Faculty colleagues continue to inspire
By Gary Horowitz
(former AU faculty/administrator)
(Former History Professor Gary Horowitz was asked to reminisce about some of his faculty colleagues during his time at AU. Gary himself was revered by many of his students; some of them have made possible the current Garry Horowitz Leadership Development Program.)
“Very early in my career at Alfred I heard a presentation made by Dan Sass of the Geology Department titled something like, 'Even the Dinosaurs Avoided Alfred.' While T Rex might not have munched vegetation in the Alfred area, I have often thought that it is a community that is inhabited by giants — not myths, but real people who either teach or live in the village.
“When I interviewed in late 1965 and then began teaching in the fall of 1966, I was struck by the large number of individuals of astounding intellectual and personal qualities whom I met. I remain in awe, even today, of those faculty, staff, and community members who defined Alfred University and the village. My decision to join the Alfred University faculty was easy to make. The rewards from being a colleague and friend of the “giants” cannot be measured by any normal accounting methods.
“My two days of interviews introduced me to David Leach (then chair of History and Political Science), Mel Bernstein (the founder and leader of the Western Civilization course), Stuart Campbell (a very young history faculty member), and Fred Gertz (registrar). Each of these men possessed brilliant minds, outgoing personalities, deep commitment to students and the University, understanding of what a liberal arts education meant, and most of all, a sense of collegiality and faculty responsibility.
“When Dave Leach called me after I returned to my graduate school and offered me the position, the answer came very easily — to join a community with faculty such as these would be an honor even though, as explained to me, the salary would be low because Alfred just could not afford to pay more money.
“When I heard Mel Bernstein and Stu Campbell deliver Western Civ lectures (all members of the panel attended all lectures in Alumni Hall) I was mesmerized by their ability to weave their lectures into coherent, thought-provoking, 50-minute sessions — it was nothing less than breathtaking.
"To sit with Dave Leach over coffee or in department meetings was to be with a master teacher who brought together numerous ideas to new levels of scholarships. Fred Gertz had the ability to laugh at himself, yet also shape the University into its distinctive self. And to hear him describe one of his “extraordinary lectures” on the use of the semi-colon was a joy.
“But these four colleagues were joined by many others whom I saw as the backbone of Alfred University in 1966. Dan Sass was a published academic and an inspired professor who guided many students in their choice to major in geology after just one class with him. Mike Sibley was straight out of central casting as a philosopher who not only looked the part but had the mind of a first-class thinker. Richard Sands (Chemistry) was revered by his students for his knowledge and teaching. John Stull was a legend then and remains so due to his work in astronomy as well as his leadership in faculty issues.
"Two colleagues stand out because they were the fashion plates, the dapper ones and excellent colleagues: Savo Jevremovic and Manolo Rodrigues-Diaz. Frances Hepinstall, University librarian, was a strong, dynamic and outspoken leader. She always refused to have University presidential portraits hung in Herrick Library because she did not want the building to become a rogue’s gallery as she said often. Jim McLane, Athletics Director, was one of the most gentle and decent people on the staff. Cliff DuBreuil would give his life for his “trackies” and they for him — he had an unbreakable bond with his teams.
"Two faculty who were retired but remained visible forces on campus were H.O. Burdick (biology) and John McMahon (ceramics) — both were regarded as icons and deservedly so. Getting to know them was a personal pleasure and another reason for my being grateful to Alfred University for giving me the opportunity to be a member of the community.
“The Art faculty in 1966 was nothing short of incredible. Led by Ted Randall, the art department was the North Star in the firmament of ceramic art: Val Cushing, Dan Rhodes, Bob Turner. Gene Mueller as Dean of the College of Ceramics was a great leader with an equally outstanding faculty that included Larry Lawrence, Van Derck Frechette, and a young Jim Reed.
“University staff who stand out in my mind were people like Bob Kelly, Bob Howard, and Fred Palmer.
“The community outside the campus also had its notables. Gene Van Horn, who was publisher of the Alfred Sun and Village Justice, always had great fun in making certain that when presidential spouses were given their first speeding ticket in the village (and it was a given that it would happen) the fact would be cited in the paper along with their ages. Hazel Humphrey was a dear soul who took in stray dogs and could be seen walking her many adoptees on her way to her shop, the Box of Books. The Rev. David Clarke and the Rev. Al Rogers symbolized the wisdom, virtues, and values of the Seventh Day Baptist Church. Stan and Lydia Butts were local business owners (the hardware store) but also the models of dedicated citizen commitment with their work for the fire/ambulance corps. Mae McMahon was the outspoken Democrat in a sea of Republicans (and she got elected to the Village Board!) being just one of the many strong women who made Alfred so unique. Other strong female leaders would follow Mae — she knew who she was and could not be bullied.
“I know that the Alfred University of today continues the tradition of bringing “giants” onto the faculty and staff. The enduring strength of the University is its ability to attract bright and dedicated people. I am not sure what makes this happen but it does.”
Photos are courtesy of the Special Collections of NYSCC Scholes Library and Herrick Memorial Library.