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Roth Pond Regatta

By Samantha Rutt

Stony Brook University students set sail on the 35th annual Roth Pond Regatta Friday, April 26. Since 1989, this beloved tradition has been making waves on campus, marking the beginning of final exams with a spirited competition like no other.

Students put their creativity and ingenuity to the test as they constructed one-, two- and four-person homemade boats with nothing more than cardboard, duct tape, string and paint. Each year, the student-made makeshift vessels attempt to navigate across the 200-yard Roth Pond in a race to the finish line.

This year’s theme, A Fairy Tale Regatta: This Is Our Swamp, provided a whimsical twist to the competition. The race featured several judges who awarded points based on design, appearance, seaworthiness, originality, spirit, environmental sustainability, endurance and adherence to the rules. 

Notably, the Roth Pond Regatta has earned recognition beyond campus borders, winning the National Association for Campus Activities Your Best Campus Tradition contest for schools with more than 5,000 students.

In coordination with the SBU School of Communication and Journalism, the entire Roth Pond Regatta was broadcast live on YouTube and is available for subsequent viewing. 

The 34th annual Roth Pond Regatta at Stony Brook University took place Friday afternoon, April 28. Participating students had to make boats out of cardboard, duct tape, string and paint in order to be eligible to race. The theme of this year’s event was “A Fairy Tale Regatta: This is Our Swamp.”

A press release for the event stated that the event “customarily draws about 3,000 spectators.” However, Riccardo McClendon, dean of students, said, “It’s probably more than that right now. This is one of the largest student events that we have on campus.”

“The beauty about this is that their whole purpose is to be in community with each other,” McClendon added. “The designs are really cool that we see throughout the entire race, and it’s a lot of fun. We’ve got faculty, staff, students, community members all around enjoying the event, and it’s one of those kind of traditional events that everyone comes out for.”

The regatta included individual award categories for the boats that displayed the best “design, appearance, apparent seaworthiness, originality, spirit, environmental sustainability, endurance and adherence to the rules,” according to the press release.

The event featured races for two different categories of boats. One was the “speedster” races, where two people would ride in a small construction, while the other was the “yacht” category, where four people would ride in larger boats.

“After two years of COVID and trying to come back and build community, that’s what this is about,” McClendon said. “We try to keep these traditions going just to remind students that we are a campus, we are thriving, we are engaged in everyday life with each other. So this helps with that.”

 

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.