A Parent Reflection: The First Summer at Rensselaer

Downtown Troy

“So, you’re going to stay in Troy ALL summer?”

That was the response from my mom back in the spring of 1989 when I first told her I was planning on taking a summer class at Rensselaer while working for an adjunct professor from the School of Architecture. I was the oldest of three boys and the first of my single mother’s children to truly leave home. I said it was a work opportunity and that I would be living with a bunch of friends. It was a difficult conversation that I remember to this day.

Little did I know at the time that the off-the-cuff decision to follow a job lead while taking a class would be such a highlight of my RPI experience. The summers in Troy offer a combination of beautiful weather, a relaxed atmosphere, and an opportunity for exploration. Long before the Saturday morning farmers market and hip craft breweries became a staple of downtown Troy culture, there were multiple diners like Jimmy’s Lunch and Manory’s for good inexpensive meals, musical hamlets like Rolls Touring Company for acoustic shows, and great Italian food at more restaurants than I can name. Weekend trip memories included going to Albany for a concert, Grafton state park, just 30 minutes up Hoosick Street on Route 7, for a lake swim and cool down, or even a trip to New York City. When August came, my first trip to Saratoga Race Course and the quaint downtown near it, would certainly not be my last. These memories and the friends that I experienced them with are what I reflect upon when thinking of the first of multiple summers living in Troy.

This summer my son, a sophomore Mechanical Engineering student, is also spending the summer at Rensselaer, but this time in the more formal Arch program. He expressed some trepidation at first, like any venture forth into the unknown, but his calls home have been few, and always end with “I am going out with some friends.” As an RPI alumnus, and now a parent of a Rensselaer student who is part of The Arch program, I have a very unique perspective. Was that one summer, my first time living a full year away from home, where I met my wife and a number of friends who I saw this past spring as I celebrated my 50th birthday, the one highlight of my college career? Looking back 30 years, I don’t know. What I do know is that it was part of my transformative time at Rensselaer and the independence of that summer contributed to me becoming the person that I am today.

My advice to parents is that The Arch is an opportunity for our sons and daughters to take that next step both academically and personally into independence within the framework of the college experience. The Arch in my mind is like a bridge that we and the Rensselaer community help them cross.

Stephen Huot, BArch, Class of 1992