By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Since April, Laura Lincoln, director of SUNY Oneonta’s Office of Alumni Engagement, found she was getting a lot of calls from alumni with a puzzling question.
“People kept calling us and asking us if we had a jigsaw puzzle,” she said. “It’s amazing how many requests we’ve had, but it makes sense – everyone’s looking for a way to stay busy at home.”
She reached out to Tracy Dolan, Red Dragon Outfitters’ business manager, and found that, although they didn’t have a puzzle for sale, the two departments could partner to create one.
“Even working remotely, we were able to work together,” Lincoln said. “That’s what’s so amazing to me.”
With graphic designer Jonah Roberts, the two began planning what the puzzle would look like. “We were looking for photos that would instill nostalgia and pride for our alumni, but would also give them a sense of what the campus looks like today, especially since they can’t come see it,” she said.
“We had a lot of photos to choose from.”
The photos also had to be easy to take apart and put back together again. “We wanted the puzzle to be challenging, but not so difficult that it couldn’t be accomplished.
They selected four photos – the campus quad, Red Dragon Drive, the Hunt Union pond and the Welcome Center. “The Welcome Center is the newest building, and many of our alumni haven’t seen it,” she said. “People keep asking, ‘What’s that building?’ And with the Hunt Union, everyone has memories of those goldfish. It’s iconic.”
Those four photos were put together by the graphic design team, which sent it to Maryland Screen Printers in Baltimore, which turned it into the 18- by 24-inch, 500-piece jigsaw puzzle.
“It’s amazing that it only took two weeks to produce,” Lincoln said.
On May 5, SUNY Oneonta sent an email to all alumni announcing that pre-orders were available, and within two hours, 20 people had ordered one.
The initial pre-order was 100, but that was quickly exceeded, and 250 more were ordered. The puzzles will be mailed to customers by the end of May.
The puzzle is just one piece of an effort to keep alumni engaged with the campus while the campus is closed under COVID-19 quarantine, Lincoln said.
“We’re implementing a lot of virtual programs to keep our alumni engaged while we’re all at home,” she said. “We want to keep them connected to the school so that they continue to have pride in SUNY Oneonta.”
Other activities include the Red Dragon (virtual) Marathon, which challenges alumni to run or walk 26.2 miles between May 1 and July 4, uploading weekly results to the school’s website and submitting race-bib photos on entering the final stretch.
Also featured is a virtual reception for the 1889 Society, the college’s top donors, featuring a live Zoom conversation with President Barbara Jean Morris and members of the campus community to honor the college’s most generous donors. (Oneonta Normal School, a teachers’ college, was founded in 1889.)
“We’ve been getting a lot of comments about the puzzle,” she said. “People are really proud of the campus.”