Local SUNY Cortland alumni group forms


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Gail Terry Van Patten poses in front of alumni house. Van Patten, a 1971 SUNY Cortland graduate, is one of 15 committee members who formed an alumni group comprised of graduates in the Cortland area.  

Staff Reporter

The first gathering of a newly formed local SUNY Cortland Alumni group — which met at the Alumni House on Tompkins Street for a picnic on Sunday — could almost have been a gathering of teachers who had undergraduate or master’s degrees from Cortland.
The picnic was the first event of the Cortland Alumni chapter, Doug DeRancy, executive director of Alumni Affairs, said at the picnic. Alumni chapters exist for many areas in the state, including New York City, Long Island and western New York. The Syracuse and Binghamton areas had been the chapters closest to the Cortland area before the new chapter organized during the summer.
Michelina “Mickey” Gibbons, associate director of Alumni Affairs, said the association queried a group of 60 local graduates about forming an interest group and 15 graduates responded, becoming a committee. The committee first met in May, coming up with the idea of the fall picnic at the SUNY Cortland Alumni House.
About 75 percent of the approximately 120 alumni and guests attending the event teach or are retired teachers from area schools or colleges, said Gibbons. SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum said during the picnic the college has become the ninth largest school in the nation to graduate teachers.
One of those teachers staying in the area was Dedrea Canfield Scalza, a 1993 graduate who teaches second grade at Virgil Elementary School. From Harford Mills, she was already familiar with the area.
Scalza said besides her degree, she also met her future husband, Chris Scalza, at SUNY Cortland. She said they met in the laundry room of Alger Hall when Chris, a freshman, asked the sophomore for advise on doing laundry. Chris Scalza had brought new bright red towels and she told him to wash them separately. He didn’t and ended up with pink underclothes.
“Now that we’re married, he does all the laundry,” said Dedrea Scalza, who now lives in Cortlandville with her husband, daughter and infant son.
Chris Scalza did not go into teaching. He works as a civil engineer on water and sewer systems for Clough Harbour and Associates in Syracuse. He spent five years in school in the “3 + 2 engineering” program, studying three years at Cortland and then two years at the University of Buffalo.
Dedrea Scalza said her parents didn’t want her to live on campus but she insisted so she could experience campus life. “It was fun. It paid off. I got a degree and got a husband.”
While at the picnic Dedrea Scalza saw a familiar face — that of Groton Middle School Principal Connie Miller Filzen, who had supervised one of Scalza’s student teaching experiences.
Filzen graduated from SUNY Cortland with a master’s degree in 1983 and a certificate of advanced study in 2000.
It was not just the chance to meet other graduates that attracted people to the Cortland Alumni chapter picnic at the Alumni House, a former Wickwire mansion and partial gift from previous owner Charles Gibson. Many grads came to see the house, admiring the woodwork and decor before or after eating.
“I came today to see the Alumni House,” said Sylvia Borden Mace, who graduated in 1976 and in 1990. She said her job required her to take administrative classes in 1990 and she finished her master’s degree at Cortland.
She had been going to the Utica campus but was required to take some classes at Cortland. Not knowing her peers, Mace said she has never attended a reunion and this was her first tour of the house.
An administrator at Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES at the adult education facility on Port Watson Street in Cortland, she said there were familiar faces at the picnic and she had met three second-grade teachers, including Scalza.
“More people stay local than we think,” said Chris Scalza.
Gail Terry Van Patten, a 1971 graduate and one of 15 committee members, said she had originally selected Cortland because a man she was interested in went to the college. “That didn’t work out,” she said. Raised on Long Island, she said she loved the college and the area and stayed. Van Patten retired from teaching third grade in the Homer School District five years ago. She said she was surprised at the number of graduates who remained in the Cortland area to teach.
“There was no way I was going back (to Long Island),” said Van Patten, saying she loves the hills of the upstate region. She said Cortland is right in the middle of the state and between Syracuse and Binghamton so it is easy to attend events in these metropolitan areas, too.
Van Patten said the committee would be meeting soon and would be planning “some other great things.”



Second man charged in counterfeit money case

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — City police have arrested a second man in connection with what they believe is a spree of counterfeit money spending that reaches into Pennsylvania and possibly all the way down the East Coast.
Friday afternoon, police charged Allen Leveille, age and address unknown, with one count of criminal possession of a forged instrument, a felony. Leveille is accused of using a fake $100 bill to purchase an $18 gift card at Eckerd Pharmacy on Port Watson Street.
Police believe that with the help of Frantzy Rodney, 25, of 1132 Ocean Ave, Brooklyn, Leveille has passed off many bogus bills in Binghamton, Allen Township, Pa., and possibly in South Carolina.
Leveille was detained Sept. 16 when police arrested Rodney on the same charge for allegedly attempting to pass off a fake $100 bill at the Hess Mart on Port Watson Street.
When the clerk questioned the validity of the bill, Rodney ran out of the store and was later found on Main Street in a rental car from John F. Kennedy International Airport with Leveille and two other men, police said.
At the time of the arrest, police couldn’t connect Leveille to the first crime and were unaware of others that had occurred in the area. Leveille could not provide any identification and claimed to be a French national.
He was turned over to Immigration and Naturalization Services and held in Cayuga County Jail until city police picked him up Friday for booking.
Leveille originally told police his name was Camillen Feurucin while providing an international driver’s license. Police said that document is a fake.
Police are still unsure of Leveille’s nationality.
“We don’t have any documentation to back that up,” Lt. Jon Gesin said when asked if the department was sure that Leveille was French.
Although police are still unsure if Leveille is even the man’s real name, they do know he is wanted under that name on a New York City warrant.
Based on his fingerprints, police discovered Friday that Leveille failed to appear for sentencing for a felony conviction on May 2, 2003, after being convicted of third-degree bribing a government official. A warrant was issued for his arrest on July 10, 2003.
Wednesday, Rodney was arrested on two more counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument for allegedly using phony $100 bills. Police said in addition to the Hess Mart, Rodney used a counterfeit bill at the Coffee Mania on Port Watson Street and was with Leveille at the Eckerd Pharmacy.
Additionally, police believe Rodney and Leveille used the bills at two Cortlandville stores where more counterfeit bills have been found.



Small piece of bridge damages garage

Staff Reporter

As the old Hoxie Gorge bridge was being demolished Wednesday morning, a piece of metal flew off an arch and crashed into a nearby garage, causing minor damage to the structure.
Anthony Ilacqua, a state Department of Transportation spokesman, said the piece of metal came from a keystone, a metal piece at the top of an arch that holds it together.
The piece of steel was connected to the bridge by a cable, he said. Ilacqua said the cable broke as the bridge was falling.
“The cable broke so the piece flew a little farther,” he said.
Ilacqua said he didn’t know how frequently that happened during bridge demolitions.
Vemtech, a Wyoming-based company, knocked down the bridge, and Ilacqua said no other problems were reported.
“Everything was tightly monitored,” he said.
The garage belongs to Carl Allen, of 2785 Hoxie Gorge Road in Cortlandville. The garage is separate from his house, which is about 100 yards from the bridge.
Allen said damage was minimal.
“It was just a small thing,” he said. “They took care of it already.”
An insurance company has been contacted and is working on resolving the matter, Ilacqua said.
Allen said he was home when the metal hit the garage. He declined to describe the location or the extent of the damage.
The back of the garage was covered with a blue tarp Friday evening. A wall was slightly tilted inward and a window was broken.
Vemtech could not be reached for comment.


Greek Peak prepares two new ski trails

Staff Reporter

VIRGIL — Although weather delays have put a $38 million development project significantly behind at Greek Peak, two new trails have been cut at the ski mountain and will be ready by this season, Greek Peak President Al Kryger said.
“We started early this summer with removing all the trees with the contractor, and we’re finishing up a cold-storage building (on Clute Road) with our crews right now,” Kryger said last week. “When they’ve finished that, they’re going to go back to the trails and de-stump them. We’re not going to grade the trails very much.”
One of the trails, the 1,500-foot-long Meros, veers to the west of Stoic trail, cutting through a strip of woods next to the trail Alcemene and Chair 1-A before intersecting again with Stoic at the bottom.
The trail, which is a More Difficult “Blue Square,” will be used for the Activity Based Training for school program lessons. The ABT uses activity courses to help students become more proficient at each difficulty level, and Kryger said that the course had previously been set-up on Stoic.
The second trail, a “black diamond” Most Difficult expertise level, is named Hercules and runs down to the west of Chair 4 and Zeus trail. It will merge with Zeus just downhill of the Easier trail Poseidon, which cuts across Zeus and Hercules as it comes down the mountain from Greek Peak East and Chair 5. The trail will initially be between 1,800 and 2,000 feet long, but will be extended by 900 feet after 2007.
Developing the trails has cost about $85,000, Kryger said.