History of Ithaca College

On the Move

With a Little Help from Our Friends

In March 1958 College trustee Roland "Red" Fowler agreed to head "a local committee in Ithaca" to raise funds for the College's expansion. Fowler's group of 100 local "friends" committed to a $100 annual gift to the College and to recruiting other friends. By October Fowler had $6,000 in hand for library books and much-needed scientific equipment.

It wasn't until 1960, after more makeshift downtown classrooms and a temporary expansion into the old hospital site on Quarry Street, that Howard Dillingham, our fourth president, broke ground on South Hill for the first building on the new campus -- the Campus Center, known then as Egbert Union. Dillingham had been quick to recognize that the federal government was anxious to fund higher education in the wake of the Soviets' launching of the Sputnik satellite. So Ithaca College in its modern incarnation was born -- "the miracle on South Hill," as a regional newspaper described it.

The miracle almost sputtered again: We had erected a union building and a few dormitories, but you're not a college if you don't have a classroom. And the U.S. government decided we weren't quite a college. The money stopped. Luckily, once more the community of Ithaca stepped forward. In 1961 the Friends of Ithaca College raised $250,000 for our first classroom building, named Friends Hall in honor of their generosity and perfect timing.

The View from South Hill

We were nearly ready to leave the old Boardman House, our home for 50 years, behind us for good. When the first classes convened on South Hill in 1961, they met in lounges in Egbert Union, in basement trunk rooms of dormitories -- anywhere there was space.

There were virtually three campuses in the early 1960s. Classes were still being held in rented spaces downtown and in the Quarry Street buildings. Students were ferried from one site to another by buses running on frantic but somehow efficient schedules, up and down the hills. Only in 1968 did the College's final academic department move to South Hill -- the radio and television department took up its new quarters in the just-completed Dillingham Center. By then the campus was distinctive, with fountains and towers.