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“A Tale of Our Times”

Written by J.K. Hage III, Jon Hysell, and Steve Wulf ’72, P’12

Delivered June 2022

Jon Hysell: Welcome, President Wippman, classmates and alumni, friends and family, faculty members, one and all. 

“Come Saturday Morning” is what The Sandpipers sang while Pookie was waiting for the bus that would take her away to college in the opening scene of The Sterile Cuckoo. Well, here it is, Saturday morning. “I hope you like college,” her father, played by an actor named Austin Green, told Pookie, played by an actress named Liza Minnelli. And then he just walked away.

She wasn’t the only one left mystified by the prospect of going off to school. There were these two guys.

[Two “Freshman Funny Book” photos of Jon Hysell and J.K. Hage III appear on screen.]

Here’s what became of them.

[The photos from the 1972 Hamiltonian yearbook of Jon and J.K. appear on screen.]

J.K. Hage III: Who were we?

Jon: Well, that’s me, a well-groomed high school senior from Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale, N.J., who transformed himself into a shaggy-haired, cigarette-smoking college senior looking for divine inspiration at a Fanguitos party.

J.K: And that’s me, hair neatly parted, in a coat and tie at Notre Dame High School in Utica. Four years later, I was wearing a Dashiki while making a political statement about “getting hosed” by President Nixon.

Jon: That’s what Hamilton and the Age of Aquarius did to us. When we arrived in the late summer of 1968, the nation was embroiled in the war in Vietnam, Americans were reeling from the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and Richard Nixon was poised to defeat Hubert Humphrey in the presidential election. The No. 1 song in America was “People Got To Be Free” by the Rascals, and Alan J. Pakula was filming The Sterile Cuckoo on our campus.

J.K.: When we graduated, the war was finally beginning to wind down, the Equal Rights Amendment had just been passed by Congress, and the White House plumbers were about to break into the offices of the Democratic National Committee — the consequences of which led to the book All the President’s Men, which was made into a movie by … Alan J. Pakula.

Jon: In between, well, major shit happened. Suffice to say, the sound of the B52 bombers leaving Griffiss Air Force Base 10 miles away, bound for Southeast Asia, was the overture for a cacophony of protests, riots, trials, and tribulations. Little wonder our generation wrapped themselves in the blanket of Woodstock, just like the couple on the iconic cover of the concert album. 

By the way, that couple has now been married for over 50 years. So too have Ken and Cindy Gottry —Ken married his junior high school sweetheart, Cindy Moses, right after his sophomore year, and they just celebrated their 52nd anniversary.

J.K.: On our bucolic setting in Clinton, we reflected the changes that were going on at the time, and while we may have looked young and foolish, we did feel a responsibility for what was happening in the world and to the Earth, and after four years, we were poised to go out and change things with the ideas and ideals that Hamilton and Kirkland had given us.

Jon: We had to decide which road we were going to take when we got to the bottom of the Hill. I guess you could say I took a right on 233 and went way past the Music Museum in Deansboro to New Jersey, Massachusetts, Wyoming, West Virginia, Minneapolis, Princeton, and Florida. Along the way, I built homes, practiced the culinary arts, became an international sales executive for Cargill, got married to Britt and started a family, and returned to College Hill to work for Hamilton and express my gratitude as best I could for all that the College had given me. I closed out my career as the vice president for advancement at SUNY Geneseo. One of our three children, Julia ’04, went to Hamilton.

J.K.: I, too, became a pilgrim — “Hage,” in fact, means “pilgrim” in Arabic. I studied overseas at Oxford University and at the University of Madrid, worked in Washington, D.C., for Ralph Nader, then moved to Albany to work in the New York State Legislature while studying at Albany Law School. After becoming a lawyer, I spent seven years in Alaska, only to return to my hometown of Utica, where I followed in my father’s footsteps by trying to make the world better through the practice of law and the pursuit of justice.

I am proud to say that I founded a publicly traded company that helped inaugurate the wireless telecommunications industry. I am even prouder to say that my wife, Hedy, an indomitable force of love and nature, and I raised three wonderful children — all now lawyers, two of whom attended Hamilton, and one of whom, Gabriel, Class of ’12, works with me at Hage & Hage.

Jon: As sojourners who found paradise right back where we started, J.K. and I are deeply honored and humbled that we were chosen to represent our class today. We would also like to acknowledge our friend and classmate Steve Wulf, who helped us craft this two-man presentation — a first in an annalist letter tradition that began in 1865. Thanks to the input of our classmates, this is truly a team effort, reliant upon their recollections and insight, gleaned from a survey sent out over the winter, the booklet we put together for our 25th reunion — when our memories were a bit sharper — and conversations with old friends.

J.K.: We’d like to express our gratitude to classmate Glenn Reisman for keeping us all connected all these years. We’re sorry he couldn’t be here today, but his presence is always felt. And we need to thank someone else who’s not here, the late Rob Ziegler, for many of the photographs we’ll be using in this presentation. Because of Rob’s work in the 1972 yearbook, his genius is still with us.

Jon: Thanks, too, to Sharon Rippey, Stacey Himmelberger, Victoria Kidd, and all the wonderful staff members who made this weekend possible. Archivist Jeremy Katz also proved to be instrumental in our research for the Class of ’72.

I now ask that our illustrious 1972 cohort stand as one and be recognized. The rest of you may snap your fingers if you wish.

[J.K. takes a seat. Jon continues.]

Jon: So. Who were we? That is the basic question asked by every annalist. On May 27th of 1972, the year most of us graduated, Albert Ross Eckler had the honor of speaking for the Class of 1922. He was uniquely qualified to answer the question because he had recently served as the director of the United States Census Bureau.

“Chubbie,” as he was known at Hamilton, was a 1918 graduate of Richfield Springs High School who played football before graduating as salutatorian and getting his master’s degree and doctorate in economics from Harvard. From there he went into government service for the Works Progress Administration, and that led him to the Census Bureau.

If 1922 seems a long time ago, what Dr. Eckler had to say reminds us that plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. His freshman class arrived shortly before the outbreak of a flu pandemic that took the life of one student and confined many others to the infirmary in the Sigma Phi house. Because a war was raging in Europe, the entering class of 132, which was a record high, found itself reduced to 68 by the start of their sophomore year because so many Hamilton men left to join the Student Army Training Corps. And Warren Harding, a Republican of dubious morals, had just been elected president.

There are other strains in his letter that ring familiar. The Charlatans were big and so were hazing, hooch, and the hockey game against Army. Dr. Eckler spoke of the “scientific and cultural opportunities” on the Hill — and indeed, the balance between the arts and sciences has always been at the heart of a Hamilton education. But while Chubbie reflected upon the wisdom of his professors, he also let slip that they went by the names of Stink, Pills, Bugs, Snipes, Flatfoot, Rocks, Smut, and Baldy.

Times do change, though. Dr. Eckler mentions that tuition was raised during their time at Hamilton to $120 a year. As for board at Commons, that jumped to $6.50 a week.

This may come as a similar shock to the Class of 2022, but when we entered Hamilton as a class of 258 in the fall of 1968 — also a record high — the tuition was $1,700 a year. All but 10 of us were white, and 220 came from the Northeast — 161 from New York State alone. But almost all of us were raised by parents shaped by the Depression and World War II, folks who hoped we would fulfill their upwardly mobile visions for us.

I have always found it remarkable — largely unconsidered at the time — how a decision I made as a mere 17-year-old would so profoundly shape the rest of my life. Fortunately, it was one of the best choices I have ever made.

We all came to the Hill with sky-high hopes, repressed doubts, vivid dreams, and unwarranted confidence derived from being among the top students in our high school and prep school classes. At first, Hamilton did nothing to discourage that. As Mike Stone recalled in the booklet for our 25th reunion, Dean Hadley DePuy told us at our freshman orientation in the Chapel, “Look to your left, to your right, in front of you, and behind you. One of you will become a United States Senator.” If you happened to be sitting near Tom Vilsack, the governor of Iowa for eight years and the current secretary of agriculture, “Stretch” was close to prophetic.

But then came the rude awakening. The faculty wasn’t as impressed with our intellectual mettle as we were, and those A’s and B’s we were used to seeing in high school were now C’s and D’s. The madhouse that was Dunham, where most of the freshmen were housed, put us in mind of Newgate if we had read Great Expectations. And whose idea was it to put 200-plus 18-year-olds in cinder block suites of immaturity, 200 yards from the pub, which opened its doors every night at 8:30 with 25-cent Utica Club on tap at one end, a jukebox at the other, and a cigarette machine as the fulcrum?

That superb fall weather quickly gave way to snow. On Halloween of our freshman year, as Alan Nichols recalled for the 25th reunion, the drifts in the Dunham horseshoe became so deep that many of us jumped into them from the third-floor windows — repeatedly. We also soon discovered the sport of cafeteria tray-sledding down College Hill Road. But then the late Mike Hirsch lost many of his teeth while seeking that thrill.

As Tom Broderick suggests, the volume and duration of snow actually deepened our attachment to Hamilton and each other. Dave “Spoolie” Ellis gave lectures on historic New York State blizzards. Just so you know, the largest annual Oneida County snowfall in a century was in 1970-71 — 186.5 inches. The third largest was the winter of 1971-72. 

Once we got the hang of the all-nighter, and found a cozy study spot in the James Library, we began to appreciate the rigors of the Hamilton curriculum. We also thanked our lucky stars for the blessing of having Kirkland College’s first year coincide with ours. Granted, the ratio of men to women on the Hill at the time was 8:1, but the willingness of men in tweed jackets to break tradition, and the courage of the women across the street to take a chance, changed Hamilton for the better and forever.

As history professor “Digger” Graves said in his farewell lecture in May of 1969, “When I came to teach in 1927, there were no campus streetlights. Now there are many, and the more Kirkland women we have, the more lights we’ll have.” Who among us can say we literally brought illumination to our campus?

Kirkland’s faculty members were generally younger and more informal, and they put a premium on dialogue. By the time we graduated, the ratio of men to women was approximately 3:2, and we could sense the impending demise of the fraternities, which had 70% of us in their grasp during our time on the Hill. Even as a loyal Sig, I knew that the time would soon come to end that system of social segregation.

We benefited as well from the 1968 arrival of John Wesley Chandler as president of the College. He was both socially conscious and protective of his students during those years fraught with worry. In coordination with Kirkland’s president, Sam Babbitt, he implemented the 4-1-4 system introduced in our sophomore year. Trustee Richard Couper ’44 once told me — tongue in cheek — that he was concerned for Chandler because “the students liked him, the faculty liked him, the trustees liked him, and the alumni liked him.”

Chandler lived by this credo he offered up in a 2002 reminiscence titled A Little College Is A Dangerous Thing: “The institutions of this society have the resiliency and the capacity for self-renewal to respond to the new demands being made upon them and that a new order of justice will be achieved.” We sincerely hope those words remain true.

If Hamilton did have a guardian angel, it was Dean Winton Tolles, who looked a bit like Clarence in It’s A Wonderful Life. Tolles graduated from the College in 1928, but he was young at heart and deeply concerned for us. As the story goes, he refused to inform the Selective Service if one of his students had dropped or failed out, even though he was legally obligated to do so.

In the middle of his senior year, our classmate Josh Simpson went to Tolles with the seemingly outrageous idea of spending January in northern Vermont learning to blow glass. Tolles approved, and upon graduation, Josh started a glass-blowing studio with Matt Foley. Fifty years later, we will soon have the fruits of Josh’s genius and generosity in our hands in the form of “megaplanets” that Neil Armstrong — yes, the same one who set foot on the moon between our freshman and sophomore years — says “have some of the mystery of the atomic level and much of the complexity of the cosmic.” Thank you, Josh … and Winton. 

Pat Cardinale, who became a dentist and football referee, also had this wonderful story that says a lot about Dean Tolles and the valiant efforts of Hamilton athletes: “In the last football game of my senior year, we defeated Union for our first win of the season. I’ll always remember this: looking up into the crowd and seeing Dean Tolles with a big smile on his face and a small flask in his hand. He was our most loyal spectator, regardless of the score or the weather conditions.”

We all have those kaleidoscopic images of Hamilton twirling around in our brains. Bill Nauseef remembers coming across handwritten letters between T.S. Eliot and alumnus Ezra Pound while moving the contents of the rare book room from the “old” library to the “new.”

Mike Scarpitto, who became a high school superintendent, can flash back to the Hamilton-Kirkland mixer his second night as a freshman — 150 men, three women. Ken Judson, an attorney and elite marathoner, recalled his introduction to the real world: immediately after our Commencement in the Sage Rink, he started his new job on the College maintenance staff by picking up and stacking the folding chairs, one of which he had just occupied. Judge Ed Krumeich can still see the army of dogs who freely roamed around campus, but especially Sid Wertimer’s cocker spaniel, who would pick a different student to follow around each day — as Ed noted, probably to report back to Sid later that night.

Scott Belleman is still trying to wash off the sludge from the epic mud slide in front of Dunham in the spring of ’69. Stewart Young, a former Marine Corps helicopter pilot and race car driver, fondly recalls Coach Greg Batt lending him equipment for those thrilling jungle hockey games.

I myself remember a gin-and-juice party at Sig on Sunday morning of houseparty weekend my senior year, with the Electric Elves playing Beatles covers on the porch. Dean DePuy pulled up in his car to ask us to tone it down lest we disturb the parishioners down the Hill. As the social chair, I met him and suggested that we, too, were glorifying God … and he bought it.

Among those memories are our brushes with fame. Alex Haley was teaching on campus while preparing to publish Roots — not to be confused with the comedy album of the same name that the staff of The Spectator put out. 

Among the notably notorious who came to speak were Dick Gregory, Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, and William Kunstler. A little later, J.K. will talk about the visit from Israeli diplomat Abba Eban in our senior year. 

J.K.’s future employer Ralph Nader, the author of Unsafe At Any Speed, felt that title in his bones after Jerry Ryan and Tom Vilsack picked him up at the Utica Airport in Tom’s Volkswagen Beetle. Jerry also tried to pick up Miss Genesee.

I’m not sure if Al Stauber and his football teammates know this, but when Hamilton lost to Wesleyan 33-0 the fall of our senior year, the freshman starting at center for the Cardinals was none other than Bill Belichick.

Just before the 1969 Commencement, President Chandler got a call from Ezra Pound’s publisher informing him that the 1906 graduate wanted to come back to campus. This man of words was silent for most of the weekend, except for when his hosts, Professor Austin Briggs and his wife, Margaret, served him dinner in their home. Margaret asked if he wanted white meat or dark, and Pound muttered, “Dark.” A painting of the poet, done by our classmate Roman Tybinko, once hung in the library until it was decided that Pound’s toxic political views overshadowed his contributions to 20th-century literature.

For our Commencement, Poet Laureate James Dickey came to get a Doctor of Letters, read a few poems, and have another drink. At an ELS cocktail party, a student admitted to Dickey that he had not read his work, to which the author of the recently published Deliverance said, “Well, you have that to look forward to, don’t you?”

And little did we know that when the Four Tops sang “I’ll Be There” in the Alumni Gym during the 1969 Winter Carnival, they were actually referring to their visit to the Psi U house in about an hour. Jack Toukatly remembers running into them in The Great Hall.

The music of those years molded us — they truly were long-playing records. As Bob Hansmann says, “Rock ‘n’ roll was our life’s soundtrack, brilliant and personal, cushioning the tumult with a backbeat.”

To that end, we created two Spotify links, one of songs taken from the jukebox in the campus pub, the other a collection of 50 of the greatest songs from our era, as curated by our classmate Dave “Breeze” Voorhees, the longtime owner of the legendary Bop Street Records in Seattle. The passionate reaction to them is a testament to how important music was to us. We’re deeply sorry that Otis and The All-Night Workers didn’t make the cut.

The live concerts at Hamilton and Kirkland also stood the test of time, thanks in large part to the Student Entertainment Committee and Josh
Simpson, who booked many of the acts and sometimes played the spoons with them. Besides The Four Tops, we had Marvin Gaye, Tom Rush, Freddie “Boom Boom” Cannon, Al Kooper, Sly and the always late Family Stone, Jim Croce, the transcendent Laura Nyro, Sam and/or Dave, Seatrain, Livingston Taylor, Sha Na Na, John McLaughlin, Freddie Hubbard, Dave Von Ronk, and, yes, the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra. Time was so fluid that Don McLean performed at the coffee house for a 75-cent admission charge in the fall of our junior year, just before he recorded “American Pie,” the No. 1 hit in the nation in the winter of our senior year.

Then there was the night the mellow Youngbloods couldn’t get to Clinton, so the concert promoters sent an entirely different act instead. We’ll let The Spectator, and someone named Thomas Wolfland-Smith, pick it up from here: “Necessity brought the Mothers of Invention. The freaks flipped out, the straights moved out, and the rest sat anxiously as [Frank] Zappa and his group ambled up to their mountain of equipment amid billowy clouds of marijuana smoke.” 

Zappa, something of an educator himself, once said, “A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it’s not open.”

Well, it was Hamilton that pulled the ripcord for us. Steve Furrer and Dana Carlson speak of having their minds expanded, coming to love learning for the sake of learning. Joe Marcal, who had come from Hong Kong and the rigid education there, fell in love with the freedom he found so far from home.

The list of favorite professors unfurls like a scroll: Sid Wertimer, Bob Simon, Rouben Cholakian, Austin Briggs, Warren Wright, Jay Williams, J.R. Mattingly, Martin Carovano, Dwight Lindley. We could go on and on. Don Jones, who coached football, freshman basketball, and golf was, in the words of Kurt Czarnowski, “cool in every sense of the word.” Ron Roth remembers English Professor Thomas Johnston, his advisor for four years, as “the kindest person I have ever known.”

Steve Wulf has this story to tell about the cherished English Professor Fred Wagner: “For our 19th-Century American Lit course, Rob Ziegler and I convinced Mr. Wagner to let us do a photo essay on Walden Pond. This is November, mind you, so we borrowed cold weather gear from the Outing Club and spent a few days camped out at Walden. Rob took the pictures; I stayed out of the viewfinder. When we got back to campus, we selected the photos and mounted them on black cardboards — the only words were a single quote from Thoreau.

“When we finished on a Sunday night, we called Mr. Wagner to tell him we were done and to ask him when he wanted to see it. He replied, ‘I’m grading the term papers now. Come down to the house.’ So we walked down College Hill Road to his home and laid the photographs out on his living room floor. He walked through the pictures, stopping a little longer at the quote. When he got to the end, there were tears in his eyes. All he said was, ‘Thank you, boys,’ but that was enough.”

Hamilton also encouraged us to move freely from the sciences, be they physics, chemistry, or Ross Eckler’s field of economics, to courses in literature, history, philosophy, and the physical arts. Robin Dretler, an infectious disease specialist from Atlanta, says the most valuable educational experience of his life came not at medical school, but rather in Edwin Barrett’s Shakespeare class: “He opened my eyes to the brilliance of Shakespeare’s archetypal characters, his deft and timeless grasp of the complexities of people at difference points in their lives, and the universal nature of many of our deepest conflicts and joys.”

Barrett, one of two professors on campus who wore a cape — German Professor Tom Colby was the other — would take a group of students to London every January to attend plays over there. Award-winning playwright and classmate Richard Nelson wrote a wonderful play based on the class: Some Americans Abroad. 

As for myself, I will never forget the Gnostics course that the eccentric but brilliant John Robert Mattingly gave — often at his home on Thursday night from 9 to midnight. Thanks to those evenings, I came to believe that, as Plato’s student Aristotle posited in Rhetoric, the goal of the liberal arts is enjoyment. 

Looking back at the pictures of the boys who came to Hamilton in ’68, and comparing them to the young men who left the Hill in ’72, is amusing. But so is the note I recently found in my original admissions folder, written by Dean Sid Bennett after my interview: “Jon will surprise many — if he does the work.”

I guess I did. But I’m as surprised as any of you that I’m standing up here to represent the Hamilton Class of 1972. Thank you.

[Jon takes a seat. J.K. takes the stage.]

J.K.: Twenty years after we graduated, one of our English professors delivered the annalist letter for the Class of 1942. He was Dwight Newton Lindley, known to his friends as “Newt” and to some of us as “The Smiling Screw.” He was the chairman of the English Department while we were at Hamilton and someone from whom you wanted to learn expository writing … if you didn’t care about your grade.

He began his talk with a stanza from a poem written by one of his classmates, Tom Pryor, and it went like this:

A Candle In One’s Heart
Look in a moment’s silence at our home
These several years, this hill above the world.
Time spent becomes a candle in one’s heart
The flame remembering what is good and fled.

What made those lines especially poignant was that Tom had died in 1951 of malaria, contracted while serving in North Africa during World War II. Professor Lindley himself was a master sergeant in a combat engineer battalion in Europe during the war, and he married another sergeant, Jane Morrison of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. Inspired by one of his English professors, George Nesbitt, Hamilton Class of 1924, Lindley came back to teach at Hamilton for 32 years while he and Jane raised their three children.

“Look in a moment’s silence at our home”
Quite frankly, I didn’t know if I would find a home when I ascended the Hill as a 17-year-old in September of ’68. The outside world was smoldering in part because of the Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors in June of 1967, and my family happened to be from Lebanon. So, along with my dorm stuff, I was carrying a great deal of anxiety. Would a Lebanese kid from Utica be welcomed or ostracized? Would I be treated with disdain and suspicion? Would I make friends, or would I be lonely?

Jon has already spoken of the zoo that was Dunham, aka Aaron Burr Lucky Shot Hall. But it became something of a refuge for me, offering ample opportunity for camaraderie and providing something of a trauma bond. And those beautiful red shale pathways across the street from Dunham took me into classrooms that expanded my mind. As it happens, my English 11 professor was George Nesbitt, the man who had inspired Dwight Lindley to become a teacher. I learned the Old Testament anew from Jay Gomer Williams ’54. A love of Spanish literature was instilled in me by Jeremy Medina — I still audit his courses. And the fact that I am here today, talking to you, owes a great deal to what I learned from Warren Wright in Speech.

I also learned about chemistry the hard way. Stu Williams, one of my Dunham roommates, along with Mike White and David McCarthy, decided to ferment some apple juice from the Clinton Cider Mill by putting it in a 25-gallon oak barrel mounted on a sawhorse in the center room of our third-floor quad. While we were away at classes, the barrel exploded, blowing out all the windows, embedding oak shards several inches into the solid concrete block walls and drenching the entire room in hard cider! Our quad was thus rendered uninhabitable for the rest of our freshman year, and the four of us were rendered instantly homeless. Our parents were not amused, especially when the College split the cost of the complete renovation among our four families and added the bill to our tuition.

Fortunately, the cider bomb did not disrupt the shooting of The Sterile Cuckoo. It was exciting to see Liza Minnelli around campus and remunerative for the students who received a small per diem for being extras. But even after Alan Pakula’s crew was gone, other movies were brought to us by our two film societies, Doc Reisman’s AMENIC and Fred Keller’s Kinokunst Gesellschaft, introducing us to both the classics and the avant-garde and turning many of us into film buffs.

As for live theatre, I am proud to say I was a member of the Charlatans, a troupe of amazingly talented and incredibly hard-working people. Classmate Tom Creamer, who became the dramaturg for the esteemed Goodman Theatre in Chicago, reports that in our four years, there were some 55 different theatre events on campus, ranging from Shakespeare’s Richard II to Richard Nelson’s The Dying Joke, in which classmate Jim Ragland played, rather convincingly, a Camus-quoting existential dog.

According to Tom, one of the first of our class to shine was John Sims, who co-starred in LeRoi Jones’ Dutchman with Donna Sontheimer. I myself went to Chicago one January to study improv at Second City, along with Sam Faison, Rhoda Bronston, and Alan Bryce. They would throw all sorts of outrageous situations at us. Too bad one of them wasn’t, “You have to stand up in front of your college classmates 50 years after you graduate.”

Then there was the epic balcony scene in Commons when freshmen rained food down upon upperclassmen. That was real. Indeed, the Hamilton social life resembled one extended trailer for Animal House

Some Hamilton students somehow stole the 2,000-pound Revolutionary War cannon from the old Trinkaus Manor restaurant in Oriskany. Another sacrilegious soul used a gravestone for a coffee table in his dorm room. There was also the time Josh Simpson’s pet tarantula, Blanche, disappeared, necessitating the evacuation of Carnegie Dorm, the hiring of an exterminator and the banning henceforth of all pets. The hysteria died down when Blanche emerged from beneath the living room couch looking, as Josh described it, “like an enormous dust ball with legs.” 

Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack may not want this known, but when he was a freshman, he and the other Delta Upsilon pledges stormed the steps of DU with water balloons to take over the house.

There were the rolls to the Rok and the Boat and the Horseshoe, better known as the Shoe. Back in those days, a student would announce that it was time to put down the books and pick up a glass by removing his “shoe” in the main reading room of the library and holding it up in the air. We were learning that there was a time to be serious and a time to have fun, and in a way, we were just trying to fulfill the very motto of Hamilton: “Know Thyself.” 

Helping us along to that self-realization was Kirkland. In his 1992 annalist letter, Professor Lindley admitted, “I had believed that, on the whole and for the future, the College should be kept for men. It turned out that I was and am wrong.” Indeed, it can be argued today that Hamilton is really the child of both schools, merged in July of ’78. 

Back then, the people in suits sometimes needed convincing. Hamilton had been publishing a newspaper since 1847, but when it was decided in 1972 that Elizabeth Kneisel should become the next — and first female — editor-in-chief of The Spectator, they stopped the presses. Before she was confirmed, student body president Jerry Ryan, publications board chairman Terry MacAvery, and the editor-in-chief at the time, Fred Axelrod, had to travel to New York City to explain to Coleman Burke ’34, the longtime chairman of the Board of Trustees, why Beth was the right person for the job. They did, and she was. Married since 1984 to Judge Krumeich, Beth later served on the boards of both Kirkland and Hamilton.

“These several years, this Hill above the world” 
If we thought we had come to Hamilton to spend four idyllic years here, we found out soon enough that we couldn’t escape what was going on out there. There was turmoil on two fronts — the struggle for racial equality and the resistance to a horrendous war. But while those two issues got our blood boiling, they did provide us with opportunities to learn about the world and about ourselves. Yes, it was the Age of Aquarius. But it was also a new Age of Enlightenment.

On October 1 of our freshman year, the Black Union of Hamilton and Kirkland Colleges was formed. In a letter to the community, printed on Page 2 of the Oct. 10 Spectator, the members wrote, “We feel that such a union is necessary to preserve the racial and cultural identity of Black Students in our white-oriented environment.”

At the time, Alex Haley was the only Black professor on campus. President Chandler knew the College had to do much more to encourage students of color to come to Clinton, and he actively recruited minority professors and helped provide the union with a house of its own. But it wasn’t until the spring of 1970 that the community at large became aware of just how much work needed to be done. The reckoning came at a contentious meeting of the Trustee Committee on Student Affairs at which Black students said some faculty members seemed to have a racist attitude toward them. Among those students was our classmate Harry Winston Long, who thought that minority students were not getting the same opportunities as white students.

A subsequent editorial in The Spectator had this to say: “Trustees, professors, and many students were appalled by the mere suggestion that faculty members practice racial discrimination in the classroom. Such a reaction is even more appalling … The administration cannot ignore these charges.” Truth was spoken to power, and Hamilton changed for the better.

As for the on-campus protests against military recruiters, they were understandable manifestations of our opposition to the war. But our treatment of the West Point hockey team when it came to Sage Rink in February of ’69 was shameful. Students spit on the Army skaters and threw fish at them — at one point, a pig’s heart hit the goalie, spattering his jersey in blood. In a letter to the editor in The Spectator, hockey captain Peter Kennedy wrote, “I realize that the people responsible are but a minority, but it is the entire school image that is destroyed.” Little wonder that the Army hockey team ended its longtime rivalry with us.

Vietnam hovered over us like our fans did over West Point. Many of our students, including Jon, dropped everything to join the 500,000 protesters in the March on Washington on Nov. 15, 1969. 

On the night of Dec. 1, 1969, the first draft lottery was held and broadcast live over WHCL. A low number meant that you would likely be drafted if or once you lost your college deferment, and a high number meant you probably wouldn’t have to go. I still remember my number, 188. I got lucky. Classmates and future physicians Richard Stuhr and Stewart Young not so much — they drew No. 1. Helping us get through those rough times was classmate Matt McKenna, who kept office hours in the basement of Root Hall to advise students on the draft.

Then came the horror of Kent State. All across the country, college students went on strike. Our students convened on the Village Green in Clinton to express their solidarity and sympathy. President Chandler, who spoke, said the demonstration had “a quiet and prayerful quality.” When The Town made it clear that it disagreed with the sentiments of The Gown, students reached out to local civic and church groups to explain their views.

The academic year was left in tatters — many students chose to take advantage of the Pass/Fail option given to them and to improve their Frisbee skills. But when school resumed in the late summer of 1970, we remembered why we came to Hamilton in the first place, helped along by the lyrics of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock:” “Well, maybe it is just the time of year/Or maybe it’s the time of man/I don’t know who I am/But you know life is for learning.”

Our nicknames for professors rivaled those of the Class of ’22: Spoolie, Digger, Lafe, Asian Ed, Sid The Squid, Ivan The Terrible, Mumbles, and, yes, The Smiling Screw. They were really terms of endearment. Jerry Ryan fondly remembers government classes with Channing Richardson and “Diplo” with David Millar. After a stint in the Army, Mike Roden took the lessons he learned from “Rockheads” David Hawley and Donald Potter and became a geology professor at the University of Georgia. Violinist Michael Gillette, one-time concertmaster of the Radio City Music Hall Orchestra, remembers Stephen Bonta telling him that music was best learned “in the context of a liberal arts education.”

Our valedictorian Henry Tsui, a computer scientist for NYU Medical Center, came to Clinton from Hong Kong, and he recalls how much the professors helped him adjust to his new world. “Dr. Philip Pearle was the best teacher I ever had,” says Henry, “patient, insightful, and eager to help. He made studying difficult subjects like quantum mechanics, relativity, and cosmology almost enjoyable.”

Because this letter to the Class of 1972 has largely been a tribute to our professors, I would like to acknowledge our many classmates who went into education — as Peace Corps volunteers, English and French teachers, history and geology and biology professors, ministers, coaches, administrators, a headmaster, and a college president. In that 25th reunion book, one high school history teacher wrote under College Memory or Reflection:

“One of my finest ‘Hamilton moments’ occurred during the past two years, when two of my Brookfield students were admitted. These were the first two graduates of my high school who applied to our College, and I am proud of both. They are Angela Whitford ’99 and Virginia Whitford ’00, both a credit to Brookfield Central and a current plus for the Hill.”

That teacher was Jack Henke, who taught history at Brookfield — the second smallest high school in New York State — for more than 30 years. As for the two sisters, Angela Narine is now the CEO of Accelerated Learning Solutions, a Florida school management company that helps at-risk students resume their paths toward a high school diploma; and Virginia is the vice president for strategic advancement for The House of Good Shepherd, a wonderful institution that has been helping neglected children in my hometown for 150 years.

Says Angela, “Mr. Henke taught us history from 7th grade to 12th grade, that’s how small our school was. But he made us think the sky was the limit, that small-town kids could do great things. We published our own books on the history of the area and made field trips to Washington.” Ginny echoes her older sister: “Mr. Henke was excited about every lesson, and that excitement expanded our world. I never left one of his classes unchanged or unchallenged.”

Jack is not here today, but we would still like to acknowledge him and all of the other educators in our class. Please stand so that we can express our gratitude for what you have given to all of us.

“Time spent becomes a candle in one’s heart”
There is so much to cherish about our time at Hamilton. The fall colors, the sight of the Chapel in a snowfall, the blooms of spring, “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” blasting out over the Root Hall quad. Those weekly chapel meetings that brought us excitement for the days ahead, and the “11 o’clocks” at ELS that helped us decompress and sort out what had happened that day. 

There was the thrill of victory — the 3-2 overtime win for Brian Morin and the Hamilton hockey team over Colgate in Hamilton, N.Y., during our senior year, and the state championship in the fall of ’71 for the cross-country team led by Ken Judson and Marc Peuron. Then again, there was the agony of the basketball team’s 1-15 record in 1970-71 when Ron Roth played his heart out for first-year coach Tom Murphy, who would soon turn the program around and end up with 602 victories.

If the Fanguitos did not remind us of Woodstock, skinny-dipping in the Kirkland Reservoir certainly did — the motto of Hamilton became “Show Thyself.” The enduring beauty of Root Glen helped Ken and Cindy Gottry deepen their relationship before they raised two daughters and he became a teacher, author, and computer consultant.

As for me, one of my lasting memories was the night in September of 1971 when the eloquent Israeli foreign minister Abba Eban spoke in the Alumni Gym. He was accompanied by a large security detail, and I remember feeling as though I was being watched. But I sat quietly, listening to his talk titled Middle East: Past Agony and Future Hope. When his optimistic lecture was met with great applause, I felt like an outcast.

He had not mentioned, you see, the plight of the Palestinian refugees who had been forced to leave their homes by Israel. In the hours after his speech, I tried to tell my side of the story — at the 11 o’clocks at ELS, at a table in the pub. People listened to what I had to say. A few days later, The Spectator gave me the space to freely express my views. What I discovered was that Hamilton was the right place, after all, for this Lebanese kid to go to college. And it became the ideal school for my younger brother Jamie, my younger sister Joni, and two of our children, Heather and Gabriel.

“The flame remembering what is good and fled”
Many of us still enjoy friendships made at Hamilton that perdure to this day, undimmed by time, by distance, and, indeed, even by death. If you allow us, we would like to read the names of our dearly departed classmates to remind us of our time on the Hill:

[Jon joins J.K. on the stage, and they alternate reading the names.]

Julian Bernstein, Alan Blaszcak, Stephen Burns, Byron Chesbro, Dennis Dempsey, Frank Dickel, Joe Eagan, Michael Flynn, Charlie Frasure, Frank Gardner, Ralph Gigliello, Harvey Goldstein, George Gray, Mike Hirsch, Bryan Kirkpatrick, Harry Long, David McCarthy, Billy Meyl, Michael Molowa, Hank Opalka, William Osterman, Ross Peters, Charles Rader, Michael White, Rob Ziegler.

J.K: I think we’ve answered the question that we first posed: “Who were we?” It’s time for the follow-up question: “Who are we?” In honor of Dr. Eckler: We now number 210, and we live in seven different countries and 36 different states, 52 of us in the Empire State. In the years between then and now, we have made the world a better place in a staggering variety of ways, working with our hands, our minds, our voices, our hearts. A high percentage of us — over 80% in the last five years — have given to some area of the College, and 18 of us have sent children to Hamilton. I am one of five with two legacies, along with Paul Batt, Jim Bianco, Richard Lisman, and Robert Rosenbaum. Hopefully, we will see the day when our grandchildren pack for Hamilton.

But to get an even better sense of who we are, and to channel Professor Lindley, let’s go back to our Commencement — our beginning — on May 10, 1972. Poet James Dickey sobered up in time to read several of his works. One of them was In The Tree House At Night, and while the entire poem is well worth reading, this snippet will have to do for now:

We lie here like angels in bodies,
My brothers and I, one dead,
The other asleep from much living,
In mid-air huddled beside me.
Dark climbed to us here as we climbed
Up the nails I have hammered all day
Through the sprained, comic rungs of the ladder
Of broom handles, crate slats, and laths
Foot by foot up the trunk to the branches
Where we came out at last over lakes
Of leaves, of fields disencumbered of earth

Thank you, our teachers, for helping us climb this home in the trees. Thank you, brothers and sisters, for lighting the candle in our hearts which burns still to remind us of what is good and what is fled.

I love this place. We love this place. Together, we are this place.

And I promise you. I will never again leave a barrel filled with cider in a dorm room.

Carissima.


J.K. Hage III is the owner and managing attorney at Hage & Hage LLC, a nearly 100-year-old law and consulting firm in Utica, with an office in Washington, D.C. He also founded Independent Wireless One Corp., a pioneer in the telecommunications industry, and served as the first executive director of the Griffiss Institute, a national collaboration of experts on information security.

A native of Utica, J.K. worked for consumer advocate Ralph Nader after Hamilton, studied at Oxford University and the University of Madrid, and graduated from Albany Law School in 1978 while working in the New York State Legislature. Thereafter, he moved to Alaska for seven years and founded a number of businesses before returning home to practice law with his father, James J. Hage, and raise three kids with his wife, Hedy.

Among the many institutions that J.K. has guided and served over the years are the Oneida County
Bar Association, the Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, the Hamilton College Alumni Council, the Albany Law School board of trustees, and the City of Utica Master Plan Committee. After converting the former Homestead Savings Bank Building at 283 Genesee St. in Utica into its own offices, Hage & Hage was awarded a gold rating by the U.S. Green Building Council, the first such designation for a privately owned building in Oneida County.

Should J.K. ever need a lawyer himself, he and Hedy have taken care of that — all three of their children have become attorneys.

A Minnesota native, Jon Hysell came to College Hill after graduating from Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale, N.J. Following Hamilton he attended Andover New Theological School in Newton Centre, Mass. He married Barbara Britt in 1976 and has three children, including Julia Ruther ’04. 

After two years as a sous chef in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Jon spent 24 years with Cargill, Inc. as an international sales executive, finishing his career there as assistant vice president for customer solutions. He filled two passports with entry stamps while selling orange and apple juice concentrates in North America, Asia, and Europe. Feeling a need for something more fulfilling than making rich people richer, Jon took a job as director of alumni relations at Hamilton in 2002, eventually serving as executive director of alumni relations and annual giving and as a senior major gift officer. He spent a dozen satisfying years at his alma mater raising money for education and supporting community connections among graduates and the College. He ended his career as vice president for advancement at SUNY Geneseo. 

In retirement, Jon remained in Clinton where he serves on a number of not-for-profit boards that support education, the arts, and community sustainability. His family remains the center of his life, augmented by pro bono fundraising consulting, gardening, and golf. 

Steve Wulf is an award-winning journalist and the author of several sports books. He began his career shortly after graduation from Hamilton, first for The Evening Sun in Norwich, N.Y., then for The Fort Lauderdale News. At the recommendation of Robert Creamer, a Sports Illustrated senior editor and the father of Hamilton classmate Tom Creamer, he was hired as a reporter for SI, where he met Jane “Bambi” Bachman, his future wife and the mother of their two sons and twin daughters.

After 17 years at SI and countless bylines, he left, first to write for TIME magazine and then to launch ESPN The Magazine. He spent another 20 years at ESPN as an editor and writer, finally retiring in 2019. He continues to write for the National Baseball Hall of Fame while spending as much time as possible with his four kids, all of whom work in the world of sports and each of whom carries with them the strength and spirit of their late mother.

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