Two Degrees of Otto – Syracuse University 2014 Commencement

May 17, 2014 § 1 Comment

Ladies and Gentlemen…

I would like to present my guest blogger…the one, the only, Ira Berkowitz!

Enjoy…
Laurie

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Two Degrees of Otto – Commencement 2014 Report

For Linda and me, May 11, 2014, marked the end of an era. We are no longer the parents of an active SU student as Zach now joins the family of SU alumni. However, life as an SU alumnus goes on and on and on and…..

If anyone doesn’t know, I graduated from SU in 1982, Linda in 1983, Allie graduated in 2011 and Zach this year. Starting July 1st, I will start my 10th year as President of the Syracuse University Northern New Jersey Alumni Club (SUNNJAC).

But lets get back to graduation weekend, a whirlwind weekend if ever there was one. As with any weekend at SU, we are always running into the members of our extended SU family and once we hit the hill, it doesn’t take very long. About an hour after checking into our hotel, we were sitting in Faegen’s when the first familiar SU face walked in, our friend Jonathan Hoster.

After lunch, it’s off to see all my friends in alumni relations (and you know who you are), a quick check-in with Kathleen Joyce in Engineering (who has the coolest office at SU) and a meeting with Ariel DuChene (also in Engineering) to discuss a future event in North Jersey. Walking back to the hotel I ran into Deryck Palmer, a member of the SU Board of Trustees, who has been a great supporter of our club having hosted the past 3 (or is it 4?) new student send-offs.

Back at the Hotel Skyler, we are having drinks with friends from North Carolina, who also have a child graduating, when my phone rings. It is Colleen Bench, Director of the Parents Office, who wants to come by and say hello, especially to Allie who is one of the many students that Colleen has helped out over the years. As I’m fond of saying, I’d convert to Catholicism if they’d let me nominate Colleen as a saint.

Friday night it’s dinner at Gentile’s, where we are joined by Binh Huynh (SU Summer College) and his loverly bride Julie Walas (SU iSchool), who we met when they started representing SU at our club send-offs. One of the great things about being an involved alumnus are the wonderful friends you make on the SU staff and faculty. Binh and Julie also dined with us for Allie’s graduation, and Linda and I were honored to be at their wedding last May.

At the table next to us was my friend Caryl Shapiro and her family. Caryl and I not only graduated from SU together, we graduated from high school together and have known each other since we were 13. Caryl’s son Ben is ’14, daughter Eve is currently in Whitman and her mom attended SU for 3 years. Lived in Sims Hall back in the day. And that was just Friday!

The highlight of Saturday was Zach’s convocation in Manley Field House. Zach was a Falk School student, and David Falk himself was in attendance. Of course, all eyes were focused on the gentleman seated next to him….Michael Jordan, whose daughter was also graduating from Falk that day. Zach happened to be sitting one section over from Mr. Falk and MJ but in the same row, so he was able to get a few pictures of the two of them which he texted me during the ceremony. At least there were no distractions (sarcasm font!).

One of my favorite moments of the weekend happened just after we arrived at the Dome on Sunday morning for graduation. As we were walking to our seats, Allie ran into Howard Saks (SU ’51) and his family. Howard is active in the SoCal Orange Alumni Club, as is Allie. Was so great to see how happy Allie was to run into a friend from LA and how happy Howard was to see her. Orange alumni across the country and across generations. It was a real “Ira moment” and as we all know, the Orange never falls very far from the tree.

And of course, no weekend at SU is complete without a sighting of everyone’s favorite Whitman Senior Development Director, Joanne Gocek. Remind me someday to tell you about the day Linda and I spent with Joanne and her husband Ed traipsing around all the best foodie places on the lower east side of Manhattan. Pickles, bagels, knishes, pastrami, with lots of beer mixed in. Ed happens to be about 6’6” so it’s always a challenge to keep up with him when it comes to beer, and I still have never come close!

I could go on about Saturday and Sunday and all the people we saw, but I think you get the picture. Commencement 2014 on Sunday was a great event filled with many SU friends. Our new Chancellor spoke beautifully. Our very own SUAA President Laurie Taishoff inspired the new alumni to get involved and stay in touch with their SU roots, although I didn’t get the shout out I was expecting and so richly deserve (I guess I just have to settle for seats in a comfy Carrier Dome box). Commencement speaker David Remnick was funny, engaging and gave students great insights to the world they are about to inherit as adults.

At the end of they day, being part of the Orange Nation boils down to one thing – the people who you share it with. As I said in a previous SUAA President’s blog, it’s 2 Degrees of Otto, something I am happy to say Linda and I have passed down to the next generation of Orange alumni.
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