By Daniel Mezzalingua
In 2005, Edward “Ted” Curtis was in the middle of an average school day when his phone rang. To his great surprise, it was his college roommate, Will Cardamone, whom he hadn’t seen or talked to in years.
Curtis and Cardamone were roommates at Hamilton College two decades earlier. Now, Cardmone was calling Curtis about a job. Little did they know when they lived together in 1982, they would eventually work together at MPH.
At Hamilton, they didn’t know each other prior to becoming roommates during their sophomore year. They met while moving into their room on the first day of school.
When Curtis first met his roommate, he asked himself if it was going to work.
“You always said about your roommate, ‘Can I make this work, or not?’ and the answer was almost always, ‘Yes,’” he said.
Meanwhile, Cardamone had his thoughts on Curtis: “I thought Ted was smart. That was the first thing I thought. He had this bearing about him, I’m like ‘Oh, that kid’s probably a pretty good student.’”
Curtis said Cardamone was very welcoming. Cardamone lived in nearby Clinton and he invited his new friend to his house, where Curtis, originally from Rochester, met Cardamone’s family.
These college roommates had their differences, however. Cardamone loved sports, especially ultimate frisbee, a club sport that he captained. Curtis, on the other hand, didn’t enjoy sports at all.
“I’m not that athletic and I’m not that competitive, so it didn’t work,” Curtis said.
Aside from their athletic differences, Curtis and Cardamone had a common interest that they were extremely passionate about — music.
“One thing that was cool about Ted is he loved good music,” Cardamone said. “I loved listening to music, he could actually play music, and that intrigued me. I thought that was the freaking coolest.”
Cardamone said Curtis would play different types of music including bluegrass, folk, and rock. Curtis reminisced on a funny interaction they had in their junior year. Cardamone bought a banjo from another student, thinking he would learn how to play it. Knowing that Cardamone would put it off, Curtis saw an opportunity.
“I was already seeing that Will was not going to play the banjo,” Curtis said. “And I was sure that if I could get ahold of the banjo, I could learn to play it.”
Every night, Curtis would go to Cardamone’s room to find him doing homework, and see the banjo sitting in the corner. Curtis would pick it up and stroll around the room playing it. Eventually, Cardamone had enough of his banjo constantly being hijacked. He burst out and asked Curtis if he wanted to buy it.
“And that was it, that was my very first banjo,” Curtis said.
Cardamone remembers it well.
“He practiced that banjo more in the first week of him being around it than I did in the year and a half that I owned it,” he said.
Curtis and Cardamone also loved watching bands perform. Local Hamilton musicians would play well-known songs from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Additionally, up-and-coming musicians would perform on campus, including UB40, Bonnie Raitt, Buckwheat Zydeco and Pat Metheny. At the time, the friends didn’t realize that these artists would someday become famous.
“We were exposed to incredible music without realizing it,” Curtis said.
Cardamone, nudging Curtis’s shoulder, joked about their love of music at Hamilton.
“So Ted and I listened to a lot of music, [and] took our studies very seriously,” he said. “At times.”
The dorm was very social, and not a location to work productively. Neither Curtis nor Cardamone had any bad habits or annoying rituals when they lived together, they both said, however, Curtis remembers one particular situation that got on his nerves.
“I will say, he didn’t know it at the time, but it can be told,” Curtis said. “Mr. Cardamone gave me chicken pox.”
Cardamone had gotten sent home with an illness before realizing he had chicken pox. Unfortunately for Curtis, a school break had just begun, and he was sick in bed for the entire vacation.
“I felt bad, I don’t even know where I got it from,” Cardamone said.
After all the concerts, schoolwork, and memorable moments, they graduated from Hamilton College in 1985, Curtis with a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, and Cardamone with a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. They went their separate ways.
Curtis worked in Manhattan as a paralegal and a student teacher before attending graduate school at the University of Rochester. Two years later he was hired at MPH, eventually becoming Dean of Students.
Meanwhile, Cardamone spent two years after college as a wilderness guide before attending Vermont Law School. He taught high school history and then practiced law in Utica for three years before returning to Hamilton to work in the admissions office. He often visited independent schools and talked to college counselors, and became interested in being a college counselor himself. He discussed the idea with his wife.
“She said, ‘Well, you better find one close by, because we’re not moving,’” Cardamone recalls.
Manlius Pebble Hill was the closest independent school to Clinton. Then, after not talking for 20 years, Cardamone gave his old friend a call.
“I’m sitting in the dean’s office, and the phone rings — ‘Ted Curtis,’” says Curtis, answering the phone.
“Ted, it’s Will Cardamone, calling from the past,” replied Cardamone.
“Will Cardamone! I haven’t seen you in 20 years! How’ve you been?”
The two later had dinner and caught up on what they’d done since college. Cardamone mentioned his interest in becoming a high-school guidance counselor, so Curtis invited Cardamone to take a tour of MPH. Cardamone admired the welcoming environment. He also recalls meeting Sue Foster, the science teacher, whose husband played ultimate frisbee with him at Hamilton.
“All of a sudden, I’m like ‘I can see myself there’ because a lot of the people I admired and liked going to Hamilton with were working here, and wouldn’t it be cool to be reunited,” Cardamone said. “It’s just unbelievable that it worked out that way.”
While Cardamone had been interested in working at MPH as a college counselor, an opportunity to be the Dean of Students — the position that Curtis was just transitioning out of — had opened up. Though it wasn’t the position Cardamone was seeking, he took the job, knowing he could eventually switch into the college counseling department.
“It was fortuitous,” Cardamone said.
Looking back, Curtis and Cardamone never imagined as sophomores in college that they’d eventually work together.
“We didn’t even know what work was,” Curtis said.
It was the luck of the draw. Once college roommates, sharing cassette tapes and raving about rock and roll, Curtis and Cardamone continue to work in their respective departments, sometimes passing each other in the halls and having short conversations within the rush of the school day. But in the back of their minds are college memories that will last forever.
“It came as a complete surprise,” Curtis said. “Any one of us might have been in Hong Kong or anywhere, we just ended up right next door, together again.”