Harpur College of Arts and Sciences celebrated its past, present and future during an Oct. 13 ceremony that dedicated the Harpur College Quad and Wall of Excellence.
“Harpur College has been here 62 years and it is the intellectual heart of the campus,” Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger said. “It’s quite amazing that we have now put that heart where it belongs – in the center of campus.”
More than 300 faculty and staff members, administrators, students and alumni gathered at the Library Tower for the dedication ceremony, which was part of Homecoming 2012. Located along a wall near Jazzman’s Café, the Wall of Excellence features information about Harpur College’s history, along with profiles of outstanding students, accomplished alumni and donors, and distinguished faculty. The Harpur College Quad includes the Pegasus statue, a new walkway and fountain, and the Harpur monument, which was moved from its former location at the University entrance at Bartle Drive.
Guests entered a tent outside the Library Tower to hear from Stenger, Harpur College Interim Dean Wayne Jones, Provost Donald Nieman, Distinguished Teaching Professor Gerald Kadish, alumni Alex Huppé ’69 and student Ilana Solomon.
“This (day) is historic because it recognizes the centrality of Harpur College,” said Jones, who served as master of ceremonies and later led a champagne toast at the Wall of Excellence. “We started in 1950 and over the last 62 years, we have grown into a major research university with multiple colleges and professional schools, and a body of alumni who are so impressive.”
Nieman, who preceded Jones as Harpur College dean, noted that there are a number of reasons for Binghamton University’s continued success: “bright, curious students,” “a world-class faculty and a creative staff” “dedicated and accomplished alumni” and “excellent professional schools.
“But like all great universities, Binghamton’s excellence rests on an outstanding college of arts and sciences — Harpur College,” he said.
Today, Harpur College enrolls more than 60 percent of the University’s students, sponsors more than half of the PhD programs, generates $20 million a year in external funding and offers high-quality core courses for students in all schools, Nieman said.
Nieman praised Jones and the Harpur dean’s staff, including Lee Nesslage and Leah Joggerst of Harpur Constituent Relations, and Lori Fuller and Matt Tynan of Harpur Communications, for making the dedication possible. He also credited Vice President for Administration James Van Voorst for not only coming up with the plan to redesign the area, but naming it Harpur Quad, as well.
“The reason this all came about is that we had to replace the water main on campus,” Nieman said. “Jim saw this as an opportunity not only to (improve) our physical infrastructure, but to create a beautiful space in the heart of campus.”
Nieman said he hopes that the quad and wall will inspire others in the future.
“By building on Harpur College’s proud past and its commitment to excellence, we will be able to reach the destination that President Stenger has pointed us to in the road map process: becoming the premier public university of the 21st century,” he said.
Huppé devoted part of his talk to the stone monument that he said represents not just hope, but home, for many Harpur alumni.
“It’s fitting to have the Glenn Bartle Library facing what we call the pylon or monument,” he said. “It’s Glenn looking out over his monument toward his beloved [Town of] Maine off in the hills. There is a perfection to the design of this that a lot of us appreciate.”
The monument, which is 30 feet high, 8 feet wide, weighs 40 tons and consists of 45 mostly limestone panels, was moved to its new quad home on Sept. 28.
“In the beginning, there was a field,” Huppé said. “Above the field, there was a small gym and a bus stop. And there was what we called the pylon — the marker to what would become Harpur College’s new campus. … The pylon was a hopeful promise that somewhere up that long hill would be a real college with a real library and laboratories and faculty with leather patches on their elbows.”
As SUNY Binghamton grew and thrived, Huppé and other alumni found themselves asking: “Where’s Harpur?”
“Where was Harpur College? I say: Let it be here — at this pylon and this quad,” said Huppé, who concluded by singing the Harpur alma mater. “Let this pylon that represented hope, a new home and a way to the future still represent that hope and home. I speak for many with gratitude to this institution that has rededicated this stone monument to our history and our love of liberal learning.”
Harpur College’s past and present were also recognized in speeches from Kadish and Solomon. Kadish, one of four distinguished professors who are initially featured on the Wall of Excellence (Solomon Polachek, Susan Strehle and M. Stanley Whittingham are the others), is marking his 50th year of teaching history at Binghamton.
“With some sadness, I have to say that he is planning to retire at the end of the [academic] year,” Jones said, “unless I can talk him out of it in the spring.” The 80-year-old Kadish generated laughter from the crowd when he responded with a long shake of the head.
Kadish started at what he called “the house that Bartle built” in 1963. The school was a much different place then, he said: less than 2,000 students, 135 faculty members and not quite 100,000 volumes in the library.
“We had students who were eager to explore and discuss,” Kadish said. “They were politically conscious, much to the dismay of the surrounding conservative community. And they thought of reading as a pleasurable way of acquiring knowledge.
“We now have a remarkable diversity of students from every kind of background. That’s probably one of the greatest things that has happened here.
“Teaching undergraduates has been the most sustaining, joyous experience in my 49-plus years,” said Kadish, who received a long, standing ovation at the end of his talk.
Solomon, an English and human development major, discussed the role that Liberal Arts to Careers Externship (LACE) has played in her time at Harpur College. LACE gives Harpur students the opportunity to shadow alumni in the workplace and explore a potential career path.
“This turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made since coming to Binghamton University,” she said. “It’s a decision that continues to benefit me and my future.”
Solomon, who knew that she wanted to major in English but was not sure what she wanted to do for a career, was placed with Marcel Bucsescu ’03, a manager at The Conference Board, a nonprofit organization in New York City.
“My experience with Marcel far exceeded my expectations,” she said. “I did not simply follow him around, observing his day-to-day life. I was able to actively engage throughout the experience.”
Solomon even ran a meeting on her last day with Bucsescu, she said. The experience made Solomon realize that nonprofit work is the career path for her.
“The LACE program has enhanced my involvement with my liberal-arts (studies) and made my time in Harpur College so much more meaningful,” she said. “I’m thankful for all of the opportunities Harpur has provided me so far, including this amazing experience today.”
The Harpur Quad and Wall of Excellence are more than just a beautiful space and an informative display, Stenger emphasized to the audience.
“We’ve not only connected the humanities, social sciences, fine arts and natural sciences,” he said. “We have connected the past with the future. Congratulations, Harpur College.”
– By Eric Coker