The Things That Really Matter
The past 24 years evoke myriad lasting memories and emotions. Hockey itself can provide many of those, from the national championship game in Lake Placid in 1988 to the almost surreal four-overtime victory over Boston University in March of 2000 that again put us in the national Frozen Four. But for me it is events that had nothing to with St. Lawrence actually playing a hockey game that are the most vivid.
Two of these, in particular, transcend any athletic experience: Peter McGeough ’88 walking onto the ice at Appleton Arena in March of 1989, five months after a catastrophic accident in an American Hockey League game ended his promising professional career; and, a dozen years later, as with so many heartbreaking stories from 9-11, waiting for news on Mike Pelletier ’88 and Rich Stewart ’89, teammates who we ultimately learned were lost in the Twin Towers attacks.
It is through moments like these that you see the things that really matter. At these times, teammates, families, the school and the community come together to share support or grief. For me, it was through these events that my ties to St. Lawrence were strengthened and I realized I would never coach anywhere else.
Joe Marsh is the Charles W. Appleton II Head Men’s Hockey Coach and a two-time winner of the Spencer Penrose Award, signifying the top men’s collegiate hockey coach in the nation.
Somebody Home at Christmas
I was a high school senior when my family drove through Canton on the way home from a post-Christmas vacation in Lake Placid in order to visit St. Lawrence. The campus was magical! Everything, trees, bushes, roofs and paths, was white from a heavy overnight snowfall. It was truly a winter wonderland and soooo quiet.
Not really expecting that anyone would be on duty during Christmas week, we stopped at the admissions office and found a lone secretary. She apologized that no one was there to speak to us, but asked us to wait while she called someone. No more than five minutes later, a casually clad man walked in smiling broadly and introduced himself as Director of Admissions John Muyskens! He had interrupted his own special time with his family to rush to campus to speak with total strangers and answer questions, and then he personally led us on a tour of the campus. (There weren’t so many buildings back then.)
Before we left campus that day, I had been guaranteed admission but encouraged to continue considering the other colleges on my list. Needless to say, my entire family was incredibly impressed with our introduction to my future alma mater. There was no contest from then on: a beautiful setting, lots of winter snow, but mostly the overwhelming friendliness of the people we met that day who put themselves out for me.
As a student, I worked summers in the admissions office and discovered that my experience had not been unusual. It was the way everyone entering that office was treated – as someone special. I imagine it remains that way today. And the winters are still magical....
-- Pat Fenstermacher May ’63
Alumni Council member Pat May resides today in Fairport, N.Y.
All in it Together
The air stood still that cold January morning of my freshman year. Breathless, I stepped gingerly out of Whitman. All around me the world was completely covered in ice. Transparent, light-bending, potentially lethal to the Converse-wearing; it appeared to coat the very sky.
I instantly ate salt. Salt apparently meant to melt this formidable ice. Struggling to regain a little dignity, I began to emulate the slow and painful shuffle of the students around me, realizing with a slight bit of panic that I might be late for my 9:40 a.m. class.
Amazingly, I made it over the hill past Dean-Eaton, a feat I considered impossible given its appearance as an ice-coated death mountain. Stepping onto the mat inside Hepburn was like reaching Nirvana. As I hurried to my classroom on the ground floor, class had yet to commence. Attentions were elsewhere. All eyes, including our professor’s, were glued to the lower appendages of students passing by the classroom windows, which sat at ground level in the partially subterranean room. An impromptu guessing game began; who would fall, who would save themselves, and who looked downright ridiculous.
Winter had come to St. Lawrence, and we congratulated ourselves for passing the first hurdle. Accompanied by this accomplishment was a sense of community-in-the-making; as fellow Laurentians we knew that we were all in it together against any obstacle Mother Nature threw in our way. And years from that cold morning, we would all remember how it felt to be out in the elements battling alongside each other, always offering a helping hand in addition to a good-hearted chuckle when one of us fell spectacularly on the frozen ground.
--Katelyn McBurney ’10
Katie McBurney still spends lots of time in Hepburn, as a government major; at press time she was awaiting word on acceptance into the Peace Corps, presumably in a setting less icy than Canton’s.
One of my students came across a video of a noted scholar talking about the philosophical implications of his scientific research. The topic was relevant for our course, and so the student asked if we could watch the video and discuss it in class.
I invited the student to fire up the computer projection system to show it. But Internet traffic was heavy that day. While we watched the video, every few minutes it would pause in order to take time to load the next few minutes of the video stream.
At first, I was worried – would the students get annoyed? But they took this in stride. They broke into spontaneous discussion about the video, asking technical questions, while the student at the computer opened additional Web pages in pursuit of answers to the questions. After a few minutes of such research and discussion, they went back to the video and resumed watching it until it paused again, whereupon they gladly burst into discussion again.
I sat back with amazement, letting them go, and realized that they stepped into this so naturally because they do this regularly in their dorm rooms. They are fluent with Web technology, and are skilled at interacting with it in a way that enhances their education.
This struck me as a “St. Lawrence moment” because it exemplifies the spirit of our students that I so value: they are engaged with what they are learning, and continue their learning in creative ways outside of the classroom. I received a rare glimpse of what this looks like as they brought their interactive multi-media style of learning into our classroom that day.
Laura Rediehs is an associate professor of philosophy and coordinator of the peace studies minor.
Wheels of Grace
I was hesitant to publicly relive these moments. But it turns out for me that the essence of St. Lawrence unfolded halfway around the world and in a time of great sorrow.
It was the summer of 2007, the academic year was over and we were all settling into summer routines when we received news of the accidental death of Jonia Mendonca Guterres ’10 at Canaras. Jonia was SLU’s first East Timorese student. She was incredibly gifted intellectually and had a vibrant spirit that touched anyone in her presence.
Jonia’s sudden death devastated the St. Lawrence community. As I had witnessed so many times, I watched the wheels of grace and compassion turning. Administrators commenced a swift process of discernment as to the next steps. Within 24 hours, Chaplain Kathleen Buckley and I began a journey literally around the world to accompany Jonia’s body back to her family and beloved homeland.
When we arrived, Jonia’s family and neighbors met us at the airport. I wish I could articulate what it was like to walk off of that airplane and see a mother and father with tears in their eyes holding a large picture of Jonia wearing a red SLU sweatshirt. The sheer number of folks from the community was equally astounding.
The crumbling infrastructure, refugee camps, deep poverty and armed U.N. peacekeepers were clear indicators of what this tiny nation was enduring. But it didn’t take long to realize that in the eyes of its people, St. Lawrence University was present. Combined with their anguish and sorrow was utter disbelief that we were there. We encountered few English speakers, and were rarely addressed by our names. We were simply called “St. Lawrence.”
Our U.N. translators and the beloved local priest translated for us the sentiments of the family and community: “St. Lawrence thank you. Bless St. Lawrence. St. Lawrence, you care for us.” And there it was, plain and simple; St. Lawrence cares.
-- Shaun Whitehead
Rev. Whitehead is the associate chaplain at St. Lawrence, and a founder and core member of the Gospel Choir.
No One Leaves Untouched
As a visiting assistant professor in gender and sexuality studies, my experiences at SLU have been processed from the perspective of an outsider. But although my status has always been temporary, I have consistently felt that people have thought much less about my status as a transient than I have.
This place has been a temporary home for me, one which I have enjoyed greatly. Though I will physically leave SLU at the close of this year, my experiences here have contributed to the shaping of who I am and what I may yet become. The many individuals who have filled my days with intellectual vigor and hilarity are too many to count.
Gender and sexuality studies tends to bring people from diverse walks of life into conversations that require both courage and self-reflexivity. The extent of growth that students make in one brief semester can sometimes be life-altering, not only for them but also for everyone around them.
St. Lawrence is a place where no one leaves untouched. There is beauty in the dedication of the individuals who have rooted themselves here and the students who are drawn here. I take my leave from SLU grateful for the time I have had in this place, and most especially for all the people who make this a place that you want to come back to.
-- Jessica Willis
Courses that Jessica Willis is teaching this spring include Gender and Society and a Senior-Year Experience seminar, Feminism and the Construction of Knowledge.
Community Across the Pond
Walking down Portobello Road on a brisk London spring day is one of the memories of my study abroad semester that I will never forget. Portobello Road, in the Notting Hill district, is one of my favorite places in London; the market is full of energy and vendors selling treasures, trinkets and some of the best street food I’ve ever had.
It wasn’t my first visit to this part of the city (and I made sure it wasn’t the last), but it wasn’t until this particular day that my international study experience solidified what it means to be a St. Lawrence student. I was with two of my friends, other SLU students in the London Program, and we were busy navigating the bustling streets when we saw a couple walking toward us in the crowd. The man’s vest had the St. Lawrence emblem clearly emblazoned on the chest pocket.
We had to say something. After stopping the couple with an excited greeting, we learned they both went to St. Lawrence and were in England visiting while their son was back in the States, currently at SLU and playing on the football team.
We talked as though we knew each other, and after a brief period we left feeling slightly homesick about being away from campus, but happy that we had found a piece of home in the big city. Even in the most unexpected places, the St. Lawrence community finds you, and embraces you, as it always has.
-- Nora Wolinsky ’10
St. Albans, Vt., native Nora Wolinsky is a writing intern and a podcast producer in the University communications office this spring.
As part of my doctoral studies at Washington State University, I recently made a presentation to my neuropsychology class about sleep deprivation. The questions from my fellow students were exciting, and with each one I was reminded of how I have come to find something electric in my life.
I met Professor Pamela Thacher early on in my St. Lawrence career, in Psychology 101 in the fall of my first year, and it was Professor Thacher who introduced me to sleep research. During the next three years I explored community-based learning in and around Canton, did research in sociology, studied in the Adirondacks while living in the wilderness on the Adirondack Semester, and experienced life as an international student in Trinidad and Tobago.
In my senior year, I had the opportunity to work with Professor Thacher in her lab. We planned and executed my first sleep research project, and I found it to be the most captivating academic pursuit of my undergraduate experience. After graduation, Professor Thacher helped me search across the country for a job in a sleep lab and secure a position at Washington State.
Studying at St. Lawrence allowed me to explore a multitude of academic, professional and personal interests, and ultimately allowed me to identify satisfying career goals. The personal connections and close working relationships with professors and staff throughout my time were invaluable.
At St. Lawrence, Lora Wu doubled-majored in psychology and sociology, was active with Habitat for Humanity and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
-- Lora Wu ’07