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
Focusing on students and their needs as a way of paying tribute to her family perfectly fits Linda Panarites Sweeting’s sensibilities regarding philanthropy. A 1975 graduate, she has been making gifts to SUNY Oswego’s annual fund and volunteering as a reunion gift organizer over the years, but always “hoped to do more.”
When she consulted with her husband and her brother about honoring departed family members through an endowed scholarship, they were of one mind in creating a fund that would provide financial assistance to one entering student each year. That student would come to SUNY Oswego from Spencerport or Hilton, alternately, and would personify the values of the Panarites and Sweeting families.
Sweeting spent her career in the alumni and development office at SUNY Brockport, where she saw the “difference a gift could make in the lives of the student and the donor.” She says she always wanted to make a gift to Oswego that went beyond supporting the annual fund, and she was inspired in philanthropy by coworkers, especially Brockport faculty member emeritus Frances Moroney Whited ’44.
“I valued my time at Oswego and the education I received as a student,” Sweeting says. “Now, I completely admire and trust the people in the Office of Development, and I really like the direction Oswego is going in terms of academics.”
Sweeting says her father’s people came to America from Greece, and even though they all valued education, only one of the siblings had the resources to complete a college degree. The Panarites-Sweeting Family Scholarship will ensure that the selected student will have access to higher education without incurring crippling debt.
“When we talked to professionals at Oswego, we said we didn’t want to put a lot of restrictions on the choice of the recipient,” Sweeting says. “But when we met Bianca, the first recipient, and her family, we felt as if she had been hand picked for us.”
—Linda Loomis ’90 M ’97
Lou Borrelli ’77 is a cable television pioneer, media executive and steadfast supporter of SUNY Oswego. He continued his support this year with a gift of $25,000 to the Student Media Excellence Fund.
Giving to student organizations is important to Oswego, as it provides funding that cannot always be provided by the Student Association.
“I have been directing my annual giving the past several years to ‘Excellence Funds’ to provide support for WNYO and WTOP to supplement their SA budget,” Borrelli says. “My gifts over the years have provided equipment, travel expenses and fees for conferences and award competitions.”
These organizations, although mostly funded by SA, benefit greatly from philanthropic support by alumni. Excellence funds can be supported by anyone who wishes to designate their annual gifts to student organizations, and new excellence funds can always be established.
“Excellence Funds are a good way to get involved,” Borrelli says.
Borrelli supports student organizations as the founder of the Lewis B. O’Donnell Media Summit, which provides networking opportunities for students in media fields and attracts communication professionals from all over the country.
After the launch of the Summit, he established the Student Media Excellence Fund, as he saw the need to further provide for WNYO and WTOP. The majority of his most recent gift funded “a multichannel digital replay system used during Laker Hockey games,” which put WTOP on par with sports networks like ESPN and NESN.
Borrelli is also a member of the Oswego College Foundation Board and the School of Communication, Media and the Arts Advisory Board, and he was Reunion Giving Chair for his 35th Reunion cluster this year. He encourages other alumni to give back to Oswego and show their support for students.
“A little support goes a long way to help current students and student organizations,” he says.
—Kaitlin Provost ’12
Howard Olinsky ’81, a disability attorney and managing partner of Olinsky Disability, has given a gift of $50,000 to SUNY Oswego. Two-thirds of his gift will go
to the School of Communication, Media and the Arts Dean’s Fund, and one-third to where the need is greatest.
Olinsky serves on the first SCMA Advisory Board, and is a loyal supporter of SUNY Oswego. He says supporting his alma mater is an important part of his philanthropy plan, to give back to “the schools and universities that have helped me become successful.”
“Successful” is no exaggeration – Olinsky manages 16 full-time attorneys and 22 contracted attorneys at his firm, which is the largest filer of Social Security Disability federal court cases in the nation. He has offices in Syracuse and Orlando.
Olinsky got his start in Oswego, opening up his law firm on West First Street. The firm’s name still adorns the front of the Old Marine Midland Bank Building, where his office was for more than 15 years. He says the firm moved to Syracuse in order to expand, but Olinsky never lost his love for Oswego or the desire to give back to the college.
“I plan on being an active participant,” he says. Giving back is “a way of bringing additional money into the individual schools without having to raise tuition,” and he believes this is crucial to Oswego’s success.
His goal for this gift is to help students who graduate with a communication degree become more marketable. He and Dean Fritz Messere ’71 M ’76 are working on a plan to create a PR program that can help students get experience with all aspects of advertising and media.
“It’s a big goal,” he says, “but you’ve got to start somewhere.”
—Kaitlin Provost ’12
T. Scott King ’74 and Deborah Coppola King ’75 of Delray Beach, Florida, are staunch supporters of SUNY Oswego. They recently gave a gift of $25,000 to the Possibility Scholarship program, with another $25,000 matched from Sun Capital Partners Inc., of which Scott King is Senior Managing Director.
The Possibility Scholarship program provides tuition assistance to students pursuing degrees in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. Students must qualify academically and demonstrate financial need.
This is the Kings’ second contribution to the Possibility Scholarship program, and Scott says they support it because, “It’s a great program. It’s as simple as that. It’s given us an opportunity to help somebody that would otherwise struggle financially to go to college.”
Students awarded this scholarship are also given the chance to participate in the Global Laboratory program. This is an international research opportunity that is completed in the summer following each student’s sophomore year. This year, students have been placed in India, France, Brazil, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Taiwan.
The Kings’ generous gift will have a significant and positive impact on this program. “Both my wife and I graduated from Oswego,” Scott adds, “and we love to give back.”
—Kaitlin Provost ’12
Planned giving makes it possible for SUNY Oswego alumni and friends to reach beyond the present and touch the future. Jack James ’62 sees it as a means of ensuring that his alma mater remains an effective institution of higher education for many generations to come.
James has agreed to chair the Sheldon Legacy Society Steering Committee and to work with other members to revitalize that group, which honors those who include Oswego in their estate plans. He says he accepted the leadership position because he has faith in the students of today and in those of the future. The Legacy Society affirms some of the values founder Edward Austin Sheldon held dear: careful planning, generous giving, and faithful stewardship.
The Society is comprised of people who are committed to spreading the message about the benefits of planned giving. James says Oswego’s students will benefit as more people understand that a legacy gift enables them to give beyond what they might be able to give at the present and as more people are aware of the variety of plans and the benefits of each plan.
A retired Marine Corps Colonel and former faculty member at National–Louis University, James has long supported Oswego through giving and volunteering. Leading by example, he has bequeathed a significant portion of his estate to Oswego, and he established a charitable gift annuity in honor of the 50th reunion of his class.
With ongoing gifts, James supports a scholarship for non-traditional learners, provides a fund dedicated to equipment and facilities improvement, and maintains a student program fund for the School of Education.
James invites those interested in information about the Sheldon Legacy Society and planned giving to call the Office of University Development at 315-312-3003.
“Planned giving is the ultimate commitment to Oswego and its students,” James says. “It’s a way to ensure that the legacy of learning extends into the future by enabling current students to complete their educations for the benefit of future generations. In this way, the Sheldon legacy, personal philanthropy and a donor’s family legacy are linked.”
—Linda Loomis ’90, M ’97
Members of the Class of 1963 celebrated their 50th reunion at the Golden Alumni Society Luncheon in the Sheldon Hall Ballroom. Pictured from left: front row — Ed Church, Rosalie Nicastro DiMeo, Patricia Dubiel, Barbara R. Fleming, Harriet Goldstein Gorran, Clair Wylie, Larry Holzman, Marcia Peterson Brown, Mary Bome Kocher, Anne Wadley Lauko, Anne Friedman Kriz, Joyce Van de Merlen Landau, and Susan Mikolay Pate; middle row — Frederick Winstedt, Bill White, Stan Syversten, Robert Sumner, Richard Stratton, Dolores Jolly Stieper, David Kresel, Robert Skinner, Marilou Huberth Santoro, Joseph Sheperd, Joan Ward Rein, and Mary M. McCarthy; back row — Mary Miceo Corapi, Stephanie Caraoli, Karl Kriz, Francis Hughes, Joseph Lauko, Dave Loascio, Joe Loffredo, Ann Jaeger Hardesty, Karen Kotary O’Bryan, Marilyn Burkell Roth, James Purdy, and George Stieper.
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.”
This column celebrates the publishing success of Oswego alumni authors, illustrators and recording artists. Please keep us informed about new books and audio recordings by requesting that your publisher or distributor send a copy for the Oswego Alumni Bookshelf at King Alumni Hall.
Edwin Peterson ’54 explains in great detail the complexities of milk glass with full color images in his book Milk Glass Plates. Self published. 2010.
John W. Parsons ’54 most recent novel, ETB, follows the heroine from his previous novel, Stone and Mortar, as she takes on another worldly cause. John has also written two other novels, Unselfish and A Journey Through Life. He is working on his fifth novel. Wasteland Press. 2012.
Craig W. Fisher, PhD. ’65 shares his knowledge of fundamentals and information quality in the textbook, Introduction to Information Quality that he co-wrote with Eitel Lauria, Shobha Chengalur-Smith, and Richard Wang. The purpose of the textbook is to alert business professionals to the pervasiveness and criticality of data problems. The Author House. 2011.
Edward Albert Maruggi ’72 tells mirthful tales of travelling through Italy in his most recent novel, Humorous Happenings While Traveling in Italy. Edward is the author of three other books pertaining to being an Italian-American, Mushrooms, Sausage and Wine: Life with an Immigrant Father; Italian Heart, American Soul, and Remembrances. Winston Publishing. 2011.
Patricia A. Nugent ’75 wrote a book entitled, They Live On: Saying Goodbye to Mom and Dad, with 300 vignettes portraying the stages of caring for and saying goodbye to a loved one, as seen through the eyes of a daughter and her terminally ill parents. Self published. 2010.
Lois Hamill ’79 provides practical, step-by-step guidance for managing all facets of archival collections, from acquisition, arrangement and description to storage and security. Archives for the Lay Person is a guidebook for people who care for historical records, photographs, and collections but do not have professional training. AltaMira Press. 2013.
Jodi Weinstein Mullen ’92 and Michael Mullen ’94, both professors and staff members at SUNY Oswego, along with their children, Andrew and Leah, have written Naughty No More, a workbook for children who want to make good decisions. This book offers simple, kid-friendly activities that provide opportunities for growth. Balboa Press. 2013.
Mark your calendars now for Return to Oz IV, Oswego’s reunion for alumni of color, coming Sept. 27 to 29.
Advance registrations are required. Visit alumni.oswego.edu/returntooz for more information and to register. Join us on Facebook at facebook.com/sunyoswegoreturntooz to post photos, give shout-outs or share songs you would like to hear throughout the weekend.
Don’t miss out! “Follow the Yellow Brick Road to Oz” this September.