The Hamilton “Cool”

Why was the New York Daily News frantically e-mailing me on Wednesday night?  It’s not like I was looking for a subscription or anything like that.

The newspaper contacted me because they wanted to use one of my photos of the Hamilton College Chapel for an upcoming story – apparently rock singer Jon Bon Jovi’s daughter, an undergraduate at Hamilton, had not only survived a heroin overdose, she also was arrested and charged with possession of illegal drugs.  I should note that as of today, the criminal charges have been dropped against Bongiovi and another student, who called 911 to report that Bongiovi had nearly overdosed.

Oh great.  They want a photo of the Chapel because something salacious happened at my college.  Argh.

And for Hamilton, this couldn’t have occurred at a worse time.  For months, the College has promoted this upcoming event in which Jon Bon Jovi will host a fundraising concert, with all the proceeds earmarked for Hamilton College’s art programs.  This was big.  Big big big.

I can’t even imagine what’s going through Jon Bon Jovi’s mind right now.  His daughter barely survived a heroin overdose – and now he has an upcoming concert planned as a college fundraiser. Everybody’s going to be asking him questions.  Everybody’s going to pry into his business.  Should he cancel the concert?  Should he continue to play?

I posted one of the news articles about Stephanie Bongiovi on my Facebook page.  Among the many posts and responses I got was one from my friend and fellow alum, Mark Pisani.  “One word,” he said.  “Dunham.”

And we both knew what that meant.  Dunham Dormitory, originally built in the 1950’s as housing for all freshmen, back when the college was an all-male school.  When we were students in the early 1980’s, Dunham was probably trashed more times than anyone would care to count.  In the back of my mind, I contemplated that Stephanie Bongiovi might have had a different college experience had she stayed in one of the Bundy dormitories, or perhaps in one of the concrete complexes on the Kirkland side of campus…

Great.  Nearly 30 years after graduating, and I’ve still got the “Hamilton Cool” mentality.

The “Hamilton Cool” was a sobriquet used to describe how anything in the outside world – war, famine, pestilence, snowstorms, Don’s Rok getting closed for serving alcohol to a minor – would affect our life on campus.  We didn’t care if the British Navy were sailing to the Falkland Islands, unless it somehow disrupted our little world on the Hill.

And when we graduated from college, the “Hamilton Cool” acted inversely.  When things happen on campus – good, bad, sensational, embarrassing – it catches our interest.  I suppose this happens with every college out there – the minute something bad or unsavory or embarrassing happens on campus, the alumni do a collective facepalm, and the alumni office tries their darndest to keep the bad news from spreading.

Trust me.  By the time I attended my 20th reunion in 2005, the talk on campus among the alumni were things like: “Did the President of the College actually give a speech where he plagiarized someone else’s work?” (Yep, he did.)  “Was there actually a porn star giving a speech on campus?” (Oh, you mean “Dr.” Annie Sprinkle?)  “What happened on the hockey rink?” (Oh, that stupid tradition where the spectators used to throw oranges onto the ice after the first goal of the season, but it eventually evolved into throwing EVERYTHING EVER MADE onto the ice?)

And now this.

Personally, I wanted to wait a day before posting this blog post.  I didn’t want to post it yesterday and be accused of writing not from the heart, but for blog hits and click-throughs.  I wanted to post the great things that have happened to Hamilton College – the alumni who became great poets, politicians, doctors, lawyers, ministers, scientists, Nobel Prize laureates, Times Union film critics, actors and actresses, NHL goaltenders, and the 2007 NCAA Division III Women’s lacrosse national champions.

As far as I’m concerned, Stephanie Bongiovi needs help.  She needs support from her parents and from her friends, and she also needs some appropriate counseling to help her get through this.

I didn’t write this blog post because of an upcoming fundraising concert or the embarrassing situations surrounding it.

This post is about a student in trouble.  A student who needs help.  Her getting that help – whether she’s the daughter of a famous rock star or the daughter of no one you ever knew – is more important in the whole grand scheme of things.

It too is s part of the Hamilton “Cool.”  Help our own.  Provide support and counseling and care.

And for God’s sake, get her out of Dunham Dormitory.  Can’t you find the daughter of a rock star a small single over in McIntosh or Keehn?  I mean, so we didn’t play “Runaway” on WHCL in 1984, you gonna hold that over our heads?