Happy anniversary, Bona alums!!
I am truly honored to be the President of the National Alumni Association Board during our 150th Anniversary Celebration. Some of our younger alumni and students I met over Homecoming Weekend asked me if I have been here since SBU was founded! Only kidding of course, but I have been around Bona’s for almost a third of our 150 years since that August day in 1962 when I first moved into 4th Dev. So rather than write an article asking for your support of the Bonaventure Fund, your help with Freshman recruiting and your attendance at local Chapter events, I’d like to take this special celebration time to share some of the history I have witnessed over the past 47 years. I’m often asked by young alums what Bona’s was like back then and when I tell them, they seem amazed. So I thought I would take this Sesquicentennial moment to share some of my memories with all of our 24,000 alumni.
Our Class of 1965 was the last one to experience “Freshman Rules.” For 2 months we went through an initiation into Bona’s. We wore little brown caps called dinks, ties, and signs with our names and hometown on them (like that famous song about a bar in Boston - “everyone knew our name”). We had to do chores for the upper classmen (shine shoes, bring coffee, clean rooms, etc), memorize our “Alma Mater” and the “Brown & White” fight song (I can’t remember what I did yesterday but I still know those words!), and sit in the center seats at the dining hall tables. (food was passed down the table “Family Style”- you often had to fight to get something to eat)
On the last night, we were marched into the center of Butler Gym, screamed at, pelted with eggs, pies and other goodies (I recall Lee Coppola ’64 and John Hanchette ‘64 were two of the throwers) as we sang the Alma Mater. It was only after this that we were accepted into the Bonaventure family!!
Back then, there was only one campus. The male/female ratio was 90/10. The female students resided in 6 to 8 person dorm rooms at St. Elizabeth Motherhouse (St. E’s) up on the hill across the street from campus. There was only one TV and one pay phone that they had to share (can you imagine one phone for over 100 girls!!). They also had to endure a 15 minute walk though rain, sleet and snow (and sometimes a freight train) to get to class. They were truly the Bona lady pioneers!! Robinson & Falconio Halls were the new state of the art dorms. We had classes on Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays, and Tuesdays, Thursdays & SATURDAYS!
Business majors wore coats and ties to classes and everyone wore a tie and coat to dinner (those became famous for their mustard and catsup stains and patches on the elbows). No one dry-cleaned them (Rick Stearns' mother told him he could come home at the end of the semester but only if he left his coat at school). There was only one selection each meal (“mystery meat” on Tuesday, a scoop of hash on Wednesday that you had to smother in catsup just to eat, “Steak night” on Thursdays and fish on Friday‘s). We had “study period” during our freshman year every weeknight from 7 - 9 PM. Our prefect would patrol the halls ensuring everyone was at their desk and being quiet (he was usually followed by some golf balls bouncing behind him - poor Fr. Robert Gavin!!).
Freshmen lived in Devereux Hall (Fr. Dominic Monti, A.D. was our classmate on 4th Devereux). Business and Journalism majors needed 3 science course credits so all of us took Father Quentin’s “Earth Science” class where we had to memorize the star charts & the “57 Steps to the Formation of the Appalachian Geosyncline” (without Quentinology, none of us would have graduated!!).
The science building expansion is nearing completion as is the rare books library addition. And, of course, the most significant improvement to our campus has been the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. How many small Catholic Universities even have a fine arts center, much less one as magnificent as the Quick Center? When I would tell prospective students at Maryland high school fairs that Bona’s has a $7.5 million Arts Center in Olean, NY, they couldn’t believe it - I had to give them a brochure! It is a jewel! Alumni from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s who have not been back to campus owe it to themselves to come back to see their beautiful alma mater. What better year than this year - our Sesquicentennial Anniversary!!!
We had many other “legendary” professors - Leo Keenan, Austin Finan, Ed Emerling, Joseph Guson, Bill Long, Dr. Russell Jandoli, Dr. Malcolm Wallace (I’m sure I missed several others - especially in the Science Dept. - for which I apologize) and too many fantastic Friars to list. Your grades were posted on the classroom door so everyone also knew your grade. Socials were held at the Clubhouse or Gargoyle Park featuring kegs of Pabst Blue Ribbon draft beer. The were two major weekends: Fall Festival & Winter Carnival during which groups such as Peter, Paul & Mary, The Highwaymen & the Lettermen (no relation to Dave) appeared.
The old Army barracks were used for Military Science (ROTC) classes. It was in that classroom on Nov. 22, 1963 that many of us were informed by Sgt. Sargent that President Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas - everyone was in shock and the campus closed.
Our basketball team ruled!! We were the Brown Indians, and our Indian mascot would cheer our fans into a frenzy. We played our local home games in the Olean Armory where, believe it or not, we had a 99 game winning streak. We were part of the “Little Three” with Canisius & Niagara. The Little Three was well respected across the country. We played our big games in the Aud in Buffalo, and how we always made it back to campus safely is still a mystery. As everyone knows, our basketball tradition was glorious, and that was before Bob Lanier led us to our highest NCAA glory. We had a great swimming team which was surprising because the pool in the basement of Butler Gym was only about 25 yards long. The 8 foot ceiling was so low no diving was allowed. Intramural sports enjoyed full participation with many dorm floor rivalries (and broken legs).
“Culture” consisted of watching feature films on “Sunday Night at the Movies” in old Butler Gym. "The Great Escape” was so popular it was shown twice - at 8PM & midnight!! The Castle Restaurant was THE place to dine but after driving back from games in Buffalo, it was long gone Paul’s Diner next to campus. Of course, our favorite place every night was the Burton, home of the best cheeseburger this side of the Mississippi for 75 cents.
SBU was the home of Christ the King Seminary. We played an All-Star football game against the seminarians (Jack McGinley was an All-Star quarterback). We had wonderful Franciscans. One of the favorites of our class was Fr. Gervase White. Known as the “Coach” for his love of the Brown Indians, Fr. Gervase always had the next Lew Alcindor coming to Bona’s.
And guess what else? We ALL loved “Bona‘s, old St. Bona’s!” If Master Card had done a commercial on the Class of 1965 on graduation day, it would have said (and this will make recent alumni envious): Tuition: $1100, Room & Board: $1100, Books: $150, 4 years at Bona‘s: PRICELESS!
Fast forward 43 years to today. We now have an East & West campus, apartments and town houses, the new Friary on the East campus, several new buildings on the West campus and Clare College. Believe it or not, there is actually a Starbucks located in Plassmann Hall. The male/female ratio is 48/52 (today’s girls owe a big “thank you” to our generation of women!!). Alumni have celebrated over 1400 Bonaventure marriages, which bodes well for lots of future Bonnies.
Lee Coppola is now the Dean of Journalism and John Hanchette is a Journalism professor (Hanchette won a Pulitzer Prize!). Student grades are no longer posted. Rev. Dominic Monti served as SBU interim president in 2003 & 2004 and Jack McGinley is still quarterbacking - now as Chairman of the Board of Trustees!
We play our basketball games on campus at the Reilly Center, our mascot is now a wolf and we call ourselves the Bonnies. We just dedicated the new basketball floor to Bob Lanier (he gave an impassioned speech on his affection for Bona’s and told a very funny story about himself - the next time you run into Bob ask him to tell about his canoe trip on Cuba Lake). The RC has a large swimming pool with a high ceiling so our team has been able to compete in diving competitions. The RC contains the very impressive Bonaventure Hall of Fame honoring the great athletes in Bona’s history. The RC is also the home of ROTC, which continues to prepare students to become leaders in the United States Army (they also have their own Hall of Fame).
Today’s students enjoy the Richter Center, a state of the art fitness/exercise facility adjacent to those “old” dorms - Robinson & Falconio Halls. St. Bona’s has an outstanding Campus Ministry and a wonderful volunteer service program called “BonaResponds” where Dr. Jim Mahar leads students to areas of need - New Orleans, Biloxi, and Buffalo (after their blizzard). We have Mt. Irenaeus, the mountain retreat that reminds many of the areas around Assisi, Italy where St. Francis spent so much of his time (a real “diamond in the rough”). Butler Gym has been completely renovated as a center for student basketball games and activities. The Hickey Dining Hall has also been completely remodeled, with students able to select from a smorgasbord of foods, and the new Café La Verna is a great place for students to gather and just “hang out."
With all of the changes that have occurred over the past four decades (and I‘m sure I missed so many more), at least three things still remain the same. First, there is the Franciscan influence starting right at the top with Sr. Margaret Carney and carried on by the Friars. Fr. Dan Hurley ‘40 continues to be an inspiration to all and the popularity of Fr. Dan Riley ’64 with alums is unprecedented. And, the Franciscan Institute is now located on the Bonaventure campus (it brought Sr. Margaret to our university!!).The second thing that hasn’t changed - the Burton still makes a great cheeseburger, although it costs more than 75 cents! And the third thing that hasn’t changed, and I get this message every time I talk to current students and meet with younger alumni - their love of “Bona’s, Old St. Bona’s.” Many speak of the FFL’s - Friends for Life that they made at Bona’s. They talk of their Franciscan values. I think this love has been admirably demonstrated with the current 150th Anniversary Campaign. Bonaventure alumni have already assured that the $90 million goal will be exceeded!
With Sr. Margaret’s leadership, her Administration’s dedication, the guidance of the Board of Trustees, our outstanding faculty, and the support of the National Alumni Association Board, St. Bonaventure alumni and students can look forward with pride to our next 150 years. And in 2058, another Alumni Association President can remember these next 50 years as “Bona's, old St. Bona's”.
Marv Stocker, ‘65