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Jan. 16, 2003
OSWEGO -- One of SUNY Oswego's most ornate antiques is back where it belongs, just in time for its 75th birthday.
A towering grandfather clock that stands like a sentinel facing the Sheldon Hall ballroom was donated to the college on Founder's Day, Oct. 28, 1928, by educator Uldrick Thompson Sr., an 1879 graduate from the Oswego Normal School, the forerunner of SUNY Oswego.
Thompson built the clock in his 80th year, according to a plaque on the imposing timepiece. "It is made of Koa wood from Hawaii, where Uldrick Thompson Sr. spent much of his life," the plaque reads. "His friend, D.H. McConnell, donated the Oxford-Whittington-Westminster chimes and works. ('The best,' he said.)"
"You can really feel the clock was a labor of love from a passionate and successful alumnus," said Betsy Oberst, SUNY Oswego's director of alumni relations. "Almost everyone who sees this marvelous clock is dazzled by its craftsmanship and grandeur."
Until recently, visitors would have seen the clock in Wilber Hall, where it was moved when Sheldon underwent lengthy renovation. Phil Gaines, professor and chair of technology, alertly spotted a clause on the plaque stating Thompson "requested it be placed in Sheldon Hall when built." Soon, the clock was on its way back its rightful home.
Thompson made a name for himself a long way from his own home. On Aug. 23, 1889, he arrived at the Kamehameha School for Boys in Hawaii, where he would teach for a number of years and serve as principal from 1898 to 1901. He is also noted for producing, in 1922, the typewritten, hand-bound history, "Reminiscences of the Kamehameha Schools."
One anecdote in the book shows how Thompson's background in the object teaching pioneered in the Oswego Normal School influenced his dealing with students. The principal at the time, the Rev. William B. Oleson, "came to Dormitory D and found me washing the two windows of my room," Thompson wrote. "He stood a moment then asked in his concise way, 'Why don't you have one of the boys wash your windows?'...[I replied] 'Because, if I'm to be responsible for the condition of the boys' windows, I must first learn how to clean windows.'"
The link brought some students from Hawaii to Oswego. Two members of the Kamehameha School's first graduating class in 1891 went on to the Oswego Normal School.
Almost 125 years after Thompson graduated from Oswego, his clock continues to provide an example to the campus community, Oberst said.
"Tens of thousands of students have graduated, and our way of life has changed dramatically since the clock started keeping time," Oberst noted. "It really stands as a marvelous testament to a man's devotion to his alma mater."
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