The Colgate Scene
November 2005

The Colgate Scene welcomes letters from readers. We reserve the right to edit letters for brevity and clarity.
Letters may be sent to
Click here to submit a letter

Editor's note: John D. Hubbard '72 retired in June. He had returned to Colgate in 1979 as writer and photographer in the communications office. In 1994 he was named assistant director of communications and associate editor of the Colgate Scene, and in 1996 he took on the role of managing editor. In 2001 he was promoted to director of development communications in the institutional advancement office, where he served until his retirement.

. . . Having served as communications director and Scene editor from 1976 to 1980, I've kept in touch through reading the Scene, with special appreciation for the outstanding photography and writing of John Hubbard, whom I hired in 1978.

We haven't seen much of each other during the quarter-century since I migrated from Hamilton to Beantown, but I still had a sense of the place through his lens and his words. His unique right brain/left brain abilities made him one of the best higher education communicators in the country. I'm writing to acknowledge what an extraordinary gift his work was to Colgate in general and the Scene in particular.

I met John in 1978 at one those classic Colgate events -- a faculty-student-administrator broom hockey game. A red-bearded, Hemingwayesque character sat on a snowbank beside me and introduced himself. His looks led to later selection as the ubiquitous ice fisherman in Genesee Beer commercials, but his charm and gift of gab were immediately obvious. It was an unusual place for a job interview, but I knew we needed someone outstanding to succeed -- photographically and personally -- his talented predecessor, Al Tepper.

Among countless examples of John's journalistic excellence, the one in which I took the most personal delight (ink spilled on my behalf) was his Oneida Daily Dispatch column of July 10, 1984 titled "The Mad Monk is a loner no longer." Written a week after I tardily abandoned Irish bachelorhood, his account captured our professional and personal relationship, and the atmosphere of working at Colgate.

I haven't met many storytellers in Hubbard's league. Some of his unpublished gems would make a marvelous book about academe. One I'll never forget -- and thought of at every academic institution where I worked after Colgate -- was an account of a lengthy, contentious faculty meeting in which he assigned a different species of bird -- owl, eagle, woodpecker, et al. -- to each esteemed pedagogue who spoke, ruffling their characteristic feathers.

And who could forget his combination of joyful enthusiasm and soulful crooning of "Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be photogs" down the halls of the Ad Building?

Hubbard's been the North Star, anchor, and beacon whose loyalty to Colgate, understanding of its values, strengths and, of course, foibles, kept the reporting real.

If, as the poet said, the "eyes are the window to the soul," John's vision throughout his 26 years there opened a window to Colgate's soul, even for casual readers who perceived the warmth in his photography and scribbling that stemmed directly from his fascination with people of all sorts.

Sail on, Hubs. May the wind be to your back and may we may never lose touch with your perspective and focus on the world in Hamilton and beyond.

Paul Hennessy, Director of Publications, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Mass.

. . . There's no such thing, of course, as permanence. No mark on the wall that always holds. But certain people get to define a time: the way the men who built those gorgeous bar buildings in the late 1820s and early 1830s defined this space. East and West.

And John Hubbard was the eye of this college for a significant span of its history: its visual historian. No mean task. The eye through which generations will know a place in time -- its landscape and its people. Tony Aveni holding forth in the Coop; frail, Vivien Slater with a will that matches her beauty; Gary Urton on the cover of the Scene; Patty Caprio's gift for hospitality; Adonal Foyle in all his triumphs; the Japanese feel of a snowfall on Taylor Lake; a detail from the ironwork on Lawrence Hall. John made us, makes us, see ourselves.

A citizen of this place, I know his photographs, have listened to him capture a voice with perfect pitch, as he did so long ago when eulogizing his teacher, English professor John Hoben. I write to say thank you, for the love of a place and a time that shows, and to join the Colgate community in sending John very best wishes for the future.

. . . The July Scene sports column mentioned Brad Houston's retirement after 36 years with the athletic department. Let me share what he meant to me.

The first person I met as a freshman at Colgate was Brad Houston, Colgate's golf coach. I walked into his office to walk onto his team. His door was open that day and it has been open to me ever since.

"Coach" didn't make me a better golfer, but knowing him made me a better person. He did things you don't expect from an athletic coach. He fixed my flat tire faster than a NASCAR crew. He got me out of an unjust traffic ticket. He helped me get a job.

And what a fierce competitor. An outstanding college hockey player in his day, Coach may not have hit it as far as a bunch of college kids, but he had a short game that was unmatched.

If you were playing against him (for a milkshake) and he was just off the green, you expected him to hole the shot because he usually did. His putter was the biggest club in his bag. He's the golfer I would want to make a putt if my life depended on it. I can't tell you how many times I walked off the tee in a better position than him and walked off the green another hole behind. In my four years, I never won a milkshake from him -- nor a game against him on the squash court; I was one of his many victims during a four-plus-year undefeated streak between the walls.

He is the one person that I always go back to see. Even with short notice, Coach is always waiting for me on the first tee. A few years ago, in preparation for the NYS Mid-Am, which I was trying to qualify for, we played a practice round at Seven Oaks. I won that day. I had a few too many putts the following day in the qualifier, but my lone memory is how good that shake tasted after our round.

See you at the first tee, Coach.

. . .We know that many of you will be shocked to learn of the death of our dear friend Warren Clement Ramshaw on August 21, 2005 (Deaths, pg. 35). Warren died only 10 days after receiving the diagnosis of pancreatic and liver cancer. Even those who still live in Hamilton were taken by surprise, since only two weeks earlier he, in his usual way, was participating with joyful responsibility in community, church, and the arts. We were with Warren during his final days and would be glad to talk, if that would help you to process this surprising news.

Warren retired in 1992 as a professor of sociology and anthropology, one of the most effective of Colgate's faculty during the previous 30 years. There is rich testimony to how much he meant to this college in a book of letters, mostly from former students, presented to Warren by his department when he retired. The book also contains documents and pictures from his career here. The letters include memories of Warren's wife Molly, who died five years ago and shares a gravesite with Warren in the Colgate cemetery.

The family hopes that, when Case Library is re-opened, the book can be placed in the archives. Until then, we invite you to contact us if you want to spend a little time with Warren's retirement book, to which we have added the carefully saved letters that came in late. The book calls into memory this unique, energetic, dignified, dedicated, and caring person.

Top of page
Table of contents
<< Previous: Books and media