Many of the buildings around campus have been outfitted with new furniture to accommodate the increase in Colgate students this year. However, there is one oversized wood and leather chair that is unlikely to ever be replaced by a new and improved model.
It’s not just any chair, but the Dalai Lama chair, the dais on which His Holiness the Dalai Lama sat during his lecture as a part of the Kerschener Family Global Lecture Series at Colgate in April 2008.
The chair, commissioned by Stickley, Audi & Co., headed up by Ed Audi ’89, is now gracing the hallway leading up to President Jeffrey Herbst’s office on loan from alumni James Capalino ’72 and Willie Schwartz ’72.
For Schwartz, the chair represents a physical tie to his alma mater, something he said was difficult to feel after graduation.
“Through this serendipitous moment and by returning the chair to its home, I had the opportunity to establish a concrete connection between myself, my classmate [Capalino], Colgate past and Colgate future as well as the life and spirituality of the Dalai Lama” Schwartz said.
The Third Annual Presidents Club Auction, held in May 2008, helped to reestablish this connection after he and his classmate, Capalino, decided to jointly bid on the item.
For Capalino, the purchase of the chair and its final home in Hamilton is not so much about symbolism as it is about recognizing the academic prowess of Colgate and its students.
“It wasn’t a renewal experience for me,” Capalino said, adding, “it was an opportunity for me to affirm the really strong tradition of an academic environment [at Colgate].”
Schwartz said the evening began interestingly when he received his paddle number, 333.
“I felt a special sense about this spontaneous opportunity,” Schwartz said, comparing the three same numbers to hitting the jackpot on a slot machine.
When Capalino first approached him about bidding on the chair, the two settled at $6,000. The final bid was $25,000.
After some discussion over the chair’s final campus location, the school opted to place it in James B. Colgate Hall.
“I was very moved by the whole way in which the University very beautifully handled [the Dalai Lama’s] visit to central New York,” Capalino said, referring to the series of lectures in 2008. “Given the time and effort put into the chair, I wanted it back on campus.”
In the time between the auction and the chair’s arrival on campus, Schwartz kept it in his home for a year, even comissioning the furniture maker to have an exact replica made. While the original Dalai Lama chair is on campus, an exact replica sits in Schwartz’s home.
“With the chair returning to Colgate my personal connection to the school is complete; it is physical, metaphysical and permanent,” Schwartz said. “It feels now as if I have something to build upon my relationship to Colgate…I feel that this connection extends to my class.”