Snowfalls and sunsets, beanies and books (or is it Buck’s?), the Founder and Fallbrook … These are just a few of the things we love about Oswego. To celebrate the college’s Sesquicentennial, we asked you, our readers, to send in the things you remember most fondly about your alma mater. The list includes current faves and long-gone treasures. But one thing remains certain — Our alumni love Oswego!
From 1973 through the mid-1980s, the College Tavern was one of the most popular places to grab a pint, catch a performance or just meet up with friends.
The college’s first and only on-campus bar opened in Hewitt Union as the Rathskellar. Students were charged with converting the former post office and storage space.
Whether they called it a practice school, training school or campus school, generations of Oswego education majors observed master teachers and practiced their own teaching skills in Sheldon Hall, and later Swetman Hall. The Campus School closed in the budget cuts of the 1980s, but its legacy lives on in the thousands of teachers who learned their craft in its walls and the millions of their students who benefited from teachers trained in “The Oswego Method.”
With the exception of a brief period in the 1980s, when it was removed for cleaning and repair, graduates from the 1920s and beyond can all remember one thing in common: the copper statue of founder Edward Austin Sheldon that stands in front of the building that bears his name, the college’s Old Main.
Whether it’s actually crafted from the melted pennies donated by New York’s schoolchildren — as college lore has it — or paid for by their collected coins, the statue dates back to 1899. It depicts Sheldon instructing a small child, using the Oswego Method of object teaching. The founder holds a sphere, which was one of the objects that made up the tool kit of instructors in the Pestalozzian Method, which Sheldon popularized among American educators.
On Sept. 20, 1944, the First Lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt, visited Oswego. Among those lucky enough to greet her on the steps of Old Main (now Sheldon Hall) was Betty Reid Gallik ’45, who was president of the Women’s Athletic Association.
“I remember they had a few of us who were president of our groups shake hands and talk with her,” she says. Also greeting Roosevelt were the late Betty Burden ’45 and the late M. Carol McLaughlin ’45.
With its location on Lake Ontario, Oswego is known for its legendary lake effect snow. And while every year has the potential for mountains of the white stuff, certain years saw blizzards of historic proportions.
Alumni who were on campus in the years 1958, 1966, 1978 and 1993 will never forget how Oswego made headlines around the country and across the globe for the feet of snow that piled up in a matter of hours.
Judy Driscoll Skillen ’61 recalled the snowstorm that greeted students returning from the 1958 Thanksgiving Break. “I was living in Johnson at the time,” she said. “We never went to school that whole week. They airlifted in food.” Other grads tell stories of climbing out second story windows and walking on the tops of cars.
Before they were Lakers, some sportswriters referred to Oswego athletes as “Zielmen,” a testament to the influence of legendary Coach Max Ziel on the college’s early athletic programs.
A World War I veteran and Alabama native, Ziel started his colorful coaching career at Oswego in 1921 and retired in 1957.