OSWEGO, NY – Hundreds of students lined up outside SUNY Oswego’s Marano Campus Center today (Oct. 16) in the chilly fog and sporadic showers.
Many of them arrived several hours before the guest of honor. Some even gave up a night’s sleep to ensure themselves of a spot at the head of the line so they could catch a glimpse of one of the college’s most famous grads – Al Roker.
He returned to campus to do some live broadcasts as part of the Today Show. At 5:30 a.m., he broadcast his “Wake Up with Al” show on the Weather Channel from the college TV station. Then, it was out into the main hallway for Today Show (7 – 9 a.m.).
The huge crowd clogged the hallway. Some stood on chairs, counters or whatever they could find. Dozens more watched through the glass doors from outside.
Several hundred students, area residents and alumni, many waving signs and photos featuring the guest of honor, crowded around Roker. Many took selfies, with the 1976 grad in the background. Throughout the morning, Roker mingled with the crowd for some up close selfies as well as signing dozens of autographs.
During Roker’s broadcast, dozens of signs were held up behind him. The messages ranged from “Oswego Loves Al Roker,” “Once a Laker Always a Laker Welcome Home, Al” to “Hi Mom – Send $.”
In between broadcasting national weather reports, including reports of a potential hurricane heading toward Hawaii and people on the tiny British territory of Bermuda hunkering down for Hurricane Gonzalo, which was roaring toward them as a Category 4 storm, Roker offered some lighter fare.
Roker said he lived in Onondaga Hall, one of the college’s first co-ed dorms, one year. “It didn’t really do me any good,” he quipped.
“The food is pretty good in the dinning hall,” he said. “Back in the day when I worked in the dinning hall, we had Salisbury steak. It was so bad once that they started sticking it onto the bulletin boards.”
He also shared a short video of a tour he took Wednesday around campus and downtown – including one of his favorite haunts during his college years … the Oswego Sub Shop.
“Yes, this is the Al Roker Sub! It’s got plenty of ham!” he joked as he took a bite of the sandwich that bears his name.
“I’m a big Al Roker fan. In fact one of his roommates was from my hometown (North Tonawanda). I was at Oswego when Al was at Oswego. I graduated in 1974 and he graduated a couple years later,” Mike Midura said.
It took about two and a half hours to get to Oswego from Buffalo, he said.
“I stayed overnight on Wednesday. I wanted to get here early. By the time I got here around 5:30 a.m., there just people all over the place,” he said. “But it was great to be back here and see all the people turn out to see Al.”
He is a member of Psi (sigh) Phi (fie) Gamma (gam-ah).
The fraternity was established in 1925 and is the oldest fraternity in Oswego, he said.
“This is our 90th year. Our house burned down in the late 1990s, by an arsonist. This year we are going to join together with the Make A Wish Foundation and set a world record playing Twister at Oswego. Hopefully it will raise a lot of money for them,” he said.
Kirby Socker may be just a freshman at SUNY Oswego, but the Baldwinsville native has a clear view of the job she wants after graduation.
“That’s my goal. I’m just a freshman, but my dream job is getting a job on the Today Show,” she told Oswego County Today.
She is a broadcasting major, but is thinking about going for a double major in journalism.
“It was really exciting to see an actual broadcast from right here on campus. I’ve never been to the Today Show, so this is the closest I’ve ever been. I was really excited,” she said.
Larry Rapshaw remembers Roker as always smiling.
Rapshaw was a music major at the time Roker attended SUNY Oswego.
“What I remember most is his beaming face. He stood there like he was going to make a great announcement of some sort,” Rapshaw told Oswego County Today. “He was always very happy. When he’d say hi to you, he’d say your name and ask how you were. He hasn’t really changed at all over the years. He was just a very nice guy, and still is.”