Since 1958 the Friends have lent their support to Ithaca College and the local community. It began simply enough with the leadership of IC trustee Roland “Red” Fowler. As Fowler explained, when he and the other trustees were approached for financial support, “Some of us, me included, were not affluent and were embarrassed at not being able to contribute a substantive sum.”
So, instead, Fowler agreed to head a committee of local business leaders who would contribute smaller amounts. Each “Friend” was responsible for bringing a new “friend” to the table, and together they were able to generate the contributions that Fowler alone could not. Within seven months the Friends had $6,000 in hand for library books and much-needed scientific equipment.
Then in the 1960s the college faced another financial challenge. We had built a student union and a few dormitories on South Hill but had yet to construct a classroom building. According to the federal government, if we didn’t have a classroom, we couldn’t be considered a college. So government funding stopped. Once again, the Friends came to the rescue, raising $250,000 for South Hill’s first classroom building — Friends Hall.
Friends Hall still welcomes bright minds today, as do several other spots on campus bearing the Friends’ name: the Friends of Ithaca College Greenroom and Reception Suite in the Whalen Center for Music, and the Friends of Ithaca College Conference Room in Dillingham Center. And in 1976 the Friends stepped up to support IC in yet another way, by endowing a scholarship fund for local students.
As the the group has evolved along with Ithaca College, it has broadened its scope: in recognition of the myriad ways local donors support IC, any individual from Tompkins County or an adjoining county who makes a gift to any designation is welcomed as a Friend of Ithaca College.