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Celebrating 50 Years at SUNY Empire State College

In 1971, SUNY Empire State College began as a bold reimagining of the higher education experience. A “non-campus institution,” as former SUNY Chancellor Ernest Boyer described it, “that would not depend on the rigidity of the calendar or class schedule but on the creativity of the students.”

That college is SUNY Empire.

For the past five decades, SUNY Empire has transformed the face of student-centered, accessible, equitable education, ushering in a world of possibilities for busy adult learners.

From mail-in correspondence and satellite feeds, to internet-based and blended coursework, SUNY Empire has been – and remains – at the forefront of distance and online education. Since its inception, SUNY Empire has awarded more than 89,000 degrees to students of all ages and backgrounds around the state, the country, and the globe.

SUNY Empire continues its tradition of Leading the Way, offering the ability to pursue advanced degrees to those who otherwise might not have the access, means, or opportunity.

And with ever-expanding degree programs, technologies, and course terms, we’re looking forward to the next 50 years.

Message from Nathan Gonyea, Officer in Charge

Over the six years I’ve been with SUNY Empire State College, I’ve witnessed remarkable growth – from new programs and academic centers to state-of-the-art technological advancements and bold expansions in international and partnership programs.

Events Calendar

Join us for these events! Check this website often for updates, and follow us @SUNYEmpire on social media as we celebrate our golden anniversary throughout 2021.

The day features virtual, interactive events with alumni guests, an opportunity to network with members of the SUNY Empire Foundation Board of Directors, highlights from the last 50 years, and a look forward as we plan for the next 50 years and beyond. Visit www.esc.edu/empirefund50 for more information and to join the celebration.

Please join us for some or all of the day’s events here. And be sure to follow along on social media with #EmpireFund50 for updates, recaps, and chances to win SUNY Empire prizes!

April 28, All Day

The man most devotees of SUNY Empire State College point to as our founder is Ernest Boyer, who was chancellor of the State University of New York at the time the college was established. Boyer is often given credit for conceiving of such a unique place to learn and then using his enthusiasm for the idea, his engaging energy, and the power of his position to quickly move the college, as he said, from an idea to action.

In early 1971, the SUNY Board of Trustees approved an amendment of the University’s Master Plan creating Empire State College, and authorizing the chancellor to explore all steps necessary to implement the resolution on or before Sept. 1. Between January 1971 and April 1971, the wheels were in motion which authorized the establishment of a non-residential college: Empire State College.  Any one of these dates could easily be called “Founders Day.” April 28 has been chosen as the mid-point in the nine-month flurry of activity that took place to create Empire State College.  On Founder’s Day, we will commemorate that ‘flurry’ in celebration of SUNY Empire State College.

Here’s a sampling of the day’s events:

  • Stewart’s Ice Cream Renamed to Celebrate SUNY Empire State College - Stewart's will be renaming their Brew-Ha-Ha ice cream to BLUE-Ha-Ha for the summer season to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of SUNY Empire State College.  Blue will visit the Stewart’s on West Ave. in Saratoga Springs to launch the new flavor. Watch this video to learn more about it!
  • Founder’s Day Virtual 5K. Participants will have the option to walk, jog, or run.  Complete your 5K (3.1 miles) between April 28 and May 16.  You can go at your own pace and share your results with us once you’ve crossed the finish line. Register for the Virtual 5k. Prizes will be awarded!
  • Virtual tour of the Boyer Center at Messiah University, alma mater of former SUNY Chancellor Ernest Boyer, followed by “interactive engagement” with center director Dr. Cynthia Wells. Click here to watch the tour!
  • Panel Conversation with SUNY Empire’s Past Presidents:  James Hall, Joseph Moore, Alan Davis, Merodie Hancock, and Jim Malatras. Each past presiding officer will discuss the most significant actions taken during their tenure and how those actions changed the college. Click here to watch the panel presentation!
  • Founder’s Day Trivia Night. 50 years, numerous papers, hundreds of connections, countless hours of studying later...we are celebrating our Founders Day by looking back with some SUNY Empire Trivia!  Some questions will be SUNY Empire-specific, some will be decade based, and some will be just plain fun. Either way, please join us for an evening of fun, laughs, competition, and some pretty good prizes. Click here to participate!


Dates: April 5 through April 9, 2021

Times: Will vary based on sessions being offered

Platform(s): Teams Meetings, Teams Live Events, and Zoom

All College 2021 will include: 

  • Welcome/Opening Session
  • Boyer Lecture
  • Concurrent Sessions
  • Creative Expression (Poetry/Arts/Music)
  • Faculty/PE/Staff Conferences (Caucus)
  • Foundation Service and Achievement Awards
  • Poster and Author Sessions
  • Officie of the President State of the College Address
  • Plenary Session of the Assembly

Watch our retrospective celebrating 50 years of SUNY Empire State College as we honor our traditions and look ahead to a bright future.

If you missed it, watch the Boyer Lecture and Honorary Degree bestowal here.

Please visit the All College 2021 internal website for detailed information. 

Visit our one-stop All College 2021 site for meeting invitations for both Microsoft Team or Zoom-supported sessions.

You may also submit a proposal to participate in the Creative Expression Events – share your talents with the college community.

Once again, all sessions will be accessible through the All College 2021 web site.

Questions or concerns can be directed to  allcollege.conference@esc.edu


All year long!

Stay tuned for details!

Join the Microsoft Teams Meeting (link coming soon).

50 Years. 50 Stories.
Celebrating SUNY Empire’s Golden Anniversary

In 50 short years, SUNY Empire State College helped pioneer and shape distance and online education, not just in New York state, but across the country and around the world. But it’s the people behind that half-century-long effort who deserve the spotlight – the administrators, faculty, staff, alumni, friends, and political figures who built the college from the ground up.

Throughout our 50th anniversary, SUNY Empire will tell the stories of 50 people who have made extraordinary contributions to the college – shaping our past, present, and future.

And we invite you to be part of the process! Submit your nomination for an individual who made significant contributions to SUNY Empire, represents a particular era in our history, or graduated and went on to change the world in important ways.

Our 50th anniversary committee will review all submissions and round out our list with those that best reflect the spirit and mission of our college.

Thank you, in advance, for your support.

All Fields Are Required*

50th Anniversary Trivia

How well do you know the history of SUNY Empire State College?

Take our 10-question quiz and test your knowledge…

  • 1. Where was the first presidential inauguration for SUNY Empire held?
  • 2. On which two bold New York state infrastructure projects did Ernest Boyer base the college’s name?
  • 3. In its first year, how many students were awarded with Latin honors between August 2019 and August 2020?
  • 4. SUNY Empire was founded in what year?
  • 5. Who was SUNY Empire’s founding president?
  • 6. Empire State College was founded under the leadership of which chancellor of the State University of New York?
  • 7. What were Empire State College’s original colors?
  • 8. In what year did SUNY Empire host its first ever winter commencement?
  • 9. What program has the honor of hosting the first ever SUNY Empire reunion?
  • 10. Which foundation board member was one of three graduates at our first commencement ceremony?