A chance discovery of a treasure trove of old student photos sent Phil Lucas, BSChB’12, on a personal mission to assemble a photo gallery of all the presidents of Student Government at Lawrence Technological University.
In the process of researching the history of the University three years ago, Marketing and Public Affairs Executive Director Bruce Annett came across a photo collection of Student Government presidents from 1933 to 1984.
Lucas, the Student Government president at the time, saw an opportunity to create an historical record of the office he held. With more than 50 years already covered, how difficult would it be to fill in the more recent years?
More than three years later Lucas can tell you just how difficult it turned out to be.
Thanks to the help of Annett and many others, Lucas has been able to assemble the gallery of Student Government presidents outside the Office of the Dean of Students on the fourth floor of the A. Alfred Taubman Student Services Center.
The L-Book was a good source of information until the yearbook ceased publication in 1989. The next step was to go through the back issues of the student newspaper, Tech News, to identify past presidents. Then Lucas had to track down corresponding photos.
One break came when Wally Bizon, BSAr’75, BAr’77, of LTU’s Department of Media Services recalled that Robert Rochon, BSCvE ’92, the Student Government president for 1991–92, had also been an adjunct professor. Rochon was able to supply his photo and put Lucas in touch with three other presidents who were members of his fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon.
Lucas was able to make contact with Kristine Dickerson, BSME’03 (2001–02), though her sorority, Chi Omega Rho. He contacted four or five recent presidents through Facebook.
“The pieces came together very slowly,” Lucas said.
Out of the 76 Student Government presidents – there was no Student Government from 1943 to 1946 because of World War II and three presidents served a second year – Lucas is still missing photos for three: Douglas Ozdarski, BSPh’90 (1989–90), Michael Carlson, BSME’91 (1990–91), and John Cesal, BSAr’01 (2000–01).
The task of printing the portraits fell to Michael Knoff, BSAr’12, MAr’14, who had to do extensive work in Photoshop to touch up many of the photos.
Now that more than 70 photos have been assembled, Lucas can stand back and notice trends. The presidents seemed to be the traditional college age at the start, but were noticeably older in the years following World War II. The formal attire of the 1930s gradually gave way to the mod look of the 1970s, when one male president had hair down past to his shoulders. The first female president was Patricia Wattenbargar, BSAr’75 (1974–75).
Two prominent Student Government presidents were Wayne Buell, BChE’36 (1935–36), who went on to become the third president of the University, and Edward Donley, BME’43 (1942–43), the former CEO of the Fortune 500 company Air Products and Chemicals, who led LTU’s Board of Trustees and has been a generous supporter of the University.
The most recent in the long line is current Student Government President Gjergji Prendi, a student from Albania.
“It validates my experience to look at all these great people and see that I’m a part of them now,” Prendi said. “I’m trying to achieve the American dream, and I think many of them were doing that also.”