Vegas to Houston to see Drorit, then to Marietta, GA to see my family, and then to Syracuse to spend the summer with their friends.  Every October, they’d do the reverse drive.  When I became President at SUNY Canton, they came up from Syracuse to help me move in, planning to stay for two weeks.  They wound up staying until December, because they enjoyed it so much.  We bought a house together in Canton which had a wing for them with their own bedroom and bathroom.  They were in Canton for my inauguration.  When the post-inauguration party ended with me playing the guitar with three colleagues in a college band we had formed to play at Open House events, she came over after we finished, and said I had reminded her of her father when he played the guitar.

Simona loved to dance with my father.  Over the years, they would dance at every ceremony and event they were at.  When we went on a cruise together, they danced every night.  They were so good at it, people would stop their own dancing to watch them, and people all over the ship were talking about them.  At my inauguration, the local newspapers published a picture of them dancing together.  The plan was for my parents to spend the cold months in Las Vegas and the warm months in Canton and we did that for two years, but Simona’s health failed her then and she could no longer travel.


The hardest part about my mother’s decline was her almost total memory loss.  She could remember some of the past, but not what had happened even one minute earlier.  As memories faded, the last things she remembered were that she had been a teacher for a long time, her appreciation for languages and music, and her love for my father.  She would only let my father take care of her, but fortunately, she would often mistake me for him so she was willing to go places with me and to let me help her.  I flew out to Las Vegas to see her as the end approached.  I still could see the endless love between my parents as my father cared for her.  In a final blessing, she had some lucid moments during the visit when she told me (in Hebrew) how she had loved being a teacher.  We were even able to speak a little French to each other.

I will always remember her as the vibrant, loving, and brilliant woman she was, who gave me my love of chemistry, music, education, and teaching.  She’s reunited with her parents in heaven now, and I can see her listening and dancing while her father sings, waiting patiently and watching over us until it’s our time to join her.  Rest In Peace, Ima.



Last Time’s Trivia Contest

 Last time’s contest dealt with word that begin with the letter “O”.  Our fastest five responders with all five correct were Christina Lesyk, Mary Rishe, Doug Scheidt, DianeMarie Hollins, and Jennifer McCluskey.  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 Patrick Hanss, Megan Warren, Carmela Young, Robin Palm, and Kevin Elliott. Here are the correct answers:

    1. President of the United States.  Barack Obama
    2. TV show where the host gave everyone a car.  Oprah.
    3. Newspaper listing about someone who died.  Obituary.
    4. Japanese art of paper-folding.  Origami.
    5. Ancient Greek epic poem attributed to Homer—it’s the sequel to the Iliad.  The Odyssey.  



This Time’s Trivia Challenge


The trivia contest will return next week.

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