The Colgate Scene
|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.||
. . . I noted with sadness the passing of Linden "Doc" Summers, and I shared my condolences in a recent letter to his wife, Betty. But I also want to share some of these same sentiments with readers of the Scene.
I first met Doc in 1972 when I was a graduate student in Colgate's counseling and higher education graduate program. He served as my primary professor and ended up supervising my thesis. He was at once the best and most demanding professor I have ever encountered, and he became, for me, a mentor and lifelong friend and colleague. He was also one of the most singularly intelligent persons I have ever met, and he coupled that native intelligence with a rare gift for teaching. Anybody who could teach me statistics to the point that I finally understood it has to be a great educator. His cluttered office in the basement of Lawrence Hall became my second home as the thesis progressed, and when it was done, he took as much pride in it as I did.
Later, Doc became the director of counseling and psychological services, and we interacted in the care of hundreds of students over his remaining years in that position. If he was a gifted teacher, he was an even more gifted counselor, and he took particular delight in helping the more junior members of his staff grow and develop. Doc had the ability to get clients to calm down, clear their heads of non-essential clutter (what an irony given the chaos of his office!) and work on the issues that would help them become healthier, happier and more fulfilled people. Whatever the crisis, when Doc was in the room, we all knew that we were in the presence of a true professional and things would get better.
The words "hidden agenda" were not part of Doc Summers' working vocabulary, and you never had to guess what he was thinking, because he would tell you! He could be very verbal (with an "interesting" vocabulary) and could lecture with facility, but he was also one of the few men I have known who was not intimidated by silence. He listened more intently than any person I have known before or since and often that thoughtful silence as he listened conveyed the true measure of his caring and compassion.
As I told Betty, it is hard for me to imagine Colgate without Linden Summers as part of the landscape. He was part of the true infrastructure (that Fred Busch wrote about in a recent novel) and he will be sorely missed by his friends, colleagues and the thousands of students he taught and counseled.
The reunion continues
. . . It's rare we have the good fortune to be in an environment where we can set aside crusty, old feelings and open ourselves to new life. Like Catskill mountain springs finding their way through a frozen tundra. Announcing the spring.
At reunion, a flood of emotion that's been pent up since the Vietnam war was the power for an exhilarating weekend. The backdrop was the Reunion weekend. The foreground was a documentary about the war and how it affected the community at Colgate. How it changed our attitudes. How it, in fact, changed our relationships and our lives altogether. The creators of the documentary are Robert Aberlin '66 and Lou Buttino '66, who also staged a panel discussion. Any support will help as they work to complete the film by next Memorial Day.
I was on the panel with three men who served and two others who, like me, did not. Many raw feelings from that time still remain. Many vets feel betrayed by the country and specifically by those who marched against the war while they were serving. They risked their lives because they were asked to. Saw their friends die. And then came home as outcasts who were shunned.
There were best friends who were ripped apart. Husbands and wives who could never be intimate again. And tears that were cried and many more that weren't.
The whole question of what is patriotism rises to the surface. You had American men and women split from one another. Some stood in support, some in opposition to the war effort. Most all of them thought they were patriotic. And they were all trying to bring the madness to an end. It has taken us 30 years to start to look at how we, who love the same country, can come in violent conflict over how to do what's right. What do we pledge allegiance to?
The context of a panel discussion and a memorial service for the 20 men from Colgate who died in the war gave us all an opportunity to look each other in the eye. And to realize that beyond all the rhetoric, and our attachment to our point of view, we all share a need for forgiveness.
Forgiveness for our arrogance. Forgiveness for our aggression. Forgiveness for our ignorance.
I was offered the opportunity to sing for this audience. This was one of the most challenging songwriting assignments I've ever taken on. How could I communicate heart to heart over this great divide?
. . . As an educational institution of higher learning Colgate should be able to learn from experience and use this experience to perform in a better way in the future. Will we do this? I hope so.
Our last five presidents have all wanted to change our alma mater and make it like another school. Upon arrival they have not understood how powerful an institution we are. From their experience they wanted to turn Colgate into something different and by doing so destroy Colgate's unique position and take away its competitive advantage.
Some of our presidents early in their term of office did not recognize Colgate for the outstanding school that it is. Others, including our last president, neither took the time nor had the mental capacity to appreciate and learn what a gem they were supposed to lead. One president in his first year in office applied to two other schools for a job. He should have been fired. Another one always wanted to be at Harvard. We should have sent him. We have hired intellectual snobs. What we need is someone who appreciates Colgate for what it is and wants to make it better and not someone who wants to change it.
In the selection process we should not be limited. We should be able to hire a leader, an administrator and someone with high moral and ethical standards. A nice and friendly human being with a sense of humor and a spouse who would be a credit to our college would also be a breath of fresh air. Limiting our choice to academia hurts our opportunity to acquire the best person for the job. Our outstanding faculty should have input of course, but to allow this unionized organization with their special interests at heart to set parameters or make the selection would be like having the teamsters select the president of General Motors.
Over the years the administration and faculty at Colgate have programmed the selection process. These changes have drastically restricted this process and by limiting our choice we have not acquired the best person for the job. Let's learn from our experience and not make the same mistake again. We don't need a person from the academic world unless he or she is the best person for the job.
. . . John Hubbard '72's presentation at our class dinner at reunion sparked a memory that remains prominent in my thoughts. He mentioned the strength of character, intellect and personality of classmate Patrick Neazer, who is blind. It reminded me of a day at Colgate I'll never forget.
It was my first week on campus. I was walking up Cardiac and saw Patrick. We introduced ourselves and continued uphill together. I asked if I could walk him to his destination. He accepted and told me that he was headed to his dorm (Andrews, if I remember correctly). As we walked, I came to the embarrassing realization that, since I was as new to campus as Patrick, I had no idea which dorm was Andrews. How presumptuous of me to assume that, since I could see, I'd be able to help him. When I told Patrick that I wasn't sure where his dorm was, he directed me to it -- all the while cheerful and happy, gracious and humble. What important lessons I learned that day. I'll never forget that gentle but powerful reminder, packaged in a gentle but powerful person.
To a coach
He led us out to practice in the morning dews and damps. He led us out on football fields on Saturday afternoons when people were there to watch us play the game. He was our leader, our general, our coach. He would fight for us and we for him. We were there a half century ago, when Colgate was an all-male institution. It was a different time. We played both ways then, offense and defense.
We were a good team. The only thing hallowed or sacred on a football field is a concept. The team. Nothing you can touch, not a player or a coach, but the obligation to one another. He taught us that.
Those days are gone. Yet the thought -- the spirit -- of our team, I like to think, still lingers over those fields down by the Chenango River. We players will always have our coach's image in our mind's eye. His walk, his talk, his nature and expressions. The backdrop is those fields. He is a man of great character and integrity. He set a fine example. It was a privilege to play for him. His name is Hal Lahar.
I was one of his players, one of his "boys." Many of us were at reunion in June, coach was there and it was great to see him again and have the opportunity to tell him how much he means to us. He is elderly now and I know that as we left campus to head home many of us were thinking about Hal Lahar.
Having just returned from reunion as a perennial, I would first like to thank those responsible for making the experience one that was truly memorable. Every event ran seamlessly and was well organized. Given the several thousand in attendance, pulling it all off was obviously no easy task.
Despite the fact that it was an "off" year for my class, the weekend was actually a lot of fun. Freed from the obligations of catching up with as many of my classmates as I could, I had the opportunity, and the pleasure, of meeting fellow alumni from as far back as the Class of 1936. I listened to stories about cows herded into the Chapel from a distinguished member of the Class of '61 and laughed with a '71 alum who described life on campus that was just a bit different from my own experience. I partied with some old friends from the Class of '91 and even made some new ones. I stood and cheered the Class of '51's tremendous monetary gift to Colgate at the awards luncheon and wondered aloud where I would be in life (hopefully) when my 50th reunion comes around. The Class of '76 had a great band, and the Class of '96 was well-represented. I meant to visit the '66 tent, to meet those who graduated in the year I was born, but never quite got the opportunity. I also had dinner one night with two current students who happened to be working in the dining hall, and they impressed me with their confidence, spirit, maturity and insight; qualities that I believe typify those who come out of our school.
I enjoyed talking with members of the other classes very much, and realized that I probably would not have done so, at least not as much, had it not been an off year for me. I also realized how much we all have in common, no matter the year we left -- the appreciation for Colgate's natural beauty, the camaraderie of our classmates, the relationships which blossomed, the fond, and perhaps sometimes not so fond, memories of going to class, going abroad or perhaps simply going downtown.
I unfortunately missed my tenth reunion several years back, as, on my way up at a rest stop, someone apparently needed my car more than I did. I regret not making it. However, I would recommend attending at least one reunion weekend as a perennial because of the unique opportunity to get to know other alumni it affords.
. . . As a public relations practitioner and educator, I understand the importance of a "good spin" on an unfortunate turn of events. I also understand the importance of telling the truth. The press release announcing the resignation of President Karelis falls short on both accounts.
The judgement of Dean Pinchin and John Golden that "Mr. Karelis is an educator of creativity and commitment" may be valid, but it begs the question as to what went wrong with the very brief tenure of the president. As every graduate and friend of the university is aware, the job of a college president is about forging relationships with the varied interests that comprise the Colgate community at large, and then being able to use these relationships to achieve organizational goals. Whatever his accomplishments of the past two years, the fact remains that the most important aspects of the Karelis presidency are left undone.
I am not privy to the political machinations of Colgate Hall, but I suspect that Mr. Karelis left for two reasons: his vision for educational reform met at loggerheads with the powerful interests of the faculty, and that he simply discovered that the life of a Colgate president was not to his liking. I credit President Karelis for at least having the insight to recognize his mistake in accepting the job at Colgate, and for moving on with his life.
I am not pleased, however, with the nature of the announcement concerning his decision. The press release raises more questions than it answers, and it leaves it to the gossip and rumor mill to fill in the blanks of what actually happened on the Hill.
Up in smoke
I have enjoyed reading the Scene since I graduated in 1976. The stories tend to focus on the achievements of alumni, the interesting and often altruistic careers that some choose and the sense of community. I can only think these stories help readers look towards the individuals described as role models.
When I opened the July Scene, I found these common themes. The July issue also typically includes stories about both graduation and reunion weekends and the pictures typically reveal bonds between friends and the joy of graduation. On page 5 there was just such a picture. The only face in the picture was that of an attractive young woman who was smiling gleefully while holding her torch in her right hand. All sounds good so far. But, shame, shame on whomever chose this picture. Why would that be? In her left hand, she was holding a lit cigar. I don't object to this woman making the decision to smoke a cigar; that is certainly her choice. Perhaps it is the one and only cigar she has ever smoked.
My objection is that the Scene chose this picture. I have no relatives or close friends who have smoked cigars or died from doing so; thus, I am not on a personal crusade. However, I don't think this picture should have been included. According to the American Cancer Society, smoking cigars is known to cause lip, tongue, mouth, esophagus and lung cancers, among others. I don't believe in this day and age that the staff would have chosen a picture with an individual taking a drag on a cigarette, regardless of how gleeful the look was on his/her face. As a faculty member at an educational institution much like Colgate, I know that colleges need to be sensitive to the image portrayed, particularly in such publications. What would a prospective student think? What would his/her parents think? What kind of role model does this picture portray?
I hope that the picture was chosen because of the gleeful look, but I ask those who select photographs for inclusion in the Scene to be more cognizant of the whole picture and the message being sent regardless of whether that message is intended or not.
. . . I am wondering if Colgate knows that Dr. Atanasoff, who is the father of the electronic computer, was born in Hamilton. His father went to Colgate. You will find a great deal of information about him on the Internet. I also have information about him. He was a very interesting individual.
. . . As a Colgate alumnus, I cannot pretend to be surprised at my alma mater's decision to cave into political correctness by dropping the "Red" from its former athletic nickname Red Raiders. This, of course, despite the facts (as noted in the New York Times article of August 16, 2001), that everybody agrees the original nickname only referred to the color of the football team's jerseys, and that the Indian mascots who inexplicably showed up on the sidelines for awhile have not been seen on the campus for over 30 years.
As I used to say to our new reporters when I was a business editor in New York many years ago, "Don't get hung up on the facts." Certainly the facts presented no problems to the Colgate committee that made this decision. Just because it was never intended that the Red Raiders have a Native American implication, that's no reason not to kill the nickname. Of course not.
Having said all the above, I confess I have to wonder as to why we are told that Native Americans find themselves demeaned, by the use of team names such as Indians, Braves and now even Warriors (a word that has nothing to do with them). Norwegians don't seem to be offended by the use of Vikings. Texans aren't smarting from the use of Cowboys, and nobody in Green Bay, to my knowledge, feels their heritage is trivialized by the Packers reference. And, at last report Americans of Irish descent were pretty proud of their Boston Celtics.
And, finally, I have yet to hear of any residents of Manhattan who are of Dutch descent demanding that the Knickerbockers change their name, because they find it offensive and an insult to their proud heritage.
Sports teams are given their names as tributes to the strength, speed and courage of those after whom they are titled. When did such an homage become an insult?
. . . It was a decision that should have been made 30 years ago. I agree but I think as far as being a "model" for schools on all levels, Colgate could have just as easily modeled a responsible mascot identity. Many years ago, along with the new name for the color of the Colgate uniform was the idea of a HooDoo. I was not around then (the name is still used for conditioning levels) but I always felt there was a mysticism attached to that name. Wouldn't it have been interesting to have a mascot that, rather than belittled the Native American traditions, actually paid homage to them. The shaman type mascot that was dignified (heaven forbid) might actually get people thinking while cheering. That could have been Colgate's legacy. I shall instead remember M.A. Rooney and the embarrassment our mascot brought to the campus and the years of limbo wondering who we were. Too bad.
A mother's view
. . . In 1995 when my younger son Nathan left Arizona for Colgate, our entire family was excited about the great opportunity that awaited him at this prestigious institution. Having known Duke Drake '41 for many years and being exposed to his enthusiasm for Colgate, my husband and I knew that our son was bound for an educational experience that would shape his future and prepare him for an enlightened and enriched life.
I must admit, however, that we were somewhat less enthusiastic about Duke's offer to write a letter of introduction to his old fraternity, Beta Theta Pi. Even out west in the small town of Wickenburg, we had heard about fraternities and viewed them with suspicion. The letter was mailed, though, and our son Nate was accepted into the house. I agonized over late night parties and failing grades and wondered how an average student would ever be able to keep up. I don't exactly recall when I began to notice a change in my son, but I became aware of an unusual bond growing between Nate and his newfound friends at Beta. Sometimes I would try to pry out details about parties, pledging and all sorts of the goings-on I imagined. Although he admitted to some drinking and rollicking good times, Nate also talked about guys who sat up all night helping him study for exams and friends who would invite him home for holidays and weekends. I began to relax, but only a little.
My son miraculously passed his classes and was thriving and growing in spite of the less-than-wholesome environment I envisioned. That was until the day the doctor called and told me that routine tests had revealed that my son had cancer.
I was on the next plane to New York, where I met Catie, Nate's Colgate sweetheart, and we sat down together in his room at the Beta House and told him the sad news. He asked if I would mind if he spent the evening alone with his brothers and I returned to my hotel exhausted and wondering about the relationship he had with these guys.
The following morning at seven, when I returned to Beta, I was met by the entire house of young men, who invited me to join them for breakfast. We shared a meal together, albeit with heavy hearts, and I knew I was truly among friends.
During the subsequent months, while Nate endured chemotherapy through the long hot Arizona summer, Beta brothers visited us and cheered us on. They also organized and chipped in for trips so that Nate could get away. Their genuine affection and concern for my son brings tears to my eyes even now, three years later.
Although Nate is no longer taking chemotherapy, and he and Catie have now returned to the East Coast, he is constantly being monitored by both scans and endless biopsies. By now you will not be surprised when I tell you his Beta brothers continue in their care for him -- staying in touch, still planning outings and much more. James, for example, is always available for drives to New York City, where he waits patiently during medical procedures.
Catie and Nate were married in Cape May in June and all but one (who was out of the country) of his Beta brothers from the Class of 1999 were on hand with girlfriends and even parents. I was struck anew by the extraordinary bonds that tie these young men. I would have thought with time their commitment would wane, but they are a family formed by their shared experiences, pledges and promises to be there for each other.
I write this because I realize that in recent years there have been some negative incidents that have prompted some at Colgate to suggest that the fraternity system should be relegated to the past. Lest we forget the purpose of these fraternal organizations, the traditions and values that they can and still do impart to our youth, I thought I should share these motherly thoughts of brotherly love.
. . . "It's dead, Jim. Again. We aren't on a regular schedule, and if and when we're on, it's only on the Internet. Helpful, eh?"
That's the main page of WRCU-FM on the Colgate webpage for all to see, worldwide. Meaning the transmitter is down and has been, and this isn't the first time. How depressing and embarrassing for Colgate.
I know that nothing is more irritating than a grumbly old alum saying "whal, it shore was differnt back when I waz there!" But it seems like that was the case when we put WRCU together in the late '50s. We only had little carrier current transmitters hooked into the power lines, but at least we were on the air every day without fail.
And the current programming as outlined on the web! The published WRCU Programming Philosophy sets the station up as just a toy for those who like alternative music. If you don't like it or play other types of music, "you will lose your show." The goal of a station should not simply be to get on the air new music that's not heard on commercial stations. There is a good reason why certain music may not appear on professional stations and that is because it doesn't have a wide enough appeal. You could make an equally strong argument saying that polkas and Spanish boleros aren't heard frequently on commercial stations either, so let's play them, too! The fact that alternative music producers send free CDs is simply not justification for playing them on the air.
If the station's purpose is to really expose students to the workings of the radio industry, its programming philosophy is extremely limiting. Just a few of the broadcasting items that don't seem to be covered are: how to read news, how to voice commercials, how to learn to use your voice, modulating properly, how to edit and produce audio spots and inserts, how to write and produce audio documentaries, how to understand all types of music, not just alternative, different radio formats and how to program them, how to sell advertising time, how to satisfy clients, how to handle and coordinate remote broadcasts, how to air and produce sporting events, how to cover live news events and other public affairs, how to promote a radio station, how to be a part of the community where the station is licensed, how to increase audiences, how to use contests to gain listeners, how to sound natural on the air, rather than stilted, how to make a station #1 in the market, etc. In short, how to be a broadcaster, not just someone in a basement spinning tunes they like.
I know from where I speak. After working at WRCU during my college years, I went on to be a DJ, announcer, programmer, producer, salesman, radio and TV station manager and owner. WRCU was an excellent start for me and for people like Bill Bigelow '60, Duane Dow '62, Jerry Eisenberg '58 and other WRCU alumni. But it sounds like the station has gotten way, way off the track since the "good ole days." The data on the CUTV and Colgate Maroon-News webpages seems to be much more to the professional point and it sounds like being part of those teams could give true practical experience that may be used as a career springboard. Isn't it time for WRCU to get it together and join the real world?
. . . I can easily understand Mr. Tryon's complaints, but I suspect that there are things he doesn't understand about our current circumstances. First, the principal reason that WRCU is no longer a "full-service" station is that, many years ago (though well after Mr. Tryon's time), the university decided that, rather than invest in training student announcers, it would have Colgate athletic events covered by a local professional station. That decision had far-reaching consequences, and even though student DJs still regularly ask for gigs as sports announcers, it's difficult, under the circumstances, for anyone to take the process seriously. Moreover, WRCU no longer has the funds to send sportscasters to many of the away games.
I'd also like to observe that alt rock is by no means the only kind of music that WRCU programs. We have a very healthy jazz department, and our "Nyte Flyte" shows (WRCU's euphemism for black-oriented programming) continue to be among the most popular things we offer. We also offer "World Music," the occasional talk show, and do what we can to support Colgate special events -- like broadcasting live the Harlem Renaissance Revue for all the folks who couldn't fit into the Edge that night, or conducting interviews with those visiting speakers willing to be interviewed. And AP news is daily made available for DJs to announce.
Mr. Tryon is correct that not many of our graduates would even consider a career in radio, these days, but I suspect that's at least in part because the radio industry no longer offers the same kind of opportunities it did a generation ago. Most contemporary radio stations use DJs as little more than announcers to introduce pre-programmed shows: their primary job is not to get too much in the way, to run promo give-aways and to provide at all times the audio equivalent of a smile. Sort of like the "greeters" at a Wal-Mart. Radio has changed a lot, and in no way that I can see for the better. These days you don't even need an FCC license to work in the studio -- and that's been true for at least a decade.
I'm sorry not to have had the chance to meet Mr. Tryon, and I -- like everyone involved with WRCU -- share his disappointment over that announcement on the station webpage (as of 16 July we've been back on the air for one week; this summer is the first time in memory that we will be attempting summer broadcasting). We'll be working this summer to put ourselves in a better place. In the meantime, I do appreciate his letter; perhaps the concern of a few genuinely interested alumni like Mr. Tryon might attract the attention of the administration, and bring to the station sufficient resources to make something more of WRCU. In fact, at this point there is (still casual) talk of moving the station into some of the space in the Coop being vacated by the bookstore. What opportunities that would provide us! I wasn't around when plans were made to move WRCU from its old quarters in the basement of K.E.D. to Drake Hall; that move was a near-disaster for us, and our space is now about a third smaller than what it was before. There isn't even access to drinking water for DJs on the air; there is only minimal ventilation, and there's no room large enough for more than four people to meet. Again, I'm happy to know there are still alumni who care about the station.
. . . I do not believe that Colgate can effectively compete for outstanding students from middle-class families. I am assuming that Colgate does not offer any merit-based aid and any amount of financial aid, based upon need, would be relatively minimal. I have seen some outstanding high school students opt for other colleges and universities without considering Colgate. Colgate boasts a diverse student body. Or is it really a case of playing both ends against the middle?
As I see it, there are probably many outstanding student/athletes at Colgate from what could be described as economically disadvantaged families. For student/athletes whose families could be classified as economically disadvantaged, and to whom you offer substantial financial need aid, these students have their place in the Colgate student body. I certainly applaud this approach for such deserving young men and women.
I wonder how many top athletes, kids with outstanding academic achievements and class leaders from middle-class families, contribute to the diversity of campus life?
Let's look at a prospective student from a middle-class family. He or she could be an outstanding athlete, a leader in school extracurricular/community affairs or a combination of these qualities. For this type of student, Colgate competes with institutions such as Harvard, Swarthmore, Boston College, Syracuse, Bentley, etc. Obviously these institutions are very competitive with Colgate and some may provide merit-based scholarships as well as athletic scholarships.
Colgate has many things going for it -- a beautiful campus, a strong faculty and an outstanding coaching staff. However, has the university given up on attracting the kind of student described above? I would very much like the university to reconsider its stand on merit-based financial aid.
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