The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

72° Stony Brook, NY
The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Fifty and Better than Ever

    After renovations, recognitions, and curricular developments, Stony Brook University (SBU)’ celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

    SBU’s first campus was at Planting Fields in Oyster Bay. The 350 acre field in Oyster Bay was formerly an arboretum-estate that belonged to William Robertson Coe, chairman and president for a marine insurance brokerage and adjustment firm. Coe donated his estate to the SUNY university system in 1949. In 1955, the board of trustees for SUNY decided to start a university in historic Stony Brook, and so they issued the Oyster Bay estate as an interim campus until the construction work was complete.

    In 1957, the Oyster Bay campus, called the State University College on Long Island, opened up to 148 students. At the time, this college was tuition-free and aimed for those preparing to be teachers in the fields of science and math at the secondary or community college levels. Eventually, SUNY decided to add on degree programs for science, math, and engineering.

    ‘Originally, Stony Brook was meant to be a four year college, but then SUNY changed its mind to make Stony Brook a research university,’ said distinguished professor of history, Joel Rosenthal. ‘With all the war, and the launching of Sputnik, science and research had become a priority.’ Rosenthal has been teaching at Stony Brook for 46 years.

    In 1960, SUNY trustees officially changed Stony Brook from a college into a university. The Oyster Bay campus became the State University of New York, Long Island Center. As a university, the school would now offer liberal arts and science programs, and a graduate school.

    ‘The students who came here [Oyster Bay] didn’t know what to expect,’ said Robert Schneider, distinguished assistant professor of Chemistry. Schneider has been a part of Stony Brook for 47 years, and started his career at Oyster Bay. ‘We had a hodge-podge of students of all varieties that had hopes for their futures.’

    ‘A reason many of us joined the institution back then was because we saw [Stony Brook] becoming a major school.’ Schneider said. ‘The people that came here for sciences thought it was going to become a place for respectable research.’

    While classes were going on in Oyster Bay, the current day Stony Brook was being built on a 480 acre land donation from the local millionaire, Ward Melville. The $150 million construction work began in 1959, and the building of the original campus was completed in 1962, when the first day of classes commenced. Classes at Oyster Bay ended in 1962, 5 years after its opening.

    The original Stony Brook campus consisted of the G and H dorms (current day Mendelsohn and H quads), Humanities, Old Biology (current day SAC), Old Physics (current day Harriman Hall), Old Chemistry, Old Engineering, and the Old Library.

    ‘I call these the red brick rectangle buildings,’ said Rosenthal. ‘You can see them [red brick buildings] at all the SUNY campuses.’

    Later expansions of the library and the construction of other buildings were carried out to accommodate the growing enrollment. In 1967, the campus expansion plan included the building of the Earth and Space Sciences and another engineering building with a computing center.

    ‘The aesthetics were never a big deal,’ said Rosenthal. ‘The job would go to the lowest bid and so the construction work was never the greatest.’

    ‘President Toll (in office from 1964-1977) was a builder, he just wanted to get everything up and running. Marburger (in office from 1979-1993) was the one who got the campus on key,’ said Rosenthal.

    The 1990s was a time when the campus was revitalized, mostly under President Shirley Strum Kenny. Landscaping and current campus size has nearly doubled since the original land given by Ward Melville.

    Aside from the construction of the campus, student life has dramatically changed.

    SBU was referred to as ‘The Berkeley of the East’ for activism in the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. There were several demonstrations at the time where the students would protest against campus war research and for those students who were being drafted.

    ‘Times were very political, where there were armed forces and CIA recruiters,’ said Rosenthal. ‘The students would barricade the buildings so recruiters could not get out.’

    The growth of the student population has increased many-fold since Oyster Bay. Currently, there are over 20,000 undergraduates, and sports have risen to the Division I level.

    ‘The student body is much more diverse, probably because we are in the metropolitan area,’ said Dean Susan DiMonda.

    At first, sport teams were referred to as the ‘Patriots’ but after climbing from division III to Division I, Wolfie became the new mascot.

    ‘Once we came into Division I sports, we needed to get a Mascot like the other Division I teams; that’s where we got Wolfie,’ said DiMonda.

    ‘Our enrollment has increased,’ said Schneider. ‘I miss the fact that at one time you could always give the students what they wanted but now the enrollment surpasses the facilities; that disappoints me.’ Currently, many of the classes are closed out to students after filling up to the maximum capacity.

    Stony Brook has also branched out to the new Manhattan and Southampton campuses. Both places offer additional space for classes, and Southampton features marine biology courses with its prime location near the shore.

    To celebrate 50 years, various events will be held, and the theme for many other things like homecoming will be SBU throughout the years. ‘We could take this not only as an opportunity to look back 50 years, but to see where we will be in the next 50 years,’ said Dean of students, Jerrold Stein.

    Did you know: Paleontologist David Krause of the Department of Anatomical Sciences discovered the fossil skeleton of Majungasaurus crenatissimus.

    Professor Scott McLennan from the Geosciences department led a team to analyze and publicly present data from NASA’s Mars Rover mission.

    The campus hosts students from over 80 countries.

    Dr. Lorne Golub from the School of Dental Medicine created Periostat, the most widely used treatment in the world to fight adult periodontal disease since gaining FDA approval in 1998.

    Dr. Paul Lauterbur from the Chemistry Department invented MRI technology.

    Through salaries and purchases, SBU produces $2.5 billion into the economy.

    SBU discovered the cause of lyme disease.

    SBU played a significant role in the making of bar codes that appear on packages.

    According to the London Times Higher Education Supplement, SBU was ranked in the top 2% of universities in the world, top 50 in North America, and top 10 public science universities.

    SBU is part of the Association of American Universities, an invitation-only organization to acknowledge SBU as one of the top 62 research universities in the U.S.

    Two buildings in the current day Mendelsohn quad served as’ residence for students. It housed not only students, but administrative faculty offices, the student newspaper, student government offices, and the infirmary.

    The WUSB campus radio station 90.1 FM is the largest non-commercial radio station on Long Island.

    In 1967, a bridge was built to connect the Stony Brook Union to the library. However, budget failure halted the bridge to be completed until ten years later. In the mean time, the bridge was referred to as the ‘Bridge to Nowhere.’ The bridge was taken down in the mid 1990s, due to difficulty in maintenance.

    The 1968 ‘great drug bust’ left a mark on Stony Brook’s image for some time. On the night of Jan. 17, police officers came into dorms and arrested 24 students in the middle of the night for marijuana possession.

    In 1969, there was a mass demonstration in front of the library against the arrest of a former student with the status of persona non grata. Among the demands of the students was the abolishment of the persona non grata status, ending military
    recruitment on campus, and ending war-related research. President Toll officially needed to close the library, and 21 students who refused to vacate the building were arrested for trespassing charges.

    A pie was thrown in President Toll’s face for his support in drafting and war research.

    The original SBU colors at Oyster Bay were Blue and Gold.

    Along with donating 480 acres of land to Stony Brook, local millionaire Ward Melville donated his mansion in Old Field, Sunwood. The 40 room home overlooks the Long Island Sound and was used for programs, conferences, concerts, and social events. The mansion was burned down in 1986, but was rebuilt and currently provides space for events and rooms for guests.

    Timeline: 1957: Oyster Bay opens with 14 faculty, 145 students 1958: The Oyster Bay campus is now called: State University Center on Long Island 1959: SUNY decides to make Stony Brook a University Center 1960: Students boycotted for the unexplained transferring of key administrators. Governor Rockefeller broke ground at the current day SBU campus. 1961: The first graduates from Oyster Bay; 25 Bachelor Degrees were awarded. 1962: SBU opens. 1964: SBU’s first president, John Toll, takes position. Sport teams are given the name ‘the Patriots.’ 1965: The’ first PhD awarded in chemistry to’ Dr. C.N Yang of Physics- was the first Nobel laureate to join SBU faculty. 1966: School of continuing education started (CED). 1968: The big drug bust-‘ 24 students arrested.’ 1969: Health Sciences Center and Stony Brook Union opens. 1970: Library expanded. 1973: Graduate Chemistry Building opens. 1974: New Life Sciences building opens. 1977: President Toll resigns. 1979: President John Marburger takes position. 1985: The official school song, ‘Stony Brook Alma Mata,’ was adopted. 1989: Marburger’s ‘Decade of Refinement’ Fine Arts Center becomes the Staller Center. 1990: Honors College established. 1991: the DEC (Diversified Education Credit) system is established. 1993: Marburger resigns. ‘The Patriots’ are now called ‘Seawolves.’ 1994: President Shirley Strum Kenny takes position. 1997: SAC opens. 1999: Opening of the Recreation Center. 2002: Manhattan campus opens, LaValle Stadium opens. 2006: Southampton campus opens. ‘

    Leave a Comment
    Donate to The Statesman

    Your donation will support the student journalists of Stony Brook University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The Statesman

    Comments (0)

    All The Statesman Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *