Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Hartwell & Tower

Since we have a new president at the college, it seems appropriate to look back at some of our previous presidents. Here are two who saw the college through some very challenging and interesting times. Ernest Hartwell, left, was the last principal of the old Normal school, and the first president of the Teachers College, a transformation in the school he was instrumental in achieving. He also successfully staved off the threat of closure of the school, something we can all be grateful for! He served here 1936-1944.

Donald Tower, right, was president of the college from 1944-1964. When he came here the school was a small institution with perhaps 300 students and 25 faculty, all in the one building, (which we now call Hartwell Hall.) The post WWII years radically transformed Brockport, like all higher education then. Tower was a founding member of the SUNY system in 1948, oversaw the expansion of the campus by a number of buildings, including Lathrop  on Kenyon, shown in this photo, and saw the enrollment grow from a few hundred to a few thousand students and a corresponding growth in staffing levels.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Hello Goodbye

This is just a charming picture, part of a set of slides Rosalie Mowers took of her kindergarten class in 1953. Part of a section labeled "Hello Goodbye" it shows these girls going home from the campus school!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Raye Conrad, disc jockey!

This slide is part of a set of recruitment photos taken c.1950. The slide shows Frank Lane, Education, left, then an unidentified woman, Wayne Dedman, History; Ray Conrad, Education, at the record player; and Pauline Haynes, Music, right.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Original Ellsworth

This is the original painting of Ellsworth, from a photo in the 1963 Saga yearbook. The painting hung then in Lathrop, which at that time was the student union. The painting was lost somewhere along the way in subsequent years, and the one in Seymour today is a more recent version. Bob Bloxsom was the student artist who painted the original in 1956.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Name this machine!

Recently the archivist shared some photos of Greg Scarborough who was a physics professor here from 1958-89, with his son Mark. In one of the photos, from 1958, Professor Scarborough is in the lab, at a machine; can anyone ID the machine? We're pretty sure it isn't a roulette wheel ;-)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Brockport Beats Army!!!

The 1955 Brockport men's soccer team, coached by Huntley Parker, was a real force to be reckoned with. They beat Army at West Point and were the national champions that year. Here they are at West Point for that famous game!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Can you read this?

The question refers to the letter shown here. It is a scan of a letter Mary Jane Holmes, noted Brockport author of a century ago, wrote to a friend in 1884. The letter, as was the common practice then, was written in cursive penmanship. Nowadays many younger people do not learn cursive writing in school, and when confronted with a handwritten document like this are often at a loss to read it. The letter will be posted soon in the Mary Jane Holmes section of our Digital Commons; perhaps we should make a print transcription of it first!

Friday, August 21, 2015

First Winning Football Team

Football was played at the old Brockport Normal school as far back as the 1890s; Principal Charles McLean was the coach. The team played against some other schools, but there wasn't a formal program, no dedicated coaches, it was all rather casual by today's standards. After WWI football fell out of favor in many schools, due to controversy over injuries, and questions of "professionalism."

When WWII ended however it was decided to revive football, and Bob Boozer was hired as the coach. The first season was that of 1947. It takes time to grow a team, but in the fall of 1957 Brockport had its first winning football season, with a tally of 4-2-1. Shown here is halfback Bob Berg '58, who played on that winning team.

In 1987 Mike Andriatch, who was Sports Information Director then, organized a reunion of that team of '57.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Governor Harriman visits Brockport!

Well, he did, in October 1958! It was an election year, and Harriman, a Democrat, was running for his second term as governor against Nelson Rockefeller, Republican. Harriman was an interesting man. His father was a wealthy railroad baron, and when Harriman was a boy he went on his father's "Harriman Alaska Expedition," traveling on his father's yacht with a party that included such figures as John Muir and Edward Curtis. In the WWII years he was our ambassador to the Soviet Union.

However, unfortunately for Harriman, but perhaps fortunately for SUNY, Rockefeller won. Over the next decade or so he presided over a massive expansion of the state's public higher education system that saw schools like ours grow at a phenomenal rate. Brockport for example went from 1000 or so  students in 1958 to over 10,000 in the late '60s!

Monday, July 27, 2015

"A good fellow"

In preparing a slide show about African American history at the college for an upcoming Black Student Liberation Front & OSAD reunion, the archives yielded a number of images of African American students. The reunion planners were interested to hear the depth of the African American experience at Brockport, as evidenced by students like Robert Bray, Class of 1937.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

An AV Survivor

Shown here is a ca1930 Balopticon "magic lantern," a projector for the glass slides then in use (35mm slides weren't developed till the latter 1930s, and not widely used till after WWII.) This machine was part of the school's audio-visual equipment, along with a large collection of glass slides, covering the different countries of the world, famous artworks etc. We still have not only several projectors, but a wooden cabinet with thousands of slides!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer cookout!

For some years the college put on a cookout in the summer for staff and students. That tradition is being revived this summer, and as a preview, here is a shot from an earlier cookout, summer 2001.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Class of '65 dorm life

This class had a lively and enjoyable reunion this past week, as they were inducted into the Hartwell Society on the occasion of their 50th anniversary. Pictured here are some of the members as they were in the dorms some fifty years ago!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Hartwell, the man

For many years the Georgian style building we call Hartwell Hall has been a landmark on campus, and its tower has often served as a logo for the school. The building was built in the late 1930s to replace the old building complex that had stood in about the same location. Ernest Hartwell was the principal at the time, as the heads of Normal schools were called. He was only head of the school for eight years, from 1936 - 1944, but he had great influence on the school's direction and infrastructure.

When he came in 1936 we were a Normal school, as were all of the SUNY four year schools of today. Normals were schools for training teachers, they had a three year course and when done one received a certificate as a teacher in the state elementary schools, but not a bachelors degree. The building complex dated back to the 1850s, and while picturesque, a lack of funds had led to much deterioration.

Under Hartwell the threat of closure of the school was staved off, a new building complex acquired, and in 1942, Brockport and the other state Normal schools all became Teachers Colleges, granting the bachelors degree for the first time.

Hartwell was in some ways a stern and formal man. He insisted on maintaining appearances, once chastising a student for being seen on Main Street, chewing gum, something no aspiring teacher should be seen doing! He was also an active educator who took a real interest in the students, and did all he could to ensure their success here. The photo here is from the 1944 Saga yearbook.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

"Ready To Roll"

In the college archives we have a slim volume entitled Ready To Roll: An intrepid teacher's journey in education. The book was published in 1982 and is an edited memoir of the life of Lena Agnes Boyle 1917, who in latter life became known as Lea Cowles Masters. The book is drawn from a set of tapes Masters recorded, at the suggestion of some Brockport emeriti she had come into contact with in her retirement in Arizona, such as Wayne Dedman, History. Ron Watts prepared the edited transcript version of her tapes, with Peg Hare Browne, Bruce Leslie, Ken O'Brian and others playing a part as well.

While her teaching career after Brockport started conventionally enough, as a grade school teacher in Port Jervis NY, by the 1930s she had acquired a bachelors and masters degrees, and became active in New Deal efforts to expand nursery and preschool education in places as far flung as the Virgin Islands and Alabama. After WWII she established the preschool for the children of staff of the newly formed United Nations. Recently the archives was contacted by a staff person at the UN school, inquiring about her, and that query prompted the scanning of her book and placement of it in our Digital Commons where you can read it now.

Lea Cowles Masters is shown here with then President Albert Brown in 1980.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Gifford Morgan & the cornerstone

We have many buildings on campus today, a couple of which were quite recently built, the SERC and the Liberal Arts Building. For a very long time however, from the start of the school in 1835 till after WWII, the college was essentially a one building school. The original building was badly damaged by fire in the 1850s (supposedly the fire was accidently started by students cooking taffy in their room!) That was rebuilt, and then wings added on in 1867 and again in 1900. That complex was still here in the 1930s, but much of it was in poor condition, in part because for years poor funding had precluded the routine maintenance necessary for any building.

Ernest Hartwell came here as principal, as the president of a Normal school was called, in 1936. He worked hard, and successfully, to stave off the threat of closing the school, and in fact managed to secure funding for an entirely new building complex, today's Hartwell Hall. An important supporter of his campaign was Gifford Morgan, who was on the board of the school, and member of a prominent local family with many political connections. The Morgan Manning House on Main Street was the Morgan family home then. Shown here is Gifford Morgan laying the 1938 cornerstone for the new building.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

I Love Lucy

"I Love Lucy" was a very popular show in the early 1950s of course, but many don't know that there is a Brockport connection. Bernard Drake, who was head of the campus school here, and then a dean, had in his earlier years been principal of the high school in Jamestown, NY that Lucille Ball had attended. In 1956 an article in the Stylus described how she invited Drake to Jamestown for a get together of former friends and classmates, and to premier her latest movie, "Forever Darling." At the event Lucille Ball recalled how Drake had built up the drama program at the high school, and had given her much personal encouragement.

(Oh, in case anyone is wondering, Bernard Drake is one of two people the library is named after. The other is Ruth Drake, who was a campus school librarian here. Confusingly enough, they were not in fact related!)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Brockport from the air, ca1950

Here's an aerial shot from our past,  from about 1950, perhaps a little earlier. It shows houses all around the campus that no longer are there, not only on Kenyon, but on the Utica Street side of Hartwell too. If you look off in the distance you can see "West Hall," a temporary dorm structure, where Rakov is today. The great expansion of the 1950s and '60s was about to begin!

(Click on the photo to make it larger.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

An early history by Alene Butler '29

Alene Butler '29 was a real Brockport product. First she went K-12 in the "Training School," as the campus school was then called - the village of Brockport didn't build its own high school until about 1930. Then she attended the Normal school itself, graduating with the class of 1929. She then went to the University of Rochester and got a bachelors degree, and got a job teaching history in the newly established Brockport High School. Over the next few years she worked in the summers on a masters degree from the University of Rochester.

Her thesis interestingly enough was on the history of the Brockport Collegiate Institute, the original form of our school. Much of her research was done using the rudimentary archives of the time, a closet in the principal's office holding old student registers, catalogs, correspondence books and so forth. Her thesis has been digitized and is now available on our Digital Commons.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Black history at Brockport

A reunion is being planned this summer for alumni who were part of the early Black Student Liberation Front and OSAD in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As part of that a display of black history at Brockport is being worked on in the archives. One of the organizers was interested to learn that there were some black students here before the '60s, as evidenced in this photo of Barbara Wolcott, '55, teaching in the campus school.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

AV Party!

There was an active audio-visual program here in the 1950s. Sherwin Swartout was an innovative leader in the field, and Brockport became well known for its work with instructional television and related efforts. Here is a photo of the AV Club in the 1950s having a party. The archivist is currently sharing this and other photos with Jeanette Banker '53, trying to identify people and scenes, but any ideas from anyone else are welcome! Please contact Charlie Cowling,

Monday, February 23, 2015

Chess Club, 1950s

This is an image we think of the chess club in the 1950s. Standing, L-R looks like Kaarlo Filppu, Social Science; Louis Hetler, Theater; and perhaps Howard Kiefer, Education? Anyone you recognize? (Remember, if you click on the photo you can see it larger size.)

The setting by the way appears to be in the original student union building, today's Lathrop Hall.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

1930s film footage of the college

This is the oldest motion picture footage known to exist of the college. The footage was shot on 8 mm film by Emmett Costich, a student at what was then called "The Training School" a K-8 school where Brockport teaching students helped to educate the children. Emmett used his dad's camera to capture several events, including Brockport's Color Day celebration, a cookout with Charles Cooper (the namesake of Cooper Hall) and a National Recovery Administration parade. This is a 3-minute highlight clip from the more than 40 minutes of footage in our archives.

Thursday, February 5, 2015


The early 1960s were the era of pop rock groups like the New Christy Minstrels, Kingston Trio and others. Hootenanny was a TV show that presented groups like this, and at colleges all over hootenannies were held, pop folk jam sessions or talent shows. Here are two unidentified Brockport students in 1963, trying out for a hootenanny here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Rare 1900 play photo

In going through unprocessed materials the archivist discovered a rare photo of a play done here by the sorority Agonian, in 1900. On the back of the photo are listed the names for most of the girls, left to right: Ina (Wilhemina) Shepphard '01, no name, Sarah Pledger '01, "Sister" Pledger (possibly Rosetta '02), no name, no name, Jennie Mitchell '01 (owner of the photo,) and Florence Green '01. A wonderful find, the  sororities and fraternities of the Normal era were a major part of the student life then.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Rescued Film!

This admirable project was featured not long ago in a post on the Society of American Archivists list. It is an effort to recover old, unprocessed film. A recent project was the recovery of rolls of film shot in WWII and never developed.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Something extra...

Once in a while an archivist finds something extra, a card tucked in a book, a snapshot in with some other things... That happened here recently, when the archivist was looking at a copy of the 1933 yearbook, the Saga, and found some old photos in the back. One is a rare early group photo of a graduating class, that of 1933.

Part of the rarity is that the image is one of the earliest examples of graduates wearing the cap and gown. Up into the WWI era and beyond they are shown wearing suits for the men and gowns for the women, but not the now traditional cap and gown. Also found were snapshots of Hannah Harding '33, the original owner of the book, one of which you see here.

Hannah was from Albion, and was president of Theta Phi, an honor society, and in Magpies, the drama group of the day. We like to think that she would be happy to know that her yearbook has survived, and that her photographs are safe in the college archives.