Professor Emeritus of Education Raymond Bridgers Jr. readily admits that if someone had told him as a high school student that he would become a teacher, he would have laughed. “School was not a particularly happy place for me,” he says. But once he started teaching, Bridgers came to love the classroom.
“I literally enjoyed going to work every day, walking into the classroom,” he says, his voice brimming with excitement. “I hope the students enjoyed it as much as I did.”
With a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master’s in elementary education, both from the College of William and Mary, and a doctorate of education from Duke University in curriculum and instruction, Bridgers decided to teach school “until I decided what to do.”
He found he loved it, and wanting more classroom experience decided to take an opening at Oswego’s Campus School. He told the college he would stay only three years – he wanted to experience a northern climate. Their first night on campus, he and his wife, Carolyn, watched gentle, fluffy snowflakes fall against a streetlight outside their house window, and Bridgers thought it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. The wonder he felt must have changed his plans, because he spent his entire career at Oswego.
“I feel fortunate to have spent 35 years at Oswego,” he says.
Although he spent his early career teaching ninth-graders and serving as a principal in Virginia, he found he loved the middle grades the most. “I liked the creativity of the junior high student. Their intellectual capacity was always exciting and interesting,’ he says.
After seven years in the Campus School, he taught in what is now Oswego’s School of Education.
“One of the main things I used to tell [students] was, ‘The most important thing you carry into the classroom is not your knowledge of physics, languages, etc. It’s you as a person and how you help those kids explore life,’”
Bridgers developed two courses at Oswego: “Teaching Culturally Different Children” – his basic theme was we’re all culturally different – and “Play and Playfulness,” about the importance of play in the lives of the young and old.
Bridgers always tried to learn students’ names from the first day in the classroom, and he refreshed the courses by periodically throwing away all his notes and developing his lectures anew.
He became a familiar figure on campus, with his boisterous laugh and fringed leather jacket. An avid runner, he completed several marathons. He served as adviser to Kappa Delta Pi (which he had served as president at Duke and William and Mary) and the sorority Alpha Sigma Chi. A member of Phi Delta Kappa education honorary, he received a federal fellowship in 1968-69.
In retirement, he loves spending time with his family, including Carolyn ’78 and their six children (Cynthia, Michael, Bradley M ’05, Katherine, Holly and Lori ’87), 12 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.
He also enjoys making stained glass, a skill he learned at Oswego to craft doors for his kitchen cabinets and taught for several years at the Art Association of Oswego.
And while he enjoys retirement with his typical gusto, he still professes his love for Oswego and its students, saying, “If I had my druthers, I would have stayed and taught until they threw me out.”
Dr. John Demidowicz, professor emeritus of Spanish, liked to play a little joke on the first day of class. He would let a golf ball slip out of his pocket and tell the students, in Spanish of course, that he was on the golf course when he remembered he had to teach. “You ruined a great game,” he would say.
“I can’t imagine a curriculum that would prepare me for life as well as the Industrial Arts program at Oswego from 1950 to 1953,” says Kenvyn Richards ’53. “I learned so much that was practical and it has served me well for the last 60 years.” It served him so well, that he made it his life’s work, first teaching in the public schools in the Middleburgh School District and later as professor of industrial arts, now called technology education, at his alma mater.
Dr. Ronald A Brown’s teaching philosophy can be summed up in three letters: F-U-N.
Who better to feature in this special Sesquicentennial issue’s Faculty Hall of Fame than cover subject Oswego Founder Edward Austin Sheldon? Certainly he was among the most esteemed faculty members at the college, leaving a legacy that has touched generations (see excerpts from Sheldon’s autobiography starting on p. 18).
Anzio Beach, Monte Cassino, Normandy: To most, these are names from a map or history book. To Charles Phallen, emeritus professor of technology education, they are places he served valiantly in World War II and visits now, at age 94, to receive honors from a grateful populace or pay respects at the graves of fallen comrades.
Her career took her to the soaring cathedrals of Europe in search of medieval stained glass windows, but as a teacher, Professor Emerita of Art Helen Zakin was always more comfortable in the intimate seminar rooms of Tyler Hall.
“He’s 5 and his golfing future’s rosy,” read the headline in 1940 when the Syracuse Herald ran a photo of young Tom Brennan, at the edge of the green at Syracuse’s Sunnycrest Golf Course, pencil in hand. Now Golf Coach Emeritus Brennan, having retired from leading successful golf programs at three schools, can still be seen on the greens most days. But despite the fact that he’s officially retired, nothing much slows down this dynamo who keeps up a busy schedule of golfing, painting, speaking and writing.