Another first for Algoma U (10 photos)Sunday, October 21, 2012 by: Darren Taylor
Algoma University held its first Homecoming as an independent postsecondary institution this weekend.
Jessica Ferlaino, who graduated from Algoma in 2007 with a degree in Law and Justice/ Political Science, currently living and working in Toronto, is Algoma’s Alumni Council chair and was one of the prime movers behind the event.
Pictured above are, from left to right, professor Don Jackson (Political Science Department), retired Algoma professor Ken McLarty (Geography), Algoma graduate Craig Kohler (Political Science and History, class of 1989), Jessica Ferlaino, Algoma’s Alumni and Development Officer Bev Teller, and President of Algoma University Students’ Union Robert Totime (in his fourth year of Law and Justice studies).
Ferlaino told SooToday.com: “Last year we discussed the alumni basketball game, and we were talking about how to get people involved in the alumni event. Other schools always rally around their sports teams with a homecoming event, and we didn’t have something like that. I wanted Algoma to do the same thing. They’re growing in so many other ways, why not grow in that capacity too?”
“Homecoming is starting small, but that’s what our expectation was because its something we’re hoping to build up in the future," she added. "This is just to get the ball rolling, especially with our Memory Project. Once people start to know they can share their memories with us and have them become a part of Algoma’s archived memories, then I think they will start to get in touch more and more.”
“We started a girls’ football team when I was here, and that’s one of the memories I hold dearest," Ferlaino continued. "On a team you learn a lot about camaraderie and you learn about yourself. Of course, I gained a lot of academic knowledge in my studies, but I learned a lot about myself here. And I think that’s what makes Algoma University great, it really shapes you as an individual. I’ve done graduate studies at another university since, but it pales in comparison to the experience I had here.”
Is there any person at Algoma who Ferlaino remembers as a mentor?
“Don Jackson, 100 percent!” proclaimed without hesitation.
Professor Jackson has been with the Department of Political Science at Algoma since the 1970s, when it was a much smaller Algoma University College.
“He never told you the answers,” Ferlaino recalls. “He challenged you to find them for yourself, but that makes you a better person in the long run. At the time I didn’t fully understand what he meant, but then four years later you have one of those moments when you say, oh, that’s what he was trying to get through to me!"
Ferlaino noted: “Algoma is starting to get recognized down in Southern Ontario with campuses in Brampton and St. Thomas, and that’s a testament to everyone who has ever taught here, studied here, worked here.”
Craig Kohler remembers: “When I was here, most of the students were adult learners in my day, now there’s a lot more direct intake from high school. There were so many mentors. My history professor, Dr. Ian Brown, was one of them. You were a ‘person’ in the classes here, not just a number. There was a sense of camaraderie.”
“To see Algoma become an independent institution was the culmination of a dream when I was a student here," he said. "It brings great happiness to me. Its remarkable to see the growth.”
Professors Jackson and McLarty are also thrilled to see the growth of the institution, but also remembered the former Algoma University College’s lean days
Their dedication and determination to keep a university alive for Sault Ste. Marie helped establish the foundation for today’s much-expanded Algoma University.
“Our bread and butter in the early years in terms of students were schoolteachers upgrading,” McLarty recalled.
Jackson said in the beginning everyone pitched in to help the fledgling Algoma University College survive, recalling: “Bake sales were held to raise funds, staff even made some of the furniture, faculty members’ wives bought material, re-stuffed and sewed up all the cushions on the chairs.”
Moving forward, Algoma’s Alumni and Development Officer Bev Teller told us: “From a parent’s perspective its really neat to have a university here for our kids. My daughter is in her fourth year now and working on her thesis, she’s had the opportunity to actually work with the professors in the biology program. It's been a terrific experience for her. I think we have the basis to grow this Homecoming into something bigger. A lot of our grads are still local, so for them to want to stay connected and come back is great.”
“Basketball’s been the main part of our sports program over the past decade, and we want to celebrate Homecoming every year, aligned with our alumni basketball game,” Teller concluded.
On that note, Saturday evening’s Homecoming basketball action featured two competitive yet friendly games between Algoma University’s current men’s and women’s Thunderbirds teams and alumni teams.
Both the current Thunderbirds lineups defeated the Algoma alumni squads, the women 82-36, the men 91-65.
Other events of the weekend included a gathering at Mockingbird Hill Farm for a jaunt through the Corn Maze, a gathering at Algoma U’s Speak Easy, an aboriginal Sunrise Ceremony, pancake breakfast, campus tours and Around the World at Algoma University Food Sampling, showcasing the new international diversity of Algoma’s student body with samples of food from China, Japan, France, Brazil and Saudi Arabia.