First Person

A Familiar Stranger

Eleanor Napoli ’20

I have always loved attending college sporting events, especially ones that involved St. Lawrence. My favorite game to watch is lacrosse. The fast pace and the swift passes from player to player has always been exciting. Last spring, when my friend Brooke Kelly ’20, a member of the Saints women’s lacrosse team, told me that she had her first conference game at home against Clarkson, there was no reason for me not to go. I knew that it would be fun to see SLU play against our rival school, support my friend, and enjoy being outdoors on a Saturday morning. 

The day started off great with a Dana brunch and some extra layers for a chilly spring day here in the NoCo (North Country for those unfamiliar with the new lingo). After halftime, my friends returned to their seats while I stood beside the bleachers, planning to leave the game a little early to get some work done. 

The game grew intense: Clarkson and St. Lawrence were see-sawing points. With 25 minutes left in the game, I noticed an older gentleman wearing St. Lawrence gear from head to toe. Naturally, I assumed that he was a returning alumnus or a parent of a player—in other words, a Laurentian, and immediate familiar.

He noticed my St. Lawrence Rowing sweatshirt and said, “So have you hit the tanks yet today?” I thought to myself, “What a nice, involved alum, and isn’t it amazing how he knows about St. Lawrence’s new indoor rowing tanks.” 

That friendly question from this familiar stranger started a conversation about so much more. We continued talking about rowing, the lacrosse game, our families, and hometowns, and he started telling me about his own time at St. Lawrence. Trying to keep up my end of the conversation, I asked him if St. Lawrence had changed a lot since his time here. 

He looked at me, and smiled, and asked if I was wondering about his undergrad experience at St. Lawrence or his experience working with the University as the president. I just kind of nodded my head as he was speaking, but after a minute of processing exactly what he said, my eyes grew big and I started sweating: This man was President Fox! 

Immediately, I could feel my face heat up. I just spent 25 minutes talking to the president and had no idea who he was. I smiled. Our conversation was filled with laughter, short stories, and the realization that, in addition to our love for St. Lawrence, we had a lot in common: We were both animal lovers; both of us had a respect and admiration for the North Country, and we both valued the sense of community on campus and beyond. 

After the game had ended, my friends started laughing, and one friend jokingly said that she bet $20 that I had no clue to whom I was talking to. I admitted that I did not know who he was until about 20 minutes into our conversation, which was met with chuckles and many heads shaking. 

As I replayed the situation over and over in my head, I think that there was something nice about not knowing. In that moment, he was just another example of how common it was for our incredible alumni to come back and support St. Lawrence. There was a raw authenticity in this candid conversation with just another Laurentian, President Fox, the familiar stranger I met while cheering on the Saints women’s lacrosse.

Drawing of a St. Lawrence baseball cap