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Roth Pond Regatta

On May 10 Stony Brook University students gathered at the campus’ Roth Pond to participate in the Roth Pond Regatta. The annual event, hosted by Undergraduate Student Government, is held to help students blow off some steam before finals as they take to the 200-yard pond in handmade cardboard boats. This year marked the event’s 30th anniversary and featured the Dr. Seuss and All Things Seussical theme. 

Dick Solo photo from Naomi Solo

Richard Solo, known as Dick or Doc to those he loved, died on Nov. 27 at age 79, after a four-year struggle with cancer.

Solo was the beloved husband of Nomi for 56 years; father of David, Julie and Michael (Susan); and brother of Marge Seltzer.

Friends remember Solo walking around in nature, Stony Brook University, his beloved Port Jefferson or other parts of the world, camera in hand, ready to photograph, in his special way, the world around him. He loved his family, students, nature, the Red Sox and a good bowl of  chili.

Solo had a joyous and productive and giving life. From his early days in Brookline High in Massachusetts to his years earning a bachelor’s at MIT and his Ph.D in chemistry from Berkeley, he was involved with student life, sports, and music.

When he moved to Port Jefferson in 1970, he became involved in the village and was an integral part in the development and building of the Village Center.

Solo came to the SBU on its opening day in August 1962, after a research stint at Aerospace in Los Angeles. Since that time, he had dedicated his heart and soul to it, beginning as an assistant chemistry professor. He set up a first-rate lab, but his main love was the student body. For 10 years, he taught chemistry classes of 110 to 150 students, including an introductory seminar on science and ethics before it was fashionable. The blend of teaching and research was a source of excitement, fun and satisfaction, and he was a first-rate teacher and communicator.

He became an integral part of student affairs, getting involved in counseling and helping to create an orientation course for incoming freshmen, ultimately developing an orientation program that was lauded throughout the state. He affected the lives of thousands of students, leading to his role as director of new student orientation, one of the first contacts an incoming student had with the university after admission. To the end, students who went through the program visited and corresponded with Solo and have used it as an example of how it made them grow as individuals.

Any student or faculty member who worked with Solo’s orientation program would agree that the spirit of genuine empathy is what made all the difference in the effectiveness of the program. Solo, along with his carefully chosen administrative assistants, molded freshmen and transfer orientations each year to the changing needs of incoming students. The process went beyond just registering for classes — there were social activities and workshops that included food, films, sports and a family-like spirit. His goal was to reach the attendees, to make a difference in their lives by caring about and understanding them.

His service to the SBU community spans half a century, during which Solo served on and chaired numerous committees and boards, including the University Senate, the first Student Affairs Affirmative Action Committee, the presidential search that chose Jack Marburger, the president’s advisory board on the disabled, and the Faculty Student Association. He was the unofficial photographer of Stony Brook history in the making.

Solo cared about every facet of the campus and students, attending many athletic events each season. After he semi-retired, he went back to teaching chemistry and did student advising at both summer and winter orientation programs.

Rabbi Joseph Topek from the university described Solo as a pioneer. He introduced many new ideas that have become university tradition — it was Solo who first thought of the Roth Pond Regatta.

A memorial visitation will be held on Wednesday at Bryant Funeral Home in East Setauket, from 4 to 8 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Good Shepherd Hospice or to the Staller Center for the Arts via the Stony Brook Foundation.

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It was sink or swim for scores of Stony Brook students as they broke from studying to blow off steam.

Roth Pond, a 200-yard body of water in the middle of campus, is usually nothing more than a scenic spot to pass between classes. But on Friday, it became a hotbed of activity for the 26th annual Roth Pond Regatta, where students floated themselves along in makeshift boats constructed of nothing more than cardboard, duct tape and paint.

The event started in 1989 on the campus as a means for the students to break from the stress of finals season. Each year since, students have built boats to float anywhere from one to four people across the pond in the high-spirited and festive competition before exams engulf the campus.

This year’s theme was mainstream fantasy, and the floats reflected just that. The floating vessels were made of simple everyday products, but the end products ranged anywhere from nostalgic shout-outs, to mock creatures plucked out of fantasyland. Students crafted boats like the Pirates of the Caribbean’s Black Pearl, the genie from Aladdin and even a Space Jam float with a cardboard Michael Jordan reaching for a long dunk at the watercraft’s front side.

Senior Kareem Ibrahem joined his classmates as he got ready to launch his own sleek ship — a mishmash of duct tape and cardboard with a giraffe’s head dangling atop a long cardboard neck. Friends were asking him the name of his vessel.

“Don’t sink about it,” he said with an ear-to-ear grin.

The event was hosted by the Undergraduate Student Government and included students from various student organizations, administrative departments and alumni.

This version corrects a typo in the description of the Space Jam boat.