SUNY Cortland has shaped the community in which it is located and the college is celebrating this history at a 150th anniversary celebration Oct. 5 and 6.
Garry VanGorder, executive director of the Cortland Business Development Corporation, said the college, between how it provides employees for the local work force and how students and faculty spend dollars locally, has had a huge affect on the community.
The college started as the Cortland Normal School in downtown Cortland in 1868, evolving over the decades to open at its current location in 1923 and expand in 1941, officially becoming a four-year college providing a bachelor degree.
In 1948, it became a part of the State University of New York.
“Cortland County without SUNY Cortland would be, without question, a much different place,” VanGorder said. “It brings vitality, it brings young people into our community that might not otherwise be here and it creates an environment that’s really only duplicated in the 63 other locations that have SUNY campuses across the state.”
The college is Cortland County’s largest employer, with about 900 employees — about 5 percent of Cortland County’s total job count.
According to research done by Kathleen Burke, economics department chairwoman at SUNY Cortland, during 2011-12, the college generates more than $135 million in direct spending by the college, its employees and students, turning into more than $251 million in total economic effect.
Students contributed $46.3 million in direct spending, generating $85.8 million total economic effect.
WHAT: SUNY Cortland marks its 150th birthday celebration
WHEN: Oct. 5 and 6
Friday, Oct. 5:
• 6 p.m. — Performing arts students will lead the campus in singing “Happy Birthday” over birthday cake on the Moffett Center lawn.
• 8:30 p.m. — The performing arts program will launch its 20th year through a performance of “Annie Get your Gun” at Dowd Fine Arts Center.
Saturday, Oct. 6:
• 10 a.m. — A panel discussion of the evolution of the music business will be by the coffee shop in Corey Union.
• 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. — A carnival will be held at the stadium complex.
• Noon — The Red Dragons will take on SUNY Morrisville in a football game at the stadium complex.
• 5:30 p.m. — The 50th anniversary Hall of Fame induction will be at Corey Union Function Room.
• 7:30 p.m. — “Annie Get your Gun” performed at Dowd Fine Arts Center.
Visitors to the college account for another 4 percent of the total economic effect of the college, with $9.7 million generated from $5.2 million in direct visitor spending, the research shows.
Its notable alumni include comedian Kevin James, retired Gen. Ann Dunwoody, the first woman to be promoted to a four-star rank in America, Nathan Miller, New York’s governor in 1921 and 1922, and Pulitzer Prize finalist David Rossie.
The college is celebrating itself — its contributions to the community and students — by including the public in anniversary events.
“We are celebrating a special milestone for a very special college and we want the entire SUNY Cortland community — students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni and our Cortland and Central New York neighbors — to join the party,” President Erik Bitterbaum said.