Artifacts will be placed in a time capsule to be opened in 2068

HOPEWELL — Some Finger Lakes Community College students may still be around — or come back to the area — in 2068 when a time capsule commemorating the college's first 50 years is opened.

It's not known yet what will be put into the capsule, formally announced Thursday during a 50th anniversary celebration in the college atrium, so it is not known what they will find.

Students, faculty and staff will be making suggestions in the coming months on what to place in the 5-foot cylinder with a diameter of 10.5 inches.

Perhaps there will be hover cars then, suggested 18-year-old Westley Burlee, vice president of the Engineering and Technology Club, whose members came up with ideas for planning the time capsule.

It's hard for him to imagine what 50 years will bring and almost as hard to imagine what the college was like 50 years ago when classes where scattered throughout storefronts of several downtown Canandaigua buildings.

“I want people to put something in there that is going to symbolize where we are today and who we are,” Burlee said, giving thanks to Joshua Bell, an adjunct instructor and technical specialist for the engineering science and mechanical technology programs at FLCC.

The capsule will be buried in May in the arboretum because, President Robert Nye joked, “we believe in 50 years, we're still going to need trees.”

He said the contents will reflect where the college was back when it began and how far it has come.

“I am very very pleased to be the leader of this college at this moment in time,” Nye said, paying tribute to the “storefront pioneers” who came before him and “started a college from scratch,” not knowing if it would continue.

The first credit-bearing classes in six degree programs began on Feb. 1, 1968 — just days after the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War when the Viet Cong launched a series of attacks across South Vietnam.

Among those storefront pioneers was Bill DeCamp, director of counseling, who remembers how the military campaign surprised American leaders.

He said some of the first students were “reverse transfers” who had lost their ability to avoid the draft with a college deferment and were hoping to regain entrance to the four-year schools that dropped them.

DeCamp remembers the draft board calling to check out the status of the college and if it actually existed, asking where it was and if they had stationery.

He added that the bulk of students were trying to learn skills and better themselves.

“It's a great pleasure to still be around 50 years later,” DeCamp said.

His wife Marcia, another pioneer, chaired the Business Department. She remembers an entrepreneurial spirit with everyone doing everything needed to keep the college going and growing. She said there was a sense of community and a feeling of ownership.

Marcia DeCamp described operating out of various buildings, at one time being at the Canandaigua VA Medical Center where the allotted parking “was way far away and I swear it was uphill whether you were going or coming.”

Mary Wilsey, a 1970 graduate and professor who chaired the Business Department from 2005 to 2015, also mentioned the Vietnam War — a particular concern for college students in the late 1960s and early '70s.

She talked about a peaceful anti-war demonstration to protest the presence of U.S. Army Gen. Lewis Hershey, head of the Selective Service System, at the inauguration of Roy Satre, the college's first president.

Wilsey, now an adjunct faculty member in the Business Department, recalled the anxiety of students when numbers were being drawn for the draft lottery, and getting a lot of exercise traveling around Canandaigua to different parts of the college then called Community College of the Finger Lakes.

“We walked from location to location with all these heavy books, and we never complained,” said Wilsey, also noting there were a lot of good parties at apartments and motels where students lived — or so she heard, she said winking, adding she was home studying.

“I'm so excited to be here today and talk about my favorite subject — Finger Lakes Community College.” said an exuberant Wilsey. “The people made the college and make up my fondest memories.”

Bob Lowden, director of athletics, who emceed the event, said the early teachers were noted for their devotion and personal attention.

He told a story about when he and another coach, Dennis “Putt” Moore, had watched a player during a game and as they passed him afterward, he asked if he was going to talk to the player, whom he called Brian.

Lowden said Moore said sure, walked straight past him into the locker room and spoke to Brian while he was showering.

“Now, that's personal attention,” he laughed.

“It's good to see a lot of you here today,” said Moore, who had his own stories to tell about starting an athletic department with no facilities or fields.

Everybody socialized back in the day, related Wayne Williams, who was brought in to start an art department.

He related eating at a local establishment when Jim Williams, professor of biology, came in and told him he was doing a good job.

“I thought 'Good God, I've just been evaluated,'” Wayne Williams said. “That's how it was in those days. That's how intimate we were.”

Williams and Thomas Insalaco earlier hosted “Mentors and Mentees,” an art exhibit featuring work by them and other professors, and their students, including Bill Santelli, a 1973 graduate whose paintings have been shown in solo and juried exhibits throughout the country.

“I wouldn't have achieved what I achieved without the nurturing of the faculty here,” Santelli said. “Wayne and Tom opened up a world inside of my mind and gave me confidence I could achieve success through hard work. It's really terrific to see this beautiful building. Congratulations to 50 years of this great college.”