SUNY Cortland plans celebrations for 150th year

Old Main at SUNY Cortland

Editor's Note: The following is a press release from SUNY Cortland. It has been republished with permission.

SUNY Cortland turns 150 this year, and alumni, students, faculty, staff, friends and members of the community will have plenty of opportunities to help celebrate.

The College’s sesquicentennial will kick off in July during Alumni Reunion 2018, according to Erin Boylan, executive director of alumni engagement, and Mary Kate Boland ’06, associate director of leadership and community development.

Boylan and Boland, who co-chair the 21-member sesquicentennial planning committee, announced the basic framework for the commemoration during President Erik J. Bitterbaum’s State of the College meeting on Jan. 18, which traditionally opens each semester.

“It just so happens that many of our big anniversaries align this year and that’s just an exciting coincidence,” Boylan said.

These include the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the William H. Parks Family Center for Environmental and Outdoor Education at Camp Huntington, the 50th anniversary of the C-Club Hall of Fame induction year, and the 60th anniversary of Cortaca Jug, “America’s best little football game,” between Cortland and Ithaca College.

“It really will be a very big, celebratory year,” she said.

After the formal kick-off, a number of anchor events will continue to link up with the College’s 150th birthday. This year, these include Orientation, Academic Convocation, Welcome Week, Homecoming, President’s Circle Dinner, C-Club Hall of Fame, Parents Weekend and Cortaca Jug. In 2019, the anniversary will link to Transformations, Spring Fling, Honors Convocation, Commencement, and Alumni Reunion 2019.

Additionally, the committee is beginning to plan a standalone event, an actual “birthday party” that will likely feature a cake, fireworks and possibly a birthday-themed carnival organized around a football game. The date and details are being discussed but the committee plans to open the event to all.

Other events are still in the imagination stage. A pot of approximately $20,000 in funding has been set aside to support creative ideas for ways to mark the Sesquicentennial. Boylan and Boland encouraged faculty and staff to submit grant proposals for lectures, workshops, cultural events, concerts, theatre productions, academic activities, sporting events, receptions or other activities to coincide with the Sesquicentennial.

“The sky’s the limit,” Boland said. “A moment ago I thought I heard a proposal for a Cortland fight song competition.”

The request for proposals was announced through campus email. Ideas will be accepted through March 9. These proposals will be reviewed by a grant subcommittee of faculty, staff and students, and their picks will be submitted to the full committee for final consideration.

“We hope you will take advantage of this opportunity and run with it,” Boylan told the gathering.

The cornerstone from the original Old Main building located downtown, which burned in 1919, will be displayed prominently on campus.

Tying all of the special events together will be a new sesquicentennial logo by College Creative Services Manager Tony DeRado. That logo, which features Old Main, the oldest building on campus, was unveiled Jan. 18.

The Cortland Normal School was constructed during 1868 and opened for the first classes in 1969 and quite a lot has happened since then. Randi Storch, the History Department chair, is working with students to select and research 150 moments from the College’s history to be included on a digital timeline. The timeline will be part of a permanent, interactive website that allows visitors to access detailed information, images and more for each event. Storch and Web Operations Specialist Loren Leonard are designing the project.

“I’m very excited that Randi will be offering this as part of our sesquicentennial year because this is going to be very accessible,” Boylan said. “People will be able to tunnel through each decade and see individual moments in history. We also can share each component through social media and emails. So people will be able to go through the history relatively quickly and find the items they want.”

“One of the first things we’ve recently done is establish goals of what we want to accomplish during the Sesquicentennial,” Boylan said. “This will be used to guide our decisions as a committee and also help with the marketing efforts.

“We identified three goals. First, we wanted to celebrate the long history, current accomplishments and expected future growth of SUNY Cortland. The second is to create or deepen relationships with alumni, parents, students and community members to encourage and support the College in its mission through gifts of time, talent and treasure. And finally we want to use it to strengthen the College’s brand and reputation.”

Boylan thanked Michael Sgro, former executive director of alumni engagement, and Storch, for their early work as the initial Sesquicentennial Committee co-chairs.