When I first spoke to Sam Tsongalis, president of student government at Westfield State University about working with Interim President Dr. Roy Saigo, I was a bit surprised at how much he was engaged in the experience.
At 80 years of age Saigo is easily as old - perhaps older - than Tsongalis’ grandfathers - but that didn’t seem to make any difference to their working relationship, or what the two men have been able to accomplish during their time together tackling the college’s issues.
“The generational thing, it’s hardly noticeable, and when it is, it isn’t an issue,” Tsongalis said candidly when asked if age was at all a factor in working with Saigo. Saying Saigo “gets it” about the college’s issues and the student experience, was probably the greatest compliment the graduating senior could pay the interim president.
But from my brief time talking with Saigo for this month’s feature story,
I can say it’s well-deserved praise. From turning the tables on me - and interviewing me first to “get to know a bit about you” before we spoke to sharing how he approached working with the maintenence crew when he first arrived - seeing them working hard outside on a Sunday morning and making a quick trip to the local Big Y to thank them with a treat for their break - it’s all in the way this four-time college president does things.
His approach - one of observing, listening, communicating and collaborating - is model for all of us as we try to work with the next generation - whether it’s our children, our grandchildren, or the younger colleagues at a job.
I, for one, would very much like to be thought of as someone who “gets it” by those younger than me, and think there might be some lessons there.
Speaking of lessons, columnist G. Michael Dobbs look at our current ‘cancel culture’ in the light of pop culture of bygone days brings up a point to ponder. How much should we “cancel” - and how much might present a teaching moment about how things were, and now are? Can we show how we’ve learned by looking at the mistakes of the past? Or must we simply remove our mistakes without owning them? It’s food for thought.
What’s your opinion? As we look at the shadow of ageism that’s been brought to the fore by the coronavirus pandemic here’s a question for Prime readers: How would you like to be referred to? Does ‘senior citizen’ or ‘senior’ evoke too much of an image of frailty and decline in our culture?
Is ‘elder” a better choice? Should we be looking for a new term? Do you have one? Drop me a line at PRIME, 280 North Main Street, East Longmeadow, MA, 01028 with your thoughts.
As always, thanks for reading,