Many students and colleagues remember Professor Sallyann Giuffrida’s wonderful costumes: a groundhog, constellations, even the Wizard of Oz in his hot-air balloon, a costume that actually included a weather balloon and a basket. There was a catch, though: Students in her class would have to guess what her costume represented.
The answer might have seemed easy the day Giuffrida showed up to class dressed, to all appearances, as a cloud. Her husband Sylvester Giuffrida helped her glue on puffs before class that day, he remembered.
“What am I?” she challenged students.
“A cloud,” came the inevitable answer. Mrs. G – as she was known to students – then whipped out a water gun and sprayed the class, retorting: “No, I’m partly cloudy with a chance of showers!”
Although Professor Giuffrida passed away in March 2014, her memory lives on at SUNY Broome. On Aug. 4, the college dedicated Mrs. G’s Weather Station in her memory. While the data-gathering equipment resides on the roof of the Applied Technologies Building, visitors can access detailed meteorological information at a weather kiosk in the Natural Sciences Center, as well as online.
Funding for the weather station was made possible thanks to the generous financial support of the Giuffrida family.
The station named in her honor – a Davis Instruments Vantage Pro Plus 2 – includes a weather webcam that displays current conditions on campus, and transmits data to both the college’s Weather Underground site and to a computer in the NSC, where it is archived. The NSC kiosk is run by an iPad pro display locked to the Weather Underground station page, and presents opportunities for students to interact with a display.
While the National Weather Service office forecasts from a hilltop in the Town of Maine, SUNY Broome’s station gives the weather conditions from the valley, which can differ from those on the hilltops.
“The installation is a daily reminder of Sally’s presence,” said Professor Kennie Leet, chair of the Physical Science department. “Sally had a radiant energy, much like the sun, the rainbows and the phenomena she loved so much.”
A passion for science and education
Sallyann Giuffrida earned her bachelor’s degree in Meteorology and Oceanography from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute in 1978, one of the few women in science at the time. She started at SUNY Broome as a technical/lab assistant that same year, and later taught physics, physical science courses and their corresponding labs.
Mrs. G’s true love was in meteorology, and she designed the curriculum and labs for the Meteorology course that is still taught to this day.
She ran outside during hailstorms, and kept the hail she gathered in the freezer, her husband recounted. In a way, it’s apropos that the dedication occurred on the opening day of Spiedie Fest because she loved the balloons – and could always be found in the pilots’ tent, talking about wind speed with the balloonists.
“When someone asked, ‘How’s the weather?’ her response would be “are you just making conversation or do you really want to know?’” he recalled.
She was also a passionate and dedicated teacher who embraced new models of science education, and mentored both students and colleagues. Walking through the mall, former students stopped her repeatedly to say hello and catch up, her husband said.
“She really had a breadth of knowledge she shared with students. I remember speaking to one student who told me, ‘She’s a really demanding individual, but she’s such a connecting individual,’” said Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer Francis Battisti.
Giuffrida had that rare gift: the ability to engage everyone in a classroom, Professor Leet recalled. She taught students to be both good citizens and good consumers of scientific information, the latter increasingly important in a world soaked with information. She also took a picture of every class she ever taught, which she proudly displayed in her office.
SUNY Broome alumna Erin Potter took Giuffrida’s meteorology course a decade ago, and it re-kindled her interest in the field and ultimately her career. In second grade, she had been both fascinated and frightened by an outbreak of tornadoes that hit the Southern Tier; that fascination resurfaced while at SUNY Broome.
She frequently stayed after class to ask her professor questions, and became her teaching assistant. This fall, she is returning to SUNY Broome as an instructor to teach her mentor’s course.
“I want to spark that interest in science and the natural world that Sally did,” she said.
Giuffrida had passions outside of the classroom, as well. She loved sports, particularly hockey, and enjoyed theater, and sang in the Vestal Community Chorus, her husband remembered.
Continuing her legacy
After her passing, the incredible Mrs. G. continues to have an impact on SUNY Broome students.
The Sallyann Giuffrida Memorial Scholarship Fund was established through the Broome Community College Foundation in her memory, and provides scholarships for students planning to further their education in science. The goal, family members said, is to encourage these students to complete their four-year degree.
And now, the weather kiosk will provide a direct connection between the late professor and students, a connection centered on her favorite topic: the weather.
The professor’s daughter, Annette Giuffrida-Levesque, attended the dedication with many friends and family members. She wore her mother’s celestial necklace, which depicted each of the planets, as she held her young son Thomas – appropriately wearing a t-shirt depicting clouds, rain and lightning. Annette and her brother knew how to identify clouds from the time they were five, she remembered with a smile.
“My mom would have loved this. She always liked reaching out to people, and now she’s reaching out to so many more people,” she said.