Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Genial, smiling and friendly...

That's how Beryl Roberts '45 described Dr. Donald Tower in a piece in the Stylus in February 1945, when he had been here just about a year as president of the college, having taken over from Ernest Hartwell in February 1944. Tower was a native New Yorker, having grown up in Dundee NY in the Finger Lakes. He was educated in the local schools there, and then attended Albany State Teachers College and New York University. His first job after graduating Albany in 1919 was as a high school teacher in Olean NY, for $1,100 per year!  

After receiving advanced degrees he was head of the training school department at Oswego before coming to Brockport.  When he became president of this college in 1944 it was quite small, just 325 students, and the whole campus was what we now call Hartwell Hall and Alumni House (at the time, Alumni House was the president's home; Dr. Tower was the last president to live there.)

In here "Personality Plus" column, Beryl Roberts described Dr. Tower as saying that as far as hobbies went, he loved hiking, and also swimming and reading, His real hobby he said was his job, that he immensely enjoyed working with people and teaching. She noted that "Steak and French fries are Dr. Tower's favorite dish - though he admits that like most of us he hasn't partaken of them in a long time." (This was during WWII, and food rationing was in effect...) She also noted that Dr. Tower's academic interests were in English and dramatics. (Dr. Tower wrote an early book on dramatics for the college level, Educational Dramatics, 1930.)

In a Stylus article a few years later, in 1953, the writer noted that "Dr. Tower's theory of administration is one of close contact between the administrator and the administrated. At no time is the door to Dr. Tower's office closed... Dr. Tower said, 'Please don't make your story an obituary, I want the student body to know me as a person, not merely as an office holder."

When Dr. Tower retired from Brockport in 1964 he had helped establish the SUNY system in the late 1940s, and seen Brockport grow as a campus and a school much beyond what it had been in 1944. He didn't completely retire though, as he taught for several years more as an adjunct at St. John Fisher. Dr. Tower died in 1977, but is fondly remembered by many Brockport alum and emeriti to this day.

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