DAVID BENIOFF, author of the 2012-13 Oswego Reading Initiative selection “City of Thieves” and co-creator of “Game of Thrones,” made a public appearance April 24 in SUNY Oswego’s Campus Center arena. He also met in the afternoon for a Q & A with students in the Creative Writing and English majors. Benioff wrote “City of Thieves,” a coming-of-age story that was mentioned in the New York Times as having “an ingenious plot,” based on events in St. Petersburg during World War II.
Golden Romney Field House reopened to limited spring practices as work wrapped up on a $2 million project to breathe new athletic life into the college’s former ice hockey home.
“It’s a transformation,” said Nicholas Lyons, vice president for administration and finance.
Men’s and women’s spring sports teams—from lacrosse to track and field, from baseball to softball—worked out on the state-of-the-art, dual-surface flooring, illuminated by new energy-efficient lighting.
The field house opened in 1963 as the first ice rink in the SUNY system, serving as the college’s ice hockey home for more than 40 years until the 2006-07 season.
Now, the Athletic Department points with pride to the Rekortan M99 synthetic track surface: four lanes of new 200-meter track over an elastic layer, plus outer-corner installations for the long-jump pit, the pole vault and more.
There is a smooth transition from the track to the FieldTurf infield, a surface designed for safety and endurance. The infield is marked off for four tennis courts and, with the addition of temporary lines, can be available for field events and lacrosse and soccer practices. From the ceiling hangs netting that can bisect the infield so that side-by-side practices can take place.
Then there’s the ceiling-mounted, electrically lowered baseball “cage,” a netted, tunnel-like structure, subdivided to accommodate batting practice and pitcher-catcher workouts at the same time.
It’s an amazing building. It’s really designed to be a state-of-the-art, multipurpose practice facility.
“Providing a top-notch practice facility for many different sports has been the central goal for the project,” Lyons said, in part because the track and the turf field are not regulation size and the field house is no longer intended for NCAA competition.
The impact of the Romney revitalization on Oswego’s ability to recruit Division III student-athletes for outdoor sports is significant. It’s all about curb appeal and feeling good about where you are spending your time.
Bob Lloyd ’81 M’89 of the college’s Facilities Design and Construction department is the Romney renovation project coordinator with general contractor Diamond & Thiel Construction Inc., working from the Clough Harbor Associates design. The campus has, for the money, unveiled a gem, he said.
“I think we got a lot of bang for our buck,” Lloyd said. “The place was really transformed into a nice, usable facility.”
—Jeff Rea ’71
Susan Viscomi is Oswego State director of athletics effective June 1. She comes with more than 30 years of intercollegiate athletics experience as a coach, associate athletic director and, most recently, as athletic director at Hilbert College in Hamburg, New York.
“I share Oswego’s vision for excellence and believe it’s important to develop student-athletes who strive for exemplary academic achievement, competitive success, and a commitment to serve the communities in which they live,” stated Viscomi.
Viscomi became Hilbert’s first female athletic director in July 2010. She served as the associate athletic director and senior woman administrator at Hamilton College for 13 years.
Before joining Hamilton’s staff, Viscomi was the Oswego State head women’s soccer coach for seven years, during which she was twice named State University of New York Athletic Conference Coach of the Year (1991, 1996). Her other collegiate experiences include a stint at Plattsburgh as an assistant professor of physical education, head women’s soccer coach and assistant coach of men’s and women’s track and field.
Viscomi has served in numerous capacities with the NCAA at the national, conference and institutional level since 1995. She has served as a member of the NCAA Championships and as chairperson and member of the NCAA Women’s Soccer Committee. She has also completed the NACWAA/HERS Institute for administrative advancement.
Viscomi earned her Master of Arts degree in Counseling from Colgate University and Bachelor of Science in Education degree in Physical Education from SUNY Cortland.
The Laker men’s basketball team registered wins over NCAA Sweet 16 participants, Morrisville and Ithaca, en route to posting an overall record of 19-8 and a conference record of 11-7 under second-year head coach Jason Leone. Oswego State earned the fourth seed in the SUNYAC Championship, where it defeated Brockport on its home court in the quarterfinals before falling to NCAA qualifier Cortland in the semifinal round.
Hayden Ward ’13 averaged 18.2 points and 9.6 rebounds to finish his career ranked ninth with 1,393 points and second with 892 rebounds. He was the only league player to average a double-double, becoming the third player in program history to be named the SUNYAC Player of the Year. It marked the first of several accolades Ward earned on the season, as he was later named ECAC Division III Upstate First Team, D3hoops.com East Region First Team, NABC First Team All-East District, NABC All-America Third Team, D3hoops.com All-America Second Team and DIII News All-America Fifth Team. Sean Michele ’12 was named Third Team All-SUNYAC after leading the conference in minutes played and was among the best point guards averaging 3.2 assists. Earlier in the season, Ward was named the Max Ziel Tournament MVP, while Daniel Ross ’14 was also named to the all-tournament team.
The Oswego State women’s basketball team and head coach Tracy Bruno opened the season by winning its first eight games, including the program’s first win over Rochester, before wrapping up the year at 18-9 overall. The Lakers posted an 11-7 conference record to qualify as the third seed, and hosted their first playoff game since 2006-07. In the SUNYAC quarterfinal, Oswego State defeated Cortland for the third time in the season after having handed the Red Dragons three losses in the previous 47 meetings.
Meagan Stover ’13 and Kari Kipper ’13 both received All-SUNYAC recognition, as Stover was named First Team and Kipper was named Third Team. Stover, who was also the Max Ziel Tournament MVP, paced Oswego State with 12.2 points per game and 68 total steals. The ECAC Division III Upstate Second Team selection became the first Laker to receive First Team all-conference honors since 2004-05. Kipper ranked second on the squad scoring 10.6 points per game, while shooting 86.4 percent from the free-throw line. Newcomer Evie Josbena ’13 started the season strong, as she was named to the Max Ziel All-Tournament Team.
Men’s Ice Hockey
The Laker men’s ice hockey team and head coach Ed Gosek ’83 M ’01 posted one of the most memorable seasons in its storied history. Oswego State finished league play at 14-2-0 to earn the No. 1 seed before capturing its ninth SUNYAC Championship after blanking Plattsburgh, 4-0, to claim its fourth-straight NCAA bid.
The Lakers extended their season following a 3-2 overtime win over Adrian in the NCAA quarterfinal round to punch a ticket to the Frozen Four for an unprecedented fourth straight year. Oswego State knocked off Norwich, 6-3, in the NCAA semifinal before falling to Wisconsin-Eau Claire in the championship game to finish the season at 25-5-0 and cap off one of the most successful four-year stretches with a record of 98-17-2.
The season’s success brought accolades for members of the squad. Paul Rodrigues ’13 became the ninth Oswego State player to be named SUNYAC Herb Hammond Most Valuable Player after pacing the league in points and surpassing 100 career points. He was joined on the First Team by Luke Moodie ’13, who led the conference in goals and reached 100 career points, and defenseman Zach Josepher ’13, who was second in scoring among SUNYAC blueliners. Assistant captain Chris Brown ’13 received Second Team All-SUNYAC recognition after finishing second in assists and third in points, while goalie Andrew Hare ’13 ranked second in goals against average and save percentage and Jesse McConney ’13 ranked third in defensemen scoring to garner Third Team honors. Rodrigues was named American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) Sid Watson Memorial Award winner, which is symbolic of the nation’s best Division III men’s ice hockey player, the USCHO.com Division III National Player of the Year and the D3hockey.com National Player of the Year. He is not only the first player in SUNYAC history to receive the award, but also the first Oswego State athlete to be named National Player of the Year in any sport. Moodie and Josepher were also named Division III CCM Men’s Hockey East Second Team All-Americans in Lake Placid.
Women’s Ice Hockey
The Oswego State women’s ice hockey team under head coach Diane Dillon produced the most successful conference season in program history, as the Lakers earned the No. 3 seed in the ECAC West tournament after recording a program-best 10 wins despite having just 17 players on the roster. Oswego State came up short in the ECAC West Playoffs, finishing the season at 12-12-1 overall.
Melissa Seamont ’14 became the second player in program history to be named Second Team All-ECAC West. She paced Oswego State with 24 points on nine goals and single-season record 15 assists, while finishing tied for second in assists in the league. Seamont enters next season five points away from setting the program record in career points and three assists away from the career assist mark.
The Lakers return their top ten scorers next season, including juniors Olivia Boersen ’14, Megan Hagg ’14 and Emma Smetaniuk ’14. Boersen recorded 16 points, while Hagg and Smetaniuk notched 11 points each. Bridget Smith ’15 logged over 1,000 minutes in goal en route to a 10-8-1 record, while Tori Trovato ’16 went 2-3-0 with a 1.79 goals against average.
Indoor Track and Field
The Oswego State men’s and women’s indoor track and field teams each finished eighth at the SUNYAC Championships in February under second-year head coach David Thompson.
Brittany DalCais ’15 took second place in the pole vault at the SUNYAC Championships en route to earning Second Team All-SUNYAC recognition. Earlier in the season, she broke her own record in the event after clearing a height of 11 feet, 7 3/4 inches (3.55m). DalCais was also a member of the women’s 4×400 meter relay that placed second with a school-record time of 4:05.24. Other members of the relay included Kristen Harrigan ’15, Marissa Pariseau ’15 and Katie Bott ’14. Bott also established a new benchmark in the 400-meter dash with a time of 59.66 seconds earlier in the course of the season.
At the SUNYAC Championships, Joshuwa Maiolo ’15 bettered the previous school mark in the long jump with a leap of 22 feet, 2 1/2 inches (6.77m) for a fourth-place finish. Ben Sweet ’13, Matt Wagenhauser ’15, Nick Reinsdorf ’15 and Noah Carroll ’14 also set a new school record in the distance medley relay during the season with a time of 10:21.51.
The Oswego State wrestling team and head coach Mike Howard ’90 had several individual successes during a season that saw the Lakers finish 3-11 in dual meets, seventh at the Empire Collegiate Wrestling Conference (ECWC) Championships and 13th at the New York Intercollegiate State (NYIS) Championships.
Blake Fisher ’13 became the first Oswego State wrestler to qualify for the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships since 2009 after placing second at 157 pounds at the NCAA Northeast Regionals and tallying a 23-10 record. He put together a 15-match winning streak near the end of the season that included winning a conference title at 165 pounds to become first grappler to earn the championship since 2006.
Omar Santiago ’13 posted a team-high 24 wins at 133 pounds, and fell one position short of qualifying for nationals by finishing fourth at the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships. In addition, he placed fourth at the NYIS Championships and second at the RIT Invitational. Michael Gentilcore ’14 also won an individual title at 141 pounds at the RIT Invitational.
Swimming and Diving
Head coach Mike Holman ’96 led the Oswego State men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams to
eighth- and ninth-place finishes, respectively, at the SUNYAC Championships in February with the Laker
men recording 176 points and the Laker women posting 131 points.
Both Andrew Minnick ’14 and Sabia Filiaci ’15 placed sixth in their strongest event, the 200 freestyle and the 100 butterfly, respectively. Minnick touched the wall in 1:45.74, while Filiaci broke the one-minute barrier with a time of 59.87. Minnick went on to two more top-16 finishes. Justin Berrios ’15 impressed on both boards, finishing seventh in the 3-meter dive with a score of 370.55, and ninth in the 1-meter with a score of 376.05.
Tom Schmid ’14 completed a successful season in distance races with a pair of 14th-place finishes in the 400 individual medley and the 1,650 freestyle. Katie Flood ’14 also capped her junior season on a strong note at the championships with top-30 finishes in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes and the 200 individual medley.
Athletic Hall of Fame Indiction Luncheon
Saturday, Nov. 2, 12:30 p.m.
Congratulations to the 2013 Inductees:
Robert Brutsch ’71 – Baseball
Brian McGann ’70 – Wrestling
Anne Sarkissian DeRue ’04 – Swimming
Kathryne “Kat” Stead ’05 – Women’s Soccer and Lacrosse
For information and to register, please go to:
A shrewd investment in his industrial arts education has paid hefty dividends in his manufacturing career.
Just to be clear: George Wurtz III ’78, president and CEO of Soundview Paper Co. LLC, fully intended to teach industrial arts after graduating from Oswego. Hardwired with his grandfather’s love of woodworking and machinery, Wurtz had graduated from a premier high-school industrial arts program. He had turned down offers to play football for Penn State and Army in order to enroll at Oswego. He had worked grueling summer construction jobs to pay his tuition in cash.
In 1978, industrial arts education degree in hand, Wurtz was ready to roll. He was weighing job offers from two school districts when Miller Brewing in Fulton offered him an inventory control job at twice the salary. Wurtz made a decisive course correction and followed the money—and a hunch that manufacturing might be an even better fit.
A Home Run?
While student teaching in Valley Stream, Wurtz sensed a red flag. His trailblazing lesson plan required students to design a product, then form a company to build and sell it. “The students loved it. They asked for extra lab time,” Wurtz remembers. “It looked like a home run.”
The school’s administrators made a different call: “You’re not a business teacher,” they scolded Wurtz. “You’re an industrial arts teacher.”
Fortunately, the manufacturing industry embraced such ingenuity. Wurtz shakes his head when he remembers his first meeting with Miller Brewing. “The interview date changed at the last minute. I had planned to get a haircut and wear a suit. Instead I had to go straight from the Industrial Arts lab, looking like Jeremiah Johnson with my long hair and overalls.”
“This was after the Vietnam War, and there was a shortage of engineers,” explains Wurtz.
“Industry was recruiting from ‘tech programs,’ and Oswego had one of the best in the country.
“An industrial arts degree looked a lot like a degree in mechanical engineering, with hands-on math, chemistry and physics labs,” he reports. “A number of my classmates went into industry instead of the classroom.”
The Scenic Route
Thirty-five years—and 17 address changes—later, it’s tough to imagine the larger-than-life Wurtz on any other trajectory. He spent almost a decade with Phillip Morris, the parent company of Miller Brewing. “It was like earning a Ph.D. in executive management,” he says. “I worked under industry icons. My ears were as big as Dumbo’s, taking it all in.”
In 1987, Wurtz was recruited into towel and tissue manufacturing, a subset of forest products, the nation’s third largest industry. He spent the next 15 years helping to build Fort James, home to such household brands as Brawny and Dixie Cups. When Georgia Pacific bought Fort James for $7.5 billion, Wurtz helped guide the merger then joined the new company in Atlanta, Ga.
Within a few years, Wurtz was second in command at Georgia Pacific. As executive vice president of pulp and paper, he was responsible for seven companies, 10,000 employees, and $6 billion in annual sales.
“I learned a lot working at the decision-making level of giant companies,” he says. “I discovered I loved mergers and acquisitions. But I always dreamed of walking away and creating smaller, leaner, more nimble companies, managed by hands-on investors who were also seasoned practitioners.”
The opportunity to lead his dream company came last year, when Wurtz, with equity investment firm Atlas Holdings, purchased Marcal Paper Co., a storied New Jersey towel and tissue company on the brink of closure.
In 2006, Wurtz—by then an industry icon—stepped away from corporate life when Koch Industries acquired Georgia Pacific. After decades in the fast lane, he hoped to spend more time with his wife, Nancy. “‘Miss Nancy,’ as they say in Atlanta, is my true love,” Wurtz says, “along with my daughter, Jacqueline, who has three wonderful boys under 4, and my son, George IV, who carries on the towel-and-tissue tradition.”
Wurtz also looked forward to stretches of time in his woodworking shop and aboard his 60-foot fishing boat. “My ideal day involves hooking a 1,000-pound tuna,” he explains. “But when that didn’t happen every day, I grew restless.”
High-energy Wurtz went back to work as CEO of WinCup in Stone Mountain, Ga., a massive but troubled supplier of foam cups, straws and other food service disposables. “I’d never
been associated with a company in bankruptcy,” he reports, “and I discovered I love fixing broken stuff.”
Wurtz was trolling for other stressed companies when Marcal Paper in Elmwood, N.J., caught his eye. “A product like toilet tissue isn’t going away,” he believes. “You can’t (digitalize or) cloud it. And China can’t compete in our market, because it’s not profitable to ship.”
The Lure of Marcal
When Wurtz and Atlas Holdings purchased Marcal in 2012, the floundering company had nearly lost sight of its proud history. Marcal was founded in 1928 by a resourceful Sicilian immigrant, Nicolas Marcalus, whose 17 patents include the jagged metal edge used to cut waxed paper and the first automatic toilet tissue winder.
Marcal, which pioneered the use of recycled paper to make towels and tissue, flourished for 70 years. In 2001, the family-run business borrowed $125 million for a new paper machine—a wise investment, it seemed, until 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina knocked the wind out of the economy. A few years later, the bank called in the Marcal loan.
In 2007, on the brink of bankruptcy, the family sold to venture capitalists, who planned to take the regional company national. “Going national wasn’t the answer,” according to Wurtz. “Thirty-eight percent of the domestic towel and tissue market lies within 500 miles of the Marcal plant.”
“The company had a lot of pride but lost its way,” Wurtz believes. “By the time we took over, its workforce was emotionally decimated.
“We had to let 100 people go, but we saved 500 jobs,” he reports. “Those workers are this company’s greatest asset. Many are immigrants from Eastern Europe. The typical employee has been here for 18 years and most likely has a father, brother or sister who works here.”
The outgoing, straight-shooting Wurtz now spends much of his time mingling with Marcal employees. On his daily walkabouts, he covers an average of 3.5 miles and greets almost every employee by name. “These workers have done nothing but work hard for Marcal, even as many lost their pensions,” says Wurtz. “I love ’em to death.”
From the Nest
Part of this allegiance dates back to Wurtz’s down-to-earth Long Island childhood. He and four siblings (including Kevin ’79 and Thomas ’92) were instilled with a strong work ethic. Each child was allowed to play one sport and expected to hold a job during its off-seasons. (Wurtz worked on a commercial fishing boat).
“My father was a union worker for the public utility company,” Wurtz says. “He’s always reminded me that ‘Joe Hourly’ will make or break you. Success doesn’t happen in the executive suite.
“Football also taught me that you’re only as good as the guys behind you,” he adds. “From my corporate years, I learned that, if you’re not making it or selling it, you are overhead.”
On a recent tour of the one-square-mile Marcal campus, Wurtz was walking the talk. At one point, the strolling CEO and a recycling truck approached the same intersection. Wurtz gave the driver a friendly salute. The driver stopped, smiled, and gestured for his boss to go ahead.
“No, you go ahead,” Wurtz chuckled. “I’m paying you.”
On a Roll
Since Soundview took charge, the Marcal plant has operated three shifts a day, seven days a week. Volume has increased by 22 percent. Equity investors have earned 44 percent dividends. Employees recently received their first gain-sharing checks. In December, Soundview purchased a second paper plant, Pultney Paper in Vermont.
The Soundview company carries no debt. Fifty percent of profits are invested in operations. “We pay it forward,” Wurtz explains. “When we buy a stressed company, our goal is not to buy, fix, and sell. Our goal is to buy, get it going, and keep it going.
“We came into Marcal making huge promises,” Wurtz reflects. “Now we’re delivering on these promises—and regaining a lot of trust.
“Saving jobs is at the heart of our work,” he says. “For decades, our country’s manufacturing base and its middle class have been eroding. But the American spirit is still alive. You see it when we pull together after events like 9-11, Hurricane Sandy, and the Boston Marathon bombing.
“Americans are very productive people,” says Wurtz. “I believe we have a strong shot at reviving manufacturing.”
A strong shot indeed, if that revival is fueled by towel-and-tissue titan George Wurtz ’78, with his boots-on-the-ground leadership style, wide-angle view, and ever-versatile Oswego degree in industrial arts education.
Long-Range Lesson Plan:
Unbeknownst to George Wurtz III ’78, Oswego was preparing him to embrace the unexpected.
George Wurtz never used his Oswego degree in the classroom, but it’s been a priceless asset in his corporate career. “Industrial arts is the perfect training ground for manufacturing,” he says. “Everything I learned in industrial arts education applies to running a company. They taught us to be good managers without calling it management.
“We learned to create lesson plans, which are essentially business plans. We learned to establish objectives, to control costs, and to measure progress. We learned that good leadership is about good teaching—emphasizing what’s going well and teaching what could be even better.”
To acknowledge Oswego, George serves on its Engineering Advisory Board, shares executive suite insights on sharpening Oswego’s competitive edge and has established an Engineering Excellence Fund. And as a featured guest in the Alumni-in-Residence Program, he likes to underscore the enduring importance of Oswego relationships. “In college, you grow socially as well as academically. My best friends are still my college friends,” he reports.
Those college friendships may evolve into professional relationships.
Wurtz and Ron Schulman ’77, who crossed paths early in their manufacturing careers, recently reconnected through LinkedIn. “One thing led to another,” says Wurtz, “and Ron is now our comptroller at Soundview.”
Speaking of the unexpected: rugby represents another surprise turn in Wurtz’s life. In 1974, the 6-foot-3-inch middle linebacker arrived at Oswego ready to play football, only to learn the program had been cut. The skeptical freshman, who had been recruited by Penn State and Army, reluctantly joined Oswego’s rugby team. Almost 40 years later, Wurtz—a master of corporate mergers —still considers this his favorite.
“The rugby players taught us how to laugh, and we taught them how to tackle. After the game, you sing songs and drink beer with your opponents,” he says. “My rugby friends remain my closest friends. Many still play every summer in the CanAm Rugby Tournament.”
When Kevin Gilman ’74, the coach/catalyst of this spirited group, passed away in 2009, the rugby bond grew even stronger. Wurtz spearheaded the establishment of an endowed memorial scholarship and rugby fund to honor his friend.
“There is such cool camaraderie in rugby: part fraternity, part family,” says Wurtz. “I’ve learned it’s the greatest game ever played.”
What an amazing photo by alumnus Jim Russell ’83! Click on the above image to make it larger. If you would like to set as your desktop background, right-click and ‘save as’ to your computer. Then right click on the file and ‘set as desktop background.’
Approached at dusk, it’s a breathtaking sight—SUNY Oswego’s landmark building bathed in a splendid luster. The cupola is suffused with a stunning glow, taking its place among the stars far above the campus and city.
The Normal Building. Old Main. Sheldon Hall. Whatever name alumni remember it by, Oswego’s signature structure marks a 100-year milestone in 2013 with a return to its former glory.
The college’s historic home has been repaired and renewed in a $10 million exterior renovation. A capital project paid for by New York State and overseen by the State University Construction Fund, the restoration demanded historical authenticity.
Architects and SUNY Oswego staff members pored over vintage photos of the neo-classical building; they drilled holes in bricks to determine details of its construction, and they wielded modern tools like lasers to replicate its unique appearance.
The new copper roof, already achieving a slight patina, is illuminated by lights trained on the cupola, which, for the first time in decades, displays four working clocks. A period-appropriate weather vane tracks Oswego’s legendary gusts from atop Old Main’s tower.
Fourteen crumbling cement front steps have been replaced with granite, and the six Corinthian columns have fresh shells of terracotta. Five original re-paned windows top white oak replicas of the doors that invited the first occupants to classes.
“It is wonderful to have Sheldon Hall, which is so intertwined with the college’s identity, finally and fully restored,” said President Deborah F. Stanley, who spearheaded the restoration of Oswego’s landmark.
“The grand old building now greets our prospective undergraduates and their families as they visit the Admissions Office there. We’re putting our best foot forward. Sheldon Hall is a beautiful manifestation of our proud history while, next door on Washington Boulevard, the new and equally impressive Shineman Center embodies our emphasis on innovation.”
It’s history worth preserving, according to Bob Lloyd ’81 M ’89 of Oswego’s Facilities Design and Construction department, who worked on the historical project from 2010 to its 2013 completion.
Lloyd said workers replacing the “cheek walls”—limestone demi-walls flanking the front steps—discovered wires and conduit meant for light poles. Reviewing historic photos, they replicated vintage lamps that formerly graced the entryway.
The east pergola, which sheltered Normalites all the way to Washington Boulevard and the trolley stop, is updated with white, cedar-topped fiberglass posts.
The exterior was pressure-washed with solvents safe for antique materials, and broken bricks were replaced with exact replicas. Mortar was mixed in small batches to achieve a perfect match. Energy-efficient reproductions replaced 430 windows.
Alumni learned of plans for the building at the college’s semi-centennial celebration and alumni gathering of 1911. Principal Isaac B. Poucher told them, “There is no such thing as stand still in our vocabulary; there is no such thing as inertia of mind.”
Poucher had raised the need for a new building a half-dozen years earlier, according to Tim Nekritz M ’05 of SUNY Oswego’s Public Affairs Office, who detailed the story in his unpublished history of the college’s first 150 years. It is a story of delays and red tape, bringing the work on the $300,000 building right down to the wire for its September 1913 opening.
With $25,000 appropriated by the state legislature, college officials purchased land along the lakeshore, including founder Edward Austin Sheldon’s home at Shady Shore.
Faculty helped draft plans, with the blueprints drawn up by Franklin B. Ware, the state architect: an H-shaped edifice with the west wing for the Normal School classes, the east wing for the Practice School, and a grand auditorium and gymnasium in the center.
The structure was seen as a monument to Poucher. In his article on the principal in History of the First Half Century of Oswego State Normal and Training School, Amos W. Farnham 1875 wrote, “The new Normal School building, which is now ready for equipment on Ontario Heights, is Dr. Poucher’s visible monument, which, like a city set on a hill, cannot be hid.”
The Hon. Patrick W. Cullinan, an Oswego attorney and former state assemblyman, speaking at the laying of the cornerstone, may have foreshadowed the future naming when he said, “The State of New York has assented to a most liberal appropriation for the erection upon this spot a temple of learning worthy of the fame which the Oswego Normal and Training School justly enjoys…a memorial of that great educator who consecrated his life to the cause of education and whose name is inseparably identified with the Oswego School.”
At the college’s Centennial celebration in 1961, Old Main was renamed Sheldon Hall in honor of the Founder.
Less than a decade after opening, during World War I, the Normal Building was home to a Student Army Training Corps, graduating 400 auto mechanics, blacksmiths, pipefitters and telephone linesmen, according to evidence uncovered by Nekritz.
A 1918 pamphlet, To The Boys Overseas and Half the Seas Over, reads: “Every morning at 6:30 the bugle blows ‘Reveille;’ and 200 men form in front of the building for the raising of the flag. At seven o’clock they are in their classrooms.”
The auditorium fire of Jan. 18, 1941, is burned into the memory of many alumni.
Al Johns ’42 and his future wife, Ruth, emerged from the movies that night to empty streets. “We went up there and saw the fire in action. After that the building was pretty well filled with smoke, and the student body was asked to help clean up and wash the woodwork and furniture during that week following,” Johns said.
Barbara Brown McCormack ’44 said, “The night that Sheldon Hall burned, I was home in bed. My father came up the stairs and said, ‘Where is your violin?’ I said, ‘At school.’ He said, ‘It is gone’.” Ruined were a Steinway grand piano, a $1600 Hammond organ, and students’ instruments.
“What was rescued?” asked McCormack. “My violin. Apparently the case was fireproof.” With the help of Dr. Lloyd Sunderland, chair of the music department, she had the violin repaired and at graduation in 1944 she played it, accompanied by her mother, Helen Picken Brown ’18.
Nekritz also writes of a suspected arson in the library in 1950. Amid burned matches and furniture cushions, investigators found an empty frame that had held an oil portrait, valued at $2,400, of former president Ralph W. Swetman.
The restored auditorium remained a focus of college life until the building was temporarily closed.
“Every day we had to go there first,” recalled Betty Reid Gallik ’45, speaking of chapel. “We would have a little ceremony before classes and say a prayer. They checked to make sure we were there.”
Davis Parker ’47, Beta Tau Epsilon dance chair, remembers sharing the stage with President Swetman to announce the first intrafraternity dance. “It was a big deal to get the frats together.”
Parker recalls wartime gas rationing was in effect. “There was a big confab as to whether people would drive. It was decided that if you couldn’t walk there, it was OK to drive to the dance.”
Alumni remember the iconic front steps, depending on their generation, as a place for graduation, class photos, watching homecoming parades, or senior toasts.
Betty Gallik has vivid memories of meeting Eleanor Roosevelt there. As president of the Women’s Athletic Association, she was invited, along with the late Betty Burden ’45 and M. Carol McLaughlin ’45, to greet the First Lady.
Parker recalls having geography with Isabel Kingsbury Hart 1907 and psychology with Donald Snygg in Room 100, known now as the historic classroom, with its tiered rows seating 77. For Betty and Bill Gallik ’47 Snygg’s lecture was their only shared class and the scene of an embarrassing incident. “I was feeling my beads around my neck and didn’t the pearls break!” Betty said, describing falling pearls. “And Dr. Snygg said, ‘I’m sure Betty would appreciate it if someone would help pick them up’.” Bill came to her rescue.
The modern era
The 100,000-square-foot building, placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1980, exceeded the state formula for funding, according to a history compiled by Robert Schell, emeritus associate dean of students. The Office of General Services issued a call for proposals, and the Sarkisian Brothers firm soon began to turn Old Main into a conference center and hotel.
Sheldon’s historic status required interior doorways, windows and moldings be maintained in original style. The auditorium was converted into a ballroom and banquet facility, and the gymnasium became a hotel lobby, with a porte cochere added to the north side for arriving guests.
In the late 1990s, legal issues caused the developers to discontinue the project, and the state turned the building back to the college. It was rededicated to Oswego’s use in September 1998 on the eve of President Deborah F. Stanley’s inauguration.
“It was clear at the outset of this administration that bringing Sheldon Hall back to the college was a priority for members of our campus and alumni community,” President Stanley said. “It had been vacant or in the hands of others since 1983—it seemed our heritage was no longer our own. So, we worked to find means to restore the building’s iconic look and made plans for it to have purposes that fulfilled its original central role in new ways.”
President Stanley said Sheldon Hall is now brimming with life around the clock as a multi-use building. It has classrooms for the School of Education, residential rooms for students, daycare and playground for children, a chamber music series and other special events in the auditorium, and administrative offices for offices of Admissions, International Education, and University Development.
“What makes it so wonderful,” President Stanley said, “is that when you walk through Sheldon Hall today, you absorb the history of our institution in every corridor and doorway, while you also encounter its future around every corner.”
With the renovation complete, tradition and vision are united in the “Temple of Learning” we know as Sheldon Hall.
On one hand, the story of SUNY Oswego’s endowment is one of numbers—how the gifts made from generous donors to the Oswego College Foundation have been wisely managed to support the institution. On the other hand, it is a story of people—how alumni, faculty and friends give generously; how the Foundation Board members, stewards of the fund, manage those gifts, and how Oswego students and faculty members ultimately benefit.
Wise Investing, Good Stewardship
Oswego’s endowment stands at more than $15 million dollars, a powerful force for good that benefits the college’s students, faculty and staff in myriad ways every day.
It has grown from $4 million in 2004 — a more than threefold increase — thanks to Oswego’s generous supporters and the wise stewardship of the Oswego College Foundation and its Investment Committee, headed for many years by the late Tom Lenihan ’76.
“State budgets have been plummeting, so for education it is vital that the Oswego College Foundation step up to raise money for those empty spots in the budget every year to maintain a quality institution,” said Dr. Harold Morse ’61 of the foundation board’s investment committee.
Morse added that the endowment provides “additional basic support to everybody at the college through more scholarships, improved facilities, quality faculty and research.”
The foundation’s investment committee members monitor the performance of investment fund managers, manage the asset allocation of the Foundation’s investments, make an annual recommendation of the spending rate, and recommend all changes in investment relations and procedures.
The committee looks at each fund and its long-term spending goal. They consider the need to generate sufficient returns to make the desired annual awards and to keep pace with inflation.
The goal, according to the Oswego College Foundation’s Director of Finance Mark Slayton, is to generate long-term annual returns in the 8 to 9 percent range, since an endowment typically spends 5 percent each year.
“We have been able to do that over a 10-year window,” Slayton says.
Oswego’s 10-year return rate is 8.2 percent—even given the 2008 crash of the financial markets.
Oswego’s endowment has consistently shown earnings ranking in the top 10 percent of nearly 500 participants in an annual study conducted by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). Of the 493 institutions that reported their 10-year rate of return from the years 2003 to 2012, Oswego ranked 51st, higher than universities with multi-billion dollar endowments such as Princeton and Stanford.
In fact, in eight of the last 10 years Oswego has outperformed the industry average, including the six straight years ended June 30, 2012.
When broken down into smaller time periods, Oswego’s performance is even more impressive. For the last five years, Oswego earned 4.2 percent, ranking 23rd of 666 institutions completing the report, or in the top 3 percent. Three-year data shows Oswego’s increase at 13.5 percent, placing the college 25th of 705 institutions, or the top 4 percent.
“The Investment Committee and Board of Directors took decisive action in the summer and fall of 2008 when the world economy was in a free fall. That’s really the year that set us apart from the rest of the endowment world,” explained Slayton.
Oswego’s loss that year was only 10.9 percent versus an industry average of 18.7 percent, according to the NACUBO report.
But as any successful investor knows, preserving principal isn’t enough. You also need to increase it.
So, as early as November 2008, the Investment Committee began to strategically re-engage the equity markets to take advantage of the recovery. As a result, Oswego’s endowed funds have each now fully recovered and exceed their pre-crash levels.
All Above Water
The other outcome of the Investment Committee’s successful work was in the area of underwater funds. That’s when a fund is underperforming to the point where it is worth less than its original principal.
Half a decade after the stock market crash, many not-for-profits are still struggling with underwater funds. The Oswego College Foundation’s experience with underwater funds was brief and insignificant. The fund has carried no underwater funds at all since 2010.
“The success of Oswego’s endowment is not only due to the prudent oversight of our investments over the years but to our board taking decisive action and doing something unconventional,” said Slayton.
In summer of 2008, Oswego was just coming out of the successful Inspiring Horizons campaign, which raised nearly $24 million to support the college. “We wanted to do everything we could to protect those investments our alumni and friends had made in Oswego’s future,” said Slayton. The board carefully watched the markets and began to reduce our allocation in equities even before the crash of September 2008.
“After much conversation, the board adopted a very conservative approach and it paid off very well for us,” Slayton said.
Much of that success was due to the masterful leadership of Tom Lenihan ’76, who chaired the Investment Committee for nearly seven years until his untimely death in March.
Lenihan graduated from Oswego with a degree in economics and computer science. While at Oswego, he met the love of his life, Lynn Van Order Lenihan ’76. They were married in 1976 and have two children, Brian and Colleen.
Tom Lenihan retired from MetLife after 30 years with the organization, having risen to the position of managing director for investment management and capital markets. It was that expertise he put to the service of Oswego’s endowment.
Tom and Lynn Lenihan were steadfast supporters of their alma mater for more than a quarter century. They were lead donors for the Inspiring Horizons campaign, and supported the Campus Center and the Possibility Scholarship program. Tom and Lynn served as Reunion Giving Chair for their 25th anniversary class reunion and spearheaded the revitalization of the college’s reunion giving program, in addition to Tom’s membership on the Oswego College Foundation Board of Directors.
‘Labor of Love’
In June 2012, the Oswego College Foundation board honored Lenihan for his “dedicated steadfast leadership” of the Investment Committee, noting he deserved “recognition and accolades for his tireless efforts.”
“We were privileged to have the benefit of his guiding interest,” said President Deborah F. Stanley. “The future of this institution is stronger and more secure due to Tom’s unwavering commitment to his alma mater, especially as the dedicated steward of our endowment.”
Foundation Board Chairman Bill Spinelli ’84 concurred. “Tom kept a vigilant watch on market conditions, opportunities and challenges to extract the most beneficial position for the Foundation’s investments and assets,” he said.
During his tenure, Lenihan always humbly deferred to his colleagues’ contributions, calling the work of the entire committee a “labor of love.”
“Tom, in his humble way, never accepted personal recognition but would say it was the work of the entire committee,” said Kerry Casey Dorsey ’81, vice president for development and alumni relations and president of the Oswego College Foundation. “But in his sailing vernacular, he was the captain of that ship.”
“Every time the markets dipped or moneys got short, Tom would also give us a great talk at board meetings — how we have this huge responsibility to Oswego to rise to the occasion,” recalled Morse. “Particularly when we had the recession, he led the effort to help prevent any of the scholarship funds from going underwater at that time. He made us feel that we had a responsibility not only to watch everything but also to fix it.”
“The vigilance that he provided in overseeing that everything was all right was outstanding,” added Morse. “I’ve been on several boards and have never seen anyone who was so responsible.”
Lenihan’s “labor of love” stemmed from a genuine affection for his alma mater and its students.
“Tom would say, ‘These are our brothers and sisters and we have to take care of them,’” said Morse. “It’s how we all felt on the board.”
That empathy comes from personal experience. The vast majority of the board members are alumni, and some faced obstacles to fulfill their own educational dreams. They may have worked to earn money for tuition or books, and some benefited from the generosity of donors.
The empathy and commitment the board has for Oswego’s students, coupled with their knowledge of financial markets and their dedication to their fiduciary responsibility to the college are all part of the winning combination the Investment Committee brings to their stewardship of Oswego’s endowment – the art and science of investing success.
By definition, an endowment is when a donor makes a gift with the understanding that the college will never spend the original gift, just a portion of the investment earnings. The gift exists in perpetuity — that is, forever — and benefits all generations of SUNY Oswego students and the college’s programs.
Most often, we think of an endowment as the pot of money behind a scholarship. When a generous alumnus gives a $25,000 gift to Oswego (often with a multi-year pledge) with the intention to endow a scholarship, the funds are invested. Once they generate sufficient income (usually after a
year), a potential $1,000 scholarship can be awarded each year to a student meeting the donor’s criteria. The donor can designate whether the scholarship goes to a student with a certain
major, from a specific hometown or military background, or one who has overcome hardship or faces financial need.
An endowment could also create an excellence fund for an academic department, sports team or extracurricular program. The dean or director can use a portion of the accumulated earnings to bring speakers to campus, help students attend conferences and career-exploration field trips, or buy needed equipment.
One donor’s gift has allowed the establishment of a student-run Investment Club, which invests a portion of the endowed fund established by Gordon A. Lenz ’58 so students can learn about financial markets and gain real world investment management experience. The Public Justice Excellence Fund, established by David Cutler ’74, helps students attend an annual scholarly conference and travel to corrections facilities to explore career opportunities in the public justice field. An endowed chair, like the Marcia Belmar Willock ’50 Chair in Finance, provides funds to assist with paying the salary of a professor — usually a scholar of some renown — to teach in a particular area or department. These are but a few examples of the power of philanthropy.
The Oswego College Foundation has nearly 175 endowed funds providing more than $500,000 in scholarship and program support back to Oswego’s students. Annually, more than 200 students benefit from just the direct awards provided by donor-endowed scholarship funds. These are in addition to the scholarship benefits provided by the campus.
The Oswego College Foundation Board of Directors and its Investment Committee are charged with managing these endowment dollars to ensure that desired payouts are available each year and that they grow to match inflation.
Their diligent stewardship means the funds will always fulfill the donors’ wishes, benefiting generations of Oswego students and giving future donors the confidence to invest in Oswego’s mission.