Thank you Dr Sullivan and my fellow trustees. My wife, Sally, and I appreciate the honors you have bestowed upon us and the part that you all played in awarding them to us. When I first stepped on this campus in 1956 I certainly couldn’t have envisioned that I would ever be awarded an honorary degree because as the first of my family ever to go to college, I had no clue what an honorary degree was.
In the time allotted to me I want to talk about the St. Lawrence that I attended so that you can compare it to what you have seen during your time here.
In 1956 when we celebrated SLU’s centennial the campus was only half as large as it is now as all of the buildings on the south side of Sykes like Bewkes, Madill, etc. were owned and occupied by Canton Tech . Appleton was an almost new building then as were Hulet and Jenks. The Snow Bowl was a thriving enterprise and Dean Eaton only housed freshman women and Sykes only freshman men.
There were several WWII buildings on campus then including the student center that stood behind the Phi Sig house, a squat military classroom building located exactly on the spot where the Sullivan Student Center now stands and Vetsville, a dozen or so one story, four unit apartment buildings, housed almost all of the married students including Ann and Dan Sullivan and Sally and Larry Winston-who paid all for $30. per month plus the cost of kerosene for the one heater in each unit.
Student enrollment was only about 1500 compared to about 2200 now and the total comprehensive fee, room and board and tuition, was $750 and rose to $950 when I was a senior. Books cost about $100 per year new and $50 when bought used. In those days only about 10% of the students received any form of financial aid and most of that was in the form of jobs and not grants. My jobs included selling popcorn at Appleton and feeding the rats in the Psych Depts. lab.
There were classes on Saturday and a full dress ROTC parade every Friday in the Fall and Spring. More than 500 men took part in ROTC and every year more than 100 were commissioned as 2nd Lts in the Army. After commissioning, I spent four years as a regular army officer and rank the experience second only to what I enjoyed here on campus.
The legal drinking age was 18 then and there were 7 national fraternities and 5 national sororities and they were the center of the social life on campus. Alcohol was a major vice then as it is now but the drinking age limit of 18 legally allowed us to experiment to decide if we wanted it to be part of our lives or not.
Only about 20 percent of the students remained as independents and the rest of us all pledged “Greek” as we could actually live in the houses, drink to our hearts content and eat our meals there too. In addition to the all the action in the greek houses on campus, there were 17 drinking establishments in and around Canton and several more in Potsdam.
All buildings were single sex, co-ed dorms were non existent, co-ed dorms by floor were only at Berkley and co-ed by room was the stuff of fantasy.
There were very few TV’s on campus and they were all in the dorm lounges and Greek houses. It was common for all the men to gather in front of a mammoth 24 inch black and white TV screen somewhere to watch football but never the Super Bowl because there was no Super Bowl then. In general, only one or two telephones would be found in each dorm or sorority or fraternity house. You can bet that there were very few private conversations on the phone in those days and most of us called our parents once a week, long distance collect, to let them know we were well.
Few students had cars and car pooling to hometowns was the way most traveled for school breaks but we did have the Canton Creeper a train that stopped in Canton every day that could take you to Syracuse connecting to NYC or Buffalo and I rode it back and forth to my home on Long Island twice- once traveling with a railcar full of co-eds from Potsdam State that were heading south. Now that was a great trip.
So, that’s a brief sketch of the past- Lets talk about now. St Lawrence recently celebrated it’s 150th anniversary while you were here and you know how stunning the campus is now. During Dr. Sullivan’s 13 yrs as SLU’s president he has managed, with the help of the two board chairs that served during that time, EB Wilson and myself and an enlightened and courageous board of trustees, to transform this University into a destination of which we are all proud.
All the incredible new facilities, the student-faculty research programs, the Sr. Year Experience, the expansion of the international programs, and the multitude of leadership positions have provided you, the class of ’09, with unparalleled opportunities to become well rounded and alert young adults. Most of you have appreciated our efforts and have taken full advantage of what SLU presented to you and have done amazingly well at it. As a 22 year member of the board and speaking for all of your board members, we are so proud of your accomplishments. We are proud of the work that you have done in the classrooms and labs and on the athletic fields, in the community, and on campus. We are delighted with your participation in the resurgence of Thelmo which has been mirrored by a resurgence among the Alumni Association and which indicates that both you and they are interested in making this place even better and all that has been done so far has not been wasted.
Well, SLU means a lot to our family too. You have already heard of how SLU converted my wife to a believer. One of our three daughters Donna, an art history major’85 is enjoying a highly successful career with a large financial firm. My BS in Psych among other things helped me learn how to write and communicate effectively and was instrumental my successful career on Wall St. Now our three older grandchildren are Saints too. Danni Weaver ’07 received her Masters from Buff State just last evening and I appreciate her driving here late last night to join her brothers, Drew and Doug, hopefully of the classes of 10 and 11. (we’ll see) and I‘m working on the younger two grandchildren, also here today, to become Saints too. The point here is that we are a St. Lawrence family and have chosen to do good things with the education we received here and tried hard to give back as much as we can for those that follow us and I think we have been successful.
Now, lets talk about the future. You understand the tremendous changes that have taken place and have to agree that it took enormous effort to make those changes over the years. They didn’t happen by accident.
So, I ask, after today when “from this hill you’ve wended down” are you ever going to come back to St. Lawrence? Are you going to get in the game and try to help us make St. Lawrence even better or just watch from the sidelines. Consider this: Statistics indicate that about a third of you seated in front of me will never set foot back on campus again and an even larger chance that after today, you will never, ever again see most of the of your classmates.
Don’t become one of those high statistics- Stay in touch and stay active with SLU. We need you. Those that have gone before you have helped make this an exceptional institution with their support, providing both the talent and the treasure that is vital to continue improving our alma mater. We need your support in the future to keep St. Lawrence great and hope that you will join our efforts when called upon to do so.
You never know how it all will turn out. Think about this-
Dan Sullivan is the 17th President of this institution and I was the 18th Chair of the Board of Trustees- doing some math I figure that any one of you could turn out to be 24th President or the 25th Board Chair around 2045! Stay involved and good luck, God speed and thank you again for these honors that you have bestowed upon my wife and myself.