History of Harpur College

Harpur College of Arts and Sciences is the historical and intellectual heart of Binghamton University, which began as Triple Cities College in 1946. When Harpur College joined the newly created State University of New York system in 1950, it was one of only two liberal arts colleges. For more than 70 years, Harpur has striven to live up to its motto “From breadth through depth to perspective.”

  • Founding and early years

    Founded in 1946 in Endicott, N.Y., as Triple Cities College of Syracuse University, Harpur College became the liberal arts college of the newly-established State University of New York in 1950. 

    Named for the Colonial teacher, patriot and pioneer Robert Harpur, Harpur's founders envisioned creating a public liberal arts college that competed with the very best private schools in the Northeast — a vision that Harpur maintains to this day.

    In 1954, ground was broken for a new campus in Vestal, N.Y., on 600 acres of land overlooking the Susquehanna River. The task of moving from Endicott, where the college had been housed in Colonial Hall and tin Quonset huts, proceeded slowly and students commuted between Vestal and Endicott to attend classes for several years. The move from Endicott to Vestal was finally completed in 1961.

    Pictured above: 1950 - Colonial Hall, Endicott: Triple Cities College is incorporated into the State University of New York, and changes its name to Harpur College.

    1954 - Groundbreaking for the Vestal Campus of Harpur College (left to right): Charles F. Johnson (governor), Thomas E. Dewey, and William S. Carlson (president of SUNY).

    1961 - The campus moved across the Susquehanna River to Vestal. Growing enrollment and a reputation for excellence led to the selection of Harpur College as one of four doctorate-granting University Centers in the state system.

  • Growth

    In 1965, Harpur College officially became the State University of New York at Binghamton, now known as Binghamton University, and the campus was named one of the four SUNY University Centers. Since then, Harpur College of Arts and Sciences has continued as the backbone of the University as its liberal arts and sciences college and largest academic unit.

    In addition to strong and innovative undergraduate programs offered by nearly 26 departments and more than a dozen interdisciplinary programs, Harpur College boasts nationally and internationally recognized master's and doctoral programs in over 22 different areas.

    Undergraduate and graduate students benefit from the opportunity to study with an outstanding faculty that includes a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a number of Guggenheim Fellows and recipients of many important scientific, literary and scholarly recognitions.

  • School and students

    Harpur College offers students access to state-of-the-art science and computer laboratories, language technology classrooms, broad-spectrum humanities, multicultural studies, cutting-edge theater arts, nationally recognized voice and instrument instruction, distance learning and more. Harpur also serves as a bridge to multidisciplinary courses in the College of Community and Public Affairs, Decker College of Nursing and Health Sciences, the School of Management and the Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

    Harpur College has always been academically challenging. By the 1960s, it could boast a majority of students admitted from the upper 25 percent of their high school graduating classes — a fact that continues today with competition for admission to Harpur College remaining strong. While students are attracted to Harpur College because of it's strong academic standing, there remains a sense of community that lasts long after graduation.