Oneonta Geography Department Picnic

At the end of August I received an invitation to the SUNY Oneonta Geography Department touting a picnic for Faculty, students and alumni.  It advertised an opportunity to meet with past faculty including Paul Baumann, Martha Corry and Tom Gergel.

When I attended (71-75) Dr. Martha Corry was the head of the department teaching primarily Economic Geography. She had a large, rather pampered black Labrador retriever that I took care of at times when she was out of town.  I remember feeding the dog 1/2 of condensed sweeten milk with it’s food.  I can’t remember it’s name, but it was overweight had the slickest black coat you could imagine.  It was also quite strong and not exactly leash trained.  I am not sure who was leading whom along Main St, Oneonta on the Sunday walk.    Martha is now approaching 90 years of age, mentally sharp and in good shape.

Tom Gergel was one of my favorite teachers.  He used to live on East St or vicinity – it was within walking distance and I remember him arriving in his office huffing and puffing from his frantic hike up the hill.  One of my scariest memories was riding in a car with Tom driving.  We were destined for a field trip to some bog and Tom was quite the sight see-er.  We would bomb along within the speed limit with Tom checking out all the scenery and pointing out and describing interesting geomorphologic features while infrequently making casually glances at the road.   It was a miracle to behold.  Tom was also always reading horticulture articles about growing apples.  If I remember correctly he had started an apple orchard before I left.  I learned that Tom lost a thumb cutting wood in his orchard and it prevented him from another passion – playing violin.

After graduating in 1975 I worked for two years within the Geography Department in a cooperative project between Schoharie County (where I lived) and the Geography Dept.  We were building an early Geographic Information System under the guidance of Paul Baumann. Paul set up the whole arrangement and gave me my 1st professional job.  Back then everything was programmed using FORTRAN and COBOL on Burroughs mainframe computers.  Card punch units and manual data entry ruled our project.  We had boxes and boxes of computer cards stacked in rows 12 wide by 4-5 boxes high.  After awhile we transitioned to computer tapes.     During my stint at graduate school at University of Washington I returned to Oneonta for a summer job – again arranged by Paul – whereby we conducted a study of emergency services for the City of Oneonta.  We lived in Paul’s house for the summer as he and his family were away vacationing for the summer.  Paul was a valuable professional reference for my 1st jobs.  He was an important mentor for many, many years and a good friend.

Friday I drove to Oneonta in the rain to attend the picnic.  It was a nice low key affair.  I got to meet the new department chair – Dr. Tracy Allen, and current faculty Ben Dixon, Jim Greenberg and Wendy Mitteager.  Below I pose between Paul Baumann and Martha Corry.

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