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Stony Brook University

SBU: History and Timeline

Information and Resources about the History of Stony Brook University.

Timeline: 1940s-1964

New York State adopts the State University of New York system. This system links 31 state-supported campuses. Most are teacher-training schools, with a total of 28,300 students. By 1973, SUNY enrollment reaches 350,000 students on 72 campuses.

William Robertson Coe presents his 400-acre Long Island estate, located in Oyster Bay and called Planting Fields, to New York State for use as a school of horticulture after his death.

Ward Melville donates land in Stony Brook and his estate in Old Field known as “Sunwood” to the State University of New York. The acreage, valued at $4.5 million, will be the future location of the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Sunwood will host recitals and visiting scholars. 

In February, the Board of Trustees of the New York State University system recommends that a state-supported and state-operated college and graduate school be established on Long Island for the education of young men and women in the sciences, math, and engineering.

In October, the Board of Regents adopts the Board of Trustees’ recommendation to establish a college and graduate school on Long Island. They authorize a temporary campus at the Coe estate in Oyster Bay while a new campus is constructed at Stony Brook on the 480 acres donated by Ward Melville. The college is called the State University College of Long Island at Oyster Bay. Its mandate is to prepare secondary math and science teachers.

The State University College of Long Island at Oyster Bay opens on September 16 1957. There are 144 first-year students and 14 faculty members. A pre-fabricated building is erected near the 65-room Tudor mansion. Together with a dormitory converted from horse stables, this makes up the temporary campus. The college is tuition-free.

Its name newly changed to the State University Center on Long Island at Oyster Bay, the University is “now authorized to prepare students for careers in science, mathematics and engineering.” Tuition is free for students preparing to be secondary school teachers, $375 per year for other New York residents and $455 for non-residents. 

In February, the first student publication, The Sucolian, is published.

The Heald Report recommends upgrading New York State’s higher education system, specifically urging a new major university – The Long Island Center at Stony Brook. The State Board of Regents and Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller establish the future university’s mission as a comprehensive university center. 

On April 8, the formal ground breaking ceremony is held for the newly named State University of New York, Long Island Center at Stony Brook. Governor Rockefeller turns the first spade of dirt, accompanied by Ward Melville, State University of New York Trustee Chairman Frank Moore, and others.

On February 1, John F. Lee is appointed as the first President of the University, still located in Oyster Bay. His mandate is to convert the Long Island Center from a science and engineering college to a university with liberal arts and sciences programs and a graduate school. 

On June 25, the University’s first commencement is held. Twenty-five Bachelor of Science degrees are awarded in ceremonies held at the Coe Estate in Oyster Bay.

Fifteen buildings with “geodesic domes” provide new classrooms for the Oyster Bay student body, now numbering 600. Classes begin in September with 527 students and 138 faculty members. 

The first published list of student officers in the campus is posted in the Bulletin. Rosemary Capone is Moderator of the Student Polity; 42 students make the Dean’s Honors List.

On October 1, students engage in the first of many future campus demonstrations. They boycott classes in protest of the transfer and removal of key administrators of the Oyster Bay campus. 

On November 9, President Lee resigns due to controversy over bureaucratic and organizational matters. Dr. Thomas H. Hamilton is appointed as chief administrator.

While some classes and laboratories continue at the Oyster Bay campus for a fifth and final year, the new Stony Brook campus opens. It is known as the State University of New York at Stony Brook (SUNY at Stony Brook). The new campus opens with two completed academic buildings, Humanities and Chemistry. Most classes are held in the Humanities building. It also has a single dormitory, G Dorm, which accommodates 616 resident students. G Dorm also houses the administrative, athletic, student government and newspaper offices, and the infirmary. 

On June 19, the Muir Report is issued and recommends to Governor Rockefeller and the Board of Regents the establishment of “a new medical center, including schools of medicine, dentistry and other health professions, on the State University campus at Stony Brook, Long Island by 1970…”

In the fall, the Library, Engineering, Biology, and Physical Laboratory (housing Physics and Mathematics) buildings are opened. 

A report commissioned by Governor Nelson Rockefeller titled "Education for the Health Professions," (commonly referred to as the Muir Report because its principal author was the chair of the New York State Committee on Medical Education, Malcolm Muir) proposes the establishment of a medical school and teaching hospital at Stony Brook University to address a projected shortage of doctors on Long Island by the 1980s.

In May, the Health and Physical Education Building opens.