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A Farewell To Camp Columbia
On a beautiful Saturday in June, more than 120 alumni and guests
bade farewell to Camp Columbia. The camp, an expanse of 400 acres
in Litchfield, CT, served for 62 years as The Columbia Engineering
School of Surveying and for almost two decades more as the site
of non-engineering programs. The University purchased the land,
the family farm of James Morris, the Revolutionary War hero, in
1903 and, in April, 2000, sold it to the State of Connecticut.
Almost every Columbia engineer from 1903 to 1965 spent part of
a summer at Camp Columbia. For many, it provided a unique opportunity
to bond with classmates in an atmosphere far different from the
classroom. For others, it provided a real-life test of withstanding
the elements that would be encountered as they pursued their engineering
careers. Many alumni spoke fondly of their experiences at the Camp.
"We took away from Camp friendships, memories and feelings
that have lasted a lifetime, " said Guy Longobardo '49, noting
that the Camp even had its own society, The Camp Columbia Order
of Owls. The society was formed in 1948, with Dean Walter Corey
as the first Great Horned Owl. Society members were students and
alumni who were particularly dedicated to the Camp, and who worked
on special projects to improve it, such as the pitch-and-putt course,
the softball field and the flagpole.
The School gave up its managment of Camp Columbia in 1982 in preparation
for its "impending" sale, which never took place. From
then on, the Camp was essentially abandoned. When the ad-hoc organizing
committee for "a last hurrah" visited the site, they found
vandalized cabins and overgrown grounds.
"Fortunately, the Water Tower was unharmed," said Longobardo,
"and the Boat House was in good condition." The event
organizers, Longobardo, Leo Cirino '55, Tom Palamenghi '54 and Ted
Borri '51, arranged for clearing the debris and underbrush, engaging
caterers, ordering tents and making plans for a party, even before
receiving the written permission from the State of Connecticut.
Invitations were sent to all metropolitan area alumni. The committee's
planning was impeccable since the day of the party, June 24th, proved
to be ideal-bright, sunny weather with just a slight breeze.
Tents were set up between the "St. Regis" and the Water
Tower. With the beautiful view of the far hills, and the memory
of much more Spartan times, party-goers enjoyed the contrast of
this meal, with tablecloths, china and glassware, to their memories
of years gone by.
Tom Palamenghi toasted the memories of Dean Wes Hennessey and Coach
Dick Waite saying, "These two great men not only shaped this
wonderful place into what has become a permanent place in our hearts
and memories, but also helped shape the lives of so many of us who
were privileged to know them." Deans Howard Vreeland and Walter
Corey were praised and, as Longobardo said, "Those four were
the real heroes of this event.
"For alumni who missed the "last hurrah," there
is an opportunity to reconnect with the past via a Camp Columbia
exhibition in Low Library Rotunda. The exhibit, compiled by Howard
Vreeland, gives the Camp's history, including contributions by Dean
James "Kip" Finch, the director for 35 years. It will
be on view for the November 14 CESAA Awards Dinner and through January.