Hazel F. Hewitt '29
Kindergarten student, Normal School graduate, Campus School teacher, assistant professor, benefactor — in the course of one remarkable life, Hazel Hewitt '29 was all these things to SUNY Oswego.
On June 21, the college paid tribute to her by naming the playground for the Children's Center day care center at Sheldon Hall in her memory.
President Deborah F. Stanley recalled meeting Hewitt when the Hewitt Union was rededicated in 1998. It was named in honor of Hazel's brother Jesse Merle Hewitt, the first Oswego Normal School student killed in World War I. "She dealt with children as people — she didn't condescend," recalled Stanley. "That's what made her so special."
Professor Emerita of Education Barbara Palmer Shineman '65 remembered Hewitt as "an educator, colleague, community leader and friend to many."
Calling Hewitt "a respected teacher who nurtured hundreds of children" and "an inspiring mentor and role model for aspiring undergraduates," Shineman said, "Hazel had a wonderful sense of humor, and was quick with a ready smile. You sensed her sincere regard and respect for children, students, colleagues and friends."
Director of the Children's Center Janet Illingworth M '65 gave thanks on behalf of the children who would enjoy the playground, after which the Toddler Class sang "Hurray for Hazel," complete with a jumping interlude.
"Hazel was an angel to our family," said Geneva Dain Galvin '62 "She was always affirming, building us up. She had a heart of service and was generous to a fault." Hewitt often babysat the Galvin's 11 children, many of whom attended Oswego State. She became a member of their family, participating in birthday parties and outings, Galvin said.
"If you said to her, 'How are you, Hazel?' she would say, 'I think I'm wonderful.' And she was!" concluded Galvin.
Hazel Hewitt’s roots at the college were deep and her love of Sheldon Hall was strong.
Hewitt made a lifetime commitment to Oswego State, beginning at age 6 when she chose to attend kindergarten at the Campus School. She told Oswego alumni magazine: “I loved that first year of school, everything about it." She traveled by horse-drawn wagon and in the winter, came by sleigh.
When it came time for her normal school education, she again chose Oswego, graduating in 1929. She told the alumni magazine: “I was just born with the idea that Oswego was something special."
She then earned a master's degree in education from Syracuse University.
Members of the family of James and Geneva Dain Galvin '62 were
among those gathered to honor Hazel F. Hewitt '29. The playground
at the Children's Center at Sheldon Hall was named in Hewitt's Memory.
They are, back row, from left: Sarah Galvin, Geneva Galvin '62, Dain
Jerred (child in front of Geneva), David Galvin, Keren Galvin; and front
row, from left: Ryan Galvin, Madeline Galvin, James P. Galvin, Jr.,
James P. Galvin IV, Brigid Galvin Jerred.
Later she would teach kindergarten in Sheldon Hall, from 1947 to 1973. She retired in 1974 as associate professor of education at Oswego State.
"I think I always wanted to teach, to be with little children,” she said.
In the year 2000, she made a generous gift to the college, to endow the Hazel F. Hewitt Scholarship, which is awarded to students in the School of Education. Typical of Hazel, she wanted no publicity for her gift.
Upon her passing Feb. 1, 2003, at the age of 94, Hewitt left the college a generous bequest for Sheldon Hall. The college recognized that bequest with the dedication of the playground in her honor.
Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Kerry Casey Dorsey '81 recalled a story about Hewitt. One former student wrote that Miss Hewitt heard someone use the word "ain't" and painted the forbidden word on a rock. She pushed the kindergarten tables together to form a boat and had the children pile on. Together they "rowed" the make-believe boat to the fireplace in the kindergarten classroom, where they threw the rock into a pretend "lake" — never to be used again. When the children came in the next morning, the rock was gone. "You can bet they always remembered not to use the word 'ain't,'" she concluded.
"I think she would have been happy with the choice of this particular honor. She loved little children above everything else, and dedicated her entire professional life to them. What better way to honor the spirit of this pioneering educator than to name this playground in her honor. We like to think that she is looking down on the kids as they play and their happy shouts make their way up to her," Dorsey said.