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 president@canton.edu 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 bestvalueschools.com, 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 greatcollegedeals.net’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 bestdegreeprograms.org.


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 president@canton.edu 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 president@canton.edu 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.
Posted in Uncategorized

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

October 20, 2016


Volume 11, Issue 6–October 20, 20216


That Was the Week That Was

It’s been a busy past two weeks filled with lots of interesting activities.  I’ll try to hit some of the highlights here.

First up was going to temple for the Jewish High Holidays, namely Rosh HaShana (the New Year) on October 2-4 and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) on October 11-12.  There’s only one temple in St. Lawrence County, in Potsdam, and services there are always very nice.  Unlike most secular holidays, Jewish holidays always begin and end at sundown, so Yom Kippur began at sunset on the 11th and ended at sunset on the 12th.  On both, the services are extra-long, and include the blowing of the shofar (a ram’s horn) and on Yom Kippur, a full-day total fast, special prayers of repentance, and asking to be absolved of one’s sins.  If you’ve never heard a ram’s horn being blown, it’s quite a treat—there are various varieties of horn blasts, the last one being the tekiya g’dola (literally, “big blast”) where the person holds the note for as long as they possibly can without fainting.   There are several less known holidays after Yom Kippur too, so the complete High Holiday period lasts more than a month.


On Wednesday the 5th, SUNY Canton hosted our first Excellence in Leadership presentation of the year, featuring our own congresswoman, Elise Stefanik.  Congresswoman Stefanik has the distinction of being the youngest woman ever to be elected to congress, so she is certainly well qualified to speak about “Next Generation Leadership”—the importance of attracting younger people to government service.  The talk was quite uplifting, and audience had lots of questions and was quite appreciative.



The next Excellence in Leadership presentation was the very next day, and featured alumnus Rick Patri (’91), who spoke on his experiences as an entrepreneur.  Rick is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever talked to—he is full of ideas and is a very clear, out-of-the-box thinker.  He has a deep understanding of social media, and uses it extensively in his various businesses, the latest of which is Lucky Tackle Box—a subscription service for fishermen that sends you a box full of lures and baits every month.  His website has all kinds of how-to videos, a blog, and various support services.  Rick also talked to a business class earlier in the day.  There were a lot of interested students eager to follow his example of how to grow a business.

October 7th-9th was Family Weekend, featuring a range of very cool activities including a mind-reader, an a cappella choir, and a chance to stuff your own Pokemon.  The weather was pretty lousy with intermittent rain.  I was supposed to have driven down to the Flaming Leaves Festival in Lake Placid for an alumni event, but the weather kept the attendance down to only a hardy few, who were well served by our excellent Advancement staff.

On Monday, October 10th, we had a very well-attended Open House program down at the CARC Field House.  I got there a little before 9:00 AM and at first, I thought I had gotten the location wrong since I was almost the only person there.  The place quickly filled up and the Open House actually started at 9:30, with lots of tables set up for prospective students and their families to explore our various degree programs, student organizations, financial aid, athletics, and just about everything else at the College.  Our little band consisted of Dan Gagliardi (Mathematics, on bass and vocals), Rosemary Phillips (Legal Studies, on guitar and vocals) and me (on rhythm guitar and fortunately for the crowd, not on vocals).  We played our usual repertoire of songs and had a lot of fun doing it.  The program began at 10 with our mascot Roody pulling various people out of the audience to teach them some dance steps (ending with him dragging me in to do that too).  This was followed by Melissa Evans (Director of admissions) performing a crowd fashion adjustment, consisting of giveaways of SUNY Canton T-shirts and hats to people wearing other colleges’ logos (we can’t have that at an Open House, can we?), and a giveaway of a bag of goodies to the family who had come the shortest and the longest distance.  After that, I gave the welcome to everyone, and the program ended with the audience being dismissed by major to learn more about our programs.


Synagogue in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Finally, on Monday October 17, we hosted a very nice watercolor art exhibit by Prof. Jay Waronker from Kennesaw State University on Synagogues of Sub-Saharan Africa.  The talk he gave was very informative, talking about the architecture of these buildings, as well as what they were used for in the past during the colonial period or in the 1960’s, and what they are used for now.  The paintings are still up in the library for the next few days, so there’s still time to see them.

Each of the campus events takes an army of people to help set them up, advertise them, and work with the folks who come.  My deepest thanks to everyone who helped out—you’re all terrific.



Recent Activities on Diversity at SUNY Canton

SUNY Canton is a diverse college, and our credo is ‘Everyone is Welcome Here’.  It’s critically important that we respond to the needs and aspirations of our diverse community in a variety of ways.  We’ve already had several events on campus this semester, starting with the three vigils that took place the first week and including a student open forum, all sponsored by our Student Government and our Co-Chief Diversity Officers, Lashawanda Ingram and Bill Jones.  Many more events and discussions are planned during the rest of the year.

There were several interesting events on diversity that took place last week on October 13.  The first was a workshop titled Diversity Affairs: Building our Capacity for Greater Inclusion, which was offered to SUNY Canton faculty and staff.  The workshop was led by the Reverend Dr. Jamie Washington, one of the top national experts on this subject.  Dr. Washington, president of the Washington Consulting Group located in Baltimore, has worked with more than 300 organizations over his 30-year career.  The workshop was well attended, with about 50 people participating including me.


Dr. Washington talked about how to have productive conversations about diversity and how to recognize that we’re all complex combinations of different attributes—race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ability, etc.  Whenever we enter any room or conversation, our attributes come into the room with us and become part of the context of what happens next.  What’s important is that we also enter the room with an open mind, welcome all different perspectives (though welcoming does not necessarily mean we need to agree with those perspectives or change our own), provide a space where people feel free to share their thoughts without fear of retribution or being attacked, and even allow ourselves to have fun and laugh at ourselves.  He made the point that depending on what attribute we’re focusing on, we may be in the privileged group, or we may be in the non-privileged group.  The goal is to take steps to bring the two groups closer together in action and in understanding.  The workshop was very well received by the audience, and everyone enjoyed participating in several activities to raise awareness of various aspects of diversity.

Dr. Washington also presented a talk focusing on similar themes (Building Capacity for Leadership) for students and the general public that evening.  The audience was moderate in size but quite enthusiastic.  I’m glad I attended both events, and learned a lot.

Also taking place on October 13 was a four hour symposium titled Enough is Enough: Understanding the New College Anti-Sexual Assault Law and Building Partnerships, sponsored by Renewal House and the SUNY Canton University Police.  Renewal House is an organization in town that offers support to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence in St. Lawrence County.

There were three sessions at the symposium:

  • Understanding the Requirement in Education Law 129B “Enough is Enough”
  • Developing Community Collaborations, and
  • Understanding the Needs of LGBTQ+ Students and Students of Color.


The first and last sessions were led by Michelle Carroll, the Campus Coordinator for the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NYSCASA), and the second session by our own Amanda Rowley and Renewal House’s Campus Advocate, Angelica Soto.

The symposium was well attended by a mix of students, faculty and staff, all of our SUNY Canton University Police, and police from the Village of Canton and from SUNY Potsdam.

I’ve mentioned that we will be opening our Center for Diversities and Inclusion on campus soon.  At this point, we’re waiting for the furniture to arrive (it should be any time now), and then as soon as we can arrange it, we’ll have a grand opening.


Last Time’s Trivia Contest 

Last time’s contest dealt with word that begin with the letter “N”.  Our fastest five responders with all five correct were DianeMarie Collins, Patrick Massaro, Douglas Scheidt, Patricia Todd, and Christina Lesyk.Just come to my office on the 6th floor of MacArthur Hall to get your prizes—a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository.  Also getting all five were Carmela Young, Drorit Szafran, Kevin Elliott, Melinda Miller, Kelly Carter and Alan GabrielliHere are the correct answers:

  1. The Empire State. New York.
  2. Organization that holds most of the major car races.  NASCAR.
  3. Kind of energy or power produced from uranium.  Nuclear.
  4. Country in which the highest peaks of the Himalayas are found.  Nepal.
  5. Streaming service that provides movies and some television shows online.  Netflix.



This Time’s Trivia Challenge

Continuing our trek through the alphabet, this issue’s challenge is about words that begin with the letter “O”, several of the questions for which were contributed by Alan Gabrielli, who thinks my last two quizzes were too easy.  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. President of the United States.
  2. TV show where the host gave everyone a car.
  3. Newspaper listing about someone who died.
  4. Japanese art of paper-folding.
  5. Ancient Greek epic poem attributed to Homer—it’s the sequel to the Iliad.



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October 7, 2016


Volume 11, Issue 5–October 7, 20216


That Was the Week That Was

The end of last week was busy, but fun.  On Friday morning, after my usual weekly meeting to go over my schedule and answer questions from various people with the ever efficient Michaela, I hopped in the car and drove over to Clarkson University, where I was participating in a symposium on sustainability sponsored by the four Associated Colleges of the St. Lawrence Valley.  President Tony Collins provided a very tasty lunch at his house for Dr. Peter Bardaglio (the symposium’s keynote speaker), the sustainability officers from the four colleges in the St. Lawrence Valley, and me.  After eating and a nice conversation, we walked over to the student center. 


After an opening and welcome from the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, I was part of the Presidents Panel, which was moderated by North Country Public Radio’s David Summerstein.  I’ve met David before on several occasions, and very much enjoy his radio show (The Beat Authority, Fridays from 3-5 pm) which focuses on very cool worldwide dance music.  David asked us a number of questions about how we defined sustainability, how we were implementing it on our campuses, and what the challenges were in trying to change the culture so that there would be a greater awareness of issues related to sustainability.  The panel went very well, and I enjoyed participating.  Among the 100 or so people in the audience were several from SUNY Canton, as well several friends of mine from the community.

After saying a few hellos, I had to run back to the car to drive to Fairport NY (not far from Rochester, about 4 hours away), where I was attending the annual SUNY Association of Council Members and College Trustees meeting.  The weather was OK when I started, but it began to cloud up along the way, finally turning to a light rain about an hour before Fairport.  The first part of the trip was along Route 11 down to Syracuse, and the traffic was moving nicely.  When I got onto the Thruway, however, just outside Auburn, traffic stopped completely for a short while, and then only inched forward.  After about 20 minutes I got to the cause of the delay—there had apparently been a traffic accident, and there were two crews moving the damaged vehicles onto trailers—and things were pretty much cleaned up by the time I got there.  Other than the rain, the rest of the trip was uneventful.  I got off the Thruway, passed a few shopping malls, and pulled into the hotel at about 6:30, just in time to check in and get to the dinner at 7:00. 

It’s a funny thing—I grew up in Syracuse, so you’d think I’d have been to the Rochester area lots of times, it being so nearby, but I’ve never stopped in the area before.  I’ve gone by Rochester on my way to other places many times, but I’ve never actually been in Rochester.

The conference was held at the Woodcliff Hotel and Spa, which is a very nice place.  It has beautiful grounds including a very large swimming pool, a beautiful interior, and my room was large and attractive.  The food at the dinner was very good, and I got the chance to renew acquaintance with several college council members and trustees who I’d met the year before.

There were several updates, talks, and tool-box sessions on Saturday, but the highlight was the ACT Scholarship Luncheon.  SUNY Canton student Francesco Palumbo was one of four statewide winners of the ACT Scholarship, and the four were an impressive bunch, all having excellent scholastic achievements and having plans to go on to do great things.  I sat at the same table as Francesco’s family, and there’s no question where he gets his friendly personality from—they are among the nicest people I’ve ever met.


The winners of the ACT Awards, joined by Marc Cohen (SUNY Student Representative to the Board of Regents, left).  Francesco Palumbo is on the right.


Francesco thanking the ACT after I introduced him

That evening, I took advantage of the area and went to a local Indian restaurant about 4 miles away.  I have to say that the “Deluxe Dinner for One” was magnificent—a mixed grill of tandoori chicken and shrimp, chicken tikka, and vegetables; a side dish of chicken curry; basmati rice; and naan.  A mango laasi drink was included, as was some kheer (rice pudding) for dessert.  I did my best, but couldn’t finish it all!

The conference concluded on Sunday morning with a session on the Educational Opportunity Program and a business session.  I drove home, stopping in Syracuse for lunch.  What kind of restaurant?  An Indian restaurant, of course, just off of Electronics Parkway that had a nice buffet.  I was still well stuffed when I got back to Canton.



Great Stuff 

  • Did you know that one of SUNY Canton’s online degree programs was selected as #1 in the country? It’s true—our B.S. program in Emergency Management was selected as the best by the Emergency Management Degree Program Guide.  Several others of our online programs are also in the top ten in the country in their areas, and our online programs in general were rated in the top 50 in the country!


  • Back on September 15th, we had a ribbon cutting for the official open of our Financial Literacy Center. Located in Cook Hall, the Center offers several programs that should be of interest to students: free tax-preparation assistance, money management guidance, and loan repayment advice.  The Center is sponsored by Alesco Advisors, Prof. Daniel G. and Linda L. Fay, North Country Savings Bank, SeaComm Federal Credit Union, St. Lawrence Federal Credit Union, and the SUNY Canton College Foundation.



Art at SUNY Canton

We’re starting up an Art Exhibit series at SUNY Canton, hopefully to begin with about two exhibits a semester.  Our first exhibit will feature watercolors by Jay Waronker on the subject of Synagogues in Sub-Saharan Africa.  These synagogues are located in many countries, including Ethiopia, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.  Waronker, a Professor of Architecture at my previous campus of Southern Polytechnic State University, noted “Most people are inclined to look at Africa as this homogenous place, but there is tremendous diversity from country to country, synagogue to synagogue.”  You can read more about his work here.


Watercolor of synagogue in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

The exhibit and artist’s talk will begin at 6:00 PM on October 17 in the Southworth Library.  Refreshments will be served.  A similar exhibit and talk on Synagogues in India will be presented at Congregation Beth El in Potsdam on October 16 at 2:00 PM.



Articles Worth Considering

Each issue of the BLAB, I’ll try to include a link to an article that I’ve read recently that makes an interesting point that I think is worth considering.  If you have an opinion about the article, positive or negative, I’d love to hear it.

Here’s this week’s article, titled “How Humanities Can Change the World”, about how studying the humanities can help people avoid racism and anti-Semitism.  You can read it here.




Last Time’s Trivia Contest

Last time’s contest dealt with word that begin with the letter “M”.  Our fastest five responders with all five correct were Robert Snow, Stacia Dutton, DianeMarie Collins, Carmela Young, and my sister Drorit.  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 Suzanne Cotton and Julie Cruickshank. Here are the correct answers:

  1. Leader of the Three Stooges. Moe Howard.
  2. In the nursery rhyme, she became famous for sitting on a tuffet and being scared of a spider. Little Miss Muffet.
  3. She played Hannah Montana and “popularized” twerking. Miley Cyrus.
  4. He said “I will return” when evacuated from the Philippines during World War II; also the name of the administration building on this campus. Douglas MacArthur.
  5. Famous painting of a woman with a demure smile that hangs in the Louvre. Mona Lisa.



This Time’s Trivia Challenge

Continuing our trek through the alphabet, this issue’s challenge is about words that begin with the letter “N”. Everyone 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. The Empire State.
  2. Organization that holds most of the major car races.
  3. Kind of energy or power produced from uranium.
  4. Country in which the highest peaks of the Himalayas are found.
  5. Streaming service that provides movies and some television shows online.




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