Representatives of the entire college community, friends and family recently gathered at the college’s new facility, located Rochester, N.Y., to dedicate the Robert Milton Memorial Garden.
The dedication took place on Nov. 17, 2016, immediately prior to the college’s grand opening of its new building.
Milton, who died unexpectedly in 2008, was for many years a Rochester-based mentor, who then became dean of the Genesee Valley Center and later was chosen to be the college’s first vice president for enrollment management.
The desire to note Milton’s many contributions to the college at the new building was expressed by friends and family.
President Merodie A. Hancock suggested that a memorial garden would be more reflective of his legacy than a simple plaque. She proposed the idea to Milton’s older brother, Don Milton ‘96, a SUNY Empire mentor and alumnus, who thought it would be a fitting tribute.
“Bob was so dedicated to the college,” said Don Milton, who earned a master’s in Business and Policy Studies from the college. “He was always thinking about SUNY Empire and working to make things better for students, so I thought, 'What better way to honor his memory than to have something tangible and visible for people to see and experience?'.”
Don Milton led the successful effort to raise funds for the garden.
The area includes a patio with benches surrounded by plantings and trees native to the area. It is meant to be a relaxing and contemplative oasis for students, mentors and guests to enjoy the natural setting.
“My father spent most of his career at Empire State College in various capacities and he believed deeply in the college’s mission," said son Steven Milton. “He would have loved to see this amazing new facility and wonderful garden.”
“In looking over the plans and talking with Don, it quickly became apparent that a memorial garden made a great deal of sense and fit perfectly with Bob’s interests in sustainability and the environment,” said Hancock. “We are so grateful to have recognized Bob’s legacy at the college, and that his years of tireless work and love of our alumni, students, faculty and staff will always be remembered and honored as Empire State College continues to grow and evolve.”
Bob Milton started his relationship with SUNY Empire as an associate professor of Community and Human Services in 1984, became dean in 1993 and moved to Saratoga Springs to assume his role as vice president for enrollment management in 2005.
In that post, he also served as a resource and coordinator for all college employees directly involved in recruitment, admissions and retention.
Before launching his academic career, Bob Milton was a social worker in the early 1970s in Monroe County, working on behalf of children and youth.
Shortly after his death, the family established the Robert Milton Memorial Scholarship.
“The Robert Milton Scholarship has been assisting Empire State College students since it was established in 2008 in his memory,” said Ann S. Turner ‘86, a member of the Empire State College Foundation Board of Directors and its immediate past chair. “Since that time, the endowment has grown to more than $50,000 and makes annual awards of approximately $1,700 to Milton Scholarship recipients. These funds make a real impact on the lives of our students and, for many, are the difference in being able to attain a college education.
“I would like to take a minute to read from a thank you letter from one of the recent recipients of the Milton Memorial Scholarship: ‘I was inspired to purse my A.S. in Math, Science, and Technology at Empire State College as part of a greater academic and career goal of earning my Doctor of Physical Therapy degree (and) to work with disabled veterans. My husband is a disabled veteran, 100 percent service-connected, and I provide full-time care for him. I trust you see my motivation. I could not have achieved as much without the support of the Milton Scholarship. Thank you.’ This is just one example of the lasting impact of Bob’s legacy at Empire State College and one that will continue in perpetuity for years to come.”
“This memorial effort was about both physical space and supporting students through scholarships,” said Walter Williams, the college’s vice president for advancement. “The Robert Milton Memorial Garden and the Robert Milton Memorial Scholarship will continue to grow and flourish over the coming years and impact the lives of students, faculty and staff long into the future.”