IC history Photo

Who’s That Building Named After? Hill Center

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Laurence S. Hill Physical Education Center, Ocotber 2014.

Yet another building on campus that has gotten a recent rennovation is the Laurence S. Hill Physical Education Center, celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year.

The building, built and dedicated as the campus’s new gymnasium in 1964, was the first designated home for the Ithaca School of Physical Education, previously forced to hold classes in various buildings around the Ithaca area.

Design for the Hill Center.

Before the school had its permanent home, Laurence S. Hill ran the department of Physical Education. Coming to Ithaca in 1929, Hill firmly ran the program for many years, retaining the title of Dean until his death in July of 1957 after having a heart attack months proir.

Lawrence Hill
Laurence S. Hill, Dean of the Ithaca School of Physical Education, 1929-1957.

Hill came from the Albany school systems and  promoted the philosophy of the New York State director of Phsyical Education, Frederick Rand Rogers. They agreed and taught that physical education programs were to be concerned with physical fitness and its measurement, competition between evenly matched teams, and player control of the game.

The dedication of the gymnasium brought with it the Eastern regional meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, a large gathering of educators, professionals and students to read and share their works on the subject. The building was dedicated as the Laurence S. Hill Physical Education Center in February of 1968 with a ceremony including his widow, Mrs. Hill.

The academic year of 1964-65 finally marked the expansion of the college’s facilities, giving both the music and athletics schools adequate space and resources to educate their growing population of students.



Written by Cecily Brown.

IC history Photo Uncategorized

Who’s That Building Named After? Ford Hall

Ford Hall Auditorium in James J. Whalen School of Music

Ithaca College’s campus consists mainly of structures honoring those that helped to build the college in one way or another. The memory of these founders, presidents and philanthropists rests here in the Ithaca College Archives, a department that exists to preserve the history of our institution and educate the community

This fall we mark the 50th anniversary of the James C. Whalen School of Music on IC’s campus. However, the building has only been named after the school’s sixth President since its renovation in 1997. When the music building was built in 1964, it was dedicated as  The Walter B. Ford Hall, after mathematician and benefactor, Dr.  Walter Burton Ford. Ford donated the money for the Music Building as well as a baroque style organ with over 4,000 pipes. Today, the memory of the Fords is maintained in the Ford Hall Auditorium and by the plaque dedicating the building to Walter B. Ford that hangs in the east stairwell.

Walter B. Ford at the dedication for the Walter B. Ford Music Building
Organ Dedication
Walter B. Ford at the dedication of the baroque organ.

The Ford family, originally from Oneonta, NY was well known for their many donations to education, and civic buildings in their local community. Walter Burton Ford was a professor of mathematics at the University of Michegan, retiring in 1939 to live in Ovid, NY.

He was recognized for his work in mathematics on the study of infinite series, as well as writing a textbook used in many secondary schools. Ford served as president of the American Mathematics Association, as well as editor of the association’s journal.

His estate was inherited from his father in 1912 at slightly under one million dollars.  By living a prudent and frugal life, as well as investing his inheritence in IBM, his fortune grew. Walter passed away at the age of 96 in 1971 , leaving behind a ten million dollar estate, most of which was donated to colleges in Upstate New York including Hobart William Smith, Eisenhower, Ithaca, and Hartwick State Teachers colleges. As a long time resident of Ovid, NY, Walter had given the town its municipal building, as well as the library, a memorial for his late wife, Edith, who passed in 1959.

Clinton playing Viola.
The Ford Family on a trip to Egypt. Clinton sitting on Camel.

Walter was survived by his son Clinton B. Ford, a consulting physicist of Wilton, CT. As a scientist, Clinton was once the President and Secretary of the American Association of Variable Star Observers. He was also an acomplished violist, and an active member of the Associated Chamber Music Players. Upon his passing he left large endowments to both of these organizations, helping to insure and promote their future.

Clinton was also very active member of the Ithaca College communitiy. He served as a Board of Trustees member, as well as on the presidential search committee, helping to hire James Whalen. He taught master classes in viola, gave lectures on astronomy, and worked to establish scholarships in both the studies of music and science.

Ithaca College is also home to the Clinton B. Ford Observatory, built and dedicated to Clinton in 1998 with funding from his estate, the National Science Foundation and the college itself. As part of his donation, Clinton asked that his gift be used to further studies of astronomy at Ithaca College.

The Ford Family helped make Ithaca College’s music program the prestigious and recognized curriculum that it is today. Both the Walter B. Ford Music school, as well as the Clinton B. Ford Observatory are important and integral architectures of the Ithaca College campus and its history.

Walter Ford next to his car.
Three generations of Ford men.

By promoting both musical practice and scientific study, the Ford Family truly invested in the future of the college and the students that would attend it. The histories of those who founded and built our community are too often forgotten. With anniversaries likes this one the campus community will hopefully be reminded to consider the means by which, and the people who helped make our college become the great place that it is today.


Written by Cecily Brown.

IC history Photo

Commencement at IC

It is senior week at Ithaca College and we are getting ready for Commencement. Commencement has changed over the years, reflecting changes in the College’s campus, student body and also general cultural changes.

Commencement 1964 -- procession in DeWitt Park
Commencement 1964 — procession in DeWitt Park

During the years of the downtown campus, Commencement was held in one of the churches – St. Paul’s Methodist — or in one of the theatres — Strand or State. The academic procession wound through DeWitt Park on the way to the ceremony. (1964)

Baccalaureate procession, 1964
Baccalaureate procession, 1964

As the current campus on South Hill was being constructed, there were two transitional years, 1963 and 1964, when the Baccalaureate service was held in the Union (now Campus Center) and Commencement itself was held at St. Paul’s downtown. Where in the Union was there a space large enough for the graduating class and the faculty? As the current campus on South Hill was being constructed, there were two transitional years, 1963 and 1964, when the Baccalaureate service was held in the Union (now Campus Center) and Commencement itself was held at St. Paul’s downtown. Where in the Union was there a space large enough for the graduating class and the faculty?

1965 Commencement
1965 Commencement

Finally, in 1965, both Baccalaureate and Commencement were held on the South Hill campus. Commencement was held in the Hill Center, in the gym, and the Baccalaureate was held in the Union.

Commencement continued to be held in the gym until 1979, when it moved to the football field (now Butterfield Stadium). The Baccalaureate service transitioned to the Commencement Eve concert showcasing the talented ensembles from the School of Music.

As the student body grew, the tradition of having students walk across the stage and having their names read was dropped in favor of acknowledging them by school.

If you graduated from IC, what was your Commencement like? Where was it? Do you remember anything special about it?


Cortaca Jug football!

The football rivalry between Ithaca College and SUNY Cortland goes back to 1959 when the team captains bought a jug.

Coach Butterfield with the Cortaca Jug, 1969
Coach Butterfield with the Cortaca Jug after the 1969 Ithaca victory.

The first game between Ithaca and Cortland that is reported in The Ithacan is in 1930, when the teams were the Ispies (for the Ithaca School of Physical Education or ISPE, one of the affiliated schools of the Ithaca Conservatory of Music and Affiliated Schools) and the Red for Cortland Normal. Cortland won, 12-0.

For an article in The Ithacan about the history of the Cortaca Jug and the 50th anniversary game, follow this link.

The Cortaca games have the highest attendance for any sporting events in Butterfield Stadium because of this longstanding rivalry between IC and Cortland.

Did you attend or play in a Cortaca  Jug game? What was it like in the stands or on the field?



An outdoor pool? In Ithaca?

It is August in Ithaca. The outdoor pool is in daily use by students, faculty, staff and their families. Given the heat of this summer, an outdoor pool is a welcome opportunity to cool off and have fun in the sun. The pool was constructed in the early 1960’s (probably 1962) as part of the initial phase of campus.

Why, in an environment like ours, where swimming outside is chilly (or worse!) for the entire academic year, was an outdoor pool built so early? It turns out that the College leased the existing residence halls and the Union to a music camp for the summer and a pool was a requirement for that lease.

Men testing the water in the outdoor pool.
Spring Festival Water Football preliminaries, 1965

This photo was taken May 2, 1965 at the beginning of a game of water football that was part of the Spring Festival. Note that spectators are wearing jackets!

Did (Do) you swim in the outdoor pool? Were you on campus during the summer? What was it like?


The South Hill Ski Slope!

Skiing on South Hill, 1964
Skiing on South Hill, 1964

In the early 1960’s, when the current Ithaca College campus was brand new, there was a ski slope on the eastern edge of campus. The arrangement included a tow rope system to haul skiers up the hill that was operated by an engine in a pickup truck and a little shack to shelter from the wind. It appears to have staffed and maintained by a student Ski Club. Because Ithaca winters are uneven, there were some years when the slope was never active and it appears to have been abandoned some time in the early 1970’s.

We have recently posted a new video about the Ski Slope.

Did you ski on campus? When was the last ski run down the hill? Or when was the first? What were winters like during your years at Ithaca College?



Were you on the radio at Ithaca College?

Disc jockey in a radio studio
Disc jockey in an Ithaca College radio studio, 1958

Ithaca College has had a radio station since the late 1940’s. The first call letters were WITJ, later the station became WICB. The studios have moved over the last 60+ years — starting in the Little Theatre next to DeWitt Park, moving to the “Radio Workshop” on Court Street, then to the TV-R studio on Buffalo Street, then to Dillingham Center and now in Park.

Were you a DJ? An engineer? Other station personnel? Which studio did/do you work in? What was/is it like? What kind of program did/do you do?  Did/do you listen to IC’s radio on the air? Or did you work for the television station? What was your role? What was it like?

Do you have photos that you could share with us? This 1958 photo seems to be the most recent radio studio photo available.