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.
December 4, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Happy holidays to the entire SU family near and far! I hope that this season brings each of you and your family and friends all the joy and happiness you deserve, as well as more basketball victories and a Pinstripe Bowl win over WVU!
This month I invited SU National Alumni Board members and devoted alumni Sam Clarvit and Marc Penziner to write a post about the holidays. I sincerely appreciate their time and effort.
“It is amazing that another year has come and gone so quickly. Before we can turn our focus to the year 2013, we should take time to think of those who have not been as fortunate as we have.
Our thoughts turn especially to those who live in the areas most heavily impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Given that the region is home to many students and their families and SU alumni, friends, and colleagues, the SU community is committed to providing any assistance we can to help the efforts to recover and rebuild. Please visit http://news.syr.edu/su-continues-to-assist-those-affected-by-hurricane-sandy/ for more information on ways in which we are helping.
We are proud of the members of the SU family – both near and far – who are making a commitment of service and outreach to that community. In no way would we suggest that any of our alumni divert their support from such an important cause. We only ask that you consider making a gift to Syracuse University to help those students who will now, more than ever, certainly welcome it.
While we will all be affected by this tragedy in ways not yet imagined, we must move forward as a university. We have a duty to our students to ensure they are offered the quality education they deserve. Annual support for Syracuse University from our alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and friends remains vital, providing as much as 20% of the university’s operating budget. The university would be unable to fulfill that obligation without it.
Have you already made your gift to the Fund for Syracuse? Thank you! If you haven’t, consider joining us now at givetosu.syr.edu. Every dollar counts. Every gift matters. Even a modest gift of $44 would both benefit and help connect you back to the University.
While you are thinking about SU, start your new year by planning a trip back to campus with your friends and family. See what has changed, visit your old favorite spots on M Street, see the Orange play at the Dome. Just by getting back on campus and making a gift, you will re-kindle your relationship with SU, and it will bring you so much closer to your SU roots. Make that a New Year’s resolution. Now, you are hopefully asking how you give to SU? Just follow the link givetosu.syr.edu.
We are sure that your gift will help many students in any way you so choose. Thank you and have a safe and happy holiday season! Go Orange!
Sam and Marc”
November 5, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I know that the thoughts of all of Orange Nation are with those who have suffered from the unimaginable devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Having only lost power for a few days and having to wait on one gas line so far, I consider myself one of the fortunate ones. Areas of New Jersey, Staten Island and Long Island were destroyed to the point of being unrecognizable and will take years to rebuild. I know that there are many SU alumni who have opened their homes, hearts and wallets for those in need and, for that, I and the world thank them.
Sitting on the gas line last night made me think back to the last time I did that – in the early 1970′s – when I passed the time by listening to music blaring from the radio of my 1970 Cutlass Supreme. It also reminded me of how fortunate we were at SU in the 70′s to have so many musical talents perform on or near campus, including Orleans on the Quad, Bonnie Raitt, Keith Jarrett and Loudon Wainwright in Setnor Auditorium, Linda Ronstadt at Manley, and Bachman Turner Overdrive, the Edgar Winter Group and ZZ Top at the War Memorial. Syracuse has always been the home of great music and where many in the music industry got their start.
To hopefully lift up your Orange spirit, and with deep appreciation to David Rezak, the Director of the Bandier Program at SU, I thought it would be good to hear about how some of our alumni are faring in the music industry.
Billboard Magazine published a “Power 100″ list last year. Alumni and Trustees Marty Bandier ‘62 (A&S) was #4 and Rob Light ‘78 (NEW) was #7. Also, Jon Cohen ‘90 (WSoM/NEW), ‘95 (WsoM/NEW) has become the preeminent marketing executive in the music space. John Sykes ‘77 (NEW) is back in music, running iHeartRadio.
It is also fun to consider the meteoric rise of some recent grads:
- Olivia Zaro (Bandier ’12) is Scooter Braun’s assistant.
- Mike George (Bandier ’11) is an entrepreneur, managing Hoodie Allen and others.
- Dan Bagnall (Bandier ’11) handles all of AEG Live’s network feeds.
- Sam Mason (Bandier ’11) is Lighting Director at the new Capitol Theater in Port Chester.
- Kelly DiStefano (WsoM ‘03), a AEG Live road accountant, settles all of a major artist’s shows in North America.
- Sara Villagio Lalli (VPA ‘04) is the Marketing Manager of Jazz at Lincoln Center
- Sharon Timure (WsoM/NEW ‘04) is a Product Manager and manager of artist development at Island Def Jam Records.
- Kaitlyn Moore (Bandier/NEW ’10) is Social Media Manager for Borman Entertainment, the corporate name for a famous country star.
Some other music movers and shakers include:
- Justin Shukat (WSoM/NEW ‘96) is the managing partner of Primary Wave publishing and management.
- Laura Striese (NEW ‘01) is a marketing executive for Brand Synergy, which handles Nivea.
- Eric German (NEW ‘92) is a music attorney/partner at MSK.
- Claude Mitchell (A&S ‘88) is a music director at ESPN.
- Phil Metz (EDU ‘98) is a music manager for Nascar.
As David so aptly stated to me, “an embarrassment of riches here.”
Obviously, this is by no means a complete list. So, I invite you to leave a comment with others who should be included, but were innocently omitted.
For those of you still suffering from the aftereffects of the storm, I hope and pray for a speedy and full recovery to normalcy. Your Orange family is here for you if you need us.