A Suprisingly Fond Farewell

Matt Oja

During my time at Colgate, I’ve spent hours up on the third floor of the Student Union with my face buried in the newspaper archives. I’ve noticed one overriding theme for the State of the Gate issue: columnists’ final pieces are sappy. Far be it from me to go against the flow (ah, who are we kidding – my writing is uncouth enough to make Keith Hernandez look like the president of the National Organization for Women). Anyway, I’ve written enough Ramblings over the years. For those of you expecting another tyrade, bear with me if this last column is a Seinfeld finale-level letdown.

All of us got accepted to Colgate at least once. I vividly remember my extreme indifference on February 7, 2001, when my parents directed me to the (already opened) letter from Gary Ross on the kitchen counter. They were quite pleased. Strangely, I’d put no thought into this at all. Accepted to school, not accepted to school; I was enjoying my senior year and I didn’t really care.

Some of the luckier ones among us got accepted twice. It was really that second time that did it for me. In June of 2003, after enduring a one-year academic suspension, Bev Low gave me the good news that I was allowed back to Colgate. (And that I would have a single!) This time, I was thrilled. One of the ten best moments of my life.

So what happened? For starters, being suspended and taking five classes per semester at a community college was less than enjoyable. (There are over 35,000 words’ worth of columns on RECKReckless.com documenting the misery of it all). But – and, trust me, I’m the last person I’d expect to hear this from – the Colgate experience happened to me. That freshman year (which got me into the whole suspension pickle) was incredible. In fall of 2001 Colgate was the best place I’d ever known, the next spring it was the best place I’d ever been forced to leave and in August of 2003 it was the best place I ever returned to. So that makes this sleepy place pretty special.

As do many of the faculty. Yes, we all know there are some bad apples in there: the boring, the lazy, the surly. But what about the good ones, who rarely get mentioned in The Maroon-News? For each unfriendly professor who doesn’t say “hi” when we cross paths in the history departments, there’s a Ray Douglas, whose lectures are both the most informative and most hilarious that I’ve ever been a part of. As a professor, he’s outstanding; his students learn more in a month than most others’ do in a semester.

I’ve also had the pleasure of having Rob Nemes as an advisor in that same history department. This is the type of professor who will hand me my PIN during pre-registration and then talk to me for a half-hour about college basketball, the type who will stop me on the Persson steps and ask about my job search or talk to me about recent M-N columns when we bump into each other at the Grand Union.

The English department, too, has introduced me to some great faculty members. Jennifer Brice, for example, is certainly one of the most helpful professors at this school. Always willing to go over a draft of an essay or story, she really strives to help each student create a better piece of writing – something not every professor, as you all have surely seen, cares to do. These are the people Colgate should boast about; they, and not the folks creating headlines about ruining the Greek system and changing the social fabric of this institution, should be the people held up in the public eye.

I’ve met a lot of great people outside of the classroom during my stay here too. Bob Cornell and everyone else in the Athletic Communications office made every sports-related job I held into a really great experience. The men’s basketball coaching staff, especially Emmett Davis and Jeremy Ballard, was accommodating and approachable (anyone who’s checked out one of my basketball articles should thank them for giving me such easy access for interviews) during the two-plus years I worked with them. And, of course, Dean Beverly Low is pretty much responsible for me being at this school – without her help and guidance, I wouldn’t have returned after that 2001-2002 school year.

So that’s why Colgate is worth writing about. That’s why I’ll look back on this time as the best of my life. This university is a beautiful place, sure. But more importantly, it is filled with great people. I’m leaving here having enjoyed great relationships with those aforementioned staff and faculty members, and with a great group of friends too. And Casey, who has been a wonderful girlfriend for the past couple years.

It’s not the best place there is – that fact has come up more and more as we’ve grown here – but Colgate has been a terrific place to receive an education. If all 2,800 students here have as great an experience as I did, Colgate should be proud of itself. I do, hard as it might be to believe, wish I could experience it again.