Leading the Way: The First 50 Years

A 50th Anniversary Timeline

SUNY Chancellor Ernest Boyer and President James Hall

October 30, 1970
SUNY Chancellor Ernest L. Boyer appoints a task force to plan a university-wide degree program “to make the substance of education and educational processes more relevant for the individual and more responsive to the needs of society.”

January 27, 1971
Chancellor Boyer addresses the SUNY Board of Trustees. “Higher education is in the middle of a revolution. We are re-examining such fundamental questions as who should go to college, what and where and how students should study — and for how long? With rising aspirations and the impact of the communications and transportation revolution, we now see the need for institutions that are more open, more imaginative, more versatile, and more flexible, both in their structure and their style. Further, we now have the capacity to develop such institutions.”

February 9, 1971
Boyer convenes a national panel to evaluate the blueprint for SUNY’s non-residential college. The college, absent classrooms, fixed curricula, and dorms would have units throughout New York state.

February 1971
The Carnegie Corporation and the Ford Foundation award $500,000 each to help launch SUNY Empire State College.

March 16, 1971
Governor Nelson Rockefeller notes his approval of the SUNY Board of Trustees’ amendment to include Empire State College in the SUNY master plan. “This idea appeals to me very much, and I have included $200,000 for planning the experimental college in my executive budget.”

April 1, 1971
Chancellor Boyer appoints James W. Hall as acting director, asking him “to bring this unusual institution to life.”

September 1972
Five learning centers are established in Manhattan, Albany, Old Westbury, Rochester, and London, England.

Fall 1972
The college creates the Division of College-Wide Programs, with satellites throughout remote regions of New York state and specialized programs in New York City.

Fall 1974
The Center for Individualized Learning is one of five national centers funded by the Danforth Foundation to improve the processes of teaching and learning. It also receives support from Chancellor Boyer’s Fund for Innovation. F. Thomas Clark, former dean of the Northeast Center, spends the next three years conducting mentoring workshops for Empire State College and colleges throughout the U.S.

December 13, 1974
The Commission on Higher Education accredits Empire State College. It is the first public college of this nature to be accredited by the commission.

September 15, 1975
Empire State College Foundation launches its first annual drive for $30,000.

January 1, 1977
Empire State College opens in Israel. Students can cross register at Israeli universities. Mentor Ken Abrams coordinates the program.

February – March 1979
The college launches the Center for Distance Learning in Saratoga. Successful print-based courses are supplemented by courses with audio and television supports.

January 1981
The college provides one-month sabbaticals for faculty to develop computer-literacy and learn instructional strategies for teaching students via emerging technologies.

June 23, 1981
Fulltime enrollment is 3,761 – 10 times greater than the first year. Full and part-time faculty number more than 150 compared to 22 the first year. Bachelor’s and associate degree graduates surge from 82 in 1972-73 to 7,137 in 1980-1981.

January 1984
ESC enrolls students in its first master’s degree programs in business and policy studies, labor and policy studies, and culture and policy studies. The programs are supported by grants from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education.

The college initiates FORUM, a weekend residency program focused on group projects for business students who have employer sponsorship. The college eventually establishes the program throughout the state.

The National Center on Adult Learning is created to improve research and effective practice of adult learning. Timothy Lehmann, former assistant vice president for research and evaluation, is appointed director.

1989 – 1990
Chancellor Bruce Johnstone provides funds to create the Center for Learning and Technology. It serves as laboratory to test and evaluate educational technologies at the college and throughout SUNY.

Middle States issues a glowing report and awards the college an unconditional 10-year renewal, the maximum.

Alice Fulton, a 1978 graduate of the Northeast Regional Learning Center, receives the MacArthur Genius Award for poetry. She praised Empire State College for allowing her “to begin life as a thinking person.”

Empire State College and New York Telephone (now Verizon) create a college within a corporation. It enrolls 150 students in Brooklyn and Queens.

SUNY Empire’s Center for Learning and Technology launches interactive courses, allowing community college graduates to earn bachelor’s degrees by satellite. It lays the foundation for the SUNY Learning Network and Open SUNY.

The ESC Foundation sponsors the SUNY/ESC honors scholarship for Black, Latino, and Native-American students. A $10,000 grant from New York Telephone is matched by SUNY funds.

July 1993
The first issue of All About Mentoring comes off the press. All About Mentoring, now edited by Alan Mandell, issued its 54th issue in fall 2020.

A national survey by the American Testing Service ranks Empire State College as first in student satisfaction among all SUNY colleges and universities.

The Hudson Valley, Metropolitan, and Long Island Centers enter a joint program with Daytop, Inc. to initiate a training program leading to the substance abuse counselor credential.

The Northeast Center collaborates with Hudson Valley Community College to make bachelor’s degrees more accessible to students completing their associate degrees in allied health specialties.

The college works with the SUNY North Country Consortium to provide higher-education services to civilian and military personnel at Fort Drum.

SUNY Learning Network and the Center for Distance Learning make strides in providing online courses for ESC and SUNY. The center will become a major provider of online courses for the SUNY Learning Network, including 19 campuses by fall 1997.

The college holds a year-long celebration of its 25th anniversary, which starts with All College.

December 1997
James W. Hall ends his remarkable 27 years of service as president. Jane Altes, formerly ESC’s vice president for academic affairs, comes out of retirement to serve as interim president. She organizes the presidential search and prepares for accreditation by the Middle States.

June 1998
The college dedicates the Congressman Gerald B. H. Solomon Center for Learning and Technology building, a hub to network 44 locations across the state with 63 SUNY campuses. It is key to providing technical and instructional design support for SUNY Learning Network’s extraordinary growth.

March 1999
The college holds the Disabled but Enabled and Empowered (DEED) Conference, chaired by mentor David A. DuBois. Wheelchair-bound, DuBois is committed to protecting the rights of those with disabilities. The conference draws state and federal leaders and people from across the U.S.

The International Business Online Resource Center is funded by a G.E. grant. Business mentor Bidhan Chandra designs this unique resource in response to globalization. It is made available to students and the global business community.

February 2000
ESC receives an unconditional 10-year renewal from Middle States. The report praises the mentor/student model, exploration of technology-mediated learning resources, individualized degree programs, and collegiality of the offices across the state.

July 2000
Joseph B. Moore becomes the second president of Empire State College. He joins ESC having served as provost and vice president at Mansfield University.

September 11, 2001
ESC students and alumni are among the heroic police officers and firefighters who lost their lives at Ground Zero. Like the nation, the college pulls together as one.

Foundation Chair Monte Trammer and Robert Thrasher, retired NYNEX executive vice president for operations, report the successful completion of the $8,000,000 The Promise Continues campaign.

May 2003
The Altes Prize for Exemplary Community Service is created and funded by Jane Altes, former vice president for academic affairs and interim president, and husband Wally Altes, to honor faculty “who bring to bear their particular academic expertise in addressing community needs and problems.”

February 2004
Alumna Susan Turben ’72, pledges the largest alumni gift ever. “If you look at Empire State College’s educational model, which is such a modern, vital, up-to-date way of educating people, the question is why wouldn’t we make this gift?” she says.

March 2004
The Charitable Leadership Foundation awards the college $1.25 million to implement a Master of Arts in Teaching program. It is the largest gift the college has ever received from a private foundation. MAT students begin as entry-level teachers after the first year of the program and devote the next two years earning the MAT part time.

August 2006
The college establishes the Student Information Call Center, the primary point of contact for students, prospective students, and alumni.

April 2007
Provost and Vice President Joyce Elliott announces the appointment of Dr. Rosann J. Carpenter as the first director of the B.S. program in nursing.

June 2007
President Joseph B. Moore accepts the presidency of Lesley University in Massachusetts. He leaves an enduring legacy of accomplishments, including securing $26 million in capital funds to complete college facilities in Saratoga and to build permanent regional centers throughout the state.

August 2008
Alan R. Davis, Ph.D. is appointed third president of SUNY Empire. Davis was vice president for education at Vancouver Community College and held positions at Niagara College, Athabasca University, and the Open University. His scholarship focuses on prior learning and assessment.

International programs celebrate graduates in ceremonies held in the Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Prague, and Greece.

November 2008
SUNY Empire is named a top military-friendly school by Military Advanced Education, a publication for military women and men applying benefits to further their education.

March 2009
ESC establishes the Office of Veterans and Military Education to serve the needs of returning veterans, military personnel, and their family members.

June 2009
Mentor Joyce McKnight of the Center for Distance Learning receives the Cunningham Award for Social Justice for her scholarly paper about how web-based tools can be employed to promote social justice.

Spring 2011
The Metropolitan Center launches the Black Male Initiative, a coaching, mentoring, and support program focused on increasing matriculation, retention, and graduation rates of underrepresented students, particularly men of color.

Fall 2011
Mentors Cliff and KD Eaglefeathers organized a celebration of Cheyenne culture at Bethpage State Park as part of the college’s 40th anniversary. There is a photo of Tara Redflower Beckman doing a Cheyenne Shawl Dance in the Connections Fall 2011 edition.

May 9, 2013
Merodie A. Hancock is appointed SUNY Empire State College’s fourth president. Her Ph.D. is in urban services and education administration from Old Dominion University, and she has an MBA from Claremont Graduate University.

January, 2014
Thirty registered nurses with bachelor’s degrees enroll in the graduate nursing program.

Spring 2015
Mentors Cory Kallet, Bob Carey, and Justin Giordano assist the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a not-for-profit local development corporation, to connect residents with technology and creative sectors.

September 2016
1,175 students are enrolled in bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in nursing. Dean Bridget Nettleton reports an 80% retention rate and 350 alumni.

The college names civil rights attorney and professor Elliott Dawes to the newly created position of chief diversity officer for institutional equity and inclusion. Prior to SUNY Empire, Elliott was director of the Black Male Initiative, assistant dean for multicultural affairs at Hofstra University School of Law, associate professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice.

Spring 2017
The college reorganizes from 11 areas of study to five to concentrate academic expertise, benefitting students and faculty.

Spring 2018
Vice President for Decision Support Mitchell Nessler becomes officer in charge to replace Merodie Hancock, who assumes the presidency of Thomas Edison College.

August 2019
Meg Benke is appointed provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. She joined the Center for Distance Learning in 1991 and had a major role in its transition to online learning, as well as development of the SUNY Learning Network and Open SUNY. Meg has won national and international awards for her achievements as an educator.

July 2019
James Malatras becomes the fifth president of SUNY Empire and the first to be a SUNY alumnus. Jim served as president until August 2020 when he was appointed the 14th chancellor of the State University of New York. Chief of Operations Beth Berlin becomes officer in charge.

October 2020
Alan Mandell oversees publication of the 54th volume of All About Mentoring: Alan has been a mentor and administrator for over 40 years. He was the first Susan Turben chair, which recognizes mentoring excellence at its highest level, the recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Services.

December 7, 2020
Dean of the School for Graduate Studies Nathan Gonyea, Ph.D., is named officer in charge by the SUNY chancellor. Gonyea brings extensive experience in curriculum development and planning, having served as dean/interim dean of the School for Graduate Studies for four years, and as associate dean of Graduate Studies prior to that.