Monday, November 28, 2011

The first dedicated dining hall at Brockport

In 1928 a space in the college building (it was just the one building then, standing where Hartwell is today,) was dedicated for use as a cafeteria.  The December 5, 1928 article in the Stylus on the cafeteria noted that this was the first cafeteria in the history of the school!

While in earlier years some students, as well as faculty, had roomed in the building where there were kitchen facilities there was never a cafeteria or dining hall as such. After a terrible dorm fire at Fredonia at the turn of the century students no longer lived on campus, and either boarded in town, or commuted from home. So to have a space right in the building where you could get a hot meal on a cold day, or some coffee or tea, and not have to go out to your boarding house, or eat a cold lunch from home, was a real advancement in campus life!

The Stylus article gave credit to Principal (President) Alfred Thompson for encouraging the project and finding some $2,000 to support it, and to the labor of the Phi Alpha Zeta fraternity members who did a lot of the actual work in renovating the space. Mrs. Mabel Good, a local caterer and cook, was put in charge of the cafeteria, and the decorating was overseen by Miss Yale, a popular art teacher at the school.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Herman Burlingame, a faculty biography

Herman Burlingame was a professor of mathematics at the Normal School, and he did double duty by also serving as the librarian. Born in 1835, he was from Norwich, where he had attended the Norwich Academy and worked as a surveyor with his father. He later taught mathematics at that academy, and then in 1868 came to Brockport as teacher of mathematics. A keen mathematician, he offered one of the early algebraic proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem, and developed a set of special blocks for teaching calculation of cubic roots; a set of the blocks are on display in the Alumni House.

In his role as librarian for the Normal School he helped expand a small book collection into more of a real library, building one of the larger libraries among New York Normal Schools. This and the reading room he established were forerunners of today's Drake Library.

A popular teacher and colleague, he appears to be have had the unfortunate distinction of being the first serving faculty member to die (1891) while still on the staff. His death was widely mourned in both the campus and village communities, and a special memorial booklet was published by his colleages, who observed of Professor Burlingame that he was:

"...always genial and courteous, ready to lend a helping hand whenever needed, constant and faithful in his work. He commanded our respect by his ability as an instructor and his manly Christian character, and we never failed to find in him a steadfast and symapthizing friend, while his cheerful patience and fortitude during these last months have made him still more dear to us."