It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment on July 14 when SUNY Cortland’s yearlong celebration of its 150th anniversary officially began, but the Alumni Reunion 2018 barbecue behind the Lynne Parks ’68 SUNY Cortland Alumni House is probably one of the top contenders.
That’s when Robert Channing, a world-famous mentalist, speed painter and fan favorite on “America’s Got Talent,” danced with Blaze, the College’s mascot, while dabbing a clear substance onto a black canvas with a paintbrush. When he was done, he stepped back and tossed two big handfuls of gold glitter at the seemingly empty surface.
Channing had invisibly painted an image in clear glue and, as the glitter settled, there was SUNY Cortland’s Red Dragon athletics logo, sparkling in gold. The 200 or so alumni gathered under the tent burst into applause.
“Personally, I think Reunion kicked off our 150th year in a dazzling fashion,” said Reunion 2018 organizer Taylor Lynch ’17, interim assistant director of alumni engagement. “Our alumni let us know over and over again that they absolutely loved Robert’s performance, especially the custom painting of Blaze, our own logo. It was special for everyone involved.”
The good news for the thousands of campus and Cortland community members who missed that particular event is that they will have plenty of opportunities during the rest of this year to continue the SUNY Cortland Sesquicentennial celebration.
Quite a lot has happened since SUNY Cortland was founded as the Cortland Normal School in 1868. To celebrate all of the progress and accomplishment, a 21-member sesquicentennial planning committee began organizing a year-long series of events during the spring, after SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum announced the festivities at the start of the spring semester.
“We see this as a celebration for everyone: for the community, for alumni, for students, faculty, staff and administrators,” said Mary Kate Boland ’06, associate director of leadership and community development. Boland co-chairs the sesquicentennial planning committee with Erin Boylan, executive director of alumni engagement.
“We want this to be an inclusive event celebrating our strong history,” Boland said.
Many of the College’s big anniversaries align this year. These include the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the William H. Parks Family Center for Environmental and Outdoor Education at Camp Huntington, the 60th anniversary of Cortaca Jug, “America’s best little football game,” between Cortland and Ithaca College, and the 50th anniversary of the C-Club Hall of Fame.
This coming year, a number of College anchor events will be flavored with reminders of the College’s 150th birthday, including Orientation, Academic Convocation, Welcome Week, Homecoming, President’s Circle Dinner, C-Club Hall of Fame, Family Weekend and Cortaca Jug. In 2019, the anniversary will link to Transformations, Spring Fling, Honors Convocation, Commencement, and Alumni Reunion 2019.
The main celebration will be a “birthday party” series of events to take place during the C-Club Hall of Fame 50th Anniversary Weekend/Family Weekend, Oct. 5 to 6 on campus.
The weekend will add the following to the traditional Hall of Fame schedule of events:
Members of the community are invited to all four of those events. For details, visit the 150th Birthday Party Celebration website at Cortland.edu/150. Register online or call Alumni Engagement at 607-753-2516.
“We’re really exciting about the birthday celebration on October fifth and sixth,” Boland said. “The party will feature a birthday a cake and students from ‘Annie Get your Gun’ to lead the gathering in song. Some special guests will be present. Campus Technology Services will create a light display on the Moffett Center building. The evening will end with fireworks on Moffett Lawn.
“If you’re going to make any one thing in the year, I think Oct. 5 is the weekend to come and celebrate,” Boland said.
Everyone in the campus community was invited to apply for a share of approximately $20,000 in funding that was set aside to support creative ways to mark the Sesquicentennial. The resulting proposals for lectures, workshops, cultural events, concerts, theatre productions, academic activities, sporting events, receptions or other activities to coincide with the Sesquicentennial were reviewed by a subcommittee of faculty, staff and students.
“We had 20 applications for grants and most of the folks who applied for grants were given funding,” Boland said of the full committee, which made the final decision. “And so, we’re happy to extend the celebration all year. These grants are really helping us all year long to have smaller celebrations in a variety of ways.”
Details for most of these grant-funded events will be announced during the coming year. They include:
The Sesquicentennial Planning Committee put a lot of thought into the year’s celebrations.
Randi Storch, the History Department chair and an early co-chair of the sesquicentennial planning committee, worked with students to select and research 150 moments from the College’s history that are included on a digital timeline. The timeline is part of a permanent, interactive website that allows visitors to access detailed information, images and more for each event. Storch and Web Operations Specialist Loren Leonard designed the project.
Boylan noted the sesquicentennial programming will follow three goals the committee established early.
“First, we wanted to celebrate the long history, current accomplishments and expected future growth of SUNY Cortland,” Boylan said. “The second is to create or deepen relationships with alumni, parents, students and community members to encourage and support the College in its mission through gifts of time, talent and treasure. And finally, we want to use it to strengthen the College’s brand and reputation.”
To learn more about the College’s historic year, take a tour of the College timeline and purchase a College history book at cortland.edu/150.
Alumni should check for email from the alumni association or visit RedDragonNetwork at RedDragonNetwork.org for updates about planned events.