The Colgate Scene
March 2004

Letters
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Remembering The Whale

. . . With the death of Mark Randall on February 2 (see Mark S. Randall, 1910-2004), Colgate lost one of the greatest coaches in the school's history of competitive intercollegiate sports. "The Whale," as he was affectionately called, came to Colgate as an outstanding swimming coach in 1945, though he never swam competitively himself. At Springfield College, he was a double All-American in soccer and lacrosse. In those days, coaching swimming often was assigned to the newest member of a physical education department, whatever his background. Thus Mark ended up a very successful high school swimming coach before going to Hamilton College in 1941. There, he beat Colgate swimmers coached by Colgate baseball legend "Eppie" Barnes for four years in a row. Possibly in self-defense, Colgate hired Mark in 1945. The Colgate team had gone winless the preceding season, and Mark failed to win a meet in his first season at the helm. He made a remarkable turnaround in his second season, producing a winning record. Thereafter, Mark's teams had consecutive winning seasons for the next eighteen years.

By 1951, Mark was also assigned to coach soccer, a sport in which he had personally excelled as an undergraduate. Once again, he inherited a losing team, but this time it took him three losing seasons before producing a winner. He had winning seasons during the next 11 years, with the exception of one year. The highlight of his soccer tenure was the heralded undefeated and untied team in 1960. His record during those 14 seasons was not as spectacular as his swimming record, but [was still] quite respectable.

To his troops, Mark was always much more than just a coach. He was also a very wise counselor and older brother, and as time went by, a father figure. His family became our family away from home. And long after Colgate, he remained in touch with many of us, ever eager to meet girlfriends and urge us to get married and raise families. When we did marry, The Whale was always one of the first to congratulate us, along with offering wise advice about married life. This personal touch was one of the secrets of his amazing success as a coach and a leader of young men. He inspired us to give our all not just for Colgate, but for ourselves and for The Whale, although Mark never asked anything for himself. His warm personal touch also helps to explain why every class celebrating its 50th reunion between 1949 and 1953 has demanded that Mark address them. He was a hero to each entire class, and not just his former athletes.

The Colgate community has not only lost a legendary coach, but a formidable educator and a remarkable human being, a giant among men. It seems inconceivable to me that Colgate would not name something on campus in his honor. How about renaming the swimming complex the Lineberry-Randall Natatorium? This would be most fitting since Mark was a lynchpin in getting that complex built and helped personally to design the pools. Long after retirement, he continued to use the pool to teach conditioning to the senior citizens of Hamilton, and up to the age of 91, Mark was a great inspiration to his elderly students. His loyal charges from years past will miss him deeply and forever cherish his memory.

A visit to Auschwitz and the lessons learned there

. . . As a supplement to [the] lead article in the January '04 issue of the Scene, I would like to recall my visit to Auschwitz and Birkenau with the Geneva Study Group this past September. Though I have not visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, my six-hour experience of the camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau had an overwhelming impact on me. And although we did not interact with any survivors, bearing witness to the enormity of the complex -- especially at Birkenau -- the showers, the ovens, the execution walls, the hallways upon hallways of photographs, the hair, the glasses, the shoes, the barbed wire, the "beds," and the dead-end railroad tracks shook our group to somber wide-eyed silence while we were led by a patient guide through the Nazis' acres of genocide, deception, deprivation, and starvation.

The fields of barracks, the toilet halls, and the piles and piles of confiscated personal items were, many times, on a scale so large that the emotional weight reached a point of "unbelievable" that ceased to resonate. Overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted, we walked through the barracks, along the tracks, to the memorial, to the gas chambers, until we reached the "sauna" after six hours.

There, we were reintroduced with fragments of reality: photos that had been taken from the suitcases of the Jews, gypsies, and other Nazi-classified outcasts of Europe that had been shipped into this remote area of Poland. The same faces we had seen lining the hallways of the buildings at Auschwitz -- decrepit, decaying, desperate -- were now before us again with their families and friends.

These were the mementos that the victims had taken before they became faces behind thin cotton jumpsuits. Showing smiles on their faces were men in business suits, husbands and wives in their family gardens; proud children in front of old homes; love in the eyes of wedding pictures; babies, children, and their adoring parents; family portraits of three and four generations. All these people were the ones we knew had died on this complex. From floor to ceiling the faces smiled at us, reminding me that these were people in a real world, and that this place most certainly existed and undid the work of millions of hardworking, loving, real people in the most gruesome and definitive way.

Behind these photographs was the most profound moment of the visit for me. Even more than peering into the ovens and standing beneath the sprinklers in the gas chambers, I stood staring at a cart on two train tracks with my thoughts racing and emotions brewing to their height. Staring there, I saw what all of these lives were reduced to. All the efforts of families, all the work, all the schooling, all the love, their struggles and successes, their homes and businesses, their existence, were reduced to these carts. The carts were like human ashtrays, carting the final remains of millions away, a complete waste and exhaustion of life.

Gripped by the fact that their lives were tormented and brutally ended with this cart as the final step gave me an appreciation of what life actually is that will stay with me forever, tied indefinitely to the vivid memories of walking miles through the camps while part of a Colgate study group.

Proposes minimum number of Greek-letter chapters

. . . In the November issue of the Scene, Scott Meiklejohn '77 made an excellent argument for giving President [Rebecca] Chopp our trust in implementing the new residential education plan for Colgate. However, Dean [Adam] Weinberg's recent decision to permanently withdraw recognition of Kappa Delta Rho fraternity calls into question whether that trust might be misplaced.

Even assuming all the allegations against the fraternity are true, why was the punishment extended beyond the individuals involved? Destroying the existence of the fraternity also punishes alumni and denies future students the opportunity of joining the KDR brotherhood. I find it ironic that the expressed goals for the New Vision for Residential Education describe my residential experience as a brother of Kappa Delta Rho fraternity. It is interesting that the university is striving to achieve a goal that existed 35 years ago. I understand that times are very different now. But the growing process of living with others, learning self-discipline, striving for goals, and keeping your sense of humor is not different.

If President Chopp means what she says about including Greek-letter houses in the new community, why not commit the university to maintaining a minimum number of chapters within the residential system? One of the benefits of university ownership could be that if a house loses its status for whatever reason, another within the Greek system could replace that chapter. If that promise were kept, it would make the administration's assertion of its commitment to inclusiveness and diversity more believable.

Go, Raiders!

. . . In regard to the football letters in the January Scene, I have a few observations.

The 2003 Colgate football team seems to have inspired all levels of the Colgate family -- the players, their families, students, and alumni. I had the pleasure of seeing four games this season (one at Lafayette and three on television). From cheering, [lively] crowds to shirtless students in the snow on TV, it was a great ride!

In observance of Colgate's [first] 100 years of football, the university published A Roar From the Valley in 1990. The book's last two sentences certainly have meaning for the 2003 team and undoubtedly for the future: "Colgate, not just resigned to the long odds, but expecting them -- indeed, relishing them and using the size of the daunting task ahead as an emotional catalyst -- strides on confidently into the future. Colgate, the willing underdog is ready -- make that eager -- to play the game."

With this background in mind, I would ask Tom Vincent '53 to enjoy the success and let Penn and the Ivies solve their own problems.

Having been an undergraduate in the mid-1950s I can only say, "well done" to Fran Angeline's fine tribute to Coach Hal Lahar.

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