“2 Degrees of Otto” – by Guest Blogger IraSez (Ira Berkowitz ’82)
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!