Meant to Be
The Kaufman generations attended three different IC schools.
"It was a quirk," says Sherry Kaufman Shulman '72 about attending her father's alma mater. "I didn't come because of him. In fact, not one of us [her son and daughter are third-generation IC alumni] went to IC because a parent or a sibling did. Each of us went there because there was a program he or she wanted."
The program Sherry attended began showing its value almost immediately after she graduated. She moved to Elmira, New York, where "we had a major flood. Many people lost their homes," she says. "I worked for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, relocating families." Sherry credits her hands-on education at IC for her ability to take on such a responsible job so soon after graduating. Later she would work at a hospital as a social worker and volunteer on many community boards, mostly in the health field.
Sherry majored in sociology, researching the assimilation of mostly African American seasonal migrant laborers who had settled in the predominantly white, middle-class town of Prattsburg in Steuben County, New York. "The head of the sociology department, Dr. [Chester] Galaska, was very interested in doing sociological research in the local region," Sherry explains. "Most of the migrant workers were in the area to pick potatoes, but when a potato blight came they were no longer needed. Some of them decided to settle in the area. Dr. Galaska wanted to find out the impact of their relocation on the Prattsburg community and on the migrants themselves. Four or five of us students did the research. In some instances, the migrants became very successful and highly respected. In others, they were ostracized and harassed. For us as students, it was very difficult to gain the trust of these people in such an isolated community. We literally went around and knocked on doors."
Sherry enjoyed the opportunity to do such high-level research as an undergraduate. She took several independent study courses, in which she assessed the Equal Opportunity Program in Steuben County and conducted research comparing communities in Upstate New York.
"I liked Ithaca because there was a lot of new curricular development; you could do so much independent study, designing your own curriculum rather than taking things you had no interest in. The sociology curriculum was very hands-on. It was in no sense an assembly-line education. The school had just moved up to South Hill, and there weren't enough dorms. I lived for a while in the Quarry, the old Tompkins County hospital; they had a jitney that would take you back and forth."
When her father, Albert Kaufman '37, went to IC 35 years before Sherry, he lived for a while in the DeWitt Place home of the president, Leonard B. Job, shoveling snow from the walks and coal into the furnace to earn room and board. He remembers classes being held in a theater in town (the Star Theatre, bought by IC in the 1920s and converted into what became known as the Seneca Street Gym), "a very old, old-fashioned building."
Albert, inducted in 1992 into the IC Athletic Hall of Fame, was an all-American soccer player and captain of the basketball team.
While he was still a junior at IC, he was invited to take a teaching job that opened up at Canandaigua High School. "This was during the Depression," says Albert. "It was pretty hard to get a job. I was the first guy in my graduating class to land one." He had to juggle the commute from Ithaca to Canandaigua for his final year in college and finished up his degree in the summer. He also coached several sports at the high school. "Believe it or not," Sherry laughs, "when we visit Canandaigua, people now in their 80s still come up to my dad and call him 'Coach.' "
After teaching for several years, he took over his father's scrap metal processing business. He ran it until his retirement, when he sold it. Although he no longer coached or taught phys ed, sports remained a big part of his life. "When I was a kid," remembers his daughter, "he would go to the Y and work with the kids playing basketball. He played a lot of golf until just recently."
Albert's grandson Zachary Shulman '99 majored in sport studies 62 years after his grandfather. After having spent his high school years at a boarding school in New Jersey, says Sherry's son, "I never thought I'd come back to this area. But my mom said, 'Why not just do a practice interview at Ithaca College?' I was immediately impressed with what the school had to offer."
For his sociology minor Zachary conducted a research project on the Ithaca Police Department. Under the guidance of his favorite teacher, sociology professor Jonathan Laskowitz, he rode around with local cops, observing their lives and the effects of Ithaca's community policing. That sociological research was a great experience, he recalls, unintentionally echoing his mother.
Zachary is now living in Ithaca and running his own father's scrap metal reprocessing business in Elmira. ("It's a little bit more than a coincidence," answers Sherry when asked about the intriguing fact that her own family and her husband Stephen's family were in similar businesses, "but too long a story to go into.") While Zachary is not pursuing what he majored in at IC, he does consider sports an avocation. "He is an ardent Philadelphia 76ers fan," says his mother. "He has season tickets and drives down from Ithaca almost every week."
Regarding his family's IC history, Zachary agrees with his mom's assessment. "I don't think our choices had anything to do with other family members. It all just fell into place. Maybe it was meant to be; [IC] is kind of special."
Riki Shulman '02 chose IC for its top-notch communications program and majored in TV-R. Like her brother, she took a "practice" interview at IC, intending to actually attend some other college. "But when she got there and saw the Park School," her mother remembers, "she couldn't believe how great it was." Riki had already enrolled at another college, but at the very last minute she switched to IC.
"I always told the kids they could transfer if they wanted to," says Sherry. "Nobody would make them stay at IC. But they both were happy with their decisions."
Says Riki, "The best parts about IC were the great opportunities the Park School offered, like the semester I spent at the Los Angeles program." Now living in New York City, Riki works in sales and promotions for Red Hook and Anheuser Busch. She is an avid tennis and softball player, perhaps thanks to her maternal grandfather's genes.
About her family's multigenerational connection to Ithaca College, Riki says, "In a lot of ways, I feel like we went to different schools. We all went to the same place, but we have totally different stories."
-- Melanie Bush with Maura Stephens