A case in point is George Wurtz ’78, who has used his degree in what we used to call industrial arts to develop a career in paper manufacturing that places him among the leading CEOs in that industry.
When I visited his Soundview Paper Company, George led me on a tour of the Elmwood Park, N.J., plant and explained the paper production process. Learning about his business plans, watching the giant machines in the factory, hearing how he applied the skills and concepts he learned as an undergraduate, I realized that for him, as for thousands of our alumni, the foundation for success was forged at SUNY Oswego. His remarkable career, his commitment to the increasingly urgent demand for environmental sustainability, and his loyalty to Oswego all stem from his experiences on campus in the 1970s, studying in a program founded in 1902.
George and his wife, Nancy, were among the nearly 1,000 alumni who came “home” to Reunion 2013 to connect with friends, classmates, professors and events from their past. As always, I was privileged to hear our graduates’ memories of their alma mater and their visions of what the college might become as new challenges and opportunities arise.
Reunion guests spoke of their pride in the campus: the beauty of the grounds, upkeep of buildings, and stunning new structures, including the Richard S. Shineman Center for Science, Engineering and Innovation. Many cited the importance of melding past, present and future as we develop and renew our campus.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the renovation of the original campus building, Sheldon Hall. We completed the exterior renovation just in time for the building’s centennial. Sheldon Hall represents the heart of everything we hold dear about SUNY Oswego. Its magic stirs me, as I know it does so many others. I remember myself as a young faculty member teaching there at the start of my Oswego journey. When we walk its halls, we feel the pulse of academic endeavors, hear the voices of professors and students in classes and see, in our mind’s eye, the performances of choruses, Blackfriars, and various ensembles through the years. Here, the legacy of our founder, Edward Austin Sheldon, has taken root and flourished, growing to become the comprehensive community of learning that is revered today.
We —members of a community with a rich heritage and a certain future — have ample cause to celebrate.
Deborah F. Stanley
Three former editors of OSWEGO contribute to this issue. Their aggregate experience is 34 years, starting in 1979, when Denise Owen Harrigan began her 17-year run. Linda Loomis ’90 M ’97 started in 1995, with Michele Reed following in 2001. They are writer-editors who share a love for the written word and deep feelings for the people of SUNY Oswego—students, staff, faculty, administrators and, especially, alumni and friends.
Their thoughts on collaborating follow:
Denise Owen Harrigan: (Editor 1979 – 1995)
Oswego cast a powerful spell over me when I was hired as alumni editor in 1979. I attributed my infatuation to lake effect: the magical impact of sparkling Lake Ontario on the horizon. I realized, however, that the college’s true magic lies in its close-knit, yet far-flung community.
In my privileged role as family historian to a fascinating, fun-loving, intensely loyal clan, I travelled from coast to coast to chronicle the accomplishments of high-profile Oswego alumni. I covered campus icons who helped generations of students take flight. I took part in treasured traditions —Torchlight ceremonies and reunions —and came to feel like one of the family.
It’s been 17 years since my career led me away from Oswego. But whenever I reconnect with the college or cross paths with Oswego alumni, I am enveloped by memories as warm and
vibrant as an Oswego sunset.
Linda Loomis ’90 M ’97: (Editor 1995 – 2000)
Serving as editor never felt like a job; arriving at beautiful King Alumni Hall never felt like going to work. I was just doing
what I enjoy: listening to and telling stories of those whose lives authenticate our mission as a learning community, validate the integrity of our degrees, and substantiate the effectiveness of our programs. I treasure the people I have been privileged to know and write about. For it is through stories that we are connected as one accomplished, multi-faceted Oswego family.
Michele Reed: (Editor 2001-2013)
In nearly three decades on campus —16 years at the Public Affairs Office and a dozen more in King and Sheldon Halls as alumni editor—I’ve been blessed to share the secret of what makes Oswego so special: its incredible people.
I’ve been touched by your Oswego generosity, sharing your successes and sorrows, your heartbreak and happiness, your passions and your Oswego pride. You are our living history. Your memories burn bright, and those of us entrusted with sharing them delight in passing on that torch to future generations.
I don’t know where retirement will take me. But I will carry a little bit of Oswego with me forever in my heart.
Relationships. Connections. These two ideas came to life for me in very meaningful ways starting with Reunion 2013. This was my husband Jerry’s ’77 35th cluster reunion, so many of our long-time Oswego friends returned to campus, and we shared memories and laughter galore, the joys that really only happen with those people with whom you have long-time relationships and experiences.
During Reunion Weekend, the Board of Directors of the Oswego Alumni Association holds its annual meeting. Board member Judy Letvak ’83, one of Oswego’s most loyal cheerleaders, ambassadors and advocates, was with us for the last time. She was unable to attend most of the Reunion Weekend activities, but she did attend the Board meeting.
Very unexpectedly, Judy passed away just two weeks later. The outpouring from alumni—fellow Board members, her wide circle of close friends from the ’80s who still gather annually, and recent alumni friends she had mentored in their post-Oswego job searches—was testament both to Judy and to the power of relationships and connections we make at Oswego.
The relationship Jerry and I have with magazine cover feature George Wurtz ’78 and his wife, Nancy, goes back more than 30 years —when we were all young, newly married and starting families and careers. George and Nancy lived in Fulton, where George started what was the beginning of a successful career in industry at Miller Brewing. Nancy was my Lamaze teacher and the nurse who helped deliver our first two children.
George and Nancy moved away in the mid-1980s, but we have reconnected as George has engaged with Oswego and our students in many meaningful ways.
And then there is this issue of the magazine. When Michele Reed, our most recent editor, retired last spring, we had to move quickly to ensure we continued to get OSWEGO in the hands of our readers without interruption! We reached out to our two previous editors, Denise Owen Harrigan—“Denny” to those of us in the Alumni Office—and Linda Morley Loomis ’90 M ’97. They enthusiastically agreed to sign on, along with Michele, to produce this, “the alumni editors reunion” issue.
It’s been a joy to reconnect with Denny and remember when we worked together in the Alumni Office in the ’80s and ’90s—and to see Linda again almost daily as she shepherded this issue to print.
So, my message? Cherish your friendships, relationships and connections. Don’t wait to reconnect. Come back to your next Oswego reunion, reach out and encourage those you knew when you were here to come back too. In the meantime, reconnect with friends and classmates through our new and improved OsweGoConnect online alumni community!
(This excerpt from Someone, a work of fiction, is set in the aftermath of World War II. In this chapter, author Alice McDermott ’75 writes about a returned airman telling his near-death story and explaining his miraculous reprieve. McDermott’s lyrical novel examines an ordinary woman’s life as it is lived day by day in an Irish-American Brooklyn neighborhood.)
His parachute training, Tom said, had been short and perfunctory, and after a few easy missions, he’d stopped even imagining himself jumping out of a plane. When the order came, the plane shuddering—like a subway car going over cobblestones, he said—he gripped the door. He seriously considered just hanging on. Going down with the ship. But then he felt a push from behind and then he dropped into the worst nightmare anybody ever had: cloud, smoke, the thick smell of the fuel. A dream’s endless falling.
He laughed telling it, as if it were a joke and the joke was on him.
He said he only remembered after he had pulled the parachute cord—touching his forehead in a comic gesture of despair—that he was supposed to count to ten before he pulled it, not after. And then he counted anyway, a second too late.
And then out of the noise of the worst and loudest sound he had ever heard and hoped never to hear again he fell into dead silence. Nothing at all, he said—and held out his hands and made his eyes wide to replicate his astonishment.
So suddenly quiet that he thought his ears were blown out for good. He saw the air was now blue and there was a serene patchwork world beneath him. Even children running across a churchyard, into a field, and he thought—“I kid you not” he said in his the-joke’s-on-me way—“now, this isn’t so bad. I could get used to this.”
The children were the first to reach him when he fell, tumbling back to the hard earth, busting up his shoulder, breaking his wrist.
“But those kids,” he said, “That was the luck of the Irish, it turned out.”
Because, he said, the next thing he knew a mad old Kraut was pointing a Luger at his head, so close that he could smell the hot metal. “He was in a tizzy,” Tom said. “Mad as hell,” and he apologized to my mother for his language. “I couldn’t understand anything he said but ‘kinder,’ waving the goddamn gun”—he apologized again—“and telling me, I guess, that he’d like to blow my brains out except for the kids who were there, all around us.
He even tried to chase them away, but they were having too much fun, throwing little handfuls of mud in my direction, yelling their heads off. So much excitement. You know how kids are.” He laughed and touched his fingers to the teacup. “The crazy old Kraut had enough decency not to want to shoot me in front of them.”
My mother put her hands to her lips and said, “Glory be.”
Tom gave a self-deprecating wave of his hand. “Well,” he said. “To make a long story short, a German officer showed up—officer hell, he looked all of eighteen—and gave the old man Hail Columbia in German, and then told me in English to get out of the harness and follow him—mach schnell—if I wanted to live. It took me a few minutes to get it. I thought I was already dead.”
He laughed again. He was enjoying our attention. He was a man who loved to talk.
“This fellow grabbed me under the arm. I was still wobbly-kneed, shaking like a leaf. He told me the old man was crazy, crazy with grief. He’d learned just the day before that his son, his only child, a German airman, had been killed by the Allies. So he was out for revenge. He would have put a bullet in my head if those kids hadn’t been there.”
“An eye for an eye,” my brother said.
Tom sat forward. He shook his head. “But here’s the thing.” He was smiling oddly, with less mirth than before. “Here’s the way I looked at it. If the old guy had shot me, then and there, it wouldn’t have been the same. It wouldn’t have been equal.”
He turned to my mother, as if she alone needed an explanation. “I was an orphan, you see,” he told her. “A Foundling Home kid. I had no father to grieve me. So it wouldn’t have evened out, if he’d shot me right then and there. There would have been no counterpart, no American counterpart, so to speak, to match that poor old Kraut and his grief. There still would have been more pain on his side of it. The pain of a father losing a child. There wouldn’t have been any pain like that on my side, since I had no father.
So it wouldn’t have been equal.”
There was an awkward silence. And then my brother said softly, “We’re all of equal value in the eyes of God.”
Tom turned to him with some admiration. “Well, that’s a nicer way to think of it,” he said. He said, “That’s a good point,” and smiled again before he added, “But that don’t mean some of us won’t leave this world without anyone much taking notice.”
STUDENTS DURING LAST SUMMER’S HOLLYWOOD POV had the opportunity to learn from the experiences of Janice Simcoe ’83, who was happy to share her unique
point of view from her exciting role with one of the world’s best-known brands.
As the account director for Disney’s Yellow Shoes Creative Group, Simcoe handles marketing and promotion of the entertainment giant’s parks and resorts.
Simcoe works with the internal creative team to create an experience that is appealing and exciting for everyone. “I spend half the day in the office, and half the day in the park.”
“There is an effect that people get in our parks that they don’t get anywhere else,” said Simcoe, “It’s exciting to see how people react.”
While she was at Oswego, Simcoe was very interested in both business management and advertising. “I love the strategic side of the business, but I also love being close to the creative.”
A broadcasting major, Simcoe originally aspired to break into a career in production. She landed her first job as an administrative assistant at a small-time ad agency, eventually becoming manager of advertising administration at Fisher-Price in Buffalo.
Since then Simcoe has worked out of each of Disney’s three major resorts over the past 13 years, including a stint in Paris. She said her experience in Oswego’s London exchange program gave her confidence she could be comfortable spending three years overseas.
Her time at Oswego powered her career in many other ways as well.
“Oswego gave you the opportunity to try so many things,” Simcoe said. “The experience is very hands-on.
“You can try things and decide what you want to pursue,” she said.
“I would never have predicted where I was going from Oswego,” said Simcoe. “I wanted [Hollywood POV students] to see what happened to someone who was in their shoes.”
Hollywood POV allows students to get inside access to the entertainment industry. The highly competitive 3-week summer course concludes with 10 days of field experience in Hollywood, an opportunity for students to network and gain insight into show business.
Last year 18 students had the opportunity to visit entertainment icons such as Nickelodeon Animation Studios, The Academy of TV Arts & Sciences, Warner Brothers Studios and more.
Since the program’s inception in 2005, students of all majors have been provided with visits to “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” “Scrubs,” FX network and dozens of other household name productions.
Simcoe advised the visiting students to “Try different things to see what works and what you love,” emphasizing how careers often start in the most unusual places. “Just start somewhere and be enthusiastic,” Simcoe said. “Be a positive force.”
—Tyler J. Edic ’13 and
Shane M. Liebler
Getting Away With It
I stole. It’s hard to believe those two little words follow a man around for 28 years like a shadow but they do. Do the right thing and you forget it in a day, do the wrong thing and you regret it for years. And you can try to justify what you did; rationalize it away but the harder you push it away, the more it sticks. I’ve found guilt seldom has anything to do with courtrooms and trials because in the end we are all our own judge and jury. As long as you know what you did there’s no getting away with it.
It was 1984, the fall of my junior year at SUNY Oswego. Like a lot of college kids I took loans, paid my own way and was broke all the time.
Money was as rare as free time and as anyone who has ever struggled can tell you there are weeks where you literally have to watch every penny if you want to eat. It was a week like that, that led me down the road to perdition. I had exactly ten dollars in my pocket which had to last me six days. Whenever I was this broke, I’d go to the store in the student center and buy a bagel for fifty cents. The bagels were huge and filling so they were a nice substitute for lunch. I went to the counter, handed the guy my ten dollar bill, took the bagel and change and turned to go. I counted the money before putting it in my pocket and realized the clerk made a mistake in my favor. He gave me change for twenty dollar bill not a ten.
When times are tight and money falls into your lap the voices of your better angels are easily drowned out by the sounds of a growling stomach. You start to talk yourself into doing the wrong thing. I told myself in that moment that this school had overcharged me for so many things. They had fees on top of fees for courses and services I’d never use. Heck even the laundry machines in my dorm must have stolen from me. Soon enough you convince yourself that you are entitled to that extra ten bucks the guy gave you. They won’t even miss it.
I knew it was wrong to keep it but I was young, broke and stupid, so I took it. For the next few days I found myself avoiding that store for fear the guy might realize what he’d done and ask me about it. Even when I did eventually go back I hung my head and found it difficult to meet his eyes when he rang me up at the register. To the casual observer I’d gotten away with it but the truth was I hadn’t. That ten dollars owned me now and wouldn’t let me go.
Long after I graduated from Oswego that ten dollars I took kept turning up in my mind, like a stone in your shoe. I couldn’t understand how such a small stone could cause such a large ripple in the pond that was my conscience. Then in 1994 I went to see the movie Quiz Show and had a moment of clarity. Toward the end of the movie there’s a scene where Rob Morrow tells a story about an uncle who cheated on his wife and never got caught. Many years later he came clean about what he’d done and everyone in the family asked him why in God’s name he confessed, after all he’d gotten away with it. He said, “It was the getting away with it that I couldn’t live with.”
So why am I telling you this story now; confessing to a petty larceny I committed 28 years ago? Same reason I guess. I haven’t been to confession at church in a long time but I do believe you can talk to God and ask for forgiveness whenever you want. So there I was sitting at a red light on Route 9 near Hoffman’s Playland in Latham when I had a short yet long overdue chat with the big guy. I said I know I can’t go back in time and give the money back but please know I’m sorry, I learned from it and I’ll never do something like that again.
The light turned green and then something very odd happened. I put my directional on and pulled into the Stewart’s shop to grab a cup of coffee. I handed the clerk a ten dollar bill, took the change and turned to go. Anyone in the store that day would have seen me stop and smile because for an instant it was 1984 again. In my hand wasn’t change for my ten dollar bill but a twenty. I looked up toward the ceiling and said under my breath, “Thank you for the second chance.”
The manager was pleasantly surprised when I told him of his error and handed back the ten dollars extra he’d given me. “Wow, thanks,” he said. He probably thinks I’m this rare good guy who did the right thing when in reality I’m just the dummy who did the wrong thing 28 years ago and has paid interest on the debt ever since.
I haven’t been back to Oswego since graduation but a part of me will be visiting soon. The store in the campus center will soon receive an envelope with a ten dollar bill attached to a newspaper column telling this tale of avarice and absolution. I’m sure that guy who gave me the wrong change is long gone but when it comes to one’s eternity and passage at the pearly gates, the sheep that got away needs all the help he can get. •
Reprinted with Permission of the Troy Record.
John Gray ’85 is the news anchor at News10 ABC in Albany, N.Y. He also is an award-winning columnist for the Troy Record newspaper and Capital Region Living Magazine. While he resides in the Albany area helping raise his three children and his dog Max and has traveled extensively, he still insists he has never seen a sunset prettier than those outside of Onondaga Hall on Lake Ontario.
Ed. note: SUNY Oswego gratefully accepted John’s donation last autumn.
OSWEGO alumni magazine welcomes submissions for consideration for “The Last Word.” They should be no more than 600 words and should reflect upon the writer’s Oswego experience. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the most common requests we get from alumni is that they want to reconnect with former classmates, teammates, floor mates, fraternity brothers, etc. So, more than 10 years ago in the “PFB” era (aka pre-Facebook!), the Oswego Alumni Association was one of the early leaders in establishing a password-protected online alumni community called OsweGoConnect to offer a secure place for alumni to connect and network with other alumni.
We are pleased to announce the launch of our new and improved OsweGoConnect that will offer additional exclusive benefits and services available to all alumni, quick links to our social media networks, upcoming event information and registration, job postings and networking opportunities with our 77,000+ alumni network, as well as the updated alumni directory to help you find your Oswego friends. It’s a quick and easy — and free to all alumni — way to always stay connected to Oswego!
For instructions on how to log in the first time, see page 34. All alumni who register before Oct. 1, 2013, will be entered into a drawing for all kinds of cool Oswego stuff and a grand prize of a 16GB iPad 2 or Kindle Fire HD!
We are also still recruiting alumni ambassadors to help us re-establish our regional alumni program. Please visit oswegoconnect.org or email email@example.com to
volunteer to help plan events in your area. Also, take a minute to fill out the survey on our website to let us know what kinds of Oswego events you’d like in your area.
With the help of this year’s creative and enthusiastic Reunion Planning volunteers, the “theme” for Reunion Weekend 2013 is “Back to the Future.” When you return to campus, you will be truly amazed at the fabulous new facilities like our Campus Center complete with hockey arena and convocation center right in the heart of campus, the Village townhouses, the renovation of Romney Field House into an indoor practice facility, our renovated Old Main, Sheldon Hall, as well as the rising Richard S. Shineman Center for Science, Innovation and Engineering and the new building at Rice Creek Biological Field Station. Please join us at Reunion Weekend or any time throughout the year to check out all that’s new.
At the same time, the things we have all loved throughout the generations of Oswego alumni remain the same. Our beautiful sunsets, our friendly and talented students, our embracing of service to our communities and our deep-rooted Oswego friendships are things we all share in common.
We are excited to welcome you virtually to the new OsweGoConnect alumni community and in person on campus or in your local area. Wear your Green and Gold proudly and drop us a note through OsweGoConnect to let us know what’s new. We look forward to seeing you and hearing from you soon!
ONE DAY LAST WINTER MY DAUGHTER texted me, “Check out this cool website! Is this where Grandpa worked?” I followed the link to pictures of the abandoned rug mill in Amsterdam, N.Y., where my father ran the boiler for more than a quarter century, and scrolled through photo after photo of the ruins. There were the stairs my father climbed on his way to work. Here was the control panel, now rusted, that regulated the mighty boilers. A photo hangs in my living room of my father standing in front of the same dials. My father died seven years before Katie was born, but now she — and I — could share his world in a way never before possible. I recognized the photographer’s name: Rob Yasinsac ’99 was one of our “40 Under 40” alumni from the Summer 2005 issue. The next morning I excitedly showed the website to Associate Editor Shane Liebler. Within moments he found photos of the East Town Theater in Detroit, where his father heard the J. Geils Band and saw Emerson, Lake and Palmer play their U. S. debut for $2 on “new band night.” We knew we had to share Yasinsac’s photos with all 77,000 Oswego alumni through the magazine. Only a handful of the images could be printed in these pages, but you can visit Rob’s website, www.hudsonvalleyruins.org, for a look at the lost factories, churches, theaters and homes of a bygone America. Maybe you’ll see a memory from your own past!
FROM THE HOLLYWOOD HILLS to the bright lights of Broadway, from the pages of major magazines to the studios of ESPN and NBC, and from the art galleries of New York to the concert halls of major cities, graduates of Oswego’s School of Communication, Media and the Arts (SCMA) are making a name for themselves…and their alma mater.
We are so proud of all of their accomplishments. And we are especially pleased to feature in this issue stuntwoman Joanna Shelmidine ’89, Disney executive Janice Simcoe ’83 and movie producer Andrew Miano ’95.
Theses accomplished professionals, in the spotlight today, are among the thousands of graduates from the departments of art, music, theatre, communications and broadcasting, the fields that have long been studied at SUNY Oswego and now are combined in SCMA, our newest school. The inspiring successes of our graduates from these areas form a springboard for the future.
This year, we welcome the leadership of our inaugural volunteer Advisory Board to the school, as plans are under way for a renewal of the physical spaces that now house SCMA. It’s all in the future, so as they say in show business … “Stay tuned!”
Fifty years ago, our college had newly graduated from teachers college to comprehensive college of arts and sciences; we had just opened our new science building, Piez Hall; and President Foster Brown had recruited a young chemistry professor from Purdue University — Dr. Richard Shineman — to help expand Oswego’s science programs. Now, at another exciting time of growth and innovation for the sciences on our campus, the Shineman name is once again at the forefront.