RENSSELAER – Minutes after sending a mass email to Puma alumni, owning up to a blunder that had St. Joseph’s College sports hall of famers returning to campus, $20 bills in hand, to buy back the plaques that honored their time at the school, Bill Hogan was asked the question that had been rattling around angry social media discussions for the past week.
Aren’t these the sort of little things – selling bits of history and meaningful mementos, liquidation style – that continue to eat at a St. Joe’s community still seething over their school closing with $27 million of debt and questioning whether the administrative team left behind can possibly bring the small liberal arts college back to life?
“Small thing? Wait a minute,” Hogan, vice president for advancement for St. Joe’s Phoenix Project, said Thursday. “This was a big thing. It was just done the wrong way.”
Hogan paused during an afternoon of calling St. Joe’s hall of famers with offers of apologies, refunds and, in at least one case, a stop by the Wagon Wheel Bar and Grill just down U.S. 231 from the nearly abandoned campus in Rensselaer.
“I get why this mattered to so many people,” said Hogan, a 1974 St. Joe’s grad, as well as former basketball coach and athletic director. “We’re here to own up.”
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For much of the summer, liquidation companies hired by St. Joe’s have been selling off the furniture, classroom desks, kitchen equipment, band instruments and just about everything else it took to run a campus with 900 students and 200 staff and faculty members. That followed a February decision by St. Joe’s trustees to temporarily suspend operations at the 125-year-old college after the spring 2017 semester.
The money raised at the sale – which basically has been an ongoing and unsentimental garage sale scheduled to continue for the next six weeks in the Hanson Recreation Center gym – is going to what St. Joe’s dubbed the Phoenix Project.