When UR alum Adam Keats ‘95 was a student and Campus Times editor, his father was on dialysis. “[He] was facing a kidney transplant,” Keats said. “And [he] wasn’t sure if he was going to live.” His family told him not to worry, he said, but “it’s a whole lot easier said than done.”
“So how do you find someone to talk to […] that isn’t someone who’s 19 years old who has no experience in life?”
Keats found his answer in Ray MacConnell.
MacConnell, who died last November, was for decades UR’s graphic arts manager, a florist, and village historian. But to many, including many former Campus Times staffers, he’s remembered as a friend.
His office was adjacent to the CT office, and while he had no official role in the paper, UR graduates from the paper described him as an adult ally. Keats described his unofficial role as a “shoulder to lean on” and an “adult to listen to.”
MacConnell’s tenure — he retired in 2009 — took place in a different era of the CT. This was back when the paper was printed on a Thursday. That means that everything had to be put together on Wednesday. (That process now happens on Sundays.) On Thursday morning, someone who worked for the printer would stop by and pick up that week’s pages left in a box for them, and drive them back to be printed. If the pages weren’t in the box on time, someone else would have to run them to the printer. According to Keats, MacConnell was the type of guy who would do that.
Alum Ross Brennneman ‘10, who first met MacConnell when he was CT’s Opinions Editor, remembered coming into the office every week to find a different homemade dessert from MacConnell.
“He knew,” Brenneman said, “not just that we enjoyed food. But it’s like ‘You’re going to want this at three in the morning.’”
“Sure enough, at 4 a.m. we’d be fighting over the scraps,” Brenneman said.
In a tribute to MacConnell published in the Rochester Review, alum Rachel Dickler Coker ‘96 included MacConnell’s chocolate chip cookie recipe.
“Cream the living daylights out of the brown sugar and Crisco,” the recipe reads. “Even 10 minutes — that’s the secret. Cream, cream, cream.”
Karen Ely, director of housing operations for ResLife and MacConnell’s second cousin, said she could hear it in MacConnell’s voice when she read it. Ely lives in the town of Bergen while MacConnell lived in the neighboring village of Bergen. Ely remembers MacConnell in part for his role as village historian.
MacConnell is still listed as Bergen’s village historian on the village website, where it says that he “is happy to make any of the following presentations available to your organization or school class.”
The website then lists several titles like “Harford House and Miss Potter” and “Bergen’s ‘Little Stinkers’ a study of outhouse sites in the village.”
MacConnell wore many hats, and which he’s remembered for seems to depend on who you ask — but it’s never just one. Keats remembered MacConnell making layout suggestions. Ely remembered MacConnell teaching her some of his tricks as a florist. Brenneman remembered MacConnell teaching him how to keep cookies fresh. (Put a slice of bread in the container with them.)
MacConnell was employed at UR as a graphic artist, but to many he was more than a florist, baker, friend, and historian. He was a teacher.