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Chancellor tips his hat to SU Literacy Corps book
Chancellor tips his hat to SU Literacy Corps bookNovember 27, 2002Nicci Brownnicbrown@syr.edu
Anyone who has attended an official Syracuse University ceremony, has almost certainly noticed Chancellor Kenneth A. “Buzz” Shaw’s hat-it’s hard to miss. Big, round and bright orange, the hat now seems to be taking on a life of it’s own- literally.
“Buzz the Big Orange Hat” is a new book, which tells the story-from the hat’s perspective-of how the famous tam is lost, the adventures it encounters “on the road” and it’s eventual return to Syracuse University. But the genesis of the book is an interesting story in and of itself.
“It really started with a conversation between my mother and I during the convocation ceremony for my first year on campus,” says Michael Bevivino, a senior in the School of Architecture and one of the book’s four student contributors. “When the Chancellor walked into the Carrier Dome, I turned to my mother and asked her who the guy in the orange ‘Oompa Loompa’ hat was (in reference to ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’). My mother, and the people sitting around us, thought it was hilarious.”
The “Oompa Loompa” statement grew into something more than a cheeky comment when Bevivino became involved with the SU Literacy Corps two years ago. A program born out of the America Reads Challenge and administered by SU’s Center for Public and Community Service, the literacy corps mobilizes SU students to mentor and tutor at elementary and secondary schools in the local community.
In the summer of 2001, Bevivino along with fellow Literacy Corps members Maria Malagisi (a junior psychology major in The College of Arts and Sciences), Lindsay Pendergast (a junior in communication sciences and disorders in The College of Arts of Sciences) and Nadine Aut (a senior in speech communication in the College of Visual and Performing Arts) were charged with creating a children’s book. “We were having a lot of trouble coming up with an idea to even get started,” Malagisi says. “Then the Literacy Corps students were invited to the Chancellor’s home for dinner, and Mike asked him about his hat-“
Bevivino’s question prompted the Chancellor to tell the real-life story of how his big, orange hat had been lost during an official visit to Utica College (which at the time had been part of SU). “The Chancellor told us how he had placed the hat on top of his car, while he put his robe and medallion in the back seat,” says Bevivino. “He then drove off, forgetting to put the hat in too.” The hat was returned about three years later-a little worse for wear, but still bright orange-in a brown envelope, with no return address. Bevivino says the Chancellor had joked that “some kid” probably picked up the hat and wore it around for a while before sending it back. Thus, the seed for “Buzz the Big Orange Hat” was planted.
Written as a children’s picture book, but appealing to all levels of readers, “Buzz the Big Orange Hat” features photographs of SU and Syracuse landmarks, such as the Niagara Mohawk building, the Carrier Dome and the Museum of Science and Technology; combined with cartoons. Chancellor Shaw, who for the purpose of the book is renamed “the King,” is heartbroken when the wind blows “Buzz the Hat” off his head during a walk. Eventually, after an odyssey involving odiferous trashcans, a “ferocious beast,” and a visit to the Dome, the hat is returned to the King by none other than Michael Bevivino (known in the book as “the boy”).
Stacey Riemer, associate director of the Center for Public and Community Service, says the book is a terrific example of how the Literacy Corps students integrate real-life experiences, community needs and academic work. “The personal and professional relationships that developed from this two-year project are remarkable, as are the student authors,” Riemer says. “The Chancellor’s sense of humor and student support were the ‘icing on the cake.'”
For Chancellor Shaw, who has the original hat, renamed the “Boomerang Tam,” framed and hanging in his office, the book is special in more ways than one. SU’s Literacy Corps attracts particular attention from the Chancellor and Mary Ann Shaw, who work to ensure the University continues to make significant and positive contributions to the Syracuse community. “The book is a great idea, a perfect project for students involved in helping children with their reading,” the Chancellor says. Not only that, proceeds from the sale of the book, which is printed by Syracuse University Printing Services, will help support the Literacy Corps program, which now involves more than 150 SU student tutors and benefits around 3,000 local students annually.
Bevivino, Malagisi, Pendergast and Aut say the book has already exceeded all of their expectations simply by being published. Now they see it as a chance to “give back” to a program that has given them “so much.” “Buzz the Big Orange Hat” is currently available at the Syracuse University Bookstore for $9.99.