Hi. I try not to use this blog for personal stuff, but I thought this would be a good place to remember Roberta. Besides, there’s a drawing involved.
I first met Roberta when I had an interview to work for SCOOP, Skidmore College Outdoor Orientation Program. I had a great experience when I participated in the program at the beginning of my freshman year. I never personally met Roberta that first fall, but saw her from afar during my days on the trip. I remember making mental notes regarding a few things about this woman. 1. Whatever Roberta says goes. 2. You do whatever Roberta tells you to do. 3. You do it quickly.
I was a bit anxious about the interview, but Roberta’s cheerful smile and upbeat disposition immediately calmed my nerves. She genuinely inquired about my involvement with campus life at Skidmore and made sure to note my grades from first semester, mentioning how proud she thought my mother must be of me. I ended up getting one of the positions to be a peer advisor for next year’s program. I was thrilled.
Sadly, I never got to work for Roberta. I decided to transfer from Skidmore to another school that I thought more fitting to the pursuit of a career in illustration. I was really dreading having to tell Roberta I was leaving, thinking she would be a bit peeved that I had agreed to work for her the next year, but was now backing out. In what I came to know as her usual caring manner, we discussed my future. She seemed to completely understand and had total confidence in me. Knowing I had Roberta’s unwavering support made it a little easier to say goodbye.
After I left I ended up visiting Skidmore every break from school I had. Luckily, I got hired by Jim Chansky to work as an RA for their summer Pre-College program, which I’m quite sure was due to a strong recommendation from Roberta. To my delight, I could be on campus again and would frequently pop in to Roberta’s office to say hello. I got to see her every now and then during the summers of ‘05 , ‘06, and ‘07.
In 2006 one of Roberta’s beloved basset hounds, Hardy, passed away. “My Hah-dee,” she called him. Laurel, the other of the pair, was still around, but Laurel was a girl and Hardy had been her little boy, whose company Roberta greatly preferred. I asked Roberta to bring in some pictures of the dogs. I spent a few hours in an afternoon drawing a portrait of Hardy and brought it into her office the next day to give to her. You could tell how much she really loved and missed her dog. She kept commenting on how lifelike the eyes and nose looked, how wet they seemed. She started to cry. ” I hope you took some pictures of this for your portfolio ’cause, honey, you’re never gettin’ it back! …and don’t you dare tell anyone you saw me crying.” One of her sly smiles spread across her face.
My last summer working at Skidmore seemed to go by in a flash. As the program was coming to an end, I felt a little more tired than usual. On one of my visits to Roberta’s I was telling her how I felt a bit under the weather. “Well, you get yourself to the doctor’s – immediately.” I told her I didn’t think that was necessary, but she didn’t want to hear it. I went to the doctor the next day. It turned out to be a case of strep throat and good ol’ mononucleosis. I was very lucky to have someone like Roberta looking out for me.
The last time I spoke to Roberta was March 1, 2009. I called her simply to say hello and catch up. She asked me all the important questions. Are you drawing? Are you having fun in New York? Is your hair nice and long and curly? Roberta always preferred a shaggier look. She mentioned the idea of maybe getting a snow day from work the next day. Sure enough, it happened. Even the weather did what Roberta told it to do.
While I left Skidmore, I always found myself drifting back. It was truly because of people like Roberta. To me, she exemplified why Skidmore College succeeds as an institution. She created a warm, inviting, accepting environment where one could be themselves and grow into who they wanted to become.
When you sat down in Roberta’s office you felt safe. You felt at home. She was the mom to a family of countless Skidmore students who will never forget her.