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"Aha" Moments

Part 2

Learning How to Walk, Again
When you go off to college and are thrown into a new environment there are some instinctive practices that you must relearn.  For me it was walking.

New England born and bred I, am no stranger to snow; the cold was what worried me.  In the second semester of my first year I left my dorm decked head to toe in arctic-strength clothing.  If only I had known that the slippery winter whiteness I thought I knew so well would be my downfall.

Overnight the path across the Quad had transformed into a bobsled track.  In our rubber-soled shoes my friend Steffi and I developed a method of “walking” completely unique to SLU: glide two steps, fall on your ass. 

The fall defines this specific type of walking.  Never dignified, gentle or ladylike, we ended up landing, hard, on our butts or face first in the quicksand-like unpacked snow menacingly lining the path.

It was in the instant when my foot slipped out from under me on the ice-covered route that it hit me: Emily, we’re not in Connecticut anymore. Lying on the cold, hard surface, I knew that I would come to love SLU, but that I would need to adapt in order to navigate this new environment.
-- Emily Gowdey-Backus ’10

When fine arts and history double major and fall 2009 communications intern Emily Gowdey-Backus is in Connecticut, she’s often at home in Burlington.

Cheese Broccoli Soup for the SLU Soul
As a psychology major I worked in the preschool on campus under Prof. James Wallace.  My sophomore year, Jim and his wife, Judy, hosted a Christmas dinner party for students.  Judy made a delicious cheese broccoli soup; I asked her for the recipe, which she happily shared. 

This soup has become a family favorite and has graced our holiday tables since the year I first made it.  Each time I make the soup, it evokes so many memories, all of them as warm and comforting as the soup itself.  The soup is a ribbon of memory that ties me to St. Lawrence. 

It was an exciting and proud moment when our son Chris ’09 entered St. Lawrence.  It was fun to introduce him to Jim and Judy and explain that the origin of the soup was Judy.  The ribbon of St. Lawrence was woven around our son.  As he shares in our holiday soup, so does he share in the traditions of St. Lawrence.  Like the soup, St. Lawrence nourishes each of us and brings us traditions and warm memories of a lifetime.       
--Joanne Rotella Honeywell ’80

Joanne Honeywell is a member of the Alumni Council; she and former council president Jeff Honeywell live in Glenmont, N.Y.

It’s the doors that open unexpectedly. The first time it happened I was a high school senior in southern California. I hadn’t heard of St. Lawrence before the admissions mailer (unexpectedly) appeared. My gut instinct was to apply.

The next unexpected surprise arrived--a letter designating me a Trustee Scholar and inviting me to campus for Scholar Days. We arrived on a slushy, muddy April day. I about froze and loved every minute of it. Soon I crossed the SLU threshold.

Then the doors really started flinging open. Sometimes it was to something small and meaningful: playing a Bach invention on a harpsichord. Others led to the bright minds of professors, and to the world. I have traveled extensively and developed an abiding appreciation for the art, architecture and music of these places.

Plenty of doors opened if you knocked--doors to knowledge, hard work, opportunity. What makes SLU special is the ones that opened even if you didn’t knock, like the time I was practically tackled in an airport by alumni who saw my SLU sweatshirt. Or the time I was interviewed by an exclusive consulting firm when my application (unexpectedly) landed on the desk of a partner and alumna. (I got the job.) Or the time I was elected to the Alumni Council.

I now find myself in a privileged place, here on the other side of the door. My hand rests on the knob, waiting to greet a fellow Laurentian, to swing it wide open.
--Jennifer Wooton Hunter ’94

Class Reporter and Alumni Council member Jenny Hunter is communications manager for the Virginia Information Technologies Agency in Chester, Va.

Learning to Give
As a sophomore, I decided that I would use my Spring Break more constructively. Instead of returning home to Atlanta, I signed up for a trip to Boston.  For five days, I served the homeless community at the Long Island Homeless Shelter.  I listened to stories and observed the residents who were fortunate to receive a bed night after night.  My group cleaned up the grounds and served meals. I considered the trip a success when one resident thanked me for giving up my Spring Break to make their lives a little better.
That was until I was approached by a homeless person in Quincy Market. Unfortunately, I cannot recall his name, but I do remember he was trying to sell me a newspaper. As I declined, I realized that despite my efforts, more was needed to effect change.

This moment of growth was built upon by many other opportunities on campus and has captured the essence of my education and experience. I have learned to give of myself wholly, which inspired me to volunteer a year of service in Americorps Vista, and continues to motivate me until this day.
--Chinasa Izeogu ’05

Chinasa Izeogu gives of herself to St. Lawrence as class reporter; a former analyst for the Mental Health Committee of the New York State Assembly, in January she enrolled at SUNY Albany in the Library and Information Science Program, with the support of a prestigious American Library Association Spectrum Scholarship Award.
Can-do Attitude
My “St. Lawrence Moment” connects to the opening of Newell Field House and the Munro Family Climbing Wall.  The wall punches through the entrance floor from the basement, continuing to the high ceiling above.  A crowd often gathers to watch climbers on the wall.  Few people know how it came to be.

Doug Munro ’92 is, along with his brother McCleane “Mack” ’94 and me, an avid rock climber.  We dreamed together of an indoor wall where SLU’s climbers could practice during cold weather.  Eventually I proposed the idea to Dick Metcalf ’63, director of athletics.  Dick called the director of facilities, who agreed to come and listen. I had never seen a climbing wall, but immodestly sketched a design on the spot.  Dick agreed to allow it in Leithead Field House, Facilities agreed to erect a plywood frame, and Doug recruited his buddies to scavenge rocks from the geology scrap pile and embed them in auto body repair compound so we could screw them to the plywood.  With equipment borrowed from Facilities, we installed the holds over a weekend, and St. Lawrence had its first climbing wall for about $1,000.  

One of the great things about St. Lawrence is that our institutional instinct is not to figure out why we can’t do something, but how we can.  Another is the way alumni cherish their experiences here: a decade after graduation, the Munro family gave St. Lawrence a new, state-of-the-art wall.  New generations of students share the fun of indoor climbing, thanks to open-minded University staff, hard work by students, and, of course, the generous gift from Doug and his family.                                                                             
--Baylor Johnson

Associate Professor of Philosophy and past Director of Outdoor Studies Baylor Johnson has been an ardent advocate proponent of outdoor education, in numerous incarnations, throughout his 38 years at St. Lawrence.

Atmospheric Conditions
One of the most striking aspects of St. Lawrence, apparent to me since the moment I stepped on this campus, is the community atmosphere.  This year, I feel privileged to live with four of my best friends in the senior townhouses.  These are people who have shaped my experience at St. Lawrence, and we now have the opportunity to live together.  Our group has represented St. Lawrence in athletics, Greek life, student government and community service organizations, and as community assistants, student ambassadors, tutors and much more.  I began my St. Lawrence career in the First-Year Program with two of my housemates, and I have studied abroad, worked and participated in campus activities with all of them.  Most important, I have formed bonds with each of these individuals that I am sure will last a lifetime. 

The townhouses are a type of transitional living environment that helps prepare us for the years after we leave SLU.  We make “family” dinners, lie outside in the sun, have parties with our friends and mostly just live our day-to-day lives with each other. 

My housemates are only one example of how the people at SLU define this institution. My close relationships with professors, advisors, staff members, co-workers and others throughout campus have helped to form the person that I have become today. 
--Josh Johnson ’10

 Josh Johnson, of Bemus Point, N.Y., is the first communications intern in the 30-year history of the program to be a chemistry major.

Seeing the Lights
During the winter of my senior year, the North Country skies were lit by the Aurora Borealis, the fabled Northern Lights. I was living in Hulett, with three of my closest friends since freshman year, and we found ourselves hanging out the window to watch the green waves shimmering above the horizon. We could see others in our dorm, and Jencks, doing the same. It felt like all of campus was either outside looking up in awe, or craning their necks out of windows to watch this natural wonder. 

This beautiful, bittersweet moment encapsulated the SLU experience for me. My final year was coming to an end, and I was sharing this moment not only with good friends, but seemingly a large percentage of the student body. As an English and government major, it offered me the rare chance to marvel at something purely scientific that I most likely wouldn’t have experienced had I attended another university. And as a native of St. Lawrence County, it reminded me of the region’s breathtaking proximity to nature that I frequently tended to take for granted. To me, that evening perfectly combines the sense of community, invaluable opportunities, and setting that the St. Lawrence tradition has been built upon. 
-- Amy White Kaldor-Bull ’98

A University communications intern as a student, Amy Kaldor-Bull is today an editor with Disney FamilyFun in Northampton, Mass.

Home (Far) Away from Home
I knew St. Lawrence was a great place, but I did not realize what it meant to me until I went through one of the hardest times in my life.

I have lived away from my family since the age of 7, in boarding schools in pursuit of a proper education. During fall 2008, I started questioning my decision to be so far from home. Even though I was at this great place with wonderful opportunities, I simply could not get out of the negative zone I was in.

As always, I wanted to deal with the problem on my own. I did not want to bother others with my problems.

I wish I had known better. As soon as I opened up, I was swarmed by people willing to help me.  I realized that as long as I was honest and open about what was going on in my life, I would always get the help I needed. 

The support I received that semester inspired me to be there for other students who were going through similar experiences. It further encouraged me to be an active member of the community as well. Academically, I performed my best the following semester. Even though I was far from my real home, finding such strong support during a difficult time made me feel more at home here. 
--Tsewang Lama ’10

Home for Asian studies and government major Tsewang Lama is a village that is four days by foot from Kathmandu, Nepal.

Most people hate interviews. They get nervous or they stutter or they sweat a lot. I am not one of those people. I love interviews, maybe a little too much. I think it’s the theatrical side of me that really enjoys them because in an interview you have to create and present an image of yourself that you think your potential future bosses will like. It’s just like acting.

In the spring semester of 2009, I went to an interview to be an admissions ambassador--you know, those peppy students who take you on tours around campus and are on panels answering questions—and I was prepared to create this perfect young lady whom anyone would be sure to hire. Only I didn’t have to. My interviewers were students just like me, and they didn’t want some pod person—they wanted someone who was interesting and funny and represented an aspect of St. Lawrence.

One of the last questions they asked me was the standard, “So honestly, why should we hire you?” Before I answered I thought about all the other interviews I had been to and the perfectly normal, boring responses I had given. Finally I answered them, “Well, basically, I’m awesome.”

I got the job.

Only at St. Lawrence would declaring myself “awesome” get me a highly coveted position. It was nice to be myself in an interview. What I realized about SLU students is we’re not afraid to be who we really are—and usually we’re awesome.        
-- Dymon Lewis ’11

Dymon Lewis, of Hopewell Junction, N.Y., is an English major with a writing concentration; she spent last fall on St. Lawrence’s awesome program in London.

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