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Ranger School Celebrates Its 100th

Alumni Reunion kicks off Centennial Celebration

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More than 500 people gathered on the campus of the SUNY-ESF Ranger School in Wanakena Aug. 4 to help kick off the school's Centennial Celebration.

The kickoff, held in conjunction with The Ranger School's annual Alumni Reunion, drew Ranger School graduates from around the country and at least one who came from Sweden. Ranger School Director Christopher Westbrook said it was the largest reunion crowd he had ever seen.

"I talked to one alumnus who came up from Virginia," Westbrook said. "He said, 'I'm not going to miss this.' We've never had a crowd like this. We've actually had to turn people away."

Among the alumni in attendance was Leo Gozalkowski '61, a professional land surveyor from Watertown, N.Y., who came for the reunion with his wife, Frances "Fran." "It's nice to come back and see the changes," Gozalkowski said as the couple looked around the smart classroom on the second floor. "It's nice to see the new learning center."

Gathering for a photograph outside were several members of the Class of 1979, which included 17 women who graduated just five years after the first woman student earned her Ranger School degree.

"We were here because we really wanted this. It's not that we had anything to prove. We just helped each other out," said Diane Bliss, now a professor of English at SUNY Orange in Middletown, N.Y.

Bliss' classmate, Kevin Bishop, came to the reunion during a 10-day trip back to the United States from Sweden, where he teaches at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. After earning his associate's degree from The Ranger School, Bishop continued his education and eventually earned his doctorate from the University of Cambridge.

"Of course I came back for the reunion," Bishop said. "I'm interested in how the Adirondacks has developed and also looking at what's happened in Sweden."

Westbrook presided over the official Centennial Celebration kickoff, inviting comments from James Coufal and Richard Miller, former Ranger School directors; Cornelius B. Murphy, Jr., ESF president; Tom Martin, Class of '76; N.Y. State Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush; N.Y. State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo; Dierdre Scozzafazza, deputy secretary of state for the Local Government Division; and Kathy Moser, assistant commissioner of natural resources for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Entertainment was provided by the Norwood Brass Firemen.

The day also included an evening barbecue and fireworks and opportunities for swimming, fishing and boating. Scores of recreational vehicles and tents were located on The Ranger School grounds as attendees settled in for a weekend of celebration.