Vignelli Distinguished Professor of Design

Looking in the rearview mirror…

The RIT 1954 yearbook, called Techmila, has always been a special nostalgia place for me. Memories come rushing back of a day when RIT was a very different place. Then it was small Rochester trade school preparing students to work in local industries like Eastman Kodak and Gleason Works. The school was aspiring to become something bigger…an institute of technology giving degrees. Located largely in a downtown city block, the facilities were small and old. All the faculty could fit in one room as did the library and bookstore.

The Art School was my home. In the beautiful Bevier Building, designed by local architect Claude Bragdon, the environment was conducive to the evolution of the educational program from old beaux-arts thinking to progressive Modernist ways of creative expression. Faculty from Europe were opening the eyes of students to wider horizons.

Overall there was a friendly atmosphere because everything was so close and felt intimate. Familiar faces and familiar places. The city afforded resources now long lost in the suburbs. Banks, barbershop, hotels, bars, pharmacies, restaurants, theatres, department stores…all the amenities of main Street USA were close by, seemingly just a few steps away.

The annual Spring weekend, the girls at Kate Gleason Hall, Jake’s Bar and Juke-box music, the Past Time Tavern and more.

No ivy but neon. City campus…city school…Not much nostalgia in concrete, but there are things…

Years pass and many of the great things go—leaving suspended in the mind montages of minor impressions. Images from 1954 are the small symbols we don’t forget, the little things that mean a past RIT and will continue in that unbelievable time when we’re the old alumni…looking backward.

Former Associate Dean, CAST

I was the son of Burton Stratton, who was head of all evening programs in the 1940’s and 1950’s. My first real memory is that of going into the Eastman Annex and going into the office of a lady who showed us the construction underway of the Clark Building. This new building was to house the mechanical, printing and photography departments. It was a lot of fun to watch the construction equipment finishing the foundation and starting the walls for the upper structures. For a 7 year old boy, this was real construction and set my mind on engineering.

When I was a student working at RIT, I helped move the bookstore to what had been the “lounge” in the basement of the Clark building.

About the age of 7, I was downtown with my Aunt. We were to meet my father in his office in the RIT Eastman Building. Aunt Stella did not know her way, so she asked others how to get to RIT. Nobody knew, until a man asked if she really wanted Mechanics Institute. Yes, she did and he showed us the way. It must have been soon after 1944, when Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute was changed to Rochester Institute of Technology. Yes, we found my father.

When I was a third year student in Electrical Engineering, we had to take 3 Chemistry courses. The first two were in the building which housed the Kodak research facility in the 1940’s and 1950’s. It was given, with some provisions, to RIT by the federal government, and we called it 50 West Main St. It was nicely done, but it was hard to find your way to specific rooms. The building had 7 floors, plus a mezzanine and a basement. Most of the students did not know what a mezzanine was. The elevators did not stop at the mezzanine at that time, so we had to walk up.

My father was Dean of the College of Continuing Education when he retired in 1962. CCE operated that building for many years after others moved the Henrietta.

In the 1990’s, I was the Associate Dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology. The Dean assigned me to move the programs to the Henrietta campus and to dispose of the furniture in the building. We took some furniture to campus, gave some away and disposed of all else. How interesting that I was the one charged with disposing of much of what had been in the building!

In 1968, RIT moved into the first buildings on the Henrietta campus. Alumni were invited to the dedication of the new campus. I knew most the administrators and many faculty, so I was happy to take my wife to the dedication. It had rained most of the previous week, so the grounds had a lot of mud, and not much grass or many trees yet mature. We drove up to the door of the Rittter Ice Arena, and they had people to park our cars and escort us up the muddy cardboard ramp to the building. It was a wonderful reception, but with many of us having mud on our clothes. Much of the fun was to greet other alumni and RIT friends.

CIAS alumnus

Big Shot 4, December 8, 1990, of the Gannett Building stands out as a great memory at RIT. The first Big Shot on campus, students played a tremendous role in this one because of the need to run the halls to keep the motion sensor lights on. I videotaped the Big Shot for my senior thesis documentary about a year in the life of RIT. 32 Big Shots later, RIT has been featured 5 times and stand as memorials to the unique campus that is known as “Brick City”!​