Syracuse University Magazine

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Elaine Kingsley ’50 and Lester Stoddard ’50 at the 1949 ROTC Ball.



Years of Joy

By N. Lester Stoddard

In 1945, Syracuse University informed me I had been accepted under the GI Bill. After serving three years in North Africa and Italy, and receiving a Bronze Star and Purple Heart, I was most excited. I was first sent to University College and then to the engineering school, but I did not do well with courses like Differential Calculus, so I was asked to take a three-day aptitude test. The result was high in art. 

One of my Phi Kappa Tau fraternity brothers suggested I meet the dean of Crouse Hall, where he was taking interior design. She asked to see my portfolio, and, of course, I had none. She then enrolled me in four classes during the Summer Session. I am forever grateful to her as I received three A’s and a B—which I’ll come back to later. 

In my junior year at Crouse, I was talking to my roommate’s girlfriend, Ginny, when the most beautiful girl I ever saw came down the stairs. It was Elaine Kingsley, who had graduated from Schenectady High School with me. With the help of Ginny and her sorority sisters, I got my first date with Elaine. I picked her up at Zeta Tau Alpha in the used car I had bought with my Army pay. We drove off to the theater in downtown Syracuse—the start of 59 wonderful years together.

Elaine was very active on campus. She sang at many dances and was featured on the campus radio station with her classmate, Dick Clark ’51. As I was getting my commission in the ROTC program, I was proud that Elaine was selected ROTC queen. A talented painter, Elaine took a job as curator at the Albany Institute of History and Art after our graduation in 1950. She went on to teach in the Schenectady School System and returned to Syracuse 10 years later to earn a master’s degree in art education. When New York State adopted a program for gifted and talented students, Elaine was asked to serve as chair. She presented the program to schools across the state and later introduced it to American schools abroad in Milan and Athens.

As for me, I had my own interior design business in Schenectady and then Florida. It was 50 years of pure joy. In 1958, I was elected president of the Schenectady Junior Chamber of Commerce. I was later elected president of the New York State and Ontario, Canada, Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers and then served on the society’s national board of directors. In this capacity, I met and talked to many well-known people, including Pope Pius XII and Pat and Richard Nixon (when he was vice president), and had dinners with Colonel Sanders, Celeste Holm, Beverly Sills, Jim Brown ’57, and Sidney Poitier. Syracuse opened a whole new world for us.

Elaine and I were blessed to have one daughter, Alyson. In high school she excelled in art and painting and received many awards and scholarships, which brought her to Syracuse University, where she graduated in 1973. For 35 years, Alysonhas had her own painting studio in Hampstead, New Hampshire, where she also teaches painting to students of all ages.

In 2007, Elaine passed away at our home in Florida. I now live with Alyson and her husband. I have three grandchildren and a great-grandchild, Summer Kingsley Thompson. She is the perfect image of Elaine, thus the middle name.

Now, about that course I took back in the summer of 1946: For years, my daughter kept my 10 “B” watercolors in her garage. I framed and matted those 10 paintings, now more than 60 years old, for the “Artist of the Month” program at my golf club in Florida. Would you believe—five of them sold!

N. Lester Stoddard ’50 lives in Hampstead, New Hampshire.

 


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Elaine Kingsley ’50, Queen of the ROTC, on parade on the Quad in 1949.