Past Presidents & History
A Proud Tradition
Adapted from SUNY Plattsburgh, 1889–1989: A Summary by Douglas R. Skopp
The New York State Normal and Training School at Plattsburgh was chartered on June 15, 1889, the last of 11 public normal schools to be established in New York. It was built to train and supply public school teachers to the surrounding area’s elementary and secondary schools.
Leading citizens from Plattsburgh and Clinton County lobbied Albany for a normal and training school. The first Normal Hall was built at a cost of some $90,000 on a 15 acre tract of land purchased by the City of Plattsburgh from one of its wealthiest and most influential citizens, Smith Weed. When the school opened, it was the most modern in the state; the grounds and pond, with its 40-foot high fountain, were praised as one of the finest parks north of Albany.
Plattsburgh’s superintendent of schools, Mr. Fox Holden, became the normal school’s first principal. Thirteen others comprised the school’s first faculty — noteworthy among them were George H. Hudson, who taught natural sciences and George l. Hawkins, who taught mathematics until he became principal in 1898.
More on past presidents and key moments in the university’s history is included here.
Past Presidents & Principals
- Fox Holden (1890–1892)
The Board of Managers appointed Fox Holden as the first Principal of the Normal and Training School at Plattsburgh. Although very little is reported about him, Dr. Holden was the Superintendent of Schools for Plattsburgh at the time of his appointment. He also served as one of the faculty members. In 1892, Dr. Holden resigned to assume new duties in the New York City school system.
- Edward N. Jones (1892–1898)
Dr. Edward N. Jones served as the second Principal of the Plattsburgh Normal School.
Dr. Jones left his position as Superintendent of the Saratoga School District to come to Plattsburgh after the resignation of Dr. Fox Holden. Jones helped supervise the expansion of Normal Hall.
In 1895, when the $35,000 construction was complete, the Normal and Training School had a new south wing, more classroom space for the training school and more science laboratories for the Normal school. Dr. Jones left in 1898 to return to the Saratoga School District.
- George Knight Hawkins (1898–1933)
Dr. George K. Hawkins personified the ideals of traditional turn-of-the century American normal schools.
Dr. Hawkins, a graduate of the Normal School at Fredonia in 1884, taught math at Sherburne Union School and Academy. In 1894, he received his master’s degree from Union University, and in 1895 he received his doctorate of science from St. Lawrence University. Hawkins came to Plattsburgh Normal School in 1890, as a member of the school’s first faculty. He taught mathematics from 1890 to 1898.
Dr. Hawkins served Plattsburgh from 1898 to 1933 as its third Principal. Among his notable achievements, were his efforts to reconstruct the main building after it was destroyed by fire in 1929. In his honor, the main building was dedicated and renamed Hawkins Hall in 1955.
- Charles C. Ward (1933-1952)
Dr. Charles C. Ward was the fourth Principal of the Plattsburgh Normal School. He saw the name of the College change twice during his nearly twenty years as its leader. It became known as Plattsburgh State Teachers College in 1942; at that time, he became the college’s first president.
The college was renamed the State University Teachers College at Plattsburgh in 1949. He introduced the home economics and the nursing programs as courses of study, as well as planned for the college’s expansion after World War II. This included the creation of its first dormitory, Macdonough Hall. To honor President Ward, the Home Economics Building was dedicated and named after him in 1955.
- Edward E. Redcay (1952–1954)
Dr. Edward Redcay came to Plattsburgh State in 1936. During his career, “Doc” Redcay served as a professor of education and psychology, organizer of summer sessions, basketball coach and later the Dean of the College. In 1952, he became the Acting President of Plattsburgh following President Ward’s death and held that position for two years.
A beloved teacher, he created many programs for Plattsburgh State students. Chief among them was the development of a Scholars Program. Near the end of his more than fifty year association with the college, he also set up a major endowment fund to promote and recognize undergraduate student academic excellence in the behavioral sciences and in the Honors Program. Further, he created the Robert Frost Poetry Award in honor of his long time friend. Shortly before his death in 1989, he received the Centennial Award of Honor on the 100th birthday of the College.
In honor of Dr. Redcay and his wife, Lillian, an academic building was dedicated to them and named Redcay Hall in 1985.
- George W. Angell (1954–1974)
Soon after Dr. George W. Angell became the sixth President of SUNY Plattsburgh, his first priorities were to attract and maintain quality faculty and students and establish a center of academic excellence, innovation and responsiveness to public needs.
Throughout his career, he focused on expanding educational opportunities, with a focus on international education. By the time he retired from Plattsburgh, he had developed and implemented a plan that changed Plattsburgh from a small teacher-training program institution to a multi-faceted college of arts and sciences. He brought educational television to the area with programs for the Plattsburgh campus.
President Angell also created a campus-based Economic and Business Research Institute and the Technical Assistance Center. In 1963, he formed the Plattsburgh College Foundation, which continues today to provide scholarships, funds for research and study grants. He also established the George and Ruth Angell Endowment Fund.
President Angell was a prime mover in establishing the Plattsburgh Alumni Association, and he created the first Office of Alumni Affairs. After retiring in 1974, he became the consultant for the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C. George Angell passed away ten years later at the age of 72.
The Angell College Center was dedicated in 1984 in memory of Dr. Angell and his commitment to the College.
- Joseph C. Burke (1974–1986)
Dr. Joseph Burke was the Vice President at Loyola University when President Angell invited him to become the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Plattsburgh in 1973. A year later, when President Angell retired, Dr. Burke was named Plattsburgh’s seventh President. During this time of declining state budgets, President Burke focused on academic quality and the beauty of our campus.
By the time of his departure in 1986 to become the Provost for the State University of New York, he had initiated the college’s very popular business and computer science programs. Despite significant economic challenges that could have eroded the college’s ability to achieve its high goals, President Burke regarded each economic "crisis" as a way to constructively change the institution of higher learning. His leadership is evident on the campus everywhere today through his championship in the college’s display of public art and the beautification of the campus.
The Burke Art Gallery in the Myers Fine Arts Building is named in honor of President Burke and his wife, Joan. President Burke continues to be active as an author and Director of the Higher Education Program at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government.
- Charles O. Warren (1987–1994)
Dr. Charles O. Warren came to Plattsburgh as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science in 1979. After three years as vice president for academic affairs at SUNY Cortland, he returned to Plattsburgh in 1987 to become the eighth President, serving until 1994.
During his presidency, he helped the college achieve significant progress in fundraising, campus affirmative action policies, multicultural activities and stronger college and community relationships. His administration also became responsive to fiscal issues by instituting a planning and accountability process designed to preserve and enhance the quality of a Plattsburgh education.
President Warren was honored with the Distinguished Service Award by the College Council, and he and his wife, Nancy, were named Honorary Plattsburgh Alumni by the Plattsburgh Alumni Association. The Ballrooms in the Angell College Center were dedicated in their honor when they left SUNY Plattsburgh in 1994 when President Warren was named the ninth President of Lynchburg (Va.) College.
- Horace A. Judson (1994–2003)
The SUNY Board of Trustees appointed Dr. Horace A. Judson as the ninth President of SUNY Plattsburgh effective Jan. 10, 1994. President Judson came to Plattsburgh from California State University-Stanislaus where he was Provost and Academic Vice President.
During President Judson’s tenure at Plattsburgh State, the endowment of the Plattsburgh College Foundation grew through private support, more than doubling during his last three years as president. Despite declining annual state budgets during his presidency, SUNY Plattsburgh was listed among the top colleges in the nation by several magazines, including U.S. News and World Report, Money, and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine.
In July 2004, President Judson was appointed President of Grambling State University in Louisiana. At the time of his departure from Plattsburgh, President Judson and his wife, Gail, helped create an endowment fund to assist SUNY Plattsburgh students with the costs of study abroad.
- John Ettling (2004–2019)
Dr. John Ettling became the 10th president of SUNY Plattsburgh on June 15, 2004 after serving as vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of North Dakota for six years.
Over the decade and a half he led the college, President Ettling instituted approaches, ushered in new programs, and contributed to the overall betterment of the college in myriad ways:
- Made it a priority to represent SUNY Plattsburgh abroad, furthering the mission of the Global Education Office and saw more than 1,100 international students earn SUNY Plattsburgh degrees and nearly 2,300 SUNY Plattsburgh study overseas;
- Along with his wife, Lisa Lewis, became the first representatives of an American college to visit universities in Havana, Cuba. They were also part of a small delegation that traveled to Southeast Asia as part of the Institute of International Education;
- Saw more than 15,000 students arrive on campus as freshmen and another 8,750 transfer in
- Saw nearly 22,000 students graduate from the college;
- Helped launch the college’s first comprehensive campaign, Bright with Promise, which brought in more than $16 million in gifts, 86 percent of which went toward scholarships and other forms of direct support to students;
- Committed SUNY Plattsburgh to a master facilities planning process, which took an in-depth look at every building on campus, helping secure more than $237 million from the SUNY Construction fund;
- Saw to the construction of the 30,000-square-foot Hudson Annex, the first new building on campus since Feinberg Library was opened in the mid-1970s, the renovation of Hudson Hall, and the construction of Au Sable Hall, home to the School of Business and Economics, the computer science program and the Center for Cybersecurity and Technology;
- Committed to bringing under one roof community-focused efforts, such as the Alzheimer’s Disease Caregiver Support Initiative, Autism Intervention Programs, Neuropsychology Clinic and Psychoeducational Services, and the Traumatic Brain Injury Center. The $8.4 million Center for Neurobehavioral Health is located in the southern corner of Sibley Hall.
In August 2018, President Ettling announced his plans to retire after the 2018–2019 academic year.