The Colgate Scene
May 2005

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Project Honcho rocket launch, April 1972

. . . We read with interest the article on the Colgate Physics Club and their recent venture into rocketry (Around the college, January 2005).

On April 29, 1972, at 2:32 p.m., the men and women of Honcho House (a.k.a. Brigham House) took part in the most memorable rocket launch in Colgate history. From the soccer field behind Starr Rink (where Tyler's Field is now located) the mighty rocket Hralptney-Narwhal, standing 7 feet tall, was sent high into the troposphere by the roar of its four solid-fuel engines. Aboard the rocket in his tiny capsule was the brave mousetronaut A-mudge. The principal engineers of the Honcho Rocket Program were Steven (Songbird) Nightingale '73 and Joseph (Dr. Wayne Balducci) Baldanza '72. These talented men constructed the rocket in the hallowed halls of Honcho House and transported the vehicle to the launchpad in the Molecular Charger of Dr. Larry (don't call me Bilvers) Silvers '72.

Providing ground support for the team were the late Milford (Milf) Phinney '72, John (Ooh Moo) Ansel '72, John (BoHo) Stoltzfus '73, Larry (the Beast) Volan, Alan (Aldo) VanArsdal '73, Donald (Sundance) King '73, Peter (Butch) Stassa '73 and Dr. Keith (Sinus) Sinusas '73. Providing launch-day advice on celestial navigation was Professor Anthony Aveni.

The rocket soared to great heights amidst the thunderous applause of scores of awestruck Colgate men and women. The trajectory took the rocket over the hospital and into the wooded area to the south of Trainer Hill. The ground crew searched feverishly for an hour in the woods until the capsule and its crew of one were located. Fortunately, the intrepid A-mudge was found alive and well and was returned safely to his sawdust-lined training quarters.

At the 25th reunion of the Class of '73 in June of 1998, several returning Honchos staged an anniversary launch. The Mini-Hralptney, an 18-inch replica of its ancestor, was successfully launched from Whitnall Field. There was less hoopla, but the memory of the pioneering 1972 launch brought some in attendance to tears.

We wish the current Physics Club much success and congratulate those who were inducted into the physics honor society. We are confident that upon learning of these earlier adventures in rocketry, they will have the humility to admit, as did Sir Isaac Newton, that they have stood on the shoulders of giants.

. . . Hurrah, hurrah, and a third hurrah! Your article in the most recent Colgate Scene (March 2005) is a thriller. You communicated the vitality and passion of a segment of the care-full teaching at the university: The Discourse of Democracy.

You give me cause to be hopeful for our cracked, angry, blindly competitive world. You are training students to think communally and to talk with the world in issue-solving dialogue. They can consider mutual survival in terms other than friend/enemy, black/white, good/bad, fear/dominate. This is on the road of "Heaven Help Us."

Please help the program you describe to infiltrate our political and religious institutions. I care, you care, and all the participants in the program care for A Brave New World. Cheers and Thanks!

. . . I find it astonishing that an alumnus would go to the effort and expense of bootlegging the alumni mailing list to launch a direct-mail campaign opposing the residential life changes. The glossy, oversized postcard shows a real flair for fear-mongering, raising the specter of "shuttered houses" marring the idyllic landscape.

Curious, I took a look at the "students and alumni 4 Colgate" (are any of us against Colgate?) website promoted in the mailing. The page heading is a call to battle (as in, let's go to war to protect our lifestyle?). A discussion board features posts from folks who seem to pine for the old glory days . . . of the 1940s and '50s! "Why can't Colgate return to the glory of 56 years ago?" someone asks.

That would be great, if graduates were going forth to live in the [segregated, male-dominated, Cold War-driven] world of 1950. In 1950, Colgate prepared men (most all of them white, I suspect) to be leaders in the second half of the 20th century. No doubt Colgate was a glorious place then, as it has been for the subsequent generations of students. The question, however, is not how to defend a former glory, but, rather, how to build a glorious community that educates young men and women for this century.

In a rapidly changing, globalized world, leaders need creativity, flexibility, and the ability to connect with people across cultures. What I experienced at Colgate (long after the "glory days" of 1949) was a social system that encouraged students to insulate themselves within tribal groupings of like-minded people from similar cultural and economic backgrounds.

Greek organizations may be great fun, and they may provide great connections for future advancement among their members. But they don't need to function as the political and social tail that wags the educational dog.

Rather than hanging on to past-century glory days, and rather than declaring battle to protect a memory, wouldn't it be refreshing if alumni committed our resources to helping Colgate become the best university it can be -- for the students of the third millennium?

. . . An infrequent visitor to Colgate, I thought I'd be prepared for the shock of seeing a drastically changed campus when I drove up on March 15. However, I was still caught by surprise when I drove up Route 12B past new housing and larger projects.

I've been a UBC carpenter since 1985 and it's our lifestyle as "journeymen" to seek union projects between cycles of employment. My trip to Colgate was not a nostalgic pilgrimage but a search for union carpenter work, like what I remember from Colgate days when Olin II and the first library expansion were built. Then, union craftsmen from companies like Murnane Inc. and Gaetano Construction built quality in while earning prevailing wages and benefits. Now it seems the rules have changed at Colgate, and bottom line considerations have blotted out the storied past.

My initial impression on that March Wednesday was that things were promising as I drove past multimillion-dollar projects. I pulled into the library construction parking lot, where I talked to a supervisor in a trailer emblazoned with Marx Galiber and Northeastern Construction Services signs. He said the library job was "between phases"; in other words, shut down and unmanned. He also said the Northeastern company was completely nonunion.

I went back by way of the residences to inquire there about framing work. At a large house commandeered as construction headquarters, there was a large Northeastern Construction sign. That, and the large number of Hispanic construction workers out back, made me feel that this was not going to be fruitful either. Well, well, the superintendent tells me that all of the work is subbed out to nonunion contractors. Which brings me to my point: since when did Colgate decide to forego union craftsmanship, and the middle-class wages and benefits that these projects bring? Has the "anything goes" mindset of affluent downstate communities infected the university, and has anybody noticed? Something's happening here and I don't like it.

Vice President for Administration Mark Spiro responds: The building environment at Colgate is indeed different from the one recalled by the Buhls. The largest capital project at Colgate prior to 2000 was about $13 million. Today, Colgate is concurrently building two projects of about $50 million each and another at $15 million. To manage these highly complex projects, Colgate uses large, experienced construction management firms rather than the general contractors recalled by the Buhls, a practice increasingly common in industry and higher education. Construction managers are responsible for construction management, quality assurance, safety, communication, project staging, and phasing (to reduce cost), and for obtaining the lowest possible prices through competitive bidding of subcontracts. Some qualified subcontractors are union shops and some are not. Colgate insists, however, on superior workmanship, and ensures this quality through ongoing, on-site inspections by its own staff of architects and engineers, design architects, design engineers, and independent testing laboratories. The construction management method of project delivery ensures that Colgate obtains the lowest possible construction prices while maintaining superior quality, in turn allowing the university to reinvest savings realized through competitive subcontractor bidding in the institution's core mission of teaching, scholarship, and public service.


Editor's note:In "The Public's Intellectual" (January 2005, People on the go), we reported that Ivar Berg '54 (Phi Delta Theta) was "proud of his fellow students' overwhelming vote (on his initiative) to do away with restrictive fraternity membership clauses against Jews and African Americans." A note from Ed Ross '50 pointing out that his house, Phi Kappa Tau, had no such discriminatory clauses revealed that clarification was in order. The Scene did not intend to imply that all fraternities maintained restrictive or descriminatory membership policies; several did not, and at various points in time some Colgate chapters whose national organizations maintained restrictive membership policies withdrew or foreited their affiliation, "going local" in order to open up their membership to all. According to University Archivist Carl Peterson, all Colgate fraternities were willing and even eager to drop restrictive clauses by the early or mid-1960s, but policies maintained by some national organizations kept the problem alive for some houses into the 1970s.

The Scene regrets any misunderstanding this may have caused.

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