A tribute to the “Socrates” of SUNY Sullivan

by John Conway

LOCH SHELDRAKE- SUNY Sullivan and the Sullivan County Historical Society joined forces on May 9 to pay tribute to one of the college’s longest serving faculty.

Professor Emeritus Thomas Lambert, who retired in 2016 after 43 years teaching sociology at Sullivan, was feted by a succession of speakers offering insights into his unique persona, and with a bench dedicated in his honor.

Professor Emeritus Thomas Lambert likened his career to the founding of SUNY Sullivan itself, as something good built from initial chaos. “It’s a good thing I’m an optimist,” he said.

The bench, with one of his trademark sayings, “My gentle friend, I want to talk to you outside,” sandblasted into its seat, has been permanently installed under Professor Lambert’s favorite tree outside the college’s “G” Building.

Starting with SUNY Sullivan’s interim president, Jay Quaintance, colleagues and acquaintances spoke eloquently of the impact Professor Lambert had on their lives.

Professor Anne Ruszkiewicz, whose office was located next to Professor Lambert’s for many years, recalled how she would often see him hurrying to class with a stack of books in his arms and a Styrofoam coffee cup in his teeth, somehow managing to never drop a book or spill the coffee.

“He loved and served here with every fiber of his being,” Professor Ruszkiewicz said. “He is part of the very DNA of the college.”

When he was finally called upon to speak, Professor Lambert briefly took the audience on a timeline of his career, before waxing philosophical, noting that like the founding of this country and of the college itself, his professional life was built from initial chaos.

“It’s a good thing I’m an optimist,” he said.

His colleagues described him in myriad other ways, perhaps none better than Professor Ruszkiewicz.

“In many ways, he was our Socrates,” she said fondly.