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Special Olympics Ceremony marks 40th anniversary

by Panagiotis Arigits - Editor-in-Chief
Tue, Oct 1st 2019 11:00 pm
The College at Brockport President Heidi Macpherson unveils an interpretive panel celebrating the 40th anniversary of the fifth International Special Olympics. The panel is meant to recognize those who participated and volunteered at the games.
The College at Brockport President Heidi Macpherson unveils an interpretive panel celebrating the 40th anniversary of the fifth International Special Olympics. The panel is meant to recognize those who participated and volunteered at the games.

Forty years ago this summer, The College at Brockport held the fifth International Special Olympics to shift the perspective of those disabled and landmark the college as an inclusive community of innovation and culture. This past week, on Friday, Sept. 27, Brockport celebrated the event’s 40th anniversary by dedicating a new panel to the efforts of 1979 and inviting past and present students to the commemoration. 

Driven by the college’s mission to strengthen its visibility and inner community, in collaboration with the Brockport Community Museum, the new interpretive panel was created by several figures and partners of the college. The panel is located in front of the Liberal Arts Building and east of the “Joy and Happiness to All The Children of The World” statue, which surrounds the reflection pool and fountain found east of the Drake Memorial Library. 

The panel pays tribute to the fifth iteration of the Special Olympics with images, quotes and stories from those responsible for creating the event in addition to participating athletes and volunteers. 

Celebration of the anniversary began with a gathering from members of the class of 1969 and the class of 2019 along with Brockport President Heidi Macpherson, Ph.D. at the college’s alumni walkway. Those involved commemorated the graduating class of 1969 by placing the final touches to the newly-planted 1969 alumni tree, which stands alongside the rest of the trees on the honored walkway. 

Following thankful remarks from Macpherson for all who participated, faculty, students and alumni made their way to the front of the panel for its reveal. Vice President of Advancement and Brockport Foundation President Mike Andriatch and Brockport Community Museum Trustee Archer “Buck” Noble introduced the panel and shared stories behind the 1979 Special Olympics. 

At Andriatch’s and Buck’s concluding notes, attendees and alumni cheered and waved in celebration as the green cape masking the panel was taken off, revealing it for the first time. 

While the panel dedicated to the 1979 efforts took center stage, the event’s main reaction was one of admiration and gratitude toward the college’s recognition of alumni and their involvement at Brockport. 

“It’s important to be able to have these relationships and come together,” former Brockport educator and class of 1969 alumnus James Spanet said. 

Despite its 40-year history, the anniversary of the 1979 Special Olympics and other former events promotes unity between current and past students. 

“Doing something like this is special,” class of 1969 alumnus Richard Gawn said. “Not only for people like me but for kids of tomorrow.” 

While there are numerous interpretive panels located around the college’s campus, the development of the panel dedicated to the 1979 events is measured around remembering those who built for future communities. 

Apart from memorializing services making a difference, the opportunity to bring members of the college together is a major part behind the commemorations such as this one. 

“These are the events that people talk about when they leave Brockport,” Andriatch said. “This gives people the opportunity to connect with friends, colleagues and family and that is what it’s all about, that’s our goal.” 

While the newest series of the International Special Olympics has grown in size since the last time Brockport hosted the events over 30 years ago, memories of August 1979 and those who were part of it will not fade from the grounds at The College at Brockport.

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