Dr. Alfred Frederick, distinguished service professor in SUNY Oswego’s School of Education, is a visiting professor and scholar in residence at the State University of Piaui in Brazil at the invitation of the State Secretariat of Education of Piaui and the State University of Piaui. Frederick said he would continue his cross-cultural work on culturally relevant teaching there over the next several summers.
As creator and coordinator of the African and Brazilian Academic and Cultural Exchange Initiative at Oswego, he has coordinated and conducted research and training in Benin and Brazil aimed at improving academic achievement of students in primary and secondary schools. He taught at the Federal University of Santa Maria for seven years before he joined SUNY Oswego in 1985.
We’ll always wonder why. But, for Matthew Sturdevant ’97 the story of Newtown, Conn., is about how. How will the community repair itself?
Sturdevant, a journalist who has essentially been embedded since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary,
is telling that story.
“My task has always been to follow the people,” says Sturdevant who, along with other members of the staff of the Hartford Courant, is a runner up for the Pulitzer Prize.
By following and by listening, Sturdevant has uncovered touching stories behind tattoos, a very special animal sanctuary and other tributes to people lost in the infamous shooting Dec. 14. They are now a part of Sturdevant’s own story, the unlikely tale of a psychology and business major who almost became a potato farmer.
Sturdevant struggled academically and financially at Oswego, working toward two degrees while pulling endless shifts in the dining hall. A roommate—a communication studies major—planted the seed of journalism, and Matthew discovered his gift for storytelling post-grad as he sampled various jobs and traveled the east coast.
A lover of the outdoors, Sturdevant spent five summers as a guide at a Boy Scouts of America High Adventure base in Maine during and after college. He returned to the city of Oswego for a time as a therapy aide in the mental health wing of Oswego Hospital.
“No question, working with people at such an acutely sensitive time in their lives helped me in journalism,” he says, a fact born out when the Pulitzer committee commended the Hartford Courant staff for its sensitivity in handling coverage in Newtown.
While living in northern Maine, Sturdevant applied for a job at a weekly in rural Caribou, where he, with help from textbooks provided by his editor, essentially taught himself the skills of journalism.
“If it hadn’t worked out being a reporter those few days, I would have been harvesting potatoes,” Sturdevant recalls.
But, it did work out. And Sturdevant developed a talent for digging deep for stories. He initiated a “Not Forgotten” series at the Glens Falls Post Star that became almost a tutorial in how to handle sensitive topics. Each week, he would choose sparse obituaries, call the relatives for information, and craft proper tributes to the deceased.
Since arriving nearly four years ago at the Hartford Courant after stints at the Caller-Times in Corpus Christi, Texas, and the Daily Press in Newport News, Va., Sturdevant has again employed his Oswego experience as a business reporter and blogger.
But, when not covering health care, insurance and business, he’s often called to journalism’s front line of breaking news, the Boston Marathon bombing and Superstorm Sandy among them.
His most difficult assignment to date, though, he’s still working on: the stories of all the survivors, those children with lifetimes left to live.
“Once the basics of the story have been told, it’s really the story of how this town is coping,” he says. “The rest of the world may have moved on, but in Connecticut, especially in Newtown, they’ll be talking about this for decades.”
—Shane M. Liebler
As plans solidified to bring repertory actor Carl Whidden ’75 to campus Dec. 6 to perform his one-actor version of Charles Dickens’s beloved classic, “A Christmas Carol,” 40-year-old memories began to surface and circulate among Oswego alumni and the ARTSwego staff. People remembered a cast of 158, including 130 local children, who had staged an original version of the story in 1973, when Whidden starred in the exacting role of Ebenezer Scrooge.
“Almost daily, we were finding connections with alumni and local residents who were involved in that memorable production,” John Shaffer, director of arts programming for ARTSwego, says. “Legendary Professor Rosemary Nesbitt wrote and directed. It was a presentation of the Children’s Theatre of Oswego and Blackfriars, and it had a lasting impact.”
Whidden’s two-act adaptation calls for him to portray 32 discrete characters, each of which has a unique personality and different accent. “I’ve had to do a lot of homework. It’s challenging to switch characters quickly, get the accents accurate, and always—above all—be faithful to Dickens in my portrayal.
There is one particular character that Whidden finds challenging to portray, but he refuses to name it. If I disclose it, then I’ll be self-conscious when I am in front of an audience,” he explains. Rather, the veteran of stage, television and screen says, “I value the great privilege of working in ‘A Christmas Carol,’ where every character is a delight to know.”
Returning to Oswego, Whidden will refresh his memories of what he calls “Rosemary’s most wonderful adaptation and execution;” he will conduct master classes in the theatre department, and he will connect with long-time friends, like Professor Mark Cole ’73, with whom he has maintained a 42-year friendship.
This national tour, with an Oswego performance brings Whidden full circle and puts him once again in touch with a story he loves. “Imagine my excitement every time I perform. Every character in this story remains vital in our imaginations. The story, and the personalities are timeless, and it makes me feel ageless. After all, I’m 60, and I get to play Tiny Tim.”
In his career as a guidance counselor at Newburgh Free Academy, Thomas Hill ’96 helps students identify their interests, set reasonable goals, and plan actions to reach those goals. The 2013 first-place winner of Tour de Syracuse and the New York State Bicycle Racing Association Championship (both category 4) uses the same strategies in his pursuit of victory in cycle racing.
Four years ago, Hill was content to enjoy cycling as a way to socialize with friends. “When I bought my first road bike, I thought I’d never race it. Then the competitive side of me took over, and I decided to train for an event,” he said. Now, he’s on the road for approximately 150 miles a week. On a recent outing, he completed 6,000 feet of climbing over a 45-mile stretch.
“Basically, we just climbed four mountains that day,” Hill said. “I go out with the goal of torturing myself.” By pushing beyond the limits of the previous training session, Hill builds strength and endurance. As a positive side benefit, he has lost 50 to 60 pounds and gained stamina.
“Racing is a great motivation to get in shape,” Hill said. “Every pound on your body, you carry with you on every cycling session. Having that race goal in my mind, reaching for the win, helps me focus on my health and fitness.”
As NYSBRA champion, category 4, Hill could have been content to maintain the status quo. But, instead, he has continued to train hard and compete aggressively. By conquering his own best times and adding wins, he has moved to category 3. The upgrade to a more competitive category has made a big change in Hill’s goals and expectations, and he focuses now on improving his time rather than on winning each race he enters.
Hill and his wife, Sandra, a school nurse teacher, live in Walden with their six-year-old son, Thomas, who spends a lot of time riding his BMX bike.
Hill says he is proud to be part of an “Oswego Family.” His mother, Deborah Dixson Hill ’66 and father, Paul Hill ’66, met in Symphonic Choir when Dr. Maurice Boyd was the director. Before retirement, Paul taught chemistry at Newburgh Free Academy, and Deborah was a reading specialist at the elementary level. Both work part-time in college-level education programs.
“My parents were careful not to influence me in my college decision,” Hill said. “I had a few choices in mind, but when I visited the campus, that clinched it for me.” He majored in Zoology and Spanish at Oswego, and earned a master’s of science degree at Fordham University.
Hill’s mother is not surprised that he has excelled at road racing. “Tom was always a good athlete,” she said, “and he loves moving fast.” Still, it is the slower, more serene moments at his alma mater that stay with him today.
“I’ll always be grateful for the years I spent at Oswego,” Hill said. “Some of my fondest memories are those of just relaxing at the shore with friends.”
—Linda Loomis ’90 M’97
Landing a job in Los Angeles after graduation, Michelle Rene Garcia ’06 continues to work for a cause she values. At The Advocate, a gay rights magazine, she began as a temporary hire and advanced to commentary editor.
“We’re on the front line of history,” she says. “In the seven years I’ve been here, I’ve witnessed a massive sea change in the way Americans view gay rights.” She notes the milestones of justice: a president who supports the freedom to marry and still gets re-elected; positive representations in the media, a dozen states legalizing marriage equality, and LGBT people, including celebrities and athletes, coming out to their families, friends and coworkers.
“Equality isn’t just an issue of the gay agenda or some lobbying group, a faceless ‘they.’ Now, it’s about someone’s son, or sister or best friend. It’s personal, and people are remembering that personal is political again.”
After graduation, Garcia, who was active on the Oswegonian and worked as a resident assistant, and her husband, Adam Campbell-Schmitt ’06, headed to L. A., where Adam, a broadcast major, works as a stage director and comedy writer.
“We met at Oswego, doing improv. ‘Cause that’s what the cool kids do.”
Garcia, who majored in Journalism with minors in Political Science and Women’s Studies, says all her interests, education and experience have come together in her career and in the screenwriting she’s doing on the side.
“Thirty years from now, I can look back at this time and say: I was there. I was part of history.”
—Linda Loomis ’90 M ’97
We call it “serendipity” when dreams come true. Nicole Castro Pursel ’09 says she’s had a brush with that unexplainable good fortune in her career. After completing an internship at Time Warner Sports and earning her degree in journalism, she accepted an administrative assistant position at Wegmans in her hometown of Rochester.
One lucky day, she was asked to help out with the monthly “Wegmans Cooks” segment on Bridge Street, a Syracuse-based morning television show, where Chris Brandolino ’96 is one of the hosts. Pursel says all her experiences and education kicked in once she was suited up and on the set.
“My Oswego experience as an on-air talent for WTOP and my journalism background in gathering and presenting information clearly and accurately really helped.”
Inspired by her experience on Bridge Street, Pursel applied for a transfer from desk to kitchen, and she’s now an administrative cook for the Rochester-based retail grocer, working in the Liverpool store. With the head chef, she oversees food preparation, organizes ordering and helps train food workers.
“I love my job,” she says. “It’s a dream come true.” As for that cooking show of her own. Well, someday, perhaps. But for now, she and her husband, Robert Pursel, a teacher at West Carthage Elementary School, enjoy their Central Square home and reap the benefits of Pursel’s passion for preparing wholesome delicious food.
— Linda Loomis ’90 M ’97
While in the Peace Corps, Linehan taught eighth and ninth-grade English, established a secure and functioning community preschool and created a Parent-Teacher Association. She also coordinated a pen-pal exchange project with an eighth-grade classroom in Zambia and a school in northern California where students were encouraged to practice their writing skills and exchange cultural perspectives.
She planned and held weekly sessions of Girls Leading Our World (G.L.O.W.) club, an empowerment organization focusing on leadership, confidence and decision making. Linehan wrote and received a grant to fund a weeklong session of Camp G.L.O.W.
Linehan says she found inspiration at Oswego after involving herself with the alternative spring and winter break program through the Office of Service Learning and Community Service.
“I feel like I owe so much of my starting point to these programs at Oswego,” Linehan said.
-Brittany Hoffmann ’14
COOKING IS A BIG DEAL TO MAUREEN O’DONNELL SANCHEZ ’87. She sells luxury ingredients to Chicagoland restaurants, she blogs about her family’s kitchen adventures and Feb. 24, she competed in front of a national television audience on Food Network’s “Chopped.”
“Chopped” tests chefs’ skill, speed and ingenuity. Each week, four chefs compete before a panel of expert judges and turn baskets of mystery ingredients into a three-course meal.
“It was an incredible experience to be in front of all those cameras and be in an unfamiliar kitchen with unfamiliar ingredients and cooking in front of celebrity chefs,” said Sanchez, who gained appreciation of great food starting with paella dinners at the home of Professor Emeritus Pedro Diez Del Rio as a child.
Sanchez was a familiar face on campus and in the community as a student, working at Penfield Library and tending bar at Old City Hall.
A Spanish major at Oswego, Sanchez started out in customer service at a Cambridge software developer and she continued in different capacities for different companies as she found herself on the move from Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, and Raleigh, before finding a career that truly fits her tastes. Today Sanchez sells delicacies like truffles and caviar to high-end restaurants in Chicago and beyond.
At home in Oswego, Ill., she and her husband, Gene, are devotees of scratch cooking, focusing on using often self-grown, unprocessed ingredients to create healthy gourmet meals for their three children.
Sanchez’s TV aspirations went well beyond her love of cooking. Although she didn’t become the “Chopped” Champion, “It was a great opportunity to get press for my sister,” said Sanchez, who has become an advocate for missing persons during a decades-long search for her sister, Judith Erin O’Donnell. Last seen in November 1980, Judy has influenced Sanchez to pursue her passions. “Judy has provided the lens. The rest of the noise and distractions fall off and you can focus on what’s important once you find it.”
—Shane M. Liebler
Oswego has been designated a military-friendly college in Military Advanced Education’s 2013 guide.
The publication, which helps inform education service officers, transition officers and the service members they counsel, named SUNY Oswego to its annual list in the 2013 Guide to Military-Friendly Colleges & Universities, noting that schools on the list “go out of their way to implement military-friendly policies in support of our men and women in uniform.”
“. . .We have highly skilled, highly motivated young men and women coming into the workforce. They are a tremendous asset for us, for the whole country, and we need to nurture what we have there.”
— Lt. Col. Mike Waters ’70
“I think the designation shows the extent the campus goes to, to provide a welcoming environment (for current service members and those transitioning to civilian life) and to give them the specific support they need,” said Benjamin Parker, academic planning coordinator for SUNY Oswego’s Division of Extended Learning.Oswego’s services to veterans include counselors, weekly college representative at Fort Drum, acceptance at full value of credits earned for military schooling and training, increased opportunities for faculty and staff to learn the challenges facing returning service members, relationships with community institutions that routinely assist veterans and flexibility in academic options, such as the college’s all-online Master of Business Administration degree.The college has a cross-campus, interoffice committee working to further improve veterans’ services and dedicated space in 206F Culkin Hall for the Veteran’s Services Office.
Vets helping vets
Lt. Col. Mike Waters ’70 USAF (Ret.) who spent more than 34 years in the military, part time and full time, has extended a helping hand to fellow veterans because of the help he encountered returning from the Vietnam War.When his unit was about to be called back just six months after he enrolled at Oswego in 1967, he found that professors were willing to make accommodations for his absence and the college helped by retaining his job as an RA, which was crucial to funding his studies.Waters has funded a scholarship for military veterans, especially combat vets, who are in need of financial help.In addition, he recently started a new fund, to provide non-interest loans for veterans with short-term financial needs. “Veterans come here on the G.I. Bill, but they may not get their money until several weeks into the semester,” he says. The fund Waters established will help to bridge that gap.“With the military downsizing … we have highly skilled, highly motivated young men and women coming into the workforce,” Waters notes. “They are a tremendous asset for us, for the whole country, and we need to nurture what we have there.”Recognition of alumni service in the military is a goal for Col. Jack James ’62, USMC (Ret.). James instituted a salute to veterans at Reunion 2012, and sponsored pins to recognize alumni military service by branch.All veterans are urged to contact the Alumni Relations Office at King Alumni Hall or call 315-312-2258 to enter their military service as part of the alumni record.