From bunnies to Bradley Cooper: My time with the Concordiensis

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By Gabriella Levine

My wild ride with this newspaper began in my freshman year with a story on bunnies. No, I am not kidding. I had my first “reporting” experience when I traveled to the seventh floor of College Park Hall to investigate a curious group of students who were fostering a bunny family within their dorm rooms.

When my article came out on that Concordy Thursday four years ago, I was taken aback by the many people who were reading and talking about my bunny story. I discovered, rather quickly, that stories on secret bunny fostering were of interest to the campus community; what’s more, I learned that the Concordy played an important role at Union in facilitating the lines of communication on campus issues, however trivial.

In my time as Opinions Editor, it became increasingly apparent that the pages of the Concordy were the voice of Union. I sat back and listened as students expressed themselves on various topics week after week.

There I was, a naïve sophomore thinking that bunny stories would be the peak of the madness. I couldn’t have been more wrong. When I was elected as Editor-in-Chief, the true craziness began.

In my first week on the job, my phone rang. It was Steve, calling from the Sports Desk at the New York Times. Steve was inquiring if my co-editor and I wanted to write an article on Union’s men’s ice-hockey team, which had just recently made its berth to the Frozen Four.

We pulled about four all-nighters in a row while developing a story about how the hockey team excelled both on the ice and in the classroom. I hadn’t even written an article as Editor-in-Chief, and yet I woke up one morning and my name was in the New York Times. Thank you, Dutchmen, for putting it there.

I never really got off that roller-coaster ride that began during my first week on the job. My time as Editor-in-Chief was filled with a countless array of irreplaceable, once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

In fact, I distinctly remember calling the time I covered Obama’s visit to the Nanotech complex in Albany a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.” But, a year later, seeing the president speak became a twice-in-a-lifetime experience when I found myself standing ten feet from Obama at his smallest-ever town hall event at Binghamton University. I now consider myself a White House Press Pool groupie.

I also can’t avoid mentioning the time that Hollywood incorporated Schenectady into its inner circle with none other than Academy Award-nominated director Derek Cianfrance and actors Eva Mendes, Bradley Cooper and Ryan Gosling for the movie The Place Beyond the Pines, shot and set in Union’s hometown. In one of the most adventurous weekends of my life, I traveled to the Waldorf Astoria with my co-editor to attend the exclusive press screening and college press conference for Pines.

After the conference was over, I zoned in on my target: Gosling. I thrust my camera in his face and begged, rather shamelessly (and a bit aggressively), for a photo.

To this day, I believe that I detected a hint of trepidation in his eyes—a silent acknowledgment that, should he leave the room without granting us a picture, there would be trouble. So, Ryan Gosling proceeded to put his arm around me, pull me close and, voilà, the best picture of my entire life happened.

A few months later, I found myself standing next to Bradley Cooper at the Schenectady Bow Tie premiere of Pines, schmoozing about Union, Schenectady and life in general.

Somehow, someway, I wound up traveling from point A (a journalistic investigation of bunnies) to point B (chatting with Bradley Cooper about Union).

Thank you to everyone who made this journey possible. This long list includes: the old, present and future Warriors on the staff of the Concordy; the administrators, professors, students and members of the Union community who read, contributed to, talked about, enjoyed, hated and critiqued the Concordy in the past four years — thank you for all of your opinions; and, most importantly, the people who have been by my side with every step of this adventure.

Thank you to my family, who read and saved every single issue of the Concordy for the past four years.

To awards-show-professional Sam: as J.Law would say, thank God for you.

To Dr. Sammi: thank you for diagnosing everything in my life and being so dedicated throughout the years to this paper.

To Grace: you are one of the bravest and smartest people I have ever met.

To Emily: my partner-in-crime, thank you for tolerating me, for offering your quiet words of wisdom and for catching every grammatical error possible.

Lastly, but certainly not least, to Tess: year one with you was what started all of this craziness, and that is something I will never forget.

Sometimes, life reaches out to you with the craziest of opportunities. Now, if you were wagered a bet on the biggest life-changing moment I had in my time on the Concordy staff, you’d probably guess it was that photo-op with Gosling, right?

Wrong.

The life-changing moments emerged right here, on this campus, where the stories that mattered the most occurred.

It was those stories about the ever-passionate yet always contentious Greek life, meal plans, residential issues, the brave and beautiful accounts of students who had experienced the trauma of sexual assault and the perspectives of those who traveled abroad and brought back incredible tales of the world beyond Union’s gates. For me, and for Union, these stories, and so many others, were the ones that made the biggest difference.

In closing, I will share my quintessential, life-changing discovery learned via the Concordiensis. On the “red carpet premiere” of the Pines in Schenectady, Cianfrance caught me off-guard in an interview. I asked him about the theme of his film. He turned to me and said, “You know, the theme is really legacy. What’s your legacy? What’s Union’s legacy? What’s Schenectady’s legacy?”

It took me awhile to find my answer.

Anthony “Tony” Lavecchia ’98 was a former Editor-in-Chief of the Concordiensis. Tony’s life was cut short when he died in a tragic accident in 2005. After my first year as Editor-in-Chief, his parents reached out to me, explaining just how much the paper meant to him. They said that the stories he left behind at Union were testaments to his character and his love of the college.

I never met Anthony, but I was able to reach back to the 1990s and read some of his articles to learn something about him and appreciate the person he was in his time at Union. He was, without a doubt, a tenacious journalist. In his first term as Editor-in-Chief, he noticed that the students had stopped writing letters to the editor. Tony cleverly wrote an editorial, entitled “Anyone AWAKE?” arguing that the student body had become apathetic. A week later, he received more letters than had been published in the entire previous year. “Now that you have written, ACT! Speak up! Let your voices be heard,” Tony wrote.

On this campus, there sit piles of bound copies of the Concordiensis, the oldest printed newspaper in Schenectady, from the 1800s to the present day. Anthony’s articles are among the many stories that the Concordy has published about life at Union throughout history. Anthony is gone, yet part of him remains at Union, forever enshrined in the spirit of his published works.

This is the legacy — not just of my incredible experience serving on this newspaper, but of the Concordiensis and of Union College. That legacy is found in journalism and its eternal nature as a voice, an expression that withstands the test of time. I am so very grateful to be a part of this legacy.

Here’s to hoping that someone reaches back one day and finds that story about the bunnies.

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