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Located atop one of the rolling hills in central New York’s “City of Seven Valleys,” the State University of New York College at Cortland was founded in 1868 as the Cortland Normal School. Among its earliest students is inventor and industrialist Elmer A. Sperry of Sperry-Rand Corp. fame. The original campus, located in downtown Cortland, was destroyed by a fire in 1919. The present campus opened in 1923.

Over the decades, the campus expanded and in 1941, by an act of the legislature and the Board of Regents, the institution officially became a four-year college providing courses leading to the bachelor’s degree. In 1948, Cortland became a founding member of the State University of New York.

A complete overview of SUNY Cortland’s history is presented in Cortland College: An Illustrated History by Leonard F. Ralston, professor emeritus, history. The book is available in the College Store.

SUNY Cortland Timeline


New York State Legislature authorizes appointment of Board of Trustees for Cortland Normal School; officers are elected; school organization gets under way.


Classes begin at the Cortland Normal School, located off Church Street in Cortland, N.Y. 


The College Alumni Association is founded.


An addition that includes a gymnasium is built.


Two-year program of instruction beyond high school level is introduced.


The College’s third principal, Harry DeWitt DeGroat, commissions composition of the Alma Mater, written by English professor Ulysses F Axtell.


Fire destroys the original building.


The teacher-training program is extended from two years to three years.


Construction of Old Main is completed on the hill.


The College adopts “Red Dragons” as the nickname for its athletic teams.


The teacher-training program is extended to four years.


Cortland Normal School becomes Cortland State Teachers College providing four-year programs leading to the bachelor’s degree.


Master’s degree programs are authorized.


Cortland becomes a charter member of the State University of New York.

Huntington Memorial Camp at Raquette Lake in the Adirondacks is presented to the College for development as an outdoor education center.

The Cortland State Teachers College Student Welfare Association, Inc., now called the Cortland College Foundation, is formed.


Brockway Hall, Cheney Hall and DeGroat Hall open, the first new buildings since Old Main. Brockway Hall is the first student union in SUNY.


The College Council is established.

Moffett Center is completed.


George Breen becomes the College’s first Olympic star with two bronze and one silver medal in swimming.


Cortland is one of eight charter members of the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC).


Bishop Hall and Shea Hall are completed.

First Cortaca Jug football game is played against Ithaca College.


Neubig Hall is completed.


The College is renamed SUNY College at Cortland and assumes a new role as a comprehensive college of arts and sciences.

Hayes Hall, Hendrick Hall and Memorial Library are completed.


Randall Hall and Lusk Field House are completed.


Liberal arts curriculum is introduced.

Tuition is charged for the first time beginning with the fall semester. The fee is $400 for the entire year.

Cornish Hall, Van Hoesen Hall, Bowers Hall and Fitzgerald Hall are completed.


A study abroad program is initiated.


The Hoxie Gorge Nature Preserve south of Cortland is acquired.


The College observes its 100th anniversary.

Miller Building, Dowd Fine Arts Center, Sperry Center, Winchell Hall, Alger Hall, Clark Hall and Higgins Hall are completed.


The Cortland C-Club Hall of Fame is established.

Corey Union is completed.


The Interfaith Center is completed.


Casey Tower and Smith Tower are completed.

Whitaker Hall is completed and serves as an infirmary until 1983 when it is converted to a dormitory.


Park Center is completed.


The Center for Educational Exchange is established to enhance teacher-preparation programs through networking with elementary and secondary schools in Central New York.

The Robert C. Brauer Memorial Education Center opens.


The College-wide Honors Program is established.

The New York State Senior Games originate on the SUNY Cortland campus.

A major fire at the Raquette Lake Outdoor Education Center destroys the dining hall and several historic buildings.


Classes resume at the Outdoor Education Center as facilities are rebuilt.


Multidisciplinary Center for Minority and Women's Studies (now the Center for Gender and Intercultural Studies) is established.


The College observes its 125th anniversary.


Renovation of Old Main is completed.

College holds first Scholars’ Day, showcasing scholarly work by faculty and students.


College celebrates 50th anniversary of the Outdoor Education Center at Raquette Lake.


Renovation of Hendrick Hall is completed. 


Renovation of Clark Hall is completed.


Stadium Complex opens; the Carl “Chugger” Davis Building is dedicated.

SUNY Cortland and the City of Cortland co-hosted with Syracuse the 25th Empire State Games.

Cortland’s Sport Technology Learning Center (STLC) opens in Studio West.

Renovation of Higgins Hall is completed.


School of Education is established.

Renovation of Alger Hall is completed.


The U.S. National Park Service designates SUNY Cortland’s Huntington Memorial Camp, the former Camp Pine Knot, as the first National Historic Landmark within SUNY.

The College receives accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) for its teacher-education programs, making Cortland home to the largest nationally accredited teacher-education program in New York state.

Consumer's Digest ranks SUNY Cortland among its 50 best value public colleges and universities in the nation.

The SUNY Cortland Alumni Association opens the doors to its newly acquired alumni house on Tompkins Street.

Wendee Wallach-Levy ’70 names an asteroid after her alma mater.

Renovation of Hayes Hall is completed.


College establishes the James M. Clark Center for International Education. 


The Main Street SUNY Cortland facility opens at 9 Main St. in the former Beard Building, giving the College a presence in downtown Cortland.

Glass Tower Hall, the first residence hall built on campus in 32 years and LEED certified, is completed.

Renovation of Brockway Hall is completed.

Renovation of Bishop Hall is completed.


College establishes the bachelor of fine arts (B.F.A.) degree.

Lynne Parks Hoffman ’68 becomes the College’s first $1 million donor. Her gift supports the newly named Lynne Parks ’68 SUNY Cortland Alumni House.


U.S. Army General Ann E. Dunwoody ’75 becomes the nation’s first female four-star general.

U.S. News & World Report lists SUNY Cortland in its 2008 edition of “America’s Best Colleges.”

Renovation of Shea Hall is completed.


Dr. Louise M. Conley (granddaughter of Francis J. Cheney) makes a $1 million gift to be the first to endow an academic chair — the Dr. Louise M. Conley Chair in Educational Leadership.

The Education Building is completed with state-of-the-art facilities for the Child Care Center.

The New York Jets of the National Football League hold their summer training camp at the College.

Cortland takes first place in the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) Commissioner’s Cup ranking for the sixth consecutive year and the 12th time since the ranking was established in the 1996-97 season.

Renovation of Fitzgerald Hall is completed.


The College announces a $5.18 million bequest from John Fantauzzi ’58, the largest individual gift in its 140-year history, to support scholarships for children of immigrants and first-generation college students attending SUNY Cortland.

Michael J. O'Reilly '58 bequeaths $1.24 million to support future science educators.

Kiplinger’s names Cortland among its 100 Best Values in Public Colleges in the U.S. for the fourth consecutive year.


Renovation and new construction at Studio West leads to renaming the building Professional Studies Building, home to the School of Professional Studies.

Renovation of Cheney Hall completed.