Hello Fellow Lakers,

Alex Bozymowski

The recent college entrance scandal has struck a nerve nationally and definitely got my attention. Not like anything like that was happening here at LSSU, but in my current position as advocate and cheerleader for Lake Superior State University, I found my thoughts racing in several different directions.

My first thoughts, half jokingly at first but quickly turning serious were, what it would be like to have such a problem. To command such prestige in the marketplace and wield such influence over those seeking your product must be a powerful thing. I hoped those in positions of authority realized this and exercised their duties with wisdom and humility. I feared most did not.


It occurs to me that some people are much more susceptible to this prestige effect than others. I have known folks over the years who were very bitter over the fact their child could not get into the college they thought best. Highly qualified but passed over for some "arbitrary" reason, or worse. Years later, these children seem to doing quite well for themselves having matriculated at their "second" choice. Was the disappointment of not getting into the more prestigious school that of the child or of the parent?

I recalled an episode from the TV series M.A.S.H. where the snobbish Charles Emerson Winchester III was ridiculing some doctor he had just met. Charles stammered when the new doctor said he attended "Johns Hopkins" or some equally prestigious medical school. Apparently, even the entitled Charles was susceptible to the prestige effect. Somebody had achieved something better than what he had. Or at least Charles thought so and he could scarcely hide his disbelief. Could those who feel entitled be most susceptible to this prestige effect, the need to demonstrate their superiority in every way?

What is Prestige?

I looked up the words "prestige/prestigious" in the dictionary (actually five old volumes I found scattered about the house, time do some purging). The word "prestige" bore the definition I expected but I was not quite prepared for what I read about the word "prestigious". Several of the editions gave "deceitful and full of tricks" in their definitions. Derived from the French and Latin words for "prestidigitation; sleight of hand, ready-fingers, juggler's tricks." A not so subtle reminder that those with prestige and influence may not always deliver what they promise?

The very legitimate fact to consider in all this is that most people really do want what is best for their children and will sacrifice to help them achieve it. I remember being greatly offended when a couple of times over the years I was accused of trying to buy my kids an advantage by sending them to parochial school. Being a second generation son of immigrants and a product of parochial school myself, I knew firsthand the role these schools played in turning that first generation into Americans, preparing them not only to function but to compete in American society. But I got their point, even then, the sometimes subtle line between helping your child achieve or simply buying it for them.

It happens that both my boys had the opportunity to participate in college athletics at small Division III private colleges. Although there were no athletic scholarships, cost would be nearly identical to most four year in-state institutions. I thought this a wonderful opportunity, of course, for both student and parent and we visited several schools, allowing ourselves to be "wined & dined". I even remember saying something to my boys about being big fish in a small pond.

In the end, both boys decided against playing college sports, and both opted for much larger state institutions. Although I was devastated neither chose Lake State, both are doing quite well having attended "their" first choice. Although I never really asked them, it occurs to me that my sons’ first choice in what college to attend were not just their first choice, but their only real choice.

Lake Superior State or bust!

I remember feeling that way about Lake Superior State. I was inspired to come here and anything less would have been a disappointment. Whether real or not, Lake State embodied what I envisioned for myself, to study Natural Resources in the place I wanted to study it in, with people I admired and wished to emulate. Is that what prestige is all about - knowing others whom you wish to emulate will respect your choice and give you the opportunity to strive and achieve more?

Only later did the more practical aspects of attending Lake State come to the fore. How Lake State gave me the best chance to achieve my dream of becoming a Natural Resources Professional. Lake State prepared me to compete in a very competitive field. I learned other resource professionals respected Lake State and the quality of graduates it produced. Maybe the real root of the prestige affect is our innate competiveness. The need for that "edge" over others even if only in their own minds.

In the end, I think of Lake Superior State as a very prestigious University, but maybe prestigious is not really the right word. Not high and lofty but quiet and a bit understated. Inspiring yet accessible and affordable, practical in its approach to education. A hidden gem!

Inspiring… Accessible… Affordable… Practical

Dr. Todd Zakrajsek spoke similar words during his 2019 Commencement Address. He expressed gratitude for the superb job Lake State did to help a small town kid from rural Michigan prepare to compete in the larger world. Producing practical, hands-on, self-motivated graduates able to strive for more with the confidence they can achieve it. I must, wholeheartedly, agree!

Reconnect: Serve on the Alumni Board

Are you thinking about reconnecting with Lake Superior State? Of serving your alma mater in a more hands-on way than just making a donation? The Lake Superior State University Alumni Board currently has five openings we need to fill. Terms are for 3 years with regular board meetings on campus during Commencement and Great Lake State Weekends, plus 1 hour teleconferences quarterly. One of the five vacancies is for 2 years with another for 1 year. This might be a great way to "test the waters" and see if being an Alumni Board Member is for you. If you are interested or would like to learn more, please contact Alumni Director Susan Fitzpatrick at sfitzpatrick@lssu.edu or 906-635-2831.

Reconnect: Become a Premium Member of the Alumni Association

And finally, don't forget your LSSU license plate! Your initial $35 then $10 per year thereafter directly supports LSSU and the work of the Alumni Association. Don't wait until the State says it's time to buy a new plate - consider buying an LSSU plate the next time you have to renew. Then you can show your Laker pride wherever you go. An easy way to get an LSSU plate is to join the Alumni Association as a premium member. One of the benefits of membership is that the Alumni Association covers the cost of the LSSU license plate.

Alex Bozymowski, Jr., president
LSSU Alumni Association
Class of 1975

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