The Last Word – Magical Oz Connections Transcend Time By Wendy Cobrda ’87


Was it standing together on the shores of Lake Ontario, holding hands, watching the melting crayon sunsets at night? Was it those long walks around campus holding each other up when caught in a wind tunnel? Was it the onslaught of horizontal snow that pelted our faces as we braved the brutal winters that bonded us forever?

I don’t know what magic makes Oz so special, but I am still under its spell.

Oct. 29, 2016, was the ump­teenth time I’ve been back to Oswego to attend a ritual dinner over (cough, cough, mumble, mumble) let’s just say, many years. Yes, I still visit my alma mater whenever I can make it happen to see my old friends and former professors and staff (friends) from the Comm department.

While I am proud to have graduated from a school where the budding talents of a young Al Roker ’77, Steve Levy ’87, Linda Cohn ’81, Benita Zahn ’76 and countless others behind-the-scenes successes got their start — the rest of us are successes, too, in our own ways. These dinners give us a chance to find out how our lives changed and how we can continue to help each other, no matter where we landed.

While taking the tour of the mid-sized campus (8,000 enrol­led) as a high school senior, I remember learning that I could join the staff of the student-run radio station as a freshman.

“Really? You mean I can start in September?” I asked, incredulously.

“Uh, yes,” the guide repeated, kindly.

That sealed the deal for me.

That October was the first of many “Comm Dinners” [triennual Communication Studies Dinner]. Alumni of the program were invited to the campus each fall before the heavy snows started to gather for dinner to hear one of our own talk about his or her career and give us a chance to catch up and network. Students could come, too.

This year, our keynote speaker Joan Reinhart Cear ’80 had us laughing and nodding in acknowledgement as she shared her truths about her journey from Oswego. She talked about working at a small radio station, moving to a large market, switching to public relations, running her own PR firm and now working for Kellen Communications as a top PR manager for several industry associations. Weaving in stories from the past with the realities of Oswego of today, her talk resonated with all. And our new dean, Julie Pretzat, was a delight, too. She gave a nod to our former dean, Fritz Messere ’71 M’76, with her spin on a joke that has been told for years at Fritz’ expense. (Stand up!)

You see, if I had to guess, I think the magic in Oswego exists because WE ARE THE FAIRY DUST. I think that by participating you become part of the story; you begin to know other people and their stories even if you didn’t know each other during college (or even if you didn’t attend the same years). By showing up and engaging with others — you get the jokes, as new ones crop up each year. Your story becomes part of the story.

Wendy Cobrda ’87 is a Central New York communications executive who is passionate about the intersection of mar­­keting, media and research. A broadcasting and mass communication major, she was involved with WOCR radio and WTOP television while a student at Oswego.

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