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Reflecting on 10 years in Brown Hall Miscellaneous

Feb. 4, 2002, was a cold and snowy Monday in Henrietta. And for RIT University News, it was moving day.

Over the previous few weeks, we had been preparing—physically and mentally—to move from Eastman Hall to Building 86 (the name “Brown Hall” did not yet exist).

The Building 86 east hallway on move-in day, Feb. 4, 2002 (looking north from University News to University Publications).

Mentally preparing? Yes…. At the time, I and others from University News, along with our longtime neighbors, University Publications, could be excused for feeling somewhat ostracized. We were about to be banished from the building— the highest one at the center of campus and of power—to a nondescript, one-story, “30-year” structure on the southwestern fringe (back then, there was no Global Village nor University Services Center; Crossroads was under construction … and we were not overjoyed).

Truthfully, some of us questioned the wisdom behind the move (after all, shouldn’t the news and PR office be centrally located?).

Today, however, surrounded by so much new construction—and all signs pointing toward a new ice arena coming soon to our neighborhood!—we’re situated at what’s practically the campus epicenter. And most of us, I think, have come to like little ol’ Brown Hall (I even named a podcast—“Studio 86”—after it).

Perhaps most startling now to those of us here on that winter day 10 years ago is that we’ve been here for a decade! But more important than where we showed up daily for work is where our lives have taken us in that span….

• Four got married (Kelly Sorensen, most recently, last fall).

• Three had babies (including, among those still here, Vienna McGrain and Susan Gawlowicz), and one adopted a son (Paul Stella).

• Five earned master’s degrees (including me, Paul and Bob Finnerty—who began his RIT career just a week before move-in day), and a couple of us taught public-relations courses a few times as RIT adjunct professors (Paul—Public Relations and me—Public Relations Writing).

• And a few of us have picked up some gray hair along the way. (I like to point out, I had none in my original 1999 RIT picture ID—so RIT must be to blame!)

The University News family in September 2003. Clockwise, from top left, Brennan Coon, Sue Weisler, Bob Finnerty, Mike Saffran, Paul Stella, Silandara Bartlett, Laurie Maynard, Kathy Lindsley, Linda Kanaley, Marcia Morphy, Susan Gawlowicz, Vienna McGrain, Susan Rosinski.

It all happened with surprisingly little turnover. We’ve grown, but only modestly, as we’ve welcomed a few new colleagues and bade farewell to others who left for bigger and better things (Laurie Maynard, Silandara Bartlett, Will Dube and John Follaco), or for the ultimate “better thing”: retirement (Linda Kanaley and Kathy Lindsley).

A bright spot has been welcoming so many capable students into the fold, for brief periods, as either co-op students or student employees (Laura, John, Seth, Kevin, Dan, Manoj, Becca, Pete, Brandon, Jill, Sherry, Tricia, Zach, Luke, Jenny, Madeleine, Vignesh, Haresh, Srini, Scott, Allie and others).

On a more personal note… Those who left us, left us with large voids: Laurie, our boss, was a great teacher, mentor and leader; Kathy, like a big sister (she still is—and we’re fortunate that she occasionally still writes for us). John was a compadre, and Will (who didn’t go far—he still works for RIT) is like a little brother (not only am I the youngest of three, but Will and I actually might be distantly related: our mothers have the same not-so-common maiden name).

Linda, who had worked for RIT longer than any of us, might also have the biggest heart; and Silandara was a pioneer, inspiring us to try new things (like blogging!). And among all those splendid students, no one before or since has shared herself, and her faith, as openly and purely as Becca did. She was loved like a little sister while here—but on what matters most, I hope that I learned a little from her (this sentence being one shimmering reflection, if you’re able to see it).

Sadly, over the 10 years we’ve also had to say goodbye forever to some loved ones. To parents and grandparents, to friends and “best friends” (the furry kind—including Dutch, Nike, Sadie, Olivia, Scully, Daphne and Sophie). And we lost a special colleague in Angela Holland of University Publications.

And, oh yes, kind of like a family, we’ve quarreled (oh, how we have quarreled!). I was reflecting on this recently … and about how when people quarrel it’s typically with those closest to them, isn’t it? Think about it: Do we bicker with total strangers? Usually not. But families—for myriad reasons that you already know—they quarrel (and they make up).

Through it all, we’ve wagered on American Idol, and football, too … we’ve welcomed visits from Dylan (twice so far) and Megan (not nearly enough—but better than not at all) … and, a few times, we’ve hoped that from the ceiling above a squirrel didn’t fall!

Yes, much has happened since moving day on Feb. 4, 2002. And plenty at RIT, too. But these reflections aren’t as much about the university as they are about one small pocket of it—and, most importantly, the people inside Brown Hall.

  1. Eugene Fram
    Feb 03


    Congratulations on a great article, and happy new office birthday to a great crew of folks.


  2. Mike Saffran
    Feb 03

    Thanks, Gene! You’re one of my favorite “Studio 86” guests—and, for all of us, one of our all-time favorite visitors to Brown Hall.

  3. Joanna (formerl
    Feb 04

    I was just thinking about our American Idol contest and how the loser of the week bought everyone else coffee. :) Ten years already! How did that happen?

  4. Will Dube
    Feb 04

    When I came for my initial interview I remember thinking THIS is where the NEWS office is?!

    But 7 years later (can't believe I've been at RIT that long) Brown Hall is like a second home to me. Even though I no longer work for UNS I still end up there once or twice a week. To all of the residents, including my Big Bro Mike, congrats on 10 years!

  5. Laurie White (f
    Feb 06

    Hey Mike,
    Great reflections (& cool photo on the eve of my leavetaking)! A bit of related news: I'm taking a job as Communications/Marketing Director/PIO at Daytona State College starting April 2. And it all started at UNS many years ago with Bill McKee and Neil Fagenbaum ...
    Happy Days to all at UNS!

  6. Paul Stella
    Feb 06

    You brought back some nice memories, Mike. Looking forward to the next 20 years in our '30 year building.' Unless, of course, Brown Hall becomes arena parking.

  7. Marcia Morphy
    Feb 09

    Did we have blogs back then?
    Fun read, Mike; lots of good memories. Still miss the American Idol and football pools. Did you know I always checked the Vegas odds?

  8. Mike Saffran
    Feb 10

    Thanks, all, for your comments! I’ve talked in recent years about reprising the football pool — and one day I’ll have to do it! (Marcia, you’re free to check the odds!) Paul, let’s hope they don’t “pave paradise to put up a parking lot” (that is, unless it means we get offices INSIDE the new arena!). And Laurie, great hearing from you and good luck in beautiful Daytona Beach!

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