Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
A. Randall Wenner, Broadcast & Digital Journalism Instructor
Donald Torrance, Television-Radio-Film Professor
Broadcast and Digital Journalism
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Film and Media Studies | Television
Every past chancellor of Syracuse University has had something named for him. Every chancellor except for one.
The Forgotten Chancellor examines the administration of John Corbally, the only past chancellor without a campus namesake. Does SU’s eighth headman actually create a lasting legacy in his 18 months on campus? And most importantly, does he deserve anonymity?
The project took on the form of a documentary, using pictures and sounds to truly transport the viewer back to Syracuse in 1968-1971.
The story relied on the people who were there to retell it and bring it to life. The search for eyewitnesses began by reading old newspapers and other materials from the time and scanning for names. And once latching on to one individual, the process became a sort of exercise in networking—asking who else might have been a good source. Who else remembers something from more than 40 years ago?
The interviewees consist of six current professors who were on campus in the late 60s and early 70s, either as students or instructors; a woman who worked closely with Corbally and was a friend of his family; and a Cazenovia College professor and author, who had penned two volumes of Syracuse University history. Several other friends, relatives, and colleagues provided valuable background information but could not appear on camera due to distance or unwillingness.
Having gathered interviews, the next step became finding other visuals to support the story. The Syracuse University Library and Archives provided an enormous wealth of photos, newspaper articles, and other visuals, and the Onondaga Historical Association filled in the gaps. Not much video exists from the Corbally years and his photo files are thin when compared with the men who came before and after him, but what was provided was more than sufficient to tell the story.
As the project progressed, the importance of studying the Corbally administration grew as did the project’s context. As current chancellor Nancy Cantor readies for her departure from campus, Corbally’s accomplishments raise questions as to the best method for evaluation. I can only hope my project sparks thoughts of what makes a “good” chancellor or a “successful” chancellor—particularly whether a well-remembered chancellor relies on the length of his or her tenure for remembrance or tangible results.
Corbally’s story was meant to be portrayed journalistically, without taking a strong stance on one position. But after researching and hearing the perspectives of those familiar with his administration, I came to conclude that Corbally certainly deserves more recognition than he currently receives. During his chancellorship, Corbally navigated his ship through stormy waters. The sailing was anything but smooth, but his vessel emerged unscathed. Only the most patient and skilled of captains could pilot his craft and preserve it for future voyages. Corbally did that. He saved Syracuse University from its past and put it in solid position for years to come.
Fultonberg, Lorne, "The Forgotten Chancellor" (2013). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 4.
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