Columbia College | Columbia University in the City of New York
What were you like when you first arrived at Columbia?
I was 18 going on 12. I was very young. I grew up in suburban Cranston, R.I.; I wasn’t comfortable making my way around the “big city” of Providence. So, having never even visited the campus before my parents dropped me off in September 1971, my first taste of New York City was eye-opening, to say the least.
I distinctly remember standing in front of The Gates, saying to myself, “People here are coming up to us asking for money, they’re drinking out of paper bags and speaking Spanish. Four years in a foreign country. What did I do?” But I became comfortable and fell in love with the Big Apple. I even learned a little Spanish. The city and Columbia were two great educational experiences.
What do you remember about your first-year living situation?
Carman Hall, Room 901B. I had never lived away from home. Suddenly I had three roommates in the suite, one of whom introduced me to a bong — another eye-opening experience. Two of the original roommates moved out after only a few weeks; clearly, we weren’t compatible. But Carter Eltzroth ’73, SIPA’79, LAW’80, Tony Lukaszewski ’75, LAW’84 and Charlie Gwirtsman ’75 were excellent roommates. Charlie and I roomed together the next year, too.
What Core class or experience do you most remember, and why?
Contemporary Civilization, with Professor Noel. We read works by Aristotle, Plato, Hobbes, Hume and the like. I had seen their names etched in stone above the doors at Butler Library, and I thought they were the names of some storied Columbia football team. We hadn’t read philosophers in my high school.
I most remember my first Columbia midterm, in Professor Noel’s class. He started the question on one blackboard, went to the next one, and another, and another and a side blackboard with this one question that had many sub-questions. I remember looking at all of it, taking a deep breath and saying to myself, “Wow, I’m in college now.”
Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?
Even though it technically wasn’t on campus, Baker Field was a favorite. I took the subway to Baker every day during the baseball season, where I was fortunate enough to continue my passion with the sport as a Columbia infielder. It was there I always was greeted warmly by Wyatt, an attendant who would make fried chicken for us between games of a doubleheader. One day, as I was dressing for practice, Wyatt came to me with a brick in his hands. “Heavyweight,” he said, noting my 115-pound body, “you better put this in your pocket. It’s windy today. Don’t want you to blow away into the Harlem River.”
Ferris Booth Hall was another favorite spot. I spent a lot of time there as sports editor of Spectator, building the foundation of what would become a 33-year sports writing career.
And one other place, the steps of Low Library, particularly on a foggy night, when I would climb to the top step, sit down and think about my life, my studies, my future and my low batting average while looking at Butler Library through the mist.
What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?
I’ve thought hard about this question, and I really can’t think of anything I’d like to do over. It was a great four years. I grew as a student and took several steps along the path to maturity. (Not sure I ever made it, but that’s another story.) I made some great friends and was active on campus. Maybe the only regret is I wished I could have had a fifth year, not to go to any classes, but just to enjoy the Columbia community and New York City.
OK, maybe one do-over. I would like to play Mike Telep ’75, BUS’79’s team in the intramural basketball championship game again. We lost in 1974 — and I missed the game because I was attending the Blue Pencil Dinner, which welcomed the new Spectator board.