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Brockport / Archives / Principals and Presidents

Principals and Presidents 1841 - Present

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 and still make a profit. Mr. Bates received a salary of $800 a year to act as principal and collect all tuition bills. From this collected money and other sums he received from the state Regents board, Julius Bates was to pay the salaries of other teachers and operating expenses. If the income did not stretch, his salary would suffer. Ultimately, the success or failure of this plan would direct the security of the institution.

Oliver Morehouse, 1845-1846

Mr. Morehouse assumed temporary leadership of the school when Principal Bates died suddenly in October of 1845. Principal Morehouse had been a member of the faculty from the beginning as Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Principal of the English Department. Principal Morehouse resigned in June of 1846 when it became clear to him that the Trustees were going to choose an outsider to take the role of Principal. Oliver Morehouse later went on to serve as superintendent of schools in Orleans County, but returned to the faculty in the 1860s.

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. Julius Bates had shown to be a well-loved member of the community, and that made his role as Principal difficult for Tooker to fill. There are contradictory remarks about the type of man he was, ranging from "fussy and difficult" to "jovial and well liked." Principal Tooker and Mrs. Bates, who still ran the boarding establishment after her husband's death, did not get along. The Trustee Board had to step in on several occasions to settle their battles. Principal Tooker also clashed with the students and was a strong disciplinarian. By the end of the school term in 1848, the board of Trustees had tired of Principal Tooker's demands and complaints and terminated his relationship with the Institution.

John G.K. Truair, 1848-1853

Little about Principal Truair is known except that he came to Brockport from Norwich Academy in Chenango and he was originally from Syracuse. In contrast to Tooker, Truair maintained amicable relations with the students, the Trustee Board, and Mrs. Bates. However, the existing financial problems continued to plague the school, and Principal Truair was asked to loan $200 to help ease the burden. He could not afford to do so, and the Trustees were forced to look elsewhere. In June of 1853, Principal Truair terminated his services with the Collegiate Institute and left on pleasant terms.

N.P. Stanton, 1853-1856

Upon Truair's departure, Principal Stanton arrived from Buffalo to become principal. Stanton's wife also took charge of the young ladies of the Institute, as Mrs. Bates left with the death of her father. Principal Stanton got off to good start, but 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 loaned two thousand dollars of his own money to the Collegiate Institute for reconstruction and repairs. Burbank was awarded with a ten-year contract as principal and entire use of the property of the Institute. In return, he vowed to maintain academic standards, keep the property in good order, and provide boarding for teachers and pupils. By 1861, Principal Burbank had reached the end of his line with his financial arrangement with the Trustees, and he was released from his contract.

Reverend P.J. Williams, 1861-1863

Principal Williams joined the faculty in the summer of 1861. He was 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. The multiple tasks of acting as principal and pastor, as well as dealing with the financial burdens proved to be too much. In early 1863, Williams was relieved of his duties and Principal MacVicar stepped in. Reverend Williams continued as Professor of Ancient Languages, and Professor Morehouse returned and was appointed associate principal.

Malcom MacVicar, 1863-1867

Malcom MacVicarAlthough his career at Brockport only ran from 1859, when he started here as 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 Scottish Highlander whose family had emigrated to Canada, MacVicar started his career as a ship's carpenter in Cleveland. There he felt a call to the ministry and left carpentry to become a Baptist minister. Preaching stimulating an interest in teaching, he attended the University of Rochester and received his degree in 1859. That same year he came to Brockport and began a long and respected career in education.

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 more Normal Schools in addition to the one at Albany. In this he was successful, and the Brockport Collegiate Institute became one of four new Normal Schools established in 1867. The new Brockport Normal included a practice or training school, that is an elementary school within the Normal School in which the student teachers could practice teaching under the eyes of experienced "teacher-critics." This reflected MacVicar's view that teaching was an art, best learned by doing. He was an early advocate of the study of childhood development, and the effect of the environment on the child. After leaving Brockport MacVicar 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

Another Scotsman, McLean came to this country as a boy with his widowed mother. He 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. McLean had many influences on the school. He was a supporter of the Greek letter societies which arose circa 1870 and was a member of the first such society, Gamma Sigma, which was established in 1869. Greek letter societies, or "Literary Societies," as they were known, played a very significant role in the school throughout the Normal School era. 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

Charles McLean tendered his retirement at the end of the 1898 school year, and Principal Smith was appointed from a long list of candidates to replace him. He was from Cortland, New York and was a graduate of the Michigan State Normal School in Ypsilanti. Principal Smith possessed a Doctorate of Philosophy granted by Syracuse University and was an author of approximately fifty mathematical textbooks as well. 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 felt that the New York educational system lacked significantly when compared to Michigan and he requested more money from the State to improve things. In 1901 this caused his resignation, as he felt the necessity for more money was preventing him from making changes he saw as necessary. 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 born in New Berlin, New York and 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, and received both Master's and Doctor's degrees in Pedagogy from the Michigan State Normal School. 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 was a well educated man who graduated from Yale in 1892, and studied psychology and pedagogy at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany. Like Charles MacLean he was 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. Education has its trends and fads as do other areas of life and there was a struggle in education during Thompson's era between those who favored emphasizing pedagogy and those who favored stressing subject mastery. There was also a trend towards a longer time in school, moving from two years to obtain the teaching certificate when Thompson first came to three years when he left. In a collection of notes on Thompson published in the Stylus 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 grew up in a part of Michigan that had been settled by emigrants from this part of New York. After finishing his education at the University of Michigan, he taught school, and served a school superintendent in several communities, including Buffalo where he was school superintendent before coming here. Like Malcolm MacVicar his time here was relatively short, but as MacVicar did, he led the school through a crucial period of its history. Brockport in the mid 1930s was a school that faced grave problems. A major difficulty was that the physical plant was in poor condition and inadequate in size. There were rumors that the school might even be closed due to state budget problems.

Working with a group of concerned local citizens, the "Committee of One Hundred," Hartwell 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 waiting just offstage though, and first to come was the addition in 1945 of a "specialty" to the curriculum, that of training health and physical education teachers. That same year of course WWII ended, and the flood of returning veterans seeking to use their G.I. Bill benefits began. 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-present

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. Since his arrival in August 2005, Dr. Halstead has been tireless in meeting campus stakeholders and getting to know our campus and it's unique challenges. His inauguration was on April 7, 2006.

Last Updated 3/1/12


Hartwell, the man