April 17, 2015


Volume 1, Issue 18– April 17, 2015

It Was the Best of Times…

Last week was as fantastic a week as I’ve ever experienced. Naturally, a major part of the appeal is that the events were done in honor of my inauguration, but I’ve attended many inaugurations in the past and there is no question in my mind that this was the very best of them. And it’s not just me saying that—I’ve heard the same comment from lots of other folks.   Monday Inauguration week began on Monday (April 6) with a Campus Kick-Off, held in the Underground Lounge. There was beautiful singing and playing by Kasey Cunningham, one of our students, wonderful food from our College Association, and a blessing for the week of activities by Rabbi Rappaport. Something many people know is that my inauguration was held during Passover, which added a few complications. First, I couldn’t eat any bread or similar product that rises when cooked, since such foods are forbidden on Passover. As a result, Steve and Sue from our food service had to provide some food that was kosher for Passover, as well as regular food. Not everyone who’s Jewish follows these food restrictions for the entire eight days of the holiday, but I thought it was important that we allowed for people who do follow them. Second, the first two days and the seventh and eighth days of Passover are full religious holidays, meaning (among other things) that you’re not supposed to travel on them. Since the inauguration ceremony itself was on Friday, April 10, the seventh day of Passover, no rabbi could travel to Canton to do the benediction. That’s why we had the blessing at the beginning of the week at the kick-off. Rabbi Rappaport, who is the rabbi for Syracuse University’s Hillel (Jewish student’s organization), was kind enough to travel all the way from there to our campus to give the blessing and say a few words, and I can’t thank him enough for doing it.

inauguration kickoff April 06, 2015[1]That evening, Mr. Sung Lee, Director of Business Operations at Welch Allyn (an international manufacturer of high-quality medical instruments headquartered in Skaneateles Falls, NY) gave an excellent presentation as part of our Leadership Lecture Series that I described in last week’s BLAB.  


On Tuesday, I got a chance to look at some of the History Timelines that various departments and offices placed all around campus. I’ve seen at least five different versions, focusing in on different areas and perhaps there were others. They were all very cool and informative. At noon, I attended the Faculty/Staff Publication Displays in the Library, which also included research presentations by our students and faculty. The librarians had prepared notebooks with our faculty/staff’s pictures on their covers, which contained journal articles that they had written. Books that our faculty/staff had written were displayed alongside. I’m not sure how they did it, but as a surprise for me, alongside my notebook of publications, our librarians had managed to turn up a hardcopy of my PhD thesis—probably the only copy in existence that isn’t on my own bookshelf. I know that you’ll all take advantage of the opportunity to go and read it! The research presentations were wonderful, and when I asked them some questions related to their work, they were well prepared to answer them. I’m told that the faculty/staff publications display will become permanent, so if all of your work didn’t appear, please get the library copies so that they can be proudly shown to our community. I know I’ll be doing that.

Inauguration Week 6x4-2I then went on a walking tour of the campus, where several programs had presentations and displays. Unfortunately, I only had two hours before the next event, and there were so many presentations that I couldn’t get to some of them. First up was the Early Childhood Education program, who had a wonderful display of children’s educational games that our students had developed. Each student had a large display about the theme and learning aspects of their game, as well as a sample of the game itself.

IMG_1022Next was the Sports Management program, which did a mock television broadcast, showing off their excellent production facilities in Wicks Hall. Also in Wicks Hall, I saw the laboratories associated with our Physical Therapy Assistant program. I have to admit that while I knew we had programs in these two areas, I had (up until then) never seen their facilities. I was extremely impressed with the high-quality resources that our students get to use.

IMG_1021Down in Neveldine Hall, I saw a very nice display produced by our Graphic and Multimedia Design program students. Our students in the program are doing some very cool things, among which were creating a greeting card company (including the cards themselves as well as advertising and marketing materials), creating a comic book (a copy of which is now in my collection) and creating a set of superheroes based on SUNY Canton students, designing hats and caps, creating a photographic collection and starting up a photography business, and creating a video about their program.

IMG_1025Also in Neveldine, I saw the Auto Engineering lab, where students were working on restoring a 1955 Lincoln Premiere (see the March 5 BLAB for details, here), among many other things. It’s a fantastic facility, far beyond anything we’ve had on any of my previous campuses.

IMG_1028I had to cut off my tour at this point, because it was time for the Roos Rising Parade. I got to ride in one of the campus GEM cars as it went around campus, past the residence halls as large groups of students joined in, all carrying banners and wearing special T-shirts.

Inauguration Week 6x4-6As the parade went by Chaney Dining Hall, my wife Jill and my parents (who had arrived slightly late) jumped into other GEM cars and off we went, down to our athletics field for a Women’s Lacrosse game against Clarkson. Our mascot Rudy was there to encourage the crowd. It obviously worked, since SUNY Canton beat Clarkson 13-11 (though my father said it was because he was there).

Inauguration Week 6x4-14At the game, the athletics staff gave me one of the greatest gifts ever—a bobblehead doll with my face and soccer jersey on it!   That evening, I attended a Scholarly Activities Celebration in Cook Hall. There were so many presentations (by both faculty and students) that there had to be two parallel sessions, which was too bad since I wanted to see them all. I bounced back and forth between the two and thoroughly enjoyed all the talks.


Wednesday was “Pay it Forward”, a day of service for the campus. Students, faculty, and staff were all engaged in various activities to serve our community. My own contribution was doing a chemistry magic show for Canton pre-K through 4th graders. The show was held at the high school’s auditorium and there were about 500 children present. While the children loved all the experiments, which included making fireballs, exploding some hydrogen balloons, starting a fire with water (and then putting it out with the same water), clock reactions, and freezing lots of things in liquid nitrogen (-400°F! That’s cold!), their favorite reaction was one of the simplest: an oxidation-reduction reaction where a liquid changes from colorless to blue (and back) when you shake it. I told them my favorite color was blue and shook the bottle, turning the liquid blue, and then told them “The chemicals don’t always behave, so let me know if the blue color goes away.” Every time it did, the children would start to yell, and I’d invite one of them onto the stage to shake it and make it blue again. Everyone wanted to be chosen. After a few times, I invited our mascot Rudy to try, saying “Even a kangaroo can do chemistry!” After that, the principal of the elementary school gave it a try. We had tons of fun, and I’m sure that at least a few of the children will want to become chemists in the future.

IMG_1036There were lots of other outreach activities. One of my favorites was done by our Criminal Justice student organization, whose contribution was to fingerprint children (I got mine done too), and later in the day, to present a K-9 bullet-proof vest to one of our local police forces—the ninth such vest that they’ve raised money to donate. Pretty cool!

K-9 Vest April 08, 2015-4That evening, the mayor of Canton Mary Ann Ashley and the village board held a reception for me at the TAUNY (Traditional Arts of Upstate New York) Center. The big surprise was that they arranged for four students from the theatre program at the high school to appear dressed as the major Archie comic book characters: Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead, in honor of my once-upon-a-time appearance in an Archie comic book many years ago. The reception was wonderful, with excellent deserts all prepared by the culinary arts students from BOCES. A second big surprise was that we got a little snowstorm that evening, dropping 2-3 inches of very heavy, wet snow in about two hours. By 8:00 PM, though, it turned to rain and by the next evening, most of it was gone.  



On Thursday, I was asked to come visit the Development Office to see one of the College’s major benefactors, John Halford. I found out that he was making a leadership gift to the College in honor of my inauguration and challenging our alumni to match it. How great is that? Afterwards, I called my parents (who are friends with Mr. Halford) to join us at the Cascade Diner for breakfast with several of the folks from the Development Office. About half an hour later, it was time to eat again, since I was having lunch with the Student Government Association Executive Committee, where we honored students and staff. First up was the student who did the preliminary design for my presidential medallion, Austin Rdzanek. The design was contributed to by Lorette Murray, from our P.R. Office. Next up were the two students who won the Dr. James M. Payson Speaking Prize Competition, Pierre Nzuah and Rachel (Nikki) Zeitzmann.   I also met with the students who are running for SGA leadership positions next year.

medallion award April 09, 2015Pierre award April 09, 2015Nikki award April 09, 2015After a quick meeting with Liz Erickson about our upcoming Strategic Planning effort, it was down to the Field House for a walk-through of the inauguration proceedings and a sound check. I got home a little early, because guests were beginning to arrive—my sister Drorit was coming up from Texas; Jill’s sister Ellen and her partner Etta from New York City; Jill’s cousins Meryl and Mark and Meryl’s son Joshua from Massachusetts; SPSU colleagues Nikki Palamiotis, Raj Sashti, and Dianne Summey from Georgia; and Merrimack colleague Ted Long (he was the VPAA when I was the Dean of Science and Engineering there) from Maine all came by. It was absolutely great to see them all, and our College Association had absolutely filled the house with food so that we could stuff them all!


Things started well on Friday, with me being able to sleep a little later than normal. I had planned on dropping into the office for a few minutes to handle some last minute details, but after showering and getting dressed, things began to go wrong. First, all the water in the house shut off. We thought it was because everyone in the place had been taking showers and the tank was empty, but after half an hour, we still had no water. I called Grants Plumbing and they said they’d send someone over as soon as possible. I went outside to look by our well head, and then noticed that the floor was wet in the outside room where our septic system head is. So, we had to call to get the septic system pumped out. When the plumber came, it turned out to be a clogged filter. When he changed it, the water came on, including the upstairs shower that had never been turned off when the water went off. The hot water went on the bathroom floor, and the steam set off the smoke detector (which was good, since it immediately told us something was going on). Due to strong support from Peggy Sue Levato, we were able to get all the stuff addressed that morning.

I was finally able to go over to the breakfast that had been arranged for my long-distance and family guests. In addition to the folks who had come by the house on Thursday night, I was happy to see some of my longest-term colleagues—Mohan Singh, Diane Rigos, and K.C. Swallow, all members of the Chemistry department I had hired and worked with for many years at Merrimack College (my first college); Bob Brown and David Stone, both SPSU colleagues; and Alan Gabrielli, who I had gone to graduate school with in South Carolina and who in the ultimate “small world” scenario, went on to become the Dean of Arts & Sciences at Southern Polytechnic. Breakfast was wonderful, but afterwards I had to run back to the house to make sure that everything was all right.


I then dashed back to the College to meet with reporters from Watertown Channel 7 and Time Warner Cable. I ran in to say hello to the faculty and staff who were representing other colleges in the procession. These included our former Acting President Joseph Hoffman, President Esterberg from SUNY Potsdam, President Fox from St. Lawrence (Tony Collins from Clarkson also attended the inauguration, but knew he would arrive too late to march), Joe Petrick (the Student Life VP when I was at New England College), and several others representing various SUNY campuses.

Hoffman - Szafran[1]Chancellor Nancy Zimpher arrived at that point, and we both went up to the Mezzanine to prepare to march, joining several others who were already there. We then all got into line in our appropriate places for the inaugural procession. There were about 600 people in the audience, and as everyone took their seats, I was the last one to march onto the stage

Lenore VanderZee did a great job as emcee, and all the speeches went really well—the invocation by Mayor Ashley, the welcome from Ron O’Neill (chair of our College Council and the Search Committee), Liz Erickson speaking for our faculty, the two fabulous student speeches by Pierre Nzuah and Nikki Zeitzmann, and Dale Major (representing our alumni), and Chloe Ann O’Neil (representing our College Council).

My wife Jill, who had been wrestling with all the issues that plagued us in the morning as well as son Mark’s panic attack because of the big crowd, was able to rush in at the last moment to give her remarks. She was really nervous, but did very well and got a huge round of applause.

Jill-ZviMy longtime friend (and former president of Elizabethtown College) Ted Long gave a great keynote speech—it meshed with my speech perfectly, which was remarkable considering that we had done nothing in advance to coordinate them. It’s always been that way—we have a similar view of the academic world and have always worked very well together. There were several musical interludes during the proceedings, courtesy of jazz combo A Fine Line, consisting of Bill Vitek (a faculty member from Clarkson University) and Dan Gagliardi (a Math faculty member at SUNY Canton). The songs were chosen to tie in with me in various ways, including a fine jazz version of the Ray Charles classic “Georgia”, and a personal favorite, “Mr. Ghost Goes to Town” with the words modified at the end to say “When Zvi Szafran Comes to Town”. I’ve seen A Fine Line many times, and they’re always fantastic.

The Chancellor then gave her speech (also great!) about the importance of higher education and how SUNY Canton can play a leadership role in the Technology sector and across SUNY. She then called me to the podium to formally inaugurate me as the fourth president of SUNY Canton. Even though I knew what was going to happen, I have to say that it was quite a thrill when she put the medallion of office around my neck and made it official.


It was then time for me to speak. The first thing I wanted to do was to thank the three co-chairs of the Inauguration Committee, Michaela Young, DianeMarie Collins, and Julie Parkman, who were called up to the stage and given small gifts. I also thanked the other members of the Inauguration Committee, everyone else who had participated in the week’s activities, my fellow Associated College presidents, and Ron O’Neill and Chancellor Zimpher, who were responsible for hiring me.


Starting the speech, I pointed out that inaugurations had an interesting duality—everything about them comes in twos. We look to the future, but also back to the past. Keeping with this “comes in twos” themes, I quoted from Dickens’ famous novel A Tale of Two Cities (saying that these are the best of times and also the worst of times for higher education) and from C.P. Snow’s Two Cultures (saying that SUNY Canton needs to be the College that can bridge between the sciences/technologies and the liberal arts to provide an applied education that also has context).

Focusing on how SUNY Canton is the type of college that makes a real difference to our graduates, our current students, to our community, and to the future of our region, I closed with a modified verse from a song by the group Timbuk 3:

We go to SUNY Canton, we love our classes,

We have these crazy teachers, they wear dark glasses.

Things are looking great, and they’re only getting better.

We study real hard, get good grades.

The future’s so bright, (and at this point, everyone in the platform party put on sunglasses)

We gotta wear shades!

After a lot of applause, the recessional began. I walked through an honor guard of student athletes, shaking hands with all of them, and then welcomed the faculty procession as it came out. Lots of folks congratulated me and commented on how wonderful the inauguration had been. I caught my breath, and it was then time for RooFest—the party after. The food was absolutely great, the music provided by Ben Amatucci, a student, A Fine Line, and Impromptu was fantastic, and I had a wonderful time shaking hands, having selfies and official pictures taken, and meeting everyone. After about two hours, the party closed with us forming the no-name band that plays at orientations, made up of Lenore VanderZee, Dan Gagliardi, and me, with Bill Vitek sitting in, playing a few numbers. The last number was our version of the full song The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades with SUNY Canton lyrics.



Saturday morning brought an Admitted Student Day event, where the no-name band played again, and I gave a welcome speech. Through the rest of the weekend, it was time to say goodbye to everyone who had come, and to think back on the previous week’s activities.  

Thanks a Million!

I don’t even know where to begin to thank everyone who did so much to make last week’s inauguration activities so wonderful. I’ll try to thank everyone below, but please forgive me if I’ve missed someone—it wasn’t intentional. My greatest thanks to:

  • The Inauguration Committee co-chairs, Michaela Young, DianeMarie Collins, and Julie Parkman
  • The other Inauguration Committee members: Theresa Corbine, Melissa Cummins, Daron Ellis, Emily Hamilton-Honey, Pat Hanss, Feng Hong, Sue Law, Priscilla Leggette, Pam McDonald-LaChance, Al Mulkin, Lorette Murray, Nancy Rowledge, Randy Sieminski, Lenore VanderZee, John Vandevere, Anne Williams
  • The Inauguration Honorary Committee members: Betty Connolly, Joan Eurto, Linda Fay, Pauline Graveline, Art Hurlbut, Deb Lowry, Ron and June O’Neill, Linda Pellett, Senator Ritchie, Wes and Janet Stitt, and Josephine Swift
  • Matt Mulkin, for many things but especially designing the program and timeline
  • Our PR Team – for designing the invitation, and taking care of press releases, promotion of events, media coordination
  • Theresa Corbine and the entire IT Staff
  • Pat Hanss, Walt Holmes, and the entire M&O Staff
  • Our fabulous Grounds Crew
  • Steve Maiocco, Sue Law, and Food Service Staff
  • John Vandevere and Staff
  • Randy Sieminski, the Athletics Staff, and our student athletes
  • Priscilla Leggette, the SGA, CAB, and all our students who participated in the events
  • Jim Hamilton – my fantastic assistant for the chemistry magic show
  • Chief Alan Mulkin and all the UP Officers
  • Nafeesa Johnson and our Student Ambassadors: Devine Pearson, Julian Shaw, Cole Tallerman, Steven Gonzalez, Jordan Edwards, Bessida Ouedraogo, and Shaquille Longford
  • Michelle Currier, Mike Magilligan, and the Library Staff for the great faculty/staff research exhibition and coordination of the events in the Library
  • The Scholarly Activities Celebration Committee
  • Raj Sashti, for organizing the Leadership Series.
  • Julie Parkman, Katie Kennedy, and Terri Clemmo for coordinated the Payson Speech Contest
  • Our Vice Presidents (Courtney Bish, Dave Gerlach, and Shawn Miller), Provost (Karen Spellacy) and Deans (J.D. DeLong, Ken Erickson, Mike Newtown, and Molly Mott), for supporting all of the activities
  • So many volunteers for so many things – Nancy Rowledge, Tina Flanagan, Terry Waldruff, Erin Voisin, Christina Martin, Natasha Flanagan, Karen McAuliffe, Renee Campbell, Rebecca Blackmon, Colleen Sheridan, Amanda Rowley, Tammy Harradine, Brenda Mullaney, Janet Livingston, Anne Williams, Julie Parkman, Will Fassinger, Lashawanda Ingram, Chad Delosh, Al Mulkin, Amanda Deckert, Nafeesa Johnson, Julia Radley, Scott Quinell, and David Rourke
  • Nick Kocher, Priscilla Leggette, and Patty Todd
  • Mayor Ashley and the Village Board for the Community Reception
  • Our Color Guard: Laura Difrenza, Shannon Perham, and Thomas Sanford
  • Dan Fay for serving as Macebearer
  • Lenore VanderZee for fantastic emceeing
  • Tony Beane for his great version of the alma mater
  • Moriah Cody for her wonderful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner
  • Dan Gagliardi and Bill Vitek from A Fine Line
  • Impromptu (Bruce Hanson, Richard Todd, Mark Darou, and Chris Riordan)
  • Ben Amatucci for his wonderful playing and singing during the RooFest
  • Our Great Speakers: Ron O’Neill, Mayor Mary Ann Ashley, Liz Erickson, Pierre Nzuah, Rachel Zeitzmann, Dale Major, Chloe Ann O’Neil, Jill Szafran, and Ted Long
  • Our other College Council Members – Tom Sauter, Joe Rich, Marie Regan, Roger Sharlow, and Melissa Cummins
  • Chancellor Nancy Zimpher
  • Rabbi Rappaport, for the blessing at the Inauguration Kick-Off
  • The College Association
  • The College Foundation
  • Our Fabulous Faculty and Staff

Wow! That’s a lot of people!    


Last Week’s Trivia Contest There wasn’t one!  

Last week’s trivia contest had to do with things that are crazy. Our winner was Kate Hill, who wins a gift card. Just come up to the office at Room 616 in the FOB to get your prize, Kate. Other people getting all the answers right were Mae Farmer and Marcus Laramay. Here are the correct answers.

  1. Popular social media app.  Facebook.
  2. Aesop told a lot of these.  Fables.
  3. Canadian singer whose hits include “I’m Like a Bird” and “Turn Off the Light”, “Promiscuous”, “Maneater” and “Say It Right”.  Nelly Furtado.
  4. Erotic book by E.L. James, it became a movie in 2015 starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.  Fifty Shades of Grey.


This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s challenge deals with dogs and cats. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edu since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. Seuss classic about trouble at Sally and her brother’s house, first published in 1957.
  2. Song by Baha Men, it won the Grammy in 2001 for Best Dance Recording.
  3. A particularly stealthy thief, especially one that gains entry undetected.
  4. Rock band named for what indigenous Australians do on freezing cold nights. Songs include Eli’s Coming, Mama Told Me (Not to Come), and Joy to the World.
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