SUNY Cortland officially dedicated two facilities within its Child Care Center in a ceremony on Friday, Sept. 24.
The naming of the Patricia A. Clark Atrium honors the wife of President Emeritus James A. Clark and the catalyst for the creation of the Child Care Center on campus in the 1990s. The posthumous naming of the Ruth Hart Blanchard ’23 Gross Motor Skills Room is a lasting tribute to the Class of 1923 president and an advocate for early childhood education in Central New York for a half-century.
“Pat Clark has had a profound impact on the campus and the community for over 30 years,” said Vice President for Institutional Advancement Raymond D. Franco.
“I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that we might not have had a child care center on campus if it wasn’t for Pat. The atrium is a child-friendly area that provides a transition from indoor space to the beauty and charm of the outdoor playground. The College is honored to be able to recognize Pat’s service, dedication and leadership by naming this area for her.
“Ruth Hart Blanchard ’23 was a student leader when she was on campus and became a strong advocate for young children and an outstanding educator in this area for many years,” added Franco.
“Ruth’s legacy continues to be felt on the campus today as we award the Ruth Hart Blanchard ’23 scholarship to deserving freshmen majoring in early childhood education every year. In keeping with her spirit of leadership and service, Ruth’s son, Paul Blanchard, currently serves on the Cortland College Foundation Board of Directors and has honored his mother with his service and his generosity to her alma mater.”
SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum presided over the ceremony which took place outside the Child Care Center entrance. Speakers included: Johanna Sweeney Hartnett ’76, the director of the Child Care Center; Brian Murphy ’83, chair of the Cortland College Foundation; and Bruce Tytler M ’88, a member of the SUNY Cortland College Council. Patricia A. Clark and Paul Blanchard offered remarks as well.
Ruth Hart Blanchard
As the Cortland Class of 1923 president, the late Ruth Hart Blanchard ’23 earned a place in the College’s history as the first student to receive a diploma in the newly opened Old Main building. What she did with her degree, though, earned her a place in the hearts and minds of two generations of Central New York pre-school children.
“I was always interested in young children and families,” said Blanchard a few years before her death in 2001. “You’ve got to have a love for children. You’ve got to be interested in their development. You hope you can serve the whole child and that includes family. Especially as young children enter school, the work you do with families is so important.”
She began her impressive 49-year teaching career at Cortland’s Schermerhorn Street School before joining the Ithaca School District. During the Depression, she worked for the Emergency School Program, operated by Cornell University and created as part of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. From the early 1940s until her retirement in 1972, Blanchard directed the Henry St. John Nursery School, Head Start and was a supervisor of pre-kindergarten. She began the first Head Start program in Tompkins County.
Part of the continuum of Cortland teaching excellence, Blanchard learned her lessons from tough but gifted teachers such as Minnie Alger and Ella VanHoesen, whose legendary names are now forever linked to campus facilities.
Blanchard’s career personifies the highest ideals of a Cortland education. She provides a link between the Cortland Normal School pioneers, who were her instructors, and the elementary education majors of today, for whom she created a scholarship in 2000, along with the students and young children who will use the Blanchard Motor Skills Lab in the Child Care Center for decades to come.
Patricia A. Clark
The first lady of SUNY Cortland from 1979-1993, Patricia A. Clark was an active and engaging figure both on the campus and in the community. The former Orono, Maine, mayor shared her passion for an educated local electorate and desire to help families in Cortland, where her leadership strengthened town-gown relations.
Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, she was a catalyst for the creation of the much-needed SUNY Cortland Child Care Center. Through her relentless dedication and commitment, Clark helped to locate a campus site for the center. In recognition of her leadership and her longtime service on the Child Care Center Board of Directors, the organization named the Child Care Center playground in her honor on April 28, 1997. The Patricia A. Clark Playground was in use until Fall 2009, when the center moved into the Education Building.
In 1994, she received the College-Community Appreciation Award from the College Council for her many contributions to the campus community, including her pivotal efforts with the Child Care Center as well as her work on the Nu Sigma Chi Board of Directors. Her hands-on approach helped the sorority regain its sound financial base and improve the sorority house’s physical appearance.
Clark was active with the United Way for Cortland County and project chair for its highly acclaimed Community Needs Assessment Study, the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women.
She and her husband, President Emeritus James M. Clark, reside in the Cortland area.