SUNY was formally established in 1949. In the picture here we see the presidents of the various state colleges posing for the launch of the new system. Brockport was represented by President Tower (whom Tower Fine Arts is named after, 2nd from the left, 2nd row.) It was a historic moment. Unlike many other states, which already had extensive, well established public higher education systems at that time (think Ohio State for example,) New York did not. Our state's public higher education was dominated by a network of prominent and politically powerful private colleges. The public higher education system was a weak network of small teacher training colleges and technical schools.
The 1949 launch of SUNY marked a shift towards a much more robust higher education system, and one that offered opportunity to many potential students who could not have afforded a private school education, and who perhaps would not have been accepted in the private schools of that day, which were not always welcoming of diversity.