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October 25, 2013

Author recounts history of SUNY Delhi, life experience


Almost three dozen illustrations and notices, spanning more than 100 years, fill the glossy covered book. Pictures of faculty, students in classes, sports teams, buildings, and directors are spaced throughout the book.

Over a hundred years ago, the idea of establishing a school (presented by Elizabeth MacDonald) and promoted by her sister, Miss Amelia MacDonald, at first faced resistance. Eventually, the news came that, “The State School of Agriculture and Domestic Science at Delhi was established by an act of the New York State Legislature on May 24, 1913,” wrote Russell.

Setting the scene of a fledgling school, with dirt roads and more farm animals than students, Russell writes, “By 1916 the college began its second year of operation with an enrollment of more than 40 students and a new major: domestic science. This became the basis of modern home economics.”

However, in his research, Russell discovered confusion over attendance records in the school’s earlier days. The academic year was influenced by farm work and a flux of students would arrive after the rush of farm work ended.

Russell’s book is easy to read, with sections covering a decade at a time. Readers learn when departments were added and when expansions occurred in the Agriculture and Life Science, Business Management, Engineering Technologies, Liberal Arts, Alternative and Vocational Studies programs. In 1987, the college name changed to State University College of Technology at Delhi.

“When I began teaching at the college in 1967, I witnessed an incredible transition,” said Russell. 

“There was a great upheaval of protests,” said Russell. “The protests against war morphed into protests against everything and especially against anyone in authority.”

Russell writes: “On the Delhi campus, wooden structures were threatened, some actually burned with homemade devices. Faculty stood six and twelve hour watches at strategic locations around campus in attempt to prevent fire and mayhem.”

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