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What's In A Name: Res Hall History

Tanner Newcomb on Friday, 15 June 2012. Posted in Alumni, Life After RIT, Residence Life, Student Life, Women at RIT

You hear the names thrown around - Sol, Ellingson, Gleason - but do you know where they come from, who they come from? For incoming and seasoned students alike, here's a quick run down of the RIT's residence hall history!

Frances Baker Hall
As the story goes, Francis Baker was "a sweet little lady with gentle voice and manner." She walked into the Mechanics Institute one day asking to see the comptroller, who was not available. She was referred to the office of the President, Dr. Ellingson. He was expecting a neighbor's complaint, but was completely surprised when she offered the Institute her home when she no longer needed it. 

Eugene Colby Hall
Eugene C. Colby was the first principal of the Mechanics Institute and first director of its art school. He served the Institute from its beginning in 1885 until 1905. Mr. Colby was also very active on the Rochester City Board of Education. 

He wrote an early history of the Institute, tracing its development from 1885-1925. In it, he writes, "foundations have been set up for many other schools of the type of Mechanics Institute, but nowhere else in America has a community been so completely and effectively mobilized behind a private educational project." 

Kate Gleason Hall
Kate Gleason began working in her father's machine tool plant at a very early age. In 1888, she became the first woman to enroll in Cornell University's Engineering program. She left school before the end of her first year to take a more active part in her father's business. Later, she also studied part-time at the Mechanics Institute. 

From 1890-1913 she served as Secretary-Treasurer to the Gleason Works. Her role as a sales representative allowed her frequent travel throughout the United States and Europe. Upon leaving the Gleason Works in 1913, she acquired a bankrupt machine and tool company. She returned it to profitability and became active with several business ventures in the village of East Rochester, New York. 

She was the only woman member of the American Concrete Institute. In 1914, she became the first woman elected to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. In 1916, she became the first woman member of the Rochester Engineering Society.

Helen Fish Hall
Mrs. Helen Murray Fish, a lifelong resident of Rochester, was an avid supporter of cultural activities in the city. 

In 1920, she was a founder and original board member of the Hochstein School of Music. The school's purpose was to provide music education for children whose parents could not afford to pay for music training. This school later became a part of the Eastman School of Music. 

Her sister was Florence Murray Wallace, for whom the Wallace Library is named. Helen Fish was very well known for her helpfulness towards students. 

Nathaniel Rochester Hall
Colonel Nathaniel Rochester began his military service in 1775 at the time of the Revolutionary War. He was appointed colonel of the North Carolina Line in 1776 and commissary general for North Carolina regiments. He spent the next several years engaged in fighting a war and supplying troops in the field during a time of desperate shortages. 

Colonel Rochester was a founder of the city of Rochester and the Rochester Athenaeum. In 1803, he and his two partners purchased the One Hundred Acre Tract, which was to become the nucleus of the future city. He was a community builder, active in banking, civic affairs, and religious and cultural institutions. 

The Rochester Athenaeum, one of the forerunner's of RIT, was founded on June 12, 1829. Colonel Rochester became its first President. It was located downtown, in the original Reynolds Arcade building. At the time, it was generally considered the commercial and cultural center of the city.

Sol Heumann Hall
Sol Heumann was an Institute trustee for 23 years (1926-1949), during which time he was also a generous donor. He ultimately left a significant bequest to the Institute. 

He was president and chief executive officer of Timely Clothes, Inc., during a period when Rochester was a major center for the production of men’s clothing. Mr. Heumann was also Director of Community Savings Bank. A prominent businessman in the city of Rochester, he was well known for his philanthropy and held memberships in many local organizations. 

Carleton Gibson Hall
Carleton B. Gibson was the first official president of the Institute, a position that he held from 1910-1916. Prior to this, the Institute was operated by committees of trustees. 

Gibson was a strong proponent of cooperative education. During his term as president, the cooperative work program was initiated. He also organized the Alumni Association and the Institute's first yearbook was published during his presidency. 

Mark Ellingson Hall
Mr. Ellingson served as the president of the Institute from 1936-1969. He was also an economics professor and wrestling coach. In 1944, he was instrumental in the name change of the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute to Rochester Institute of Technology, reflecting the focus on technical education that had developed over the years. 

Mr. Ellingson not only led RIT during a period of sharply increasing enrollment, but he also expanded the downtown campus. In 1937, he was a driving force behind bringing the Empire School of Printing to RIT. 

In the 1960's, President Ellingson led the campaign for RIT to be considered as a home to the newly developed National Technical Institute for the Deaf. He saw a great value to RIT hosting such an institute and he pursued it ardently. 

Peter Peterson Hall
It was Mr. Peterson's dream to have a technical college for the deaf that would be a complement to Gallaudet College (in Washington, DC). He immigrated in 1887 from Sweden to the United States as a teenager, and shortly after arriving he became deaf as a result of an illness. He fought hard for his own education, not knowing any English when he arrived here. He received a bachelor's degree from Gallaudet College and it was this experience that helped shape his views on education for the deaf. 

He wrote about his vision in the 1930's but he was virtually unheard. Many years passed before his dream became reality and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf was finally established.