Alumni Column: What a Strange Long Trip It’s Been



My life’s soundtrack reached a high deci­bel level through my Colgate years and is still playing even now – at the age of 63 as a Federal Administrative Law Judge. How did I manage to keep singing through the years, from a 60s “rock-star wannabe” to working for the government?

It all started in the third grade, when I re­ceived a miniature bust of Mozart, which still sits on my bookshelf, for playing “Flight of the Bumble Bee” on the trumpet at a school recital. In high school, my nickname was Dion, because I entertained my friends by singing his songs. The soundtrack reached a crescendo during my freshman year at Colgate in 1964 (also the Grateful Dead’s “freshman” year as a band). I vividly remember singing along with the worn-out vinyl Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan almost every night that first fall at Colgate, with a fellow East Hall resident Jere Lynch, a quarterback for the freshman team. Perhaps that’s how I received a bid to Theta Chi, where I was required, as a pledge, to sing the “Name Game” using the name of each of the brothers. That led to my lofty appoint­ment as the house’s “song leader.” (Coinci­dentally, I just heard from my trusty assistant Edie that her nephew, Joe Mileo, is presently pledging my old fraternity.)

As a sophomore, it was still Dylan’s acous­tics, harmonizing along with senior brother Sandy Mintz in the shower room at the house. (Yea, the same wrestler dude mentioned in the recent Maroon-News article by Lou Gotz, actually Mel Damski, my life-long friend and least vocally gifted member of the illustrious, but unknown band “Sandy, Andy and Mel­vin.”) That was the same year that I convinced a co-ed from Elmira College, at a mixer at the house, that I was a member of the Bee Gees because I could sing falsetto like Barry Gibb. As you may have heard, there were no female students at Colgate yet, so we would resort to anything to keep warm through the long cold Hamilton winters. What I remember most about my junior year was “groovin'” with the Young Rascals along with Walt Theis and Dwight Santiago, my roommates from DU for a semester while their house was being renovated. The musical counterpoint of my Colgate years culminated with the epochal Doors concert and finally my singing “The Times They Are A Changin” at the administration build­ing during the student occupation in the spring of 1968, just prior to my graduation.

I graduated just after the “TET Offensive” of the Viet Nam war, so to keep living, and singing, I enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard, where I avoid­ed marching exercises every after­noon by joining the band and playing Souza marches. Naval Hospital Corps School got me to San Diego, where I eventually attended law school and practiced criminal law along with managing a few local bands. That led to my first paying gig in music, as an attor­ney for Casablanca Records, where I had an office next to Donna Summer, was one of the few to see the members of KISS with­out their outrageous make-up and became friends with Randy Jones, the cowboy in the Village People.

Before long, I “burned out” just as the music industry did, and after several years “outside the law,” I found security and contentment as an Administrative Law Judge for the past 17 years; with New York City, then New York State and cur­rently with Social Security Administration on Long island, where I decide whether individuals qualify for disability benefits. And, believe it or not, I’m still singing. As an instructor for the New Judges Train­ing Program of our agency, I sing popular tunes with lyrics that relate to the subjects I teach. The audience response is usu­ally so enthusiastic that I’m asked to sing an encore. My favorite is an old Harvard professor Tom Lehrer’s parody of Oedipus Rex to illustrate a mentally impaired indi­vidual. It’s a subject I’m familiar with as I studied the “Oedipus Cycle” by Sophocles at Colgate.

Although I majored in English, my ex­posure to “serious” music at Colgate has enriched my life most. I fondly recall studying in the sound rooms at the Case Library, while listening to classical mu­sic, and courses with Professors Wilder and Skelton, as well as the “gut” course affectionately referred to as “Tunes with Ford,” in which Professor Ford Saunders taught us about opera. The first reunion I attended was my twenty-fifth, which I enjoyed so much that I have returned every five years since. (It’s scary that our class’s fiftieth is a little more than seven years from now.) At each one, another Colgate friend, Vaughn Carney, tells me he still remembers my version of Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of My Tears.”

I am still listening and still singing and living vicariously through my son Joey, a master guitar player who has chosen mu­sic as a career. And I’m forever grateful for the memorable experiences with friends I made at Colgate, some I still see (includ­ing another life-long friend, Bob Raiber, who recruited me for this article), some I don’t (where are you, my roommate from my first two years at Colgate, Tommy Dungan?). As has been the case through­out my life, I’m not sure what’s next “On the Long and Winding Road” (the Beatles, 1969), so I suppose I could have titled this piece The Magical Mystery Tour, an album the Beatles released during my senior year at Col­gate. One thing I am sure of, I will keep sing­ing to “The End” (from The Beatles “Abbey Road” album, 1969 – “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”).