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Brockport / Archives / Principals and Presidents

Principals and Presidents 1841 - Present

(For more on the history of the college and it's leadership up to through the early years of Brown's presidency, see Cherishing This Heritage, a 1969 history. A note on titles: the head of the school for many years was called the "principal," not "president," as president is a term reserved for colleges, not academies or normal schools.)

Brockport Collegiate Institute

Julius Bates, 1841-1845

Mr. Julius Bates was the first principal of the Collegiate Institute and served as Professor of Mathematics and Languages as well. He came from the nearby Gaines Academy and held an A.B. degree. This highly respected and admired school official combined both scholarly interest and management skills to effectively run the school

Oliver Morehouse, 1845-1846

Mr. Morehouse assumed temporary leadership of the school when Principal Bates died suddenly in October of 1845.

Jacob C. Tooker, 1846-1848

Principal Tooker was the outsider who was hired as the permanent principal. Unfortunately, his two-year reign would prove to be an unhappy one. He apparently clashed with both students and the board of trustees.

John G.K. Truair, 1848-1853

Little about Principal Truair is known except that he came to Brockport from Norwich Academy in Chenango. In contrast to Tooker, Truair maintained amicable relations with the students and the trustees. However, the existing financial problems continued to plague the school, and terminated his services with the Collegiate Institute in 1853.

N.P. Stanton, 1853-1856

Upon Truair's departure, Principal Stanton arrived from Buffalo to become principal. Disaster struck on April 2, 1854, when a fire broke out in the Institute. Stanton later assumed full charge of the actual rebuilding of the school, which earned him considerable respect in the community. However, in 1856 Stanton was elected a member of the State Legislature and resigned as Principal of the Collegiate Institute.

David Burbank, 1856-1861

Principal Burbank came from the successful Monroe Collegiate Institution in nearby Henrietta. He took the position of principal and vowed to maintain academic standards, keep the property in good order, and provide boarding for teachers and pupils.

Reverend P.J. Williams, 1861-1863

Principal Williams joined the faculty in the summer of 1861. He was a Baptist minister who had served as the principal of the Collegiate Institute at Marion in Wayne County. Principal Williams came highly recommended as a Classical Teacher. In 1862, Williams also was selected as pastor of the local Brockport Baptist Church. Faced with the multiple tasks of acting as principal and pastor Williams chose to step down as principal.

Malcom MacVicar, 1863-1867

Malcom MacVicarAlthough his career at Brockport only ran from 1859, when he startedas a teacher of mathematics and natural science, to 1867 when he resigned as principal, Malcolm MacVicar had a lasting influence on the development of the school, and education in general.

A active and interested teacher, MacVicar became convinced that the teacher education then commonly available at the private academies was insufficient and took a leading role in the campaign to get the state to establish a system of Normal Schools, public schools dedicated to teacher training, in NY state. Hewas successful, and the Brockport Collegiate Institute became one of four new Normal Schools established in 1867.  After leaving Brockport he went on to the presidency of several schools, finishing his career at Union University in Virginia, a Baptist college for African-Americans.MacVicar Hall is named after him.

Brockport State Normal School

Charles McLeanCharles McLean, 1867-1898

McLean was a product of the academy tradition, graduating from the Brockport Collegiate Institute in 1850, which makes him the only graduate of the school to become its principal or president. After studying and practicing law for several years, McLean went into teaching, and accepted a position at Brockport teaching Mathematics and Pedagogy in 1865. In 1867 he succeeded MacVicar as head of the school, a position he held for the next thirty years, giving him the longest tenure of any principal or president. He was a supporter of the Greek letter societies which played a significant role in the life of the school. Principal McLean was remembered as a strict disciplinarian, an energetic and effective teacher, an athlete who pitched for the "Brockport Nine" and as one who was generous of his time and money with students in need. McLean Hall is named after him.


David Eugene SmithDavid Eugene Smith, 1898-1901

Principal Smith was was from Cortland, New York and was a graduate of the Michigan State Normal School in Ypsilanti.He had a Doctorate of Philosophy granted by Syracuse University and was an author of mathematical textbooks. Dr. Smith chose to emphasize the professional nature of the Normal School and pushed for more modern curriculum. One of Dr. Smith's changes was the addition of Jeanette Reynolds, the school's first librarian in 1900. This new appointment indicated an enhanced status for the position and showed the importance of the library in the educational process at Brockport. Dr. Smith went on to take a position as Professor at Columbia Teachers College where the "David Eugene Smith Library of Mathematics" stands.

Charles T. McFarlane Charles T. McFarlane, 1901-1910

Principal McFarlane was educated at the College of the City of New York and the Normal School in Albany. He did additional graduate work at the University of Vienna and Harvard University. Prior to coming to Brockport, McFarlane had been teaching Geography at Ypsilanti in Michigan and was a close friend of Dr. Smith. Principal McFarlane choose to further Smith's work and curricular changes by developing a more professional approach to education.



Alfred ThompsonAlfred Thompson, 1910-1936

Principal Thompson graduated from Yale in 1892, and studied psychology and pedagogy at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany. Hewas also an athelete, having played football at Yale in the dangerous days of the "flying wedge," and in later life retained a keen interest in sports. He presided over the school during a time of many changes in the curriculum. Upon his retirement Charles Cooper, long head of the training school, noted that Thompson had the ability to, "...adjust himself to changing conditions and developing needs. He was never carried away with the spurious cry of utility. Intolerant of the shams, the superficialities, and the opportunisms of changing times he devoted his talents to the things he considered fundamental in a changing society." Thompson Hall is named after him.


Ernest Hartwell Ernest Hartwell, 1936-1944

Ernest Hartwell was educated at the University of Michigan, and went on to teach school, and then served a school superintendent in several communities, including Buffalo before coming here. His time here was relatively short, but , he led the school through a crucial period of its history. Brockport in the mid 1930s struggled with a deteriorating physical plant, and was being considered for closure by the state as a cost cutting measure.

Working with a group of concerned local citizens, the "Committee of One Hundred," Hartwell managed to stave off closure of the school and won state and federal funding for a new building, (which was named Harwell Hall in 1965.) At the same time, Hartwell was working with other educators in the state to win legislative approval for transforming Brockport and its peers from 3 year Normal Schools to 4 year Teachers Colleges entitled to grant the bachelors degree. This effort did succeed, and in 1942 Brockport State Normal School became Brockport State Teachers College.

Ernest Hartwell was a formal man guided by a strict sense of right and wrong, and he was a man who took a keen interest in the personal development of the students. Many alumni remember the time he spent guiding them through struggles with various problems, and he is known to have even provided financial support at times.


State Teachers College to State University of New York College at Brockport


Donald Tower Donald Tower, 1944-1964

Donald Tower received a school newly housed and upgraded in status, but one limited in many ways. The enrollment was small, approximately 300, and the role of the school was envisioned as solely that of training elementary school teachers. Much change was on the way however with the addition in 1945 of a "specialty" to the curriculum, that of training health and physical education teachers, and then of course the flood of returning veterans seeking to use their G.I. Bill benefits that came after WWII. The masters degree became part of the offerings in 1947, and the trend was toward a more extensive curriculum, with more options and specialities. Accompanying these changes was the growth of the campus. By 1964 the college had expanded far beyond its original setting (President Tower once said that one of the hardest jobs he had as president was to inform local families that their homes would be needed for the growing school!)

Tower was a firm but friendly man who came to Brockport from Oswego Teachers College, where he had been head of their training school. He had a strong interest in the performing arts, and wrote several textbooks on drama, thus the naming of our performing arts building after him. President Tower was also the last president to reside in what is now Alumni House.


Albert Brown Albert Brown, 1965-1981

Albert Brown was a charismatic and dynamic man whose administration saw the school arrive at a size and scale much like that of the college today. The westward expansion of building and campus begun in the Tower years continued at an accelerated pace, finishing in the early 1970s with the erection of Tuttle, Drake, Allen and the ill-fated Stage XVI dormitory. In organization the school became much more specialized, with large units like the former "Social Studies" division being divided into the departments of today. These changes show in the increase of course and degree offerings too. Student enrollment increased from 3000 to a high of 11000, and faculty numbers increased correspondingly. Faculty life changed too, with an emphasis on research and publication that had not been present in such degree before. The glorious boom years of SUNY when Rockefeller was governor and directed enormous sums of money to the system drew to a close in the mid-1970s and Brown, like his successors John Van De Wetering, learned to work and find opportunity in more financially limited times.



John Van de Wetering John E. Van de Wetering, 1981-1997

President Van de Wetering received his doctorate in 1959 from the University of Washington. Before he came to Brockport he chaired the Department of History at the University of Montana from 1968-1975. In 1976 he became the Acting President of Eastern Montana College, after a short term as Vice President. President Van de Wetering emphasized strengthening the humanities such as literature, art, history, and languages to make the liberal arts education more inclusive. He is also credited with improving and maintaining the physical appearance of the campus, including the dorms and dining halls. The addition of "blue lights" and escorts has increased security on campus, and Van de Wetering also improved the declining enrollment rate. He also introduced Brockport to multiculturalism, global issues, and cultural diversity. Dr. Van de Wetering further expanded the Brockport campus by opening the MetroCenter in downtown Rochester, before retiring in 1997.


Paul Yu Paul Yu, 1997-2004

Dr. Yu received his Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctorate from the University of Michigan, and held previous positions at Butler University in Indiana. Dr. Yu introduced and guided mission review and strategic planning initiatives that involved multiple committees representing every area of campus life. A major outcome of the process was the introduction of the Presidential Scholars program that proved instrumental in attracting top students to apply to SUNY Brockport and giving them incentives to maintain a high GPA. They serve as role models to fellow students and improve the classroom environment for all students.





John B. Clark John B. Clark, Interim President, 2004-2005

Dr. Clark earned his bachelor's degree, cum laude, from Providence College, and a Master's in Public Administration from John Jay College, in the CUNY system. Additionally, he earned a Master's of Arts in Economics from Fordham University, a Master's in Philosophy from New York University, and a Doctorate in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. After a 17-year career on Wall Street in public finance and municipal bond research, Dr. Clark served as interim president at SUNY Plattsburgh from June 2003 - June 2004.





John Halstead Dr. John R. Halstead, President 2005-2015

Dr. John R. Halstead earned his bachelor's degree from Colgate University. He received a Master's degree from Michigan State University and a PhD from Ohio State University in Student Personnel Administration. He also has pursued post-doctoral work at Harvard University's Institute of Educational Management. While earning his PhD, he served as Assistant to the Vice President for Student Services at Ohio State. Dr. Halstead next served as Vice President for Student Life at Gonzaga University and then as Vice President for Student Affairs at the University of Maine. He came to Brockport after seven years as President of Mansfield University. After his arrival in 2005, Dr. Halstead worked with campus stakeholders in many settings. Over the years of his presidency he secured many notable enhancements to the college, in particular the completion of the Liberal Arts Building in 2014.

Dr. Heidi MacPherson, President 2015-date

Dr. Macpherson has over 20 years of experience in higher education as an author, professor and administrator in both the United States and England. Prior to Brockport she was Provost at University of Wisconsin - LaCrosse, and before that she was Dean of Humanities at De Montfort University in Leicester England.


Last Updated 9/1/15


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