Parade of Classes Features
Josh Schupack ’09, G’12
Donor and Executive Director of Camping Services YMCA of Greater Nashua
“The people who came before me felt it was important to make sure the opportunities they had were available for the next generation of students. That’s why I feel that I have those same responsibilities to continue to support the College.
“I support Friends of East Campus because I believe that an outdoor experience is important and impactful in being a change model for students. And while it’s great to support a specific cause, sometimes an organization just needs to be able to have some leeway in how they use their money, and that is why I support the Springfield College Fund as well.
“Springfield College is an opportunity for students who don’t always fit into the normal perception of what a college student looks like. The students specifically work to help people around them, and I think it’s important to support that work.”
The Most Powerful Tool
Richard Kamis’ life would not be the same without education, which is why he pays it forward
By Doug Scanlon, Communications Specialist
“I have to admit that I stole from Springfield, unabashedly, for four years. I would wander around the hallway until I heard a lecture, stay around the corner so the professor couldn’t see me, and listen in.
“I was stealing knowledge—a lot of it.”
Richard Kamis ’56 experienced Springfield College like no student before him. Yes, he loved pursuing knowledge and sneaking into other classes. What made him a pioneer was that he was the first blind student to enroll at the College, and at a time when disability services didn’t meet the needs of this population.
Kamis was smart and talented. At Springfield College, he competed on the wrestling team and sang in the glee club.
He received a stipend from the Massachusetts government to hire a reader, but found he only needed to use a portion for that service as he could remember everything by paying strict attention during lectures and asking questions.
“All the professors were extraordinarily helpful, allowing me to take exams orally rather than writing them on my secondhand portable typewriter because I was embarrassed at my inability to spell words correctly.
“For the first five years in the public schools, because I could not read print, no matter how big the type, I was just pushed ahead, learning nothing. Because I had never seen words and how they were spelled, my ability to spell was abysmal,” he said.
Coming Out of His Shell
When he was supposed to enter sixth grade in the public school system, Kamis was enrolled in Perkins School for the Blind and was demoted two years when they evaluated him.
In eighth grade, a teacher who saw potential in Kamis called him out for being lazy. She told him his IQ was way above average and that he should be performing much better than he was.
“She told me, ‘When you walk out that door today and come in tomorrow, I want you to work hard in every class.’ And she said it with kindness and forcefulness. And somehow it took,” he said.
Off to Alden Street
Kamis began excelling in school and eventually was offered a partial scholarship to attend Springfield College. Because he was 21 as a freshman, and older than most of his other classmates, he formed a lifelong bond of friendship with two Korean War veterans who lived in his residence hall.
Kamis met Elizabeth, his future wife, while on a glee club trip to New Jersey. Members of the glee club stayed at individual homes during the tour and Kamis stayed at the home of Elizabeth’s father, who had a connection to Springfield College through his membership on the board of trustees at the local YMCA.
On March 25, 1955, when Elizabeth came home at about 5:30 p.m., it was the start of a “superific journey” of the two.
After graduating from Springfield College, Kamis worked at Perkins as a physical educator for seven years. After earning a master’s degree, he took another teaching position in New Jersey, putting them closer to Elizabeth’s parents.
The new role involved working with at-risk kids, many who did not want to be in school. Sometimes he would have the students play math games that involved them jumping around, running to different spots in the classroom. “They’re junior high kids, most didn’t want to be there and their attention span is about four and a half minutes. You have to let them get up and move,” he said.
After several years of teaching, some of his students threw Kamis a surprise party and had a plaque made in his honor.
On a separate occasion, two of his former students—identical twins who had been quite difficult for Kamis—showed up in his classroom in military uniforms. They identified themselves and were proud to have been accepted into the Coast Guard. In unison, they briefly thanked him for “straightening us out,” saluted him, and left.
Planning for the Future
At the age of 48, Kamis chose to retire from teaching when he continued to experience loss of vision. He and Elizabeth spent the next several years rehabilitating several dwellings. They did the work themselves, saying it was “challenging, enjoyable, and rewarding.”
Now retired, the couple turned their focus to giving back. When it comes to philanthropy, Kamis prioritizes education. He credits his success to the educational opportunities he had.
“Education, to me, is the most powerful tool around. I was able to go to Springfield College because I got a partial scholarship. So I give back every year because I feel consistency is important,” Kamis said.
In addition to being leadership donors, the Kamises have named the College in their estate plans so that some future students will have the same opportunities that he had. Kamis strongly feels that if an institution has contributed to sharpening your tools, facilitating your success, it is incumbent that you give back.
If you would like to know more about how you can make a planned gift, contact Bonnie Cox, director of planned giving/major gifts officer, at (413) 748-3736.
Celebrating 50 Years of Student Trustees
By Doug Scanlon, Communications Specialist
In April 2019, the Springfield College Board of Trustees selected Kristian Rhim, Class of 2021, the next Student Trustee-elect. Rhim will go on to become the 50th student trustee for the 2020-2021 academic year.
Since 1971, when Peter Burdett ’72 was selected as the first student trustee at Springfield College, both the Board and the students have benefitted from this arrangement.
“I believe it is important for Springfield College to have transparency and open, two-way communication with our students. The student trustee position helps fulfill that role along with the involvement of members of the Student Government Association, all of whom participate in Board meetings,” said President Mary-Beth A. Cooper.
Having a voting student board member is rare, something found at only 9.7 percent of the boards of independent institutions, but Springfield College has found that it has led to a better working relationship with its student body.
“I think it’s important for students to have a voice on the Board of Trustees because we are impacted by the decisions being made. Having a representative in this body can help voice student needs and wants,” said Alex Goslin, Class of 2020, current student trustee.
Having a student trustee has been beneficial for the Board
“We ask our trustees to share their time, talent, and treasure. In each area, the Trustees enjoy the interactions with students as part of their duties and obligations,” said Board chair James H. Ross III.
In recent years, the role of the student trustee has become more active and robust.
Once selected, the student trustee and student trustee-elect
attend the three Board meetings each year, briefing the Trustees on items of interest from the students’ perspective. Student trustees also serve on one of the committees of the Board.
Additionally, they are expected to be more involved on campus as well, developing relationships across campus with other leaders and departments. In addition to participating in campus events, like Stepping Up Day, student trustees participate in recruiting events, such as open houses. The experience of being a student trustee gives a unique perspective to prospective students and can help with enrollment.
For former student trustee Donavin Andrews ’18, participation in these events gave her the opportunity to practice public speaking. In the fall of 2017, her senior year, she shared her remarks at the dedication ceremony of the Harold C. Smith Learning Commons.
Student trustees are also expected to be involved with Giving Day. As the day is about participation, the importance of making a gift and encouraging others to give is meaningful and encouraging. This year’s Giving Day total of 193 student donors, nearly double the amount from last year, demonstrates how powerful student philanthropy can be when it is led by students.
Many student trustees credit their experiences on the Board with preparing them for their professional careers.
“I had the opportunity to learn from the best and I think it had a significant impact on my ability to communicate,” said Pete Burdett ’72, a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch.
For Jon Reidy ’16, an athletic trainer at Wake Forest Baptist Health, the experience helped him understand organizational structure.
“In my role as an athletic trainer, I think the biggest experience I’ve drawn from is learning how to understand an organization, it’s structure, how it functions and who plays what part; then using that information to make things happen,” Reidy said.
The list of former student trustees includes alumni like Marc Brassard ’84, a physical education major who is now an orthopedic surgeon, and Kristin Pebley Morgan ’88, G’92, a psychology major who works as a web coordinator. Other former student trustees have gone on to become athletic trainers, college faculty members, physical therapists, educators, and entrepreneurs.
Former student trustees Sue Hedenberg Dubois ’77, Brassard, and Malcolm C. Lester ’89 went on to win the Young Alumnus Award, and Mitch Finnegan ’82 received the Tarbell Medallion.
As students continue to be of the utmost importance to Springfield College, the College will recognize all former student trustees at the President’s Gala in the fall. Be on the lookout for more details in the near future.