So many new buildings have emerged, housing advanced labs, studios, research endeavors, and student gathering venues. After 25 years of participating in and observing all of this, what I hold dearest, however, are the camaraderie and sense of family permeating the RIT campus community and the community at large. In so many inner cities, such as Boston where my parents grew up, there is no grass or trees – only bricks, cement, apartment buildings, and store fronts. So when I visited that neighborhood every weekend, we played stick ball – broom stick handles, a rubber ball, and buildings to hit the ball against. The annual RIT stick ball tournament (I pitched) -- played in the Administrative Circle -- for students, faculty, and staff was nostalgic for me and others. During the week growing up in a Boston suburb, I played baseball and softball on finely cut grass infields and outfields. The annual RIT softball tournament (I pitched) -- played on RIT’s athletics fields -- for students, faculty, staff, alumni, NYS legislators, and business executives was also nostalgic for me and others. When everyone works and plays together, memories never fade.
Early in the 1988-89 school year, the student government vice president, Eric Senna, proposed that RIT have a life-size tiger statue as a symbol of school spirt. Eric located Dr. D.H.S. “Duff" Wehle, who was establishing a career as a wildlife sculptor . Impressed by the student enthusiasm for the idea, and wanting to expand his reputation as a sculptor, he agreed to do the project at a deeply discounted price. Coincidentally, “Duff” was a member of the Wehle family of the Genesee Brewing Co. and brother of RIT trustee, Ted Wehle. Fundraising efforts included the sale of “tiger stock” and 20 “limited edition” macquetts (small replicas) of the statue. The Wehle Foundation generously funded the site on which the statue is placed. Dedication of the statue took place on November 10, 1989, coinciding with a meeting of the RIT Board of Trustees . A large enthusiastic crowd cheered the new mascot. The tiger statue inspired the establishment of “The Tiger Fund,” an endowment whose funds would be used to support student school spirit activities.
Everyone had moved to the new campus in September ’68 except the School of Art and Design, and the School for American Craftsman students. Our building was finally ready in January '69. We tagged furniture, files and art work before leaving for the Christmas break. When we returned, all was in Booth Hall on the new campus! White walls, huge rooms and pristine floors were a treat! Such a contrast from Claude Bragdon’s beloved old Bevier building on Spring Street! But sentiments run deep, and one day a few students were demonstrating outside Booth Hall, longing for the old campus!
I visited the new campus one time for about an hour with a gang of classmates from the downtown campus. It was probably in 1965 or earlier. What we saw was rough terrain, possibly some construction.
Downtown, the SAC building was across the street from the skating rink and the women's dorm building. There was a street named Goldsmith's Alley in front of the SAC building. That building was pretty old and run down. The silversmithing studio had no air conditioning and the pigeons used to roost on the window sill of the open window near the soldering area. But I loved the place; it had a lot of architectural charm. There was a lawn area right next to the building and everyone went out and sat on the grass and chatted during morning and afternoon breaks.
When I reflect back to 1968 and our move to the “New Campus” I remember feeling like many others; how can we leave the “old campus”, what about the Past Time, what about shopping at Midtown, what about all the beautiful historic buildings that contained offices, classrooms and labs; all the hustle and bustle of a downtown campus would all be gone!
Well, we had to let go of those feelings and move out to Henrietta and accept the fact that all the fields and open spaces would give birth to a “New Campus”. My department, Personnel, as it was called in those days, was located in the “Eastman Tower”, a name many people used and was one of the first buildings to be occupied. I have so many memories of that period of time in RIT’s history, but one of my favorite memories was the dedication of the “New Campus” and seeing Dr. Ellingson, the President, cut a very LARGE cake that was created as a replica of our “New Campus”! There was so much to celebrate that day! Fifty years ago an urban campus become a suburban campus. The move was critical to the growth of RIT as a university and every day it is evident to me it was a very good decision.