The Colgate Scene ON-LINE


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In 1949 Bob Sheldon ’52 showed up in my child and adolescent psych course, part of a program designed for men who wanted to teach, coach and administer physical education programs.

Bob, who was superb raw material, went on to coach and teach and eventually became director of athletics at St. Lawrence. He married Jean and they raised two handsome sons and five beautiful daughters. I have always claimed that part of his fathering success was directly related to my course.

About 10 years after Sheldo graduated, the university acquired the Colgate family summer home on Upper Saranac Lake. There was a series of managers before we "discovered" Bob and Jean, and they have been wonderful hosts ever since — almost 40 years. Their imagination, skill and innate friendliness have made it possible for countless alumni, faculty and staff and their families to enjoy the Adirondacks — to sail, play golf and tennis, fish for perch, bass and pike and solve the problems of the universe. And to make lifelong friends with other campers.

Howard Jones ’39

Traditions — Bob’s workshop, where only he knows where everything is, the Sunday night cookouts, lobsters on Friday, haggling for handicaps, "Happy Hours," nights "out on the town," saunas at 4.

Memories — Bob with his fishing hat and gear and Jean, with paddles, propelling Bob’s prized Adirondack guide boat across Upper Saranac Lake.

Bob’s hole-in-one at the Saranac Inn Golf Course. He hit a five wood, the ball landed, then took one large bounce into the hole. In typical Sheldon style, he uttered, "Just an ordinary, easy shot."

With "eyes in the back of his head" Bob knew just about everything that was happening at camp — except for one evening in 1979. Setting up for "Happy Hour" he didn’t seem to notice only a few kids were around. Ten minutes later, his curiosity began to rise, for no one was around — nor was anyone to be seen for the next 15 minutes. Puzzled, he went searching, finally showing up in the boathouse, where all 60 of us, adults and kids, were flat on our backs, quiet (miraculously) as mice. It was the prelude to Bob’s unforgettable surprise 50th birthday party, sensationally orchestrated by Patty Donovan, wife of Bob’s classmate Duke Donovan ’52.

Each week at Colgate Camp has its own style, chemistry, activities, laughs and friendships. Yet, there is a strong common bond — and that is the Sheldons, led, for sure by Bob and Jean, but also including all the Sheldon kids who grew up at Colgate Camp and worked there. The Sheldo System normally applies to Bob’s golf handicapping system ("firm, but fair"), but it is also a proper description for the special style with which Bob and Jean made Colgate Camp work exceedingly well for all those years.

Bruce Holran ’56

I was surprised the first time I saw Coach Sheldon eat a Banana Flip. For one, I was pretty sure I’d never seen a snack cake this bright before. Nor would I have expected that anyone could enjoy a treat this unnatural. But Coach did — so much so that his eyes were pushed into a squint due to the sheer size of his grin.

Coach Sheldon knows a lot about life. Best of all, he isn’t afraid to share it. Rather than say that good things come around only once in awhile, I think Coach would say that good things come around all the time, but it’s up to us to appreciate them, even if they’re as simple as Banana Flips.

Katherine Wiley ’00, summer staff

We’ve been going to Colgate Camp for 21 consecutive years and have plenty of great memories, but here’s a few short shots.

Bob’s daily bath in the lake and the instructions to campers to "save water, don’t shower — get in the lake."

A very prompt happy hour presided over by the boss, his yells of "no kids in the circle!" and "get those kids out of the dining room!"

Bob’s talent for woodworking. He can usually be found fixing something, but never in a rush. And each summer there is always something new at camp.

Jean amazes us with her incredible memory for names of the hundreds of campers — where they live, work, medical complaints, their kids and all the latest news.

My husband’s only complaint was that he’s always wanted towel service, but Jean never gave in to that one. We do love the lobster bibs, though, and all the curtains made by Jean and Debby.

Janice and David Martin ’71

Colgate Camp is Bob and Jean Sheldon. From first greetings — for new campers or "repeaters" — the Sheldons created a genuine atmosphere that allowed everyone to relax for a true vacation in "the healing woods."

To both Bob and Jean, we say a sincere thank you for their many years of making Colgate Camp a truly special place for hundreds of alumni and their families. Our love and best wishes.

Betty and Bob Howard ’49

Bob and Jean Sheldon retiring as managers of Colgate Camp?

To most of us they are the camp! Nancy and I were camp guests in their first year as managers. That was so long ago!

Not only outstanding managers, Bob and Jean added all the extras. There is a congenial atmosphere among the campers, most of whom return year after year, and all the meals are memorable.

The camp has been physically improved each year because Bob and Jean do all the little things that are so important. Repairs and additions.

We will miss Top Dog and his "bride" but we are fortunate that daughter Sandy and son-in-law Greg Dreschall — a Colgate couple — will keep the Sheldo System running.

Hans Guenther ’42

At least 20 summers ago Bob Sheldon invited me to play golf as his partner versus Sam Molnar and Bill Fessinger, athletic directors at Potsdam and Clarkson, respectively, and longstanding rivals of Bob’s.

Before the match, I was admonished not to play "customer golf" — Bob didn’t care how badly we beat his friends. We came off the 7th green one down, and on the hike through the woods to the 8th tee Bob asked how long I had been coming to Colgate Camp and if I knew how weeks were allocated at camp. I told him that I thought faculty had first dibs, after that it was open to alumni and that Mary and I had come in through the backdoor about 12 years prior as guests of my sister and her husband Lou Garthman ’27. I told Bob we deeply appreciated the privilege of being allowed back.

"Actually, I decide who comes and when," responded Bob, "and if you and Mary want to come back again you had better get off your ass."

I won’t indulge in further boasting except to say that we have been to camp every year since and hope to be back this summer.

Ted Searle

I first went to Colgate Camp at the suggestion of Michael Fitzgerald ’68 and John Blackmore ’68. I had been in the Peace Corps in Turkey, lived in Singapore and then Germany and had had very little contact with Colgate after graduation day. I also had never been to the Adirondacks and camp, nor had I ever met Bob "Top Dog" Sheldon and his patient wife Jean.

My future wife Nancy and I immediately fell in love with camp and enjoyed the chance to meet alumni we would not ordinarily come in contact with. We attended camp every August and gradually worked our way, by dint of the mysterious Sheldon seniority system, from the dark of the woods to a cabin with a view of Saranac Lake and beautiful Whiteface Mountain. The mountain loomed even more attractive at the mandatory cocktail hour presided over by Sheldo himself. This was a place to totally forget my New York City world for a brief moment.

Like Colgate itself, Colgate Camp offers a wonderful tradition of fellowship and lasting friendship.

Bob McCord ’65

During Bob’s first summer at camp, we were all invited to St. Lawrence Camp for Happy Hour, which turned out to be an especially happy and late one. Mrs. Whitney was on the boathouse deck waiting as Bob, in the camp’s big boat, and Don Howard ’39, in a smaller craft, shuttled us to dinner.

As Bob made a return trip to St. Lawrence, he buzzed Don’s fully loaded motor boat, creating a large wake which rolled into the craft and sank it in about five feet of water. We were all gussied-up and furious — Bob’s term as manager nearly ended right there — but it sure was a funny scene and has been laughingly retold many times.

John D. LaBelle ’37

One summer at Colgate Camp, Bob was complaining about a stiff neck and how uncomfortable he was. I offered him a muscle relaxer and he decided to "relax" in his floating, blow-up chair in the lake. Before Bob or anyone else in the swim area realized it, Bob had drifted about a quarter of a mile down the lake, almost to the St. Lawrence Camp! The Post might have scooped it with the headline "SLU AD ODs!" We just had a good laugh about it.

Nancy and Rich Tobin ’69

Bob was a student at Oswego High School at the same time I was attending Auburn High and we played high school football, basketball and baseball against each other. When I was registering as a Colgate freshman, I spotted Bob in line and asked him if he wasn’t Sheldon from Oswego. He acknowledged that he was and asked me in turn if I wasn’t Leary from Auburn.

Since then, especially during the last 25 or more years at Colgate Camp, when the subject would come up I’ve had to listen to his "moaning and groaning" that Oswego always got "robbed" by the umpires and referees when the teams played in Auburn — which was the only reason, of course, that Auburn ever defeated Oswego on the athletic field. Oh well!

My family and I have enjoyed wonderful years at the camp and certainly regard Bob and Jean among our very closest friends. He’s truly the "Top Dog" with us.

Frank Leary ’52