As I was putting together a timeline for the College of Arts and
Sciences centennial for this issue, I was startled to realize how
much of it, as a 35-year UB employee, I had experienced personally.
In theory, this should have made it easier, as I could pull out
moments of the College’s history I had covered for various
campus media, including this magazine. I soon realized it
wasn’t so easy, however, as news releases and my own
published reporting collided with hazy memories and
I was reminded of this experience, strangely enough, after
seeing the movie “Saving Mr. Banks,” with its back
story about the making of the 1964 Walt Disney classic “Mary
Poppins.” How illuminating, yet jarring, to see the fictional
English governess interpreted in light of author P.L.
Travers’ own anguished childhood. Even stranger was to
realize that one’s lived experience—watching this
confectionary tale with my grandmother and siblings at Shea’s
Buffalo (then a movie theater)—is now part of a historical
tableau. Observations like these come more frequently with age, but
that doesn’t make them any less unsettling.
At the same time, there’s something wondrous about being
able to look at historical events that align with one’s life.
I’ve been thinking of my family and their interconnections
with UB’s College of Arts and Sciences over several decades.
My father was one of those returning World War II veterans who took
advantage of the GI Bill to earn a bachelor’s in history and
a law degree from UB. My parents met through UB when my
father’s law school classmate, Thomas D. Perry (later
professor of philosophy here), introduced his sister to my dad at
his wedding. My brother Mike followed a similar academic route,
obtaining history and law degrees at UB during the 1980s. And this
year, Mike’s youngest son, Billy, is a UB freshman pursuing a
history major with hopes of carving out a career in sports
I have no doubt that UB’s breadth of opportunity will give
Billy the flexibility to organize almost any course of study he
wishes. The only requirements, as the legendary UB chancellor
Samuel Capen made clear to students back in the 1940-41 student
handbook, are individual application and commitment. “The
University offers you the opportunity for a rich life and a useful
one,” Capen wrote in his letter displayed in a recent
centennial exhibition for the College. “But it does not make
you take the opportunity. Whether you will or not is for you to
say.” My father once told me he saw Capen walking around
campus. So with this slim connection, I feel justified invoking his
words as possible inspiration for my nephew.
And just as I now view “Mary Poppins” with an
adult’s understanding, I can look at the College of Arts and
Sciences—so important to my own family—as part of my
personal history to savor and reflect upon, as it is for so many of
you with similar stories of lifelong UB allegiances.
Ann Whitcher Gentzke, Editor