Bill Holder arrived on campus with a two-year plan and singular ambition. Already a champion horseman, he thought a degree might add to his opportunities. Before long, he was asking himself, “What do I need to do to stay here forever?”
Holder, class of ’72, did not stay at SUNY Cobleskill forever, though it is fair to say the inverse has happened – SUNY Cobleskill stays with Holder to this day, in the form of life’s friendships, lessons, and successes. It began in 1970, when Holder (aka “t.h.e. Squid”) connected with dormitory floormates Robert (aka “Beaver”) Weaver ’72, Gary (aka “Willy”) Farney ’72, and Thomas Watts ’73. Their friendship was immediate. It was also forever. “We were always there for each other, through thick and thin,” recounts Holder, to College President Marion A. Terenzio. “It boiled down to life.”
Life and its opportunities rose to the top, thanks to SUNY Cobleskill. New friendships formed, new perspectives emerged, and new ways of thinking became apparent. “We had the ability to learn about a bigger world in the context of our own growth,” says Holder. “How did we fit into that context? So many of us only knew the small life in the small communities in which we were raised. All of a sudden these other opportunities became possible… I thought they would teach me a little more about horses and really, I learned much more about life… There was more to be found every time you turned a corner. So I enthusiastically kept turning corners.”
He was not alone. Holder, Watts, Weaver, and Farney maintained a tight-knit friendship throughout their studies. The memories they made in those years forged a bond that carried into their adult lives. “Our strongest bond,” says Holder, “is that we all valued our memories of Coby, in part because of the fun, all being on the same floor in the dorm, but also because of the growth we experienced together. We grew by leaps and bounds in the knowledge we gained. It opened our minds, eyes and hearts.”
Today, Holder is celebrating memories in addition to recalling them. Watts died suddenly in 2013. Weaver and Farney passed away earlier this year.
“I would like people to know the genuine, caring, thoughtful people that they were. All three of these guys put others before themselves, and that was how they worked and lived… Their lives were enhanced and catalyzed by SUNY Cobleskill. They lived as we were at Coby – all for one, one for all. ‘Floor Family.’”
Among the memories and the friendships are the lessons. Holder credits SUNY Cobleskill for instilling more than a few and shaping his life by teaching him how limitless the opportunities for growth and success are.
“To not seize an opportunity for personal growth is a terrible waste. A place like Coby creates a great opportunity to learn to thrive – if you so choose… You learn about personal choice, and about setting and then raising personal goals. But if you’re going to hoot with the owls, don’t miss the opportunity to get up and soar with the eagles!”