October 9, 2013 § 3 Comments
I know…I promised Part Two of “All Aboard,” but after being on campus this past weekend for Orange Central, I really wanted to write about Homecoming. Yes, the football team lost big time to #3 Clemson, but, there was a near-sellout crowd of 48,961 on hand for our first ever ACC football game. So, while the outcome was not what we had all hoped for, we can be proud of the fact that so many of our fantastic alumni turned out to cheer on our beloved Orange.
My weekend was sooooo busy that the university assigned me a handler. And yes, I really needed one! A big shout out goes to the Interim Director of the Office of Alumni Relations, Deb Armstrong, who kept me on schedule, supplied me with carmel creams and granola bars, organized all of my speaking scripts and accompanied me from one end of the campus to the other.
One of the highlights of Orange Central was the Arents Award Luncheon which recognized five outstanding alumni: Taye Diggs, Carole Swid Eisner, Henry Grethel, Sid Lerner and George Saunders. Since 1939, more than 200 distinguished and talented alumni have been honored with this award. Being at this event made me so proud to be an SU alum. Oh…did I mention that I got my picture taken with Taye Diggs? BOOM!
On Saturday morning we had a combined SU Alumni Association Board and SU Alumni Club Presidents meeting. Chancellor-designate Kent Syverud and his wife, Dr. Ruth Chen, stopped by to introduce themselves. Everyone has been joking with the new chancellor about being a Georgetown grad, so he wanted to set the record straight. He explained that he was a student at Georgetown before the Big East Conference was formed, and before the rivalry was established. Decked out in his orange sweater, the Upstate New York native emphatically assured our group that he will root for Syracuse…much to the delight and relief of everyone in the room!
Also on Saturday, the combined groups participated in an ice breaker where we were asked what musical instrument best describes your individual personality: piano, trumpet, bass or violin. I chose piano. And for all of you who know Northern New Jersey Alumni Club President Ira Berkowitz, does it surprise you at all that he chose trumpet? Of course it doesn’t! And I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you much either that he was chosen leader of the trumpets to make the group presentation…
As I close out this blog, I would like to leave you with these words that were written in 1893. Take your time reading them…reflect on your time as a student on The Hill. Whether you are Generation Orange or you just celebrated your 50th reunion, Syracuse University is our common bond, our alma mater…
Where the vale of Onondaga
Meets the eastern sky
Proudly stands our Alma Mater
On her hilltop high.
Flag we love! Orange! Float for aye-
Old Syracuse, o’er thee,
Loyal be thy sons and daughters
To thy memory.
July 30, 2013 § 2 Comments
Recently I was traveling back home on a jammed-packed Amtrak Acela train from NYC to Washington, D.C.. I had been in New York for a Syracuse University meeting and was really looking forward to kicking back in my seat and relaxing, enjoying a cocktail while reading a book on my IPad. Little did I know that I would spend the next two and a half hours deeply entrenched in conversation and laughter!
As I boarded the train, it was every man and/or woman for him or herself. Open seats were at a premium on this weekday, rush hour train. Quickly I scoured the car and saw a man sitting by himself at a four top table. “Is anyone else sitting here?” I asked. With a roll of his eyes and a big sigh, he got up out of his seat and moved his bag from one of the empty seats to the overhead compartment. Oh great, I thought, THIS is going to be a fun trip! Less than a minute later another woman asked the man the same question. Again, I got to witness the roll of the eyes with a big sigh. The man didn’t seem to notice the glare she gave him as she dropped her bag on an empty seat and then left to walk up and down the car trying to find somewhere else to sit. While she was desperately looking for that elusive open seat, another man approached us and asked if the final open seat was taken. Well, with a big smile and the sweetest voice I could muster I replied “Why no, please join us!” Take that Mr. Cranky Pants with the rolling eyes and heavy sighs! And thus began our train ride of four strangers…
Well, even before we left Penn Station, the three of us (minus Mr. Cranky Pants) started talking. Kate, a lawyer from NYC, was traveling to D.C. for business. She received her undergrad degree from Dartmouth and her law degree from Duke. Noah, from D.C., was heading back home from business. He received his undergrad degree from Villanova and his MBA from Maryland. It was Kate who was able to finally engage the fourth person in our group…Michael, also a lawyer, from D.C.. He received his undergrad degree from Rochester and his law degree from Emory. Finally, the ice had been broken…
May 19, 2013 § 2 Comments
Last Sunday I had the privilege of delivering a speech at Syracuse University’s 159th commencement in the Carrier Dome, welcoming the graduates into the SU alumni family. And what a family we are! I am proud to say that we are a group of 245,000 strong that “bleed orange.” And speaking of “bleeding orange,” if you haven’t had an opportunity yet to hear the student speech by University Scholar Jaime Bernstein, I strongly encourage you to do so. Quite simply…it was spectacular.
Being a part of commencement was truly an amazing experience and something that I will always treasure. Now, I have to admit I was a little intimidated with the prospect of speaking in the Dome in front of thousands of people, but if truth were to be told, it really wasn’t quite as scary as I thought it might be. Maybe it was my degree from Newhouse that helped prepare me, or maybe it was seeing all of those smiling faces in the audience. Whatever the reasons may be, I just felt so honored to be representing the SU Alumni Association that I just relaxed and enjoyed the moment.
I had the pleasure of sitting next to Newhouse Dean Lorraine Branham during the commencement. Her gown was a beautiful crimson color, and this got me thinking about the history of academic regalia. What I found out was that the gowns, caps and hoods worn by faculty members and graduates date back to the Middle Ages when universities were being established in Europe. Long gowns were seen as a necessity to keep warm in the unheated buildings and were worn on a daily basis. The tradition carried over to American universities, but the gowns, caps and hoods were only used during commencement. By the late 1800’s, the assignment of colors to signify different fields of learning came into existence…Architecture–Blue Violet, Arts–White, Communications–Crimson, Education–Light Blue, Engineering-Orange, Fine Arts-Brown, Law-Purple and so on.
Congratulations to the Class of 2013! As I told the graduates, always remember our connection to Syracuse University never ends…we are Forever Orange!
April 2, 2013 § 3 Comments
As I sit here and write my first blog as President of the Syracuse University Alumni Association, I have to admit I am a bit distracted. The upcoming Final Four in Atlanta has my head spinning! I am so proud of the men’s basketball team and all that they have accomplished this season. I will be traveling to Atlanta later this week, and I can’t wait for the game against Michigan!
As our focus shifts to Atlanta, I thought you would like to know about Syracuse University’s strong presence in the region. The Atlanta area bleeds Orange with nearly 2,800 alums. It is also home to over 100 current SU students. Atlanta-area alumni, parents and friends volunteer in SU leadership positions such as the SU Board of Trustees, the SU Alumni Association, School and College Advisory Boards and the Atlanta Regional Council. As our alma mater moves from the Big East Conference to the Atlantic Coast Conference this summer, this will provide Syracuse University with even greater exposure in the region.
I would also like to take this opportunity to publicly thank my predecessor and my good friend, Brian Spector. It is an honor and a privilege to follow in his footsteps. Our Alumni Association is a better organization because of his commitment of time, thoughtful guidance and passion for the University. Thank you, Brian, for your outstanding leadership!
So, with Georgia On My Mind, I will close out this blog. Atlanta, get ready…OrangeNation is about to descend upon your great city!
February 2, 2013 § 5 Comments
I type this post with a profound sadness because, after a year and a half, it will prematurely be my last, but yet with a deep sense of pride in what was accomplished by the SU National Alumni Board during my term as its President.
On Tuesday, January 29th, in a letter to Chancellor Cantor and Board of Trustees Chair Dick Thompson, I resigned as SUAA President and as a member of the SU Board of Trustees. For those of you who know me, it was a difficult, if not painful, decision, but a necessary one. Without going into details, I resigned because I felt as if the decision not to invite a member of the National Alumni Board (not I, as I would have declined because of my other commitments) to serve on the New Chancellor Search Committee, and the failure to include the Board in the development of the Post-Campaign Plan for Regional Councils, with which our efforts are closely intertwined, or to even provide us with notice of such plans, were simply unacceptable. I know that those who made the decisions had their reasons, and I respect them; I just could not disagree more. I always promised myself that when a volunteer leadership position like this became more frustrating than fun and rewarding, it would be time to move on. Now is that time.
I am humbled by the overwhelmingly positive responses I have received thus far from so many people. As they say, it’s times like these when you realize who are your real friends.
Perhaps my resignation will stimulate a healthy discussion of the future and role of the National Alumni Board as representatives of the alumni community. Much progress has been made. With University staff oversight, the Board revised its by-laws and became smaller, yet made sure it remained diverse and representative of the entire alumni body. It took the lead on instilling a culture of philanthropy and adopted a Strategic Plan for Alumni Philanthropy that has been well-received and is being implemented. It coordinated its efforts with Generation Orange to make sure that our youngest alumni remain connected with SU and to serve as a platform for future engagement. It screened and recommended worthy recipients for the Arents Award, Eggers Award and Orange Circle Award. It achieved its goal to connect with numerous other constituencies both on and off campus. And, most importantly, it met its challenge to become the second most important Board at SU besides the Board of Trustees. I am proud of the Board for all of its efforts, and will miss working so closely with its members and OAR staff.
Now it is the time to look forward. I could not think of a more qualified person than Laurie Taishoff to take the reigns of the Board as it continues on its mission. I have had a chance to see Laurie develop into a true leader, and I am confident that she will do an outstanding job. As I have assured her, despite my resignation, I still love SU and will be available to provide her with assistance as she faces and tackles the challenges ahead. I also know that the other officers, committee chairs and members will fully support Laurie in her efforts.
I also want to thank the entire SU community, including the faithful followers and guest writers of this blog. It has been an honor to serve as Alumni President and to provide you with my “News & Views” on a monthly basis. I will cherish the memories of what I consider to be the experience of a lifetime.
And, for the last time, Go Orange!
January 4, 2013 § 6 Comments
Happy New Year Orange Nation!
Although he needs no introduction, this month I bring you a special guest blog by the one and only IraSez a/k/a Ira Berkowitz, Newhouse/Whitman ’82 and Lifetime President of the SU Northern New Jersey Alumni Club, now going strong in its 10th year:
“2 Degrees of Otto
It is Sunday afternoon of Thanksgiving weekend 1979, my sophomore year at Syracuse University and I’m stuck in a massive traffic jam on the Cross Bronx Expressway. Nothing to do but roll down the windows and see who knows whom. The girl in the next car over goes to Ithaca, graduated from Herricks High School (New Hyde Park on longisland), knows my friend Melissa from SU and her mother plays bridge with my best friend’s mother. And that my friends is 2 degrees of Otto (although back in 1979 there was no Otto, so we didn’t call it that).
It’s the “do you know…?” game. Sometimes called 6 degrees of separation, 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon, in Jersey it’s the “what exit?” phenomenon or what we members of the tribe commonly refer to Jewish geography. Call it what you want, but my theory lets me figure out how we have someone in common, who is somehow related to Syracuse within 2 or 3 moves.
All of this is part of the great network that comes from being an SU grad and/or in some way connected to someone who is or was a student at Syracuse. As for me, let’s just say my Orange runs deep. How deep you ask? Well, here’s a couple of my standard lines when it comes to my relationship with my alma mater:
1. I’m in the 8th year of a 3 year term as President of the Northern New Jersey Alumni Club, or as we SU grads call it…fuzzy math; and
2. I’m ’82, my wife Linda is ’83, my daughter Allie is ’11, my son Zach is ’14 and the dog’s name is Cosmo. Any questions?
You might say I’m big on Orange, as is my wardrobe. Sweats, t-shirts, golf shirts, hats, even 2 pairs pair of sneakers have orange in them. Also big on approaching anyone wearing anything Syracuse related.
A few years back, Linda and I were taking a walk around the community where my parents live in Florida. Ran into another couple and the husband was wearing an SU t-shirt.
“Fashion, dad or grad?” I asked.
The guy looked at me, not really sure what I meant.
“Are you an SU dad, a grad or are you just making a fashion statement?” I explained.
Turns out he’s a dad, but his wife is a grad, and wouldn’t you know I knew exactly who she was as we graduated the same year and had a few friends in common.
I could cite another dozen or more stories just like that one. People you have never met or haven’t seen in years, with whom you share a common bond – Orange.
As an alumni club president, my SU networking skills are put to use in a variety of ways on a seemingly daily basis. There are my legendary email blasts to my club members; tweets and facebook posts about club events and especially about ‘Cuse sports; our club’s monthly Business-to-Business breakfasts to help alums do business together; the emails I received from alums and parents look for advice on getting into Syracuse; emails from current SU parents looking for guidance for them and their students; and of course everyone wants to know if I can get them Big East Basketball Tournament tickets, which I can’t (and I suppose those requests are about to come to an end).
Being a Syracuse University alumnus is very special. Here in the NY/NJ metro area, we are the envy of many (if not most) other universities because of the strength, zeal and devotion of alums. As for my home state, let’s just say that Orange is Jersey strong. The current President of the National Alumni Association, Brian Spector, is Jersey strong. The immediate Past President, Larry Bashe, is Jersey strong. The SU Board of Trustees, 5 of those are Jersey strong. I can’t explain, but as I’m found of saying, “it is what it is” and it is Orange.
One last story before I go. A few winters ago, my son Zach and I were skiing at Killington, sitting in a lodge having lunch. A few minutes later, a large group of teenagers sat down at our table. I struck up a conversation and quickly learned that they were from a church group in Orchard Park, NY. Now I happened to know someone who was involved in that same group before he went off to college (not SU, if you can believe that). When I asked do you know this person, they were all in disbelief and asked “how do you know Ben?”
My response, “I’m the one who introduced his parents when we were all at Syracuse together.”
And that my friends, is 2 degrees of Otto.
For more of IraSez, check out his blog at www.irasez.com. Go Orange!
December 30, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,700 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 8 years to get that many views.