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: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAkduGqqD0sGdQ-FmYa2igggXKbp79yUW8O

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.

– From centralcurrent.org

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: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAkceGsqzsrHd1MoL8FU_zwkdgx0o4ozBb-

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: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJMod-usrzstE9z_YsiFfGjDP_ebNHY00EDU

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: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJIld-qrrjgsH9BLrKqB_6wlA6NIXXn17XZX

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: https://onlibonondagafree.evanced.info/signup/EventDetails?EventId=9585

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: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJUqfu2gqzovGdS_NJqXGc-WN3bPJ-O9ljVN

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

Samuel Gruber on Famed Syracuse Architect Ward Wellington Ward

The Strathmore Speaker Series and Onondaga Free Library are delighted to announce our March 2021 event, an evening with Samuel D. Gruber, Ph.D., which will be cohosted by the Arts & Crafts Society of Central New York. Dr. Gruber, who is president of the Arts & Crafts Society of Central New York, will present an illustrated lecture on the famed Syracuse architect Ward Wellington Ward. No other architect has left such a variety of high-quality houses in Syracuse as Ward Wellington Ward, the region’s most accomplished architect of the Arts & Crafts Movement. In a relatively brief career in Central New York (1908-1929) he designed scores of houses, a great many of which remain occupied and in excellent condition throughout the city. No one walking tour can visit more than a handful of Ward houses at a time, so we’ll take advantage of the virtual world to Zoom around from neighborhood to neighborhood to see and evaluate Ward’s output and contribution. A brief Q&A will follow Dr. Gruber’s Lecture.

This event will be held on Thursday, March 11th 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: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJYoceqvrDkvGNaev7kkKm5rqXUSqbLkf6S9

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

About Samuel D. Gruber


Samuel D. Gruber, Ph.D, an accomplished researcher, author, curator and consultant, is the founder and managing director of Gruber Heritage Global (GHG) – a cultural resources consulting firm. He holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in architectural history from Columbia University, a B.A. from Princeton University in Medieval Studies, and a certificate in surveying and measured drawing from Cornell University. He is recognized internationally as an expert in many aspects of the architecture and historic preservation of religious properties. For many years Dr. Gruber organized the historic house tours in the Westcott neighborhood, where he also developed and offered eight newly researched neighborhood walking tours. He has served on many local community and not-for-profit boards and committees, including the Preservation Association of Central New York from 1996 through 2010, which he served as Executive Director (1999-2000) and president (2004 through 2009). Since 2018 he has served as president of the Arts & Crafts Society of Central New York.

About Ward Wellington Ward

Ward Wellington Ward was born in Chicago in 1875. As a young architect interested in the Arts and Crafts movement, he moved to Syracuse, in part, because of the presence of Gustav Stickley, a leading figure of the “Craftsman” style. He designed more than 250 buildings during his career, some 120 of which still survive. Included among them are 26 homes in Syracuse that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are at least 8 Ward Wellington Ward homes in Strathmore.

Suzanne Mettler on “Four Threats: The Recurring Crises of American Democracy”

The Strathmore Speaker Series and Onondaga Free Library are delighted to announce our February 2021 event, an evening with political scientist and Cornell University professor Suzanne Mettler who will discuss her latest book Four Threats: The Recurring Crises of American Democracy, which seeks to understand the tempest currently embroiling the nation’s institutions by placing it within a broader historical context. Many Americans subscribe to the belief that American democracy is eternal—an impervious object that no ideology, social, cultural, or political movement, and certainly no individual could ever tear asunder. Yet as Professor Mettler observes in Four Threats, America’s democratic experiment is anything but imperturbable. Four distinct pressures—political polarization, racism and nativism, economic inequality, and excessive executive power—menaced the republic in 1790, during the Civil War, in the Gilded Age and Great Depression, and most recently during the Watergate scandal. While American democracy resisted these threats in the past, there is no guarantee it will weather the current storm. What makes the here and now unique and alarming, Professor Mettler argues, is that all four of these threats are active at once. A brief Q&A will follow Professor Mettler’s talk.

This event will be held on Thursday, February 11th at 7 pm on Zoom. Like all Strathmore Speaker Series events, this presentation is free and open to the public.

You can register for this event here: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJYuceqqqTMiH9MEWFQflmR-Q2E5z6uTkUiq

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

About Suzanne Mettler

Suzanne Mettler is the John L. Senior Professor of American Institutions in the Government Department at Cornell University. Her research and teaching interests include American political development, inequality, public policy, political behavior, and democracy.

She is the author of six books, including, most recently, Four Threats: The Recurring Crises of American Democracy, co-authored with Robert C. Lieberman. Her short essays and op-eds have been featured in popular outlets including the New York TimesLos Angeles TimesChronicle of Higher Educationand Washington Monthly. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the recipient of Guggenheim and Radcliffe Fellowships, and serves on the boards of the Scholars Strategy Network and the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences

About her latest book

Information about purchasing a copy of this book can be found here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250244420

An urgent, historically-grounded take on the four major factors that undermine American democracy, and what we can do to address them.

While many Americans despair of the current state of U.S. politics, most assume that our system of government and democracy itself are invulnerable to decay. Yet when we examine the past, we find that the United States has undergone repeated crises of democracy, from the earliest days of the republic to the present.

In Four Threats, Suzanne Mettler and Robert C. Lieberman explore five moments in history when democracy in the U.S. was under siege: the 1790s, the Civil War, the Gilded Age, the Depression, and Watergate. These episodes risked profound―even fatal―damage to the American democratic experiment. From this history, four distinct characteristics of disruption emerge. Political polarization, racism and nativism, economic inequality, and excessive executive power―alone or in combination―have threatened the survival of the republic, but it has survived―so far. What is unique, and alarming, about the present moment in American politics is that all four conditions exist.

This convergence marks the contemporary era as a grave moment for democracy. But history provides a valuable repository from which we can draw lessons about how democracy was eventually strengthened―or weakened―in the past. By revisiting how earlier generations of Americans faced threats to the principles enshrined in the Constitution, we can see the promise and the peril that have led us to today and chart a path toward repairing our civic fabric and renewing democracy.