Alumni Column: Poetry Shared in Huntington Gym

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Students and alumni connect on a variety oftopics, no matter what their specificconcentrations may be.

Alden (Joe) Doolittle

It’s been almost 53 years since I carried a suitcase up the West Stillman staircase on a late summer afternoon.  Since then, I’ve been blessed and privileged to experience the support and encouragement of my Colgate relationships. Colgate is about academics, but far more; it’s where we meet friends for life, learn how to learn and begin to learn how to live together.  As alumni, it’s a place where we are all from.

One of my privileges since September 2015 has been serving on the Alumni Council, a cross-generational group providing connections between alumni and the University.  We meet on campus three times each year, most recently this past January at the same time as the SophoMore Connections program. While I didn’t participate directly in the Connections panels, I did get to meet students at a reception and dinner.  As luck would have it, I met a sophomore from my home town, a niece of a friend, and got invited to tag along with her friends for dinner in the old Huntington Gym.

She’s a German and Math concentrator, and as the students began to converse, it was clear I was sitting with folks all majoring in sciences, computer science, physics, chemistry and math.  As a History major, and two generations removed, I felt a bit over my head.  The dinner was in Huntington Gym, so one saving grace was a story about the Syracuse basketball game in 1965 with Jim Boeheim and Dave Bing in their backcourt.  Colgate lost 93-90, although we took Syracuse to three overtimes. It was an epic moment in Colgate Athletics, for my generation at least.

We had a good, comfortable conversation.  At one point there was a lull in the informative discussion, and I heard myself say, “So do you guys write any poetry?” Well, there was silence.  I’m really not sure from where my question even arose.  After a long pause one asked, “Do You?” I said, “Yes, I actually write Haiku, when it comes to me, like yesterday driving down Broad Street: Iced lake, snow; stone buildings, hillside white; chapel steeple glistens.” If not proficient, I’d demonstrated intent.  

From one of the scientists suddenly came a query, “Are limericks poetry?”  My reaction was, “Yes, of course!” The student pulled out his iPhone and proceeded to read to our table a limerick he’d written in physics class.  Then a second science concentrator-to-be provided a wonderful verse about being home in his neighborhood for Christmas.  Another techie shared a campus muse about a late night campus stroll.  A fourth about a sunrise – poems, saved memories, all journaled on their smart phones. I was impressed by this current iteration of a liberal arts education at Colgate and privileged to be at least part of the continuing relationship. Colgate, I’m pleased to say, continues to remain the place where I’m from and call home.