HWS vs. SLU: It’s a Family Thing – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

HWS vs. SLU: It’s a Family Thing

While alums scramble to “Settle the Score,” it seems much of the settling first needs to be done within individual households, where family members have equally compelling reasons to give to either institution.

“It was a small and close family community that gave you the room to do your own thing,” is how Velena Brandon WS’01 describes Hobart and William Smith Colleges. “That was my school. It was a good atmosphere where the faculty knew you by name.” 

She and her now-husband, Barry Brandon H’01, graduated from the Colleges the same year.  They knew one another through mutual friends and their involvement in the Black Student Union on campus.  In time, they became friends, and by their senior year they were a couple. Upon graduation, Barry was asked by Coach Chris Phelps SLU’91, an ex-football coach at Hobart and William Smith, to go to St. Lawrence with him, where Barry would be an assistant football and lacrosse coach while earning his master’s.

“We wouldn’t be together if it wasn’t for Hobart and William Smith,” comments Velena. “He has allegiances to both schools, but we fell in love with Hobart and William Smith. Hobart and William Smith shaped who we are.”

Conversely, the opportunity that Brandon had to follow Coach Phelps to SLU strengthened a rivalry that has existed for nearly two decades between the institutions’ football teams. The Hobart Statesmen have beaten the SLU Saints consecutively since 1992. Having a former insider on the other side of Boswell Field, Hobart had to change signals and create new elements of surprise for their games against SLU.

“We beat them every year and felt confident in every game against them,” says Kwame Lovell H’10, defensive end for the Statesmen. “But we did almost lose one game in my senior year. It would have been a startling upset.”

While he was confident in the team’s abilities going into every game, Lovell shares the credit for the Statesmen’s record against SLU with the HWS “family”–the loyal fans. “It seemed to me like our fans travelled in greater numbers than theirs, and that played a big role in our success against them each year.”

Among the fans who have trouble deciding on which side of the field to sit each game are Hobart alum David Gage H’91 and his wife, diehard SLU alum Theresa Hashem Gage SLU’98m.

On the “Challenge” Facebook page, Theresa writes, “If your husband is a Hobart grad and employee, but you met while you were attending grad school at SLU and working in admissions…where do I donate? Where do I settle the score?” Of course, she received many responses in reply, from both sides of the argument. She replied, “Those who know me know my heart is at SLU…”

Dave works with international students at HWS and the couple lives in a bed and breakfast they renovated in Geneva named, aptly, the William Smith Inn. To further complicate matters, David’s father, Walter Gage, is a member of the Hobart Class of 1962; David’s uncle, Raymond Gage, is a member of the Hobart Class of 1952; and two of his cousins, Kristopher Grahame ’04 and Matthew Gage ’81, also graduated from Hobart.

With such divided loyalties, a family has no choice but to divide the donations, too. Theresa writes, “I think my husband will donate to HWS and me…SLU. Settles the score between us!”

Even for Hobart and William Smith Board of Trustee member Pete Buck H’81 there’s reason to have affinity for both institutions. As a Trustee, Buck has made a commitment to help guide the success of the Colleges. He was also recently one of two alums from the Class of ’81 to open a Hobart time capsule from the Class of 1880. One son, Harrison Buck, graduated from St. Lawrence University in 2008, while another son, Henry Buck, is a member of the HWS Classes of 2012.

It seems like a peek inside a number of alums’ houses would feature an array of blankets, sweatshirts and jackets (warm gear for cold climates) emblazoned with the emblems of both institutions, picturesque photos of fall days on either campus, and a number of programs from athletic events won and lost on both home and away fields. What their checkbooks will reveal is yet to be seen as the challenge continues. However, one thing’s for certain: whichever school earns the specially-labeled Saranac brew will probably find a fair share of its namesake hoisted in toast to friends and family across the miles on the “rival” campus.

In the photo above, the Hobart defense overpowers St. Lawrence in the backfield. During this game, the Statesmen wore their Wounded Warriors jerseys and raised more than $7,000 for wounded service members.