Eric Persons on Central Current and Local Journalism

Join the Strathmore Speakers Series and Onondaga Free Library for an evening with Central Current, Inc. co-founder, Eric Persons. Central Current is a new nonprofit, nonpartisan, and independent digital news agency based in Syracuse. Eric will discuss the Central Current project and the role of local journalism in creating an informed and engaged citizenry. A brief Q&A will follow.

This event will be held on Thursday, October 14th at 7 pm on Zoom. Like all Strathmore Speaker Series and Onondaga Free Library events, this presentation is free and open to the public.

You can register for this event here:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

About Eric Persons

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Eric is supporting Central Current, Inc. because of journalism’s renewed focus on citizenship and community engagement. As a broadcast journalist, he witnessed violent crime, economic failure, and a decline in social capital, and he became frustrated that his work had little impact in helping his hometown of Buffalo, NY address those conditions. Now, local news can no longer survive and thrive without having a strong, responsive relationship with its audience. He believes that online journalism provides opportunities for innovation and creative storytelling that can strengthen an understanding of issues, create engaged citizens, while also preserving journalistic objectivity and integrity.

Eric stepped into a newsroom over 30 years ago with interest in covering sports, local news and politics. As a television photojournalist, he covered breaking news overnight while spending his days covering the NFL, NHL and college sports. His news stories involved countless homicides, weather events and car accidents while also contributing to stories on local government, the economy and cultural events. In 1996, his coverage of a suspect’s death in police custody contributed to an investigation and homicide charges filed against a Buffalo police lieutenant.

In 1997, he traveled overseas to learn more about the political, economic, and social changes occurring in Central and Eastern Europe. The experience turned into a career developing programs in higher education and public affairs. He directed university programs on political and economic reform in Washington, DC, the Czech Republic and Greece until arriving at Syracuse University in 2002. He has been a resident of Central New York ever since, where he has developed community initiatives involving urban planning and design, public health and economic development. He also represented Syracuse University at the local, state and federal levels of government, and has been an advocate for innovation and community engagement in higher education.

About Central Current

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Mission: Strengthen Civic Engagement and Democratic Governance

Central Current, Inc. is working to launch a nonprofit digital news publication that will provide balanced, fact-based news, opinion and analysis about the issues, events and happenings that impact life in Central New York. At a time when commercial interests and political interference are limiting quality journalism, we strive to fulfill a need for independent news with thorough and investigative coverage of issues to help residents be well-informed citizens. Our objective is to strengthen civic engagement and democratic governance, and to foster a prosperous and healthy community.

As a digital multimedia news organization, Central Current, Inc. will take an entrepreneurial approach to online journalism that redefines the relationship between news media and its audience. We will publish quality journalism and produce meaningful stories through writing, video, photography and other forms of media. As a mission‐centered nonprofit organization, we are exclusively focused on serving and engaging the community to enhance civic dialogue and understanding of issues. We will uphold the highest standards of journalistic integrity and creative storytelling while ensuring news coverage reflects the needs and diversity of the region.

Our motivation is our love for Central New York, but knowing we can do better. Our region is an attractive place to live and raise a family. But we also have one of the highest rates of poverty and racial segregation in the country. And while having a strong industrial heritage with dynamic anchors in higher education and health care, we struggle to drive investment and growth in our economy. It is necessary more than ever to have a better understanding of the issues that impact our entire community and resolve any disconnect we have to realizing a better future.

We are also driven by an entrepreneurial spirit that is rooted our region’s diversity and talent. The people we employ and others who support our work will be more than representative of our community; they also will have an ownership in our enterprise. Our work culture will be defined by a collaborative group of individuals and partners from different backgrounds, experiences and skill sets who are willing to try new approaches and learn from each other and from the community we serve.

We strive to be a reliable and trusted resource for journalism and to set the standards for integrity and creativity that other news organizations will want to replicate. Our content will be free and accessible to everyone, and we will offer programs and events to foster dialogue on the issues we cover.

At a time of great transformation in journalism and digital media, we are well positioned in Central New York to make the most of that opportunity. We are rich in talent, and have a young and entrepreneurial generation of professionals living in Central New York who want to make an impact in their community. Our journalists will include writers, photographers and great storytellers, all of whom will be committed to quality standards and practices to advance their craft.

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Historian Dennis Connors on “The Smith Family Fortunes”

Join the Strathmore Speakers Series and Onondaga Free Library for an evening with historian and former curator of the Onondaga Historical Association, Dennis Connors. Mr. Connors will discuss the history of the Lyman Smith Family, best known for their L.C. Smith Shotguns and Smith-Corona Typewriters. This talk will explore three generations of the Smith family and their residences as well as how the family’s fortune was made, spent, and dissipated. It promises to be an evening filled with interesting characters and images. A brief Q&A will follow.

This event will be held on Thursday, September 9th at 7 pm on Zoom. Like all Strathmore Speaker Series and Onondaga Free Library events, this presentation is free and open to the public.

You can register for this event here:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

About Dennis Connors

Dennis Connors has worked in historical agencies since 1972 and as curator of history at the Onondaga Historical Association in Syracuse, New York from 1999 until his retirement in 2018.  He was employed originally by the Association from 1992 to 1999 as its Executive Director.  Previous to that, he was the Supervisor of Historic Resources for Onondaga County Parks for 14 years, overseeing three historic properties.  He also served as executive director for the Landmarks Association of Central New York for three years. He recently was a contributing author for the New York State Encyclopedia Project and has authored and edited six books on Syracuse area history, the most recent being Syracuse’s Grand Hotel: A History, published in 2017.  Mr. Connors has a history degree from the State University of NY at Buffalo with a concentration in museum studies.

About Lyman Smith & the Smith Family Businesses

Lyman Cornelius Smith was an American innovator and industrialist. He was born in Torrington, Connecticut in 1850 and died in Syracuse, New York in 1910. After several failed attempts to break into the lumber industry, Smith experienced his first entrepreneurial success in 1877 when, along with his older brother Leroy and firearms designer William H. Baker, he helped to form W.H. Baker & Co. Following the departure of Baker and his brother, he would rename the business the L.C. Smith Shotgun Company of Syracuse, before ultimately selling it to to the Hunter Arms Company in 1889.

Alongside brothers Hurlbut, Wilbert, and Monroe, Lyman formed the Smith Premiere Typewriter Company in 1887. Relying on technology developed by Alexander Brown, who had replaced W.H. Baker as the firearms designer for the L.C. Smith Shotgun Company, the Smith brothers began producing the first double keyboard typewriter in 1884. This typewriter, the Smith Premiere, performed so well that the brothers ultimately traded their gun business to focus exclusively on typewriters. The growing demand for typewriters combined with Syracuse’s role as an industrial and manufacturing center soon led other typewriter companies to setup shop in the City which, by 1904, had been nicknamed “The Typewriter City.”

The company was renamed L.C. Smith and Brothers in 1904 before being renamed again in 1926 when it merged with Corona Typewriters. By then, the newly formed Smith-Corona company was the largest manufacturer of typewriters in the world, producing 155,000 machines annually. Throughout its existence, the company maintained a reputation for innovation and would go on to expand aggressively into mechanical calculators, office products, paints, foods, and paper through the 1960s. The rise of inexpensive electronic calculators in the 1970s and personal computers in the 1980s ultimately led to the decline of Smith-Corona’s business. The company was acquired by Hanson Plc in 1986. It would endure its first bankruptcy in 1995 before enduring a second in 2000. By 2005, Smith-Corona had ceased manufacturing typewriters entirely, instead leveraging their expertise in ribbons and thermal technologies to focus on the growing thermal label business.

L.C. Smith and Bros. employees on the factory floor c. 1920. Photo from the Onondaga Historical Association.

Joee Patterson on “Icebreakers, Zodiacs, and Elephant Seals: Antarctic Science, and Life as a Marine Technician”

The Strathmore Speaker Series and Onondaga Free Library and delighted to announce our June 2021 event, an evening with Joee Patterson, marine technician in the U.S. Antarctic Program and tall ship sailor. Ms. Patterson will share stories of life on an icebreaker, the scientific expeditions she has facilitated and close encounters with wildlife. This lecture will give an overview of marine operations for the U.S. Antarctic Program and a discussion of the science conducted on these missions (from the perspective of a layperson) combined with personal stories and observations from her nine Antarctic expeditions. A brief Q&A will follow Ms. Patterson’s discussion.

This event will be held on Thursday, June 10th at 7 pm on Zoom. Like all Strathmore Speaker Series and Onondaga Free Library events, this presentation is free and open to the public.

You can register for this event here:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

About Joee Patterson

Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, Joee Patterson began sailing traditionally rigged vessels in 2003 while working at the South Street Seaport Museum aboard the schooners Pioneer and Lettie G. HowardIn 2007, she moved to Linconville, Maine to pursue her passion for tall ships while rigging and painting at the Rockport Marine and O’Donovan and Dole Traditional Wooden Boatworks. In 2014, Ms. Patterson served as a crew member on the 38th voyage of the then 173-year-old Charles W. MorganAmerica’s last remaining wooden whaleship.

In 2016, Ms. Patterson was offered a dream position as a Marine Technician in the U.S. Antarctic Program, which allowed her to pair her love of the sea with her fascination with the intricacies of the natural world. Since her initial voyage, Ms. Patterson has made eight more trips to Antarctica. Most recently she journeyed to the Thwaites Glacier as one of four marine technicians aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer research vessel, part of an international research collaboration between the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Japan, and Germany.

When not participating in sailing voyages or science expeditions, Ms. Patterson resides in Lincolnville and can be found indulging her passion for nature through photography and contributing to science education and environmental stewardship in Maine.

Read more about Joee Patterson, the Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, and the United States Antarctic Program:

Public Radio International Article

National Geographic Article 1

National Geographic Article 2

Rolling Stones Series

Jeff Megivern on “Mars 2020: NASA’s Perseverance Rover and the Search for Ancient Life on Mars”

Join the Strathmore Speakers Series and Onondaga Free Library for an afternoon with NASA engineer and Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover team member Jeff Megivern. Perseverance’s successful landing on Mars on February 18, 2021 was a testament to NASA’s resourcefulness, technical expertise, and dedication to the pursuit of knowledge. Equipped with a helicopter named Ingenuity, Perseverance is on a mission to seek out signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and soil) for possible return to Earth. During this talk, Mr. Megivern will provide an overview of the Mars 2020 mission, discuss the challenges inherent in robotic exploration of the Red Planet, describe his role as part of the Perseverance systems team, and give us an insider’s look at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. A brief Q&A will follow.

This event will be held on Saturday, May 15th at 2 pm on Zoom. Like all Strathmore Speaker Series and Onondaga Free Library events, this presentation is free and open to the public.

You can register for this event here:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Mars for Kids

OFL is also offering a free companion Mars Activity Kit for Kids grades K-4. Reserve your kit today at:

About Jeff Megivern

Jeff Megivern grew up in Florida across the river from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center where he watched launches from his backyard. This inspired him to pursue Aerospace Engineering and Math bachelor degrees at the Florida Institute of Technology. While at Florida Tech, he interned at NASA Kennedy Space Center supporting launch flows and spacecraft integration activities for Delta II, Delta IV, Atlas V, and Pegasus XL launch vehicles. As part of this internship, he also sat on launch console for a number of Delta II launches, including Mars Exploration Rovers A & B, Aura Earth Observation Satellite (EOS), and Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER). After graduating, Jeff moved to California to work at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (now Aerojet Rocketdyne) as a system test engineer and test lead on the J-2X Upper Stage Engine. Currently, he works for NASA JPL as the Systems Engineering, Integration, and Test lead for the Mars 2020 Sampling and Caching Subsystem (SCS).

Eddie Brennan on Beak & Skiff: Family Orchard to Tourist Destination

The Strathmore Speaker Series and Onondaga Free Library are delighted to announce our April 2021 event, an evening with Eddie Brennan, President and Co-Owner of Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards. Mr. Brennan will share the story of how this fifth-generation business evolved from a small family farm into regional producer of award-winning ciders, spirits, and wine, and, finally, to a polished, publicly-acclaimed tourist and event destination. Beak & Skiff’s transformation is at the heart of all that makes Central New York agriculture great, and is a shining exemplar of Central New York’s entrepreneurial ethos. A brief Q&A will follow Mr. Brennan’s discussion.

This event will be held on Thursday, April 8th at 7 pm on Zoom. Like all Strathmore Speaker Series and Onondaga Free Library events, this presentation is free and open to the public.

You can register for this event here:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

About Beak & Skiff

Beak & Skiff has been growing apples for over 100 years. The operation began in 1911 when George Skiff, an onion farmer on the North Side of Syracuse, and Andrew Beak, a dairy farmer, met at the farmers market and decided to join forces and enter the then emerging apple business. They found that the hillside area along Route 20 provided the perfect conditions for growing apples and began planting that very year.

For most of the 20th century, Beak & Skiff was strictly a wholesale apple producer, selling apples to grocery stores such as Victory and A&P. It was throughout this first phase of the business that they developed the culture of creativity and innovation that would set the stage for where the business is today. At first, this culture manifested itself in technological innovations around protecting and increasing the yield of their apple crop. In 1975, the business turned outward for the first time, opening its doors to the public as one of the nation’s first pick-your-own orchards. This was followed a few years later by the conversion of an old dairy barn into the Apple Hill Country Store and the beginning of Beak & Skiff’s foray into cider production. It was during this time that a visit to the orchard first became a fall tradition for many Central New York families.

In 2001, Beak & Skiff launched their 1911 Established line of Hard Ciders, catching a nascent cider revival that was soon to sweep the country. Before long, 1911 Established ciders were available in stores, restaurants, and bars across New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. The success of their hard cider line led to a jump into wine and the spirits business via the launch of 1911 Spirits small batch premium vodka and gin and later brandy and bourbon. In 2013, Beak & Skiff renovated their Apple Hill Campus, transforming it into a major regional agrotourism destination and event venue.

Today, Beak & Skiff is in their fifth generation of family ownership and continuing to innovate. Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, the 1911 Spirits distillery switched over to the production of hand sanitizer which was ultimately sold and donated across Central New York. 2020 also saw the launch of Beak & Skiff’s industrial hemp and multi-product CBD business