Half-Century of Memories

Patricia DeSantis and Herbert Lightner as they looked while students at Onondaga.

Patricia DeSantis and Herbert Lightner as they looked while students at Onondaga.

Patricia DeSantis-Lightner and Herbert Lightner are Onondaga Community College’s first couple – literally. The Lightners met at Onondaga the year the school opened, were members of the College’s first graduating class in 1964, married three years later, and are now celebrating 47 years of marriage. “We have great memories of our time at OCC. It’s where everything began for us,” said DeSantis-Lightner.

The Lightner’s returned to OCC in July 2014 for a 50th reunion of that first graduating class, and they came to a much different college than they one they left. When the Lightner’s began taking classes in 1962 OCC was located at Midtown Plaza in downtown Syracuse. Today the College’s home is 280 acres on Onondaga Hill. The reunion gave the Lightner’s an opportunity to see their alma mater for the first time since graduating. “It’s gorgeous! It’s well planned and well maintained,” said DeSantis-Lightner. “I had heard it was nice but had no idea it was this nice,” added Lightner. “It’s amazing to think that the place where we started has become this!”

Herbert Lightner and Patricia DeSantis-Lightner on campus 50 years later for their class reunion.

Herbert Lightner and Patricia DeSantis-Lightner on campus 50 years later for their class reunion.

The Lightners grew up just three miles apart from each other but didn’t meet until their first semester; DeSantis-Lightner was from the north side of Syracuse, Lightner from Liverpool. DeSantis-Lightner majored in Math, Lightner in Science. Both wanted to be teachers. After graduating they went on to earn their B.A. and B.S. degrees at SUNY Oswego and their M.S. degrees at Western Connecticut State University. They were married in 1967.

Both got teaching jobs downstate. DeSantis-Lightner taught Math for 34 years at Mildred Strang Middle School in Yorktown Heights, NY. Lightner taught Biology for 32 years at John Jay High School in Katonah, NY. They lived in Somers, NY which is equidistant from both school districts. Both are now retired and still live in the same home.

The 50th reunion provided the Lightners a wonderful opportunity to take a trip down memory lane. “We really loved our time here,” said Lightner. “We made real lasting friendships,” said DeSantis-Lightner. “These are 50-year friends here. We’ve stayed in touch and treasured their friendships our whole lives.”

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