Going the Extra Mile
Mentors come from every imaginable place. We often cite the lifelong
influence of great faculty; via a mid-winter Web survey, we asked students
and alumni to tell us about others who helped shape their education
and their life’s direction.
Calla Bassett ’76
From the time I was admitted, John Kenny took an interest
that kept me going--when my father was laid off, and again when
I really wanted to go to the Middle East with Professor of Religious
Studies Daniel O'Connor. He went the extra mile with a smile
and a handshake. I will never forget him. John Kenny ’60 served St. Lawrence in several positions, all related
to admissions and financial aid, from 1966 to 1991; he lives
in retirement in Canton, where he is active in civic affairs.
Julia Whitcavitch-DeVoy ’90
After returning from my second semester away from SLU (Vienna
my junior year fall and Washington, D.C., my senior year fall),
I was totally uninterested in returning to regular old campus-based
dorm life. I felt more mature and more ready to live off campus.
As a government major, I knew Sheila
Murphy quite well. Sheila suggested that I rent a room from her
and her two daughters in their Canton home. I lived there my
senior spring with Sheila, her family, their dogs and two other
college students. It was awesome. We had regular “family” dinners
and hung out a lot but she also allowed me the independence and
freedom an emerging adult needs. She understood the balance.
The late Sheila Murphy was secretary in the government
office for many years.
Brian Kelahan ’82
As Thelmo president, I met weekly with Peter Van de Water,
vice president of student affairs. We talked over many issues, explored
the variety of points of view that would imprint decisions, agreed
to agree or disagree. He was a remarkable guide as I negotiated my
way through other administrators, faculty, trustees and my fellow students,
in order to accomplish our goals as student leaders.
In early December
1980, I was coming to the end of my term as Thelmo president
and the end of fall classes, and in the midst of a presidential search
(I was a student delegate on the committee), and my mother was dying
of cancer. Sensing that I was unraveling, he simply told me that
I needed to be home. He helped me make a decision that I needed to
make but could not; it allowed me to be with my family and my mother,
who passed away 10 days later. He exemplified the personal touch
of a small college. Between his weekly mentoring and throwing me
a lifeline when I desperately needed it, I will always think of him
as an administrator who made a difference. After many years at St. Lawrence, Peter Van de Water ’58 lives in retirement near Canton, where he’s a busy community advocate and volunteer and key member of the University’s
Canton Initiative committee.
Stephen Todd ’92
Paula Comuntzis was always
warm and welcoming at the Northstar Pub. She literally gave
me a hug and asked me how my day was every time I walked in
was equally warm to my four siblings, each of whom attended
SLU and became attached to Paula. She still recognizes me immediately
and gives me a hug every time I'm on campus (needless to say,
I wouldn't visit campus without stopping by the Student Center
to see her!).
Pamela Burton ’94
Paula Comuntzis and Mary
took the time to look out for me, knowing that I was far away
from home. Whether it was to make sure that I wasn't hungry or
that I was keeping up with my studies, both of them were there
for me as part of my extended St. Lawrence family. Paula
Comuntzis still hugs students in the Northstar Café;
Mary Lloyd is senior secretary for the modern languages and literatures
Steve Amick ’86
Chip Jenkins went
on to help run the North Country Research Center at St. Lawrence,
but when I was there, he was assistant manager of the bookstore. He
became a good friend and mentor, suggesting writers and musicians
I'd never heard of and dispensing amazing life advice.
Charles “Chip” Jenkins ’69 lives in Colton,
N.Y., where, after six years as a publisher’s
representative, he has been a stay-at-home dad since 1998.
Whittier Schweizer ’68
Growing up in an impoverished single-parent family, I could only
dream of being able to attend a college such as St. Lawrence.
We had no car and no money. Nevertheless, my grandfather drove
me to Canton for an interview with David Lasher, who
took a personal interest in me and helped me receive scholarship
and loan support that enabled me to attend St. Lawrence. He always
seemed to be cheering me on, showing his support and never giving
up on me. I continue to be grateful for his and St. Lawrence's
faith in me; for the individual attention I received while there;
and for the excellent education that became my path out of poverty
and equipped me to achieve a 4.0 GPA in graduate school.
Our records indicate that David Lasher ’57 lives in
Florida, having retired as vice president of college relations
at SUNY at Oneonta.
Tom Sy ’82
Jack Taylor gave
me my first job at SLU and was always genuinely interested
in students’ well-being and life outside the job. He was also
willing to make changes in the dining halls to improve services
to students. Jack Taylor retired as director of dining services
after 30 years at St. Lawrence. His name graces the snack shop
in the Student Center and an annual award for exemplary performance
by an administrator.
Michael J. Cronk ’99
Anne Townsend never
slept! She worked endlessly to ensure that students had the
support they needed to achieve any goal. My friends and I
worked closely with Anne to run The Underground. Her tireless
support of our efforts helped create a successful place where students
could relax and enjoy campus life. She was also a strong
supporter of my goal to go into college student affairs work. Thanks,
Melissa Wilson MacGregor ’98
When I was a student, Anne Townsend was director
of student activities. I was a member of ACE and president
during my senior year. Anne was a fantastic mentor and
a great listener. I
learned most of what I know about running an organization and
managing other people from her; for that, I am forever appreciative.
Anne Townsend continues at St. Lawrence as director of
the David Garner Center for Collegiate Volunteerism.
Andrew Davison ’06
Terry Cowdrey truly cares about how students are feeling
once they get to campus. Despite her very busy schedule,
she has taken time out of her day to talk with me about my
ideas or concerns about campus issues. Terry Cowdrey has been vice president and dean of admissions
and financial aid at St. Lawrence since 1997.
Adam W. Casler ’06
Dean M.L. "Cissy" Petty always had
a smile on her face, and would always go the extra mile to
make sure that all of her students were having a great experience. She
constantly challenged me to go farther than I had thought possible,
and was always around when I or any other student needed her. Vice
President and Dean of Student Life Petty served St. Lawrence from
1998 to 2005.
Danielle Weaver ’07
Marna Redding challenged me, always encouraged me to put my best foot forward, and because of her, I am who I am today. Daily, I would sit in her office, and discuss matters sometimes important, other times not. She was always there for a smile, a laugh, a tear and a hug. She has become a friend, and I am very thankful for her and the memories we have made at St. Lawrence.
Associate Director of Co-curricular Education and Programming Marna Redding left the North Country in January 2006 for new adventures.
I met Debbie Sheldon when I worked at the Northstar
Pub my first semester. Later, she was kind, warm and thoughtful
every day as my cohort gathered there to eat and hang out. Her cheerful spirit is the essence of SLU. Now, in graduate school, I realize how much a part of the community I felt because of the intimate relationship students and staff have on campus. Debbie's
presence made campus an easy place to call home. Debbie Sheldon
continues at St. Lawrence, working in the Northstar Café in
the Student Center.
Kenneth L. Shilkret ’61
When I was at SLU, my dad got sick and money was tight. I
approached Ross Keller for a job in one of the
dining halls, but the staff was full. He allowed me to
baby-sit for his children and gave me other odd jobs until a
position opened up. He also named me supervisor of the student
dining room staff for a period. From him I learned good work
ethics and supervisory responsibility.
Ross Keller worked in food service and auxiliary enterprises at St. Lawrence, 1958-75. Retired from inn-keeping in Maine, he lives in Massachusetts.
Helle Nemiah ’82
As the class reporter since 1982, I have been everything from devoted to deviant and always felt respected, encouraged and valued. Alumni
director Frank Shields made me feel important as an alumni volunteer; editor Neal Burdick listens
patiently to my excuses for tardiness. Thanks to both for
setting the tone for my first and longest St. Lawrence volunteer
As an Alumni Council member, I have been fortunate
to spend time with President Dan Sullivan. I
am constantly impressed by the way he handles his job with sincerity
and candor, juggling all his constituencies and giving each equal
weight. Friendly but forthright, he is both respected and approachable.
And he knows how to laugh at himself. As I morph into my
job as PTA president, I hope to keep his role model snapshot
in my back pocket.
Neal Burdick ’72 has edited this magazine for over
29 years; Frank Shields ’54 is retired director of
alumni relations; Daniel Sullivan ’65 has been St.
Lawrence’s president since 1996.
Chera Marshall ’03
Lew Barkley was a friend from day one. Lew worked in the Equipment Cage at Augsbury and made St. Lawrence a truly special place for me. He always had a big smile and friendly stories; he always asked how I was doing; he was genuinely concerned. He has affected my life more than he will ever know.
Lew Barkley continues at his post, and was recognized for30 years of service to St. Lawrence this spring.
E.B. Wilson ’53
In the interest of full disclosure, Lisa Cania, associate vice president for University relations, would like to thank the five alumni and students who indicated that she was their most influential mentor. As publisher of St. Lawrence, she feels it would be inappropriate to use these pages for text that is complimentary to her personally. “To know that I’ve made a small difference in their lives makes me feel 10 feet tall,” she says. “I have always tried to live the maxim that Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Trustees Bruce Benedict ’60, who quotes his predecessor, the late John Hannon ’44, ‘St. Lawrence is good people.’”
During Tom Coburn’s tenure
as academic dean, the leadership of the Board of Trustees,
working with the president, shared a conviction that the governance
of the University would benefit enormously if the trustees
and faculty leaders collaborated on a commitment to find common
ground, creating a system in which all of the governance partners
were pulling in the same strategic direction. Tom possessed
sensitive leadership instincts that helped me, as board chair,
acquire the skills so that together we could surmount huge
cultural chasms and successfully marginalize a long history
of mutual suspicions. Tom’s style wasn’t intentional,
overt mentoring, but rather what is often the best kind: quietly
consistent, step-by-step demonstrations of an effective capacity
to lead. No wonder he is today a successful college president!
Tom Coburn is president of Naropa University in Boulder,