The Colgate Scene
November 2001

The Colgate Scene invites responsible letters, addressed to the editor, regarding any subject that may be considered of interest to the Colgate community. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.
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Drop Raider, too

. . . This elder alumnus regards the recent action of dropping the "Red" from our nickname Red Raiders as an appalling sop to political correctness.

It's the worst news I've had since Hillary became my senator.

In this endeavor to become kinder and gentler, why in the world wasn't the Raider connotation also dropped?

A raider is one who conducts or takes part in a hostile or predatory incursion.

Why didn't the Board of Trustees et al. decree that our athletic groups be known as Colgate -- and, please, not the abbreviated Gate -- teams?

Hitting home

. . . The tragedy hit home today, when I was looking at the USA Today list of victims, and there on the United Flight from Newark to San Francisco was Edward Felt '81. I immediately called Darren Suprina '80, who was a witness to the entire affair at the WTC from his commuter bus that thankfully ran 15 minutes behind schedule for one of the few times this year. After I got home, I called Sandra Valdez Felt '81 to confirm my worst fears. I had talked to Ed sporadically over the last few years, even though he lived less than 45 minutes away. We were in different circles, although it hadn't always been that way. Ed didn't seek success, but it sure found him. After earning his masters at Cornell, Ed joined Bell Labs and, through a long and winding path, ended up a founding member of BEA Systems. Ed was one of their top technical people, reaching the esteemed position of technical director.

Never one for the rigors of upper management, I enjoyed listening to Ed earlier this year when he told me that he was really enjoying the freedom to work whenever and wherever he wanted. He talked about frequent trips to Northern California, where BEA is headquartered in San Jose. He had recently moved into a really nice home, with his wife Sandy and their two girls. But you know Ed; money wasn't that important to him. I remember how hard Ed worked and how supportive he always was of everyone who ever met him. You never saw Ed get angry or lose his temper. I remember spending one holiday at his parents' home in Clinton (where his father had been the mayor over the years) while we were undergrads.

If nothing else, the memory of Ed will be with me always.

With fondest regards to Sandy and the girls, I hope I speak for the entire Colgate community, when I say our prayers are with you.

Presidential search

. . . I wanted to express my feelings re: the search for our next president.

Our trustees, faculty and students have never had such an important decision to make. Our recently resigned president was clearly a human resource error -- probably on both sides. It really doesn't matter. This error clearly places unbelievable pressure on the selection committee. A second error of this magnitude will be a blot on Colgate we will never outlive.

I believe that the search for our next president gives our school the unique opportunity to make a statement about what Colgate is, and what Colgate wants to become, to our student body and faculty, administrators, our future students and to the extended Colgate and academic constituencies.

A lot has been said about our school seeking diversity; about a need to break the image/reality of Colgate being a school for white, homogeneous, East Coast, upper class, male and prep school-trained students.

I would like to offer that the selection of a nationally recognized woman or minority, or both, as our next president would be perceived as a major commitment from Colgate to literally support its rhetoric. It will help us attract the students we have done such a poor job attracting, positively influence the existing student body and immeasurably help both the admission and fundraising efforts of our volunteers.

If Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Dole weren't currently employed, would the selection committee determine their interest? Are we thinking outside the Colgate box?

Can we reach out to a candidate who will immediately add prestige to our university? Someone with extensive university, college, not-for-profit or corporate chief executive experience? Someone who has a resume that will immediately elevate Colgate's image, not someone whose resume needs Colgate as the next logical step in their academic path forward. As with the reaction to the typical Mike Milbury '74/New York Islander top draft-pick -- we don't need a "Who?" I obviously don't believe, after the experience with President Karelis, we can afford to hire an individual who will have to grow into the job.

Let's be the best

. . . I just read the release which ranked Colgate number four among all colleges and universities based on our graduation rate for scholar-athletes in NCAA Division I. This is not new, as I know Colgate has been proud of its record for years, but this is the first time I've seen a ranking. It is interesting that we beat all the Ivies. This is an area where Colgate could gain the reputation as being the best in the nation. It would not take a larger endowment or more buildings. All we would need to do would be to set this up as a goal and then work toward the goal. It would take a group effort -- admission, coaches, faculty and administration -- but we could be number one in the country on a regular basis. We are also in pretty good company with the other schools on the list. What we have not done is to get the credit we are due.

End of an era

. . . I was sitting home with my wife and two children on Saturday, morning August 11, when the phone rang. I saw on the caller ID it was from a number in Hamilton and the name read Robert Nardi.

To some of us that name is synonymous with our youth and our coming of age in the late 1980s and early 1990s. To the students of today it is probably not even a distant memory.

Gone are the holiday or spring formals that were hosted by one fraternity or sorority at "Nardi's." Gone are the days when a yellow school bus would carry a load of partygoers the full two miles to Ran-dallsville to hear a great band or DJ.

I remember the fall of my sophomore year when I first went to Nardi's for a party. I met a local man named Bob Nardi (Mr. Nardi at the time). There was something special about this guy. I, being a 19-year-old Italian kid from New Jersey, was curious to see if the name Nardi was a misspelling, since we were in Randallsville, after all. Much to my surprise it was not. In fact, Mr. Nardi, who lived, had a business and was raising a family in Hamilton, was a Brooklyn-born-and-raised Italian American.

Bob Nardi's story was interesting. His mother sent him to live with a cousin on a farm upstate because he was falling into the "wrong crowd." Years later, he came to love the rural lifestyle and met a lovely young woman, got married and started a family.

To many, Nardi's represented a place far away from campus. I worked there from sophomore spring through graduation and I was always asked the question why I worked so far away. It's funny now to think that a place that was on the "Nardi's loop" (a phrase known by runners, it referred to running the back road past Nardi's up to 12B and returning down Broad Street) was considered so far off campus.

Bob Nardi definitely had a place in his heart for students. He was always there when you needed a place to host a party, or a good meal to impress a date. Many thought of the place as a local hangout, which it was a good part of the time. To many others, though, it was considered a home away from home. A place to get real food and be with real friends.

I was fortunate to work there and meet many Hamiltonians. When I go back to Colgate now, I usually see a few people from my year, but I can be sure to see many people with whom I'd spent time at Nardi's. These people range from musicians and professors, to the guys who drive the shuttle buses and work in the businesses, to the men and women of campus safety.

In working there for more than two years, I saw everything from a local wedding, where people came right from working the farms, to the "big buck" dinner where deer hunters would compete for the winning prize. It's funny how the same place could host a slew of formal dinner and dancing parties for many Colgate groups as well as the annual women's rugby team party (I was probably one of the only Colgate men to attend!).

Now the years have gone by and Nardi's is a piece of folklore for the Colgate community. The doors have been closed for many years and the taps have run dry, but it will live forever in our hearts and minds. Nardi's was not only a place to drink (sure, that happened occasionally), but a place with memories of lasting friendships and simpler times.

The call I received wasn't from Bob Nardi as I hoped. Instead, it was from his brother-in-law, who informed me that Bob had passed away. The news came like a hammer, closing a chapter in my life. For those who knew him, Bob Nardi was a great guy. One of the true good ones. Bob leaves his wife Pixie and two daughters -- Adrienne and Dana.

With this sad news, an era has passed. You will be missed, Bob Nardi, as you were loved by many. Your kindness and caring will be remembered.

In appreciation of Ben Rubinstein

. . . The Colgate community, and especially the members of the religious community and the Saperstein Center, lost a vigorous voice and a thoughtful and faithful supporter with the death on July 2 of Dr. Ben Rubinstein, the father of John Rubinstein '66 and an early member of the Society of Families.

Ben loved to tell the story of his three sons Lawrence, Peter and John, who attended, respectively, different and distinguished liberal arts colleges: Columbia, Amherst and Colgate. Ben reported on his original high hopes for both Lawrence and Peter to use their liberal arts studies as the springboard for specialization and entrance into their father's vocation, continuing on Ben's life work as a highly successful dentist with a large clientele. He was certain that Larry, the oldest, would be the first, eagerly to pursue his father's mantle; but alas, Larry became enraptured by religious studies and the practices of Judaism, and cast his future as a rabbi and counselor.

And so Ben turned to his second son to realize his hopes for a familial successor. But lo and behold, Peter, it turned out, was similarly captured by the excitement of the rabbinate; and, despite the unlikely odds against this fact, he too, to his father's bitter-sweet appreciation, became a practicing and highly renowned rabbi -- centrally involved in the recent restoration of the famous Central Synagogue of New York, of which he is the officiating rabbi.

Finally, hoping against hope, Ben's remaining secular aspirations rested with his last son John -- the student entering with the class of 1966, who, too, became interested in Jewish studies at Colgate. But while such studies were of central concern for John, as was his early devotion, with his father, to the prospects of a Colgate Jewish center and a chair in Jewish studies, John, unlike his brothers, was yet captured by the prospects of a life in science; and so he went on to dental school, fulfilling thereby his father's fondest dream. He then served with his father in their offices in a happy 20 years of common service, with mutual confidence and professional respect.

In deep appreciation for Colgate's role in John's career, Ben gave the gift of a scarce and valuable Torah -- an ancient scroll of the law -- to the Colgate community -- the first such gift in its history, and the beginning basis for subsequent additions of value to Jewish life here. Moreover, when the call went out for support for a proposed chair in Jewish studies, Ben and John were early and generous contributors -- reminding the Colgate community that Ben was one of the first of many parents to recognize the need and to propose the feasibility of such a chair of studies at Colgate. Since then John's three children, Ben's grandchildren -- Jim '98, Jill '01 and Adam '04 -- have gone on to attend Colgate, making up a wonderful legacy from a great supporter of Colgate -- one whom we shall truly miss.

. . . Americans, since well before we became a distinct people, have been consistently engaged in contentious struggles. Possibly, this is true of all nations, but it is surely true of America. Sometimes the struggles have been international, but more often, they have been domestic ones in which one group of Americans sought to define the nation in a manner consistent with their values and inconsistent with those of another significant sector of Americans. As a people, we have frequently been divided over such issues as the role religion should play in our civic life, whether public morality ought to intrude into the lives of individuals, our relationship to other countries and various ethnicities, and the status of chattel slavery and, more generally, African Americans. Put more broadly, Americans have frequently disagreed over the particular moral features of our collective life. The most obvious example from contemporary American society, of course, is the on-going debate concerning a female's right to terminate her pregnancy. But this is not the only domestic cultural issue which divides Americans today.

Many other issues, however, are more difficult to recognize. In part, this is because those who have ready access to the major media outlets are often in agreement on fundamental cultural matters. But, as well, this results from Americans' desire to avoid intellectual strife over the issues that divide us. Thus, like with the problem of terrorism, we ignore the cultural issues that divide us hoping that they, too, will go away.

One of these cultural issues that most Americans hope will go away divides Colgate. In a certain sense, the division also reflects the desire of a significant minority of the faculty and their colleagues in the administration to transform Colgate so that the college's students will look and act more like them. Our students recognize this divide (even if they don't understand its motivation), but influential members of the faculty and administration would prefer that the alumni not be made clearly aware of their goals or the choices now confronting the university. Mind you, not all of the faculty committed to transforming Colgate agree with this; some would prefer an honest and open debate. Unfortunately, however, they appear to be a minority.

But the alumni should be provided with a better understanding of the faculty's long-range plans. They should be furnished, as well, with a range of perspectives on the current situation at Colgate. Those in support of sought-after changes and those opposed should be asked to present their cases. And, then, the Alumni Corporation and the Board of Trustees, not the faculty or the administration, should be allowed to choose the direction that Colgate will follow in the years ahead.

With the hope of beginning such a debate, I would like to outline briefly my understanding of the cultural issue (one of many) that divides America and alienates Colgate's students from its otherwise talented and dedicated faculty. This particular division has many facets, but its core rests on a disagreement concerning the proper expression of masculinity. The contemporary liberal arts college, many of which are beginning to lose male enrollment, is the preferred laboratory for this experiment in the redefinition, if not the elimination, of masculinity. Thus, at Colgate, almost every expression of masculinity, particularly adolescent varieties, is being slowly but consistently challenged. Over the past couple of years, we have seen a persistent campaign against fraternities, the consumption of alcohol, ambiguous heterosexual encounters and any display of overt masculinity, on or off campus. Of course, these are only the first stages of this campaign to transform Colgate's students, both male and female, into students different from those we have taught and continue to teach today. Still to come are additional changes, such as the criteria of admittance so that a different kind of student will populate Colgate, and the slow, indirect and subtle weakening of Division I athletics so that little support will remain for its continuance, and most especially, for those sports that members of the faculty view as promoting controlled masculine aggression. These and a host of other less obvious changes will re-create Colgate and make the campus culture far less masculine.

By this, I don't mean to suggest that Colgate's administration should be unconcerned with the excesses that ordinarily attend young men living together. Indeed, the proper management of groups of young men is necessarily difficult and demands restraint and frequent punishment. But there is a difference between the necessary shaping of mature masculinity and its diminishment. Nor do I mean to suggest that this is a wholly new problem. Certainly, given the particular character of most academics, this is a problem as old as the university. (Indeed, the violent histories of university life in both Europe and colonial America bear this out.) But times have changed, and the faculty's goals are today, among elites, culturally normative, and the economic costs of youthful male excess continue to rise. As well, though, the gender composition of the faculty and administration has changed and, as feminist intellectuals are right to point out, gender does matter (though, they are often displeased when others who don't share their cultural agenda recognize this as well). When these changes are added to those that have occurred most recently on the Colgate campus, one can understand why the dominant faculty is more aggressively pursuing its goals.

What I am suggesting is that the commitment of the active members of the faculty to transform Colgate in the ways described above (and in two other pieces which I would be happy to e-mail to any reader) should be recognized and that, in lieu of a stealth campaign of change, a debate should be initiated involving faculty, students, alumni and the Board of Trustees. Only then, after careful consideration of how the proposed changes are likely to affect, in particular economically, a college like Colgate with its clear and distinct "signature," a college that been so successful at being itself, should a decision be made.

My initial commitment is clear: it is not to a different student body and alumni, but to the men and women of Colgate whom I have come to know and admire. Most especially, I take this stand inspired by the bravery of those authentic American heroes on United Flight #93, like Thomas Burnett Jr., who chose to die as men in the woodlands of Pennsylvania. With such men in mind, I hope the alumni, the students and the Board of Trustees will resist the siren call of the faculty and will keep Colgate on a steady course in which its unique personality is preserved, as is its ability to mold men who someday may be called on to follow the path of those who gave their lives so that others could live. We are, apparently, a nation that is not yet able to minimize the need for men, including those not in uniform, to act in manly ways.

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