The Colgate Scene ON-LINE


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A coaching legend
In his senior year at Colgate, wrestler Tom Robertson ’56, who had helped organize the univer-sity’s wrestling program, lost only one of 31 matches. Still a winner after all these years, Robertson was presented with a lifetime service award from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma last June.

After graduating from Colgate, Robertson coached for two years at Deposit (NY) and then created the wrestling program at Sidney (NY), where he also taught social studies.

Robertson remained the team’s only coach for 36 years — a career that included six unbeaten teams, the most wrestling victories in New York State Section IV history, the second-most wins in New York state, and among the most nationwide. Nine individual state titles were clinched by his wrestlers and the Sidney team were state champs twice. He received the honors of State Coach of the Year (1967), Section IV Coach of the Year (1975) and District National Coach of the Year (1983 and 1988).

Co-author of Illustrated Guide to the Takedown in Wrestling, Robertson was Section IV wrestling chairman for 32 years and vice chairman of the state wrestling committee for 20 years.

Robertson, who retired in 1994, was presented with the wrestling hall honors alongside three other former New York coaches at a special banquet at Drumlins Country Club in Syracuse.

"When I was in ninth grade, a friend informed me that if you went out for wrestling, you were almost guaranteed of winning a letter, and that idea I liked," he told an interviewer in 1967. After a sophomore season record of 9-0-1, "I decided I liked wrestling pretty well." For hundreds of young wrestlers in Sidney, it’s a good thing Tom Robertson did. RAC

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Whisked to America
Ken Bader ’71 went to Albania to help a radio station and wound up helping an Albanian family make a new life for themselves. In July of 1993, Bader, a radio journalist, traveled to Tiranė, Albania, to give a leg up to Albania State Radio, the government radio network, as part of a United States Information Agency funded team. "We were there to educate them about the Western role of the press, and give technical advice as well." Devastated by nearly 50 years of Communist rule, Albania was in a wretched state and hotels were unavailable. The USIA arranged for Bader and another journalist to stay in the apartment of a local family, the Gjatas.

The Gjatas’ daughter, Emira, just 11 years old, spoke English more fluently than the translators assigned to the journalists. "We drafted her for those ten days, and she was so bright and precocious and funny she just stole my heart," said Bader. "We invited her to come to the United States on a tourist visa for three months." When Emira arrived in December Bader took her on a child’s dream trip — to Disney World. "It was quite an experience for a girl who had grown up in a wretchedly poor country to be whisked to America and to Disney.

"Almost on a lark, I decided to take her to some private schools in the area, thinking, who knew, maybe in a couple of years she could get back to America and go to school." At the very first school, Noble and Greenough in Dedham, MA, "the academic dean was so bowled over by Emira that on the spot he offered her a full scholarship for six years if we could get her here. It was a complete surprise."

Bader became Emira’s legal guardian. She lived with him during the school year, returning to Albania for the summer. In Emira’s ninth grade year, just as the infamous pyramid schemes collapsed in her homeland and the country fell into utter chaos, her parents won the Green Card Lottery, their ticket to a better life in the United States. Arriving in July of 1996, Emira’s parents, Ilir and Violeta, moved into Bader’s home for five months. Now on their feet, the family has an apartment of their own in Watertown, Mass.

Most of Bader’s radio career has had a global bent — he spent ten years with The Voice of America, then a few years with Monitor Radio. After a stint with WBUR in Boston, in November 1997 Bader returned to international radio as senior editor of The World, a daily global news magazine funded by WGBH, Public Radio International and the BBC.

"During the four years I was raising Emira, like any parent I was there to help her overcome the cultural barrriers," remarks Bader. He was also able to adopt a journalistic distance in observing her in a way that has informed his journalism. "My experience with Emira has helped my understanding of the issues and challenges that face people coming to the United States." RAC

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Birds of a feather
It isn’t easy being a wild animal keeper in the ornithology department at the famed Bronx Zoo. Consider Gigi Giacomara’s work with the Wreathed Hornbill, for instance.

Come nesting time, the male of this Asian species seals the female into a tree cavity with her egg, leaving only a small opening through which he feeds his mate and eventually the fledging.

During the internment, the male is "extremely aggressive," according to Giacomara ’80, who had to don a hard hat and protective goggles and arm herself with a police riot shield to enter the exhibit. During one foray inside, the male dive-bombed the keeper, hit the shield and knocked her backwards into the wall. A few scrapes and elevated heartbeat weren’t so bad compared to cuts about the face suffered by other keepers.

After a few months in the nest cavity, when the fledging is as large as the adults, the pair bust out and life takes on a relative calm. Giacomara has years of experience with raptors and other birds and recently completed her coursework on a masters in environmental studies before joining the zoo staff a year ago. Reports Gigi, Junior, with whom she is pictured, is easy to deal with but father still demands cautious respect. The old bird recently took the keeper’s hand in his vise-like bill and gave her a "pretty powerful squeeze." As Gigi Giacomara knows full well, they don’t call it wildlife for nothing. JH