Northfield was the scene of a bloody, botched bank robbery attempt by the James-Younger gang in September 1876. One of two townsfolk killed was a bank cashier, Carleton’s treasurer. At the time, the college, founded a decade previously, was welcoming its seventh freshman class. (The first president was seated in 1870.)
How many students grabbed rifles, shotguns and pistols to fend off the robbers is not known. The “great Northfield raid” is celebrated in Northfield the Monday after Labor Day.
Poskanzer, being something of a foreigner to those parts, may be asked to play Jesse James.
For sure Poskanzer didn’t have to put a gun to anybody’s head at Carleton. While the SUNY New Paltz chief said he didn’t apply for the presidency, once he was on the search committee’s radar via an anonymous recommendation he was probably all but a lock. Four finalists were interviewed, but apparently all Steve had to do was put his lips together and blow. Or so say published reports in Northfield. Details of the contract were not released.
As a liberal-arts college, Carlton gets very high grades — a peer-review dean’s list 4.4 on a 5-point scale. But so does New Paltz, now rated one of the best buys in American education by U.S. News and World Report. But that publication’s highly regarded college survey has consistently ranked Carleton in the top ten of small liberal-arts colleges.
Poskanzer may be going to academically better place, but New Paltz with all its warts is still the only SUNY university between New York and Albany. Northfield was so remote that it took Jesse James to put it on the map.
Statistically, college presidents, a mobile lot, stay in position for less than a decade. Poskanzer, who came to New Paltz in 2001 to replace the controversial Roger Bowen, was on the fringe of that length of tenure.
Back home in New Paltz, Poskanzer’s sudden departure has generated speculation.
Why would a 51-year-old college president in mid-career move from an 8000-student institution to one matriculating but 1900?
I suspect at least two factors motivated Poskanzer, the opportunity to preside over and teach at a quality college smaller than Kingston High School, and the grim prospects for a SUNY system that by most accounts will pay a heavy price in the near future for the sins of state government.
Tough times coming
Better than most, Poskanzer, a former SUNY Central bureaucrat, had to have seen the writing on the wall. For at least the next five years, maybe more, there will be only emergency capital projects at SUNY schools. By then, the $100 million for major rebuilding Poskanzer secured during his tenure will be but a distant memory, like his presidency. Like Empire State secondary schools, SUNY will find its state aid sharply restricted as the state government uses what little cash it has to balance deficit-ridden budgets.
Poskanzer can’t be fairly accused of abandoning a sinking ship. He did his level best to keep it afloat. He leaves a $239,500-a-year salary, a Chevy Impala, the president’s house and a college that prospered under his presidency. We wish him well.
Speculation now shifts to SUNY New Paltz post-Poskanzer. The ambitious administrators who seek out college presidencies will reach similar conclusions about the job. As such, a $240,000 salary — middlin’ by college standards — and the usual perks might not be sufficient to attract the most adventurous types in early career who relish challenges. A search committee has yet to be named, but home-grown talent, people who know the college, the SUNY system, state politics and the New Paltz community, ought seriously to be considered.
Make no mistake about it. A well-functioning, adequately funded state university college at New Paltz, one in harmony with its mission and the surrounding community, is critical to the educational, cultural and economic well-being of the mid-Hudson region. The selection of the next president will be one of the most crucial choices in the more than 160-year history of New Paltz’s college, more important than the selection of Poskanzer was in what were relatively salad days.
Item: Malcolm X killer out. Paroled after 45 years.
About a generation ago, intrepid Ulster County Gazette reporter Carolyn Short wanted to write a feature on Eastern Correctional Institution — The Big House — at Napanoch. The Gazette was building circulation in the Rondout Valley at the time, so it sounded like a good idea.
To my surprise, prison officials welcomed the opportunity. The warden himself conducted the tour.
As Carolyn tells the story, she was talking to some inmates in the prison shop when she spotted a shy inmate standing off to the side. As authorities said she could talk to anyone, she chatted up the bystander.
“What a nice young man,” the motherly Carolyn said to the warden as they walked away.”What’s he in for?”
“Murder,” the warden said. “He’s one of the guys who killed Malcolm X.”
Thomas Hagen, 69, after being turned down 16 times for parole, was released last week, the last of three men convicted of fatally shooting civil-rights leader Malcolm X in the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights in 1965.
I sent the clipping to Carolyn, now retired in Kingston. (She doesn’t like loose ends.)
In Woodstock, notables, and there are some famous ones therein, are generally known by their first names, be it Bob, or Lee, Justin or Geddy, Brad or Uma. Woodstockers are easy with celebrity. It is considered gauche to invade their space.
Last summer a friend and I had stopped at a produce place in Bearsville after a pleasant afternoon cruising the uplands around the art colony. I stayed in the car, people watching, always interesting in Woodstock.
A tall, model-skinny blonde with frizzy hair accompanied by a bald middle-aged guy in a suit, walked past the car and into the store. I found her a bit odd-looking, even for Woodstock in mid-summer. A huge diamond on her right hand caught my eye. High maintenance, I thought, looking at the little bald guy.
My friend came out of the store clutching her produce.
“Did you see Uma?” she said.
“That was Uma?” I said. These stars (Thurman is a home-grown product) sure look different in person.
I couldn’t wait to tell Carolyn.
Here and there
Tempest-in-a-teapot Allan Wikman of Kingston got his day in court on Monday, convicted of disorderly conduct for disrupting the January annual session of the county legislature. Wikman, warned repeatedly not to sit on a windowsill, persisted, and was bodily hauled out of chambers by sheriff’s deputies. City judge Larry Ball gave him 15 days on a conditional discharge. Wikman says he’ll appeal…
Friends and colleagues of former city clerk Kathy Janeczek dedicated a monument to her memory outside her office at city hall this week. The irony is, the energetic Janeczek, who died last September, rarely gazed at scenery, unlike some other city-hall workers who shall remain nameless.
Assemblyman Kevin Cahill is again pushing legislation to investigate the possibility of thinking about consolidating school districts. Cahill made the same pitch at a chamber of commerce meet the candidate breakfast two years ago. The wheels in Albany grind slowly, if at all.
And under the heading of good plans too long delayed, Kingston officials say they hope, pray, wish Pike Plan renovation in the Stockade district will begin some time this summer. I wouldn’t bet my Speedo on that on. In October 2008, with obscene fanfare for a non-event, a banner was erected that declared work would begin in 2009. It didn’t.++