William OosteninkProfessor of Biology 1965-96
It has been an enormous pleasure to have had the opportunity to spend nearly all of a professional lifetime on this beautiful campus. Memories, too numerous to count, have their origin in my experiences here and handing my letter of resignation to Helen Payne, assistant to the dean of the faculty, was a very emotional experience. Let me assure you, joining the Colgate faculty gave me infinitely more pleasure than I'll derive from leaving it.
During my 31 years here I've often been asked what brought me to Colgate. In the mid-1960s, academic positions in the sciences, although not quite there for the taking, were also not all that difficult to find. It was not uncommon to actually have the luxury of being able to pick and choose. Late in the fall of 1964, I can recall sending out some 20 letters of inquiry which, within four months, produced three very attractive job offers. The last of these began to take form in February 1965, when Oran Stanley, then the senior botanist on the Colgate staff, called to invite me to Hamilton for an interview. I knew so little about this place at the time and must confess that having been born and raised in the great Midwest, I was not altogether certain I wanted employment in what I believed to be the arrogant East. To one with that mind set, even the name Colgate conjured up vaguely snooty images.
I arrived in Hamilton for my interview the day after what I was told was a typical 12-inch snowfall. A high pressure system had followed the snow and the day was clear and cold, the scene absolutely breathtaking. My first view of the campus was from the Broad Street side of Taylor Lake. Oran surely knew the effect this vista had had on campus visitors over the years and making sure that it was my first impression of the university could not have been an accident. The brilliant afternoon sunlight, the sparkling snow and the stately grandeur of what I first learned that day to call the "hill" is an image I have carried with me for more than 30 years. Such aesthetic moments often serve as springboards for major decisions and long before my campus visit was over
I am sure that I had subconsciously decided to come here if an offer were to be forthcoming.
Accepting that offer, when it came, set into motion an adventure which, in my heart of hearts, I wish would never really have to end. My years here have been wonderful years, challenging and fascinating. I've had the opportunity to work with some of the finest students and colleagues anyone could ever wish for. I've watched the institution grow and seen monumental changes in its nature. I've had the privilege of being chairman of my department and Colgate's first dean of freshmen, of directing the Colgate Family Summer Program and the IBM Summer Institute for Executives, of serving as university marshal for 25 years and of being the "voice of Colgate football." I was here when women were first admitted in the early 1970s, still the single most positive thing that has happened during my tenure. I saw the beginning and the end of the January Special Studies Program, watched enthusiasm for the General Education Program go up and down, witnessed what we as faculty call the proliferation of administrators, and alternately cheered and groaned at the changing fortunes of our much loved athletic teams. I've sat through countless interminable meetings, debated a number of important things and a much larger number of inconsequential things, griped about a lot of what was going on while loving every minute of it.
Thirty-one years ago I knew next to nothing about this institution. Today I cannot think of any place I would rather have spent those 31 years. I've felt an immense sense of pride and satisfaction in being a part of the Colgate family and will always be grateful for the legions of students, colleagues, alumni and friends who have contributed so much to my education. My thanks to all of you for allowing me to be a part of your lives.