State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry

State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry
State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Established 1911
Type Public
President Cornelius B. Murphy, Jr.
Students 2718[1]
Location Syracuse, NY, USA
Campus Urban and Rural
Mascot Mighty Oaks
Website ESF website

The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF) is an American specialized doctoral-granting institution located in the University Hill neighborhood of Syracuse, New York, immediately adjacent to Syracuse University. ESF also operates several regional campuses across central New York, including the New York State Ranger School in Wanakena, New York. The College's curricula focus on the understanding and management of the environment and natural resources. It is currently commemorating its centennial.[2]



The New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University was established in 1911 through a bill signed by New York Governor John Alden Dix. The previous year, Governor Hughes had vetoed a bill authorizing such a college.[3] Both bills followed the state's defunding, in 1903, of the New York State College of Forestry at Cornell.[4][5] Originally a unit of Syracuse University, in 1913, the College was made a separate, legal entity.

Hunter Mountain, Twilight (1866) by Hudson River school artist Sanford Robinson Gifford, showing the devastation wrought by years of tanbarking and logging.

Syracuse native and constitutional lawyer Louis Marshall, a prime mover for the establishment of the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve (New York), became a Syracuse University Trustee in 1910. He confided in Chancellor James R. Day his desire to have an agricultural and forestry school at the University[6], and by 1911 his efforts resulted in a New York State bill to fund the project: the aforementioned appropriation bill signed by Governor Dix.[7] Marshall was elected president of the college's Board of Trustees at its first meeting, in 1911; at the time of his death, eighteen years later, he was still president of the Board.[8]

The first dean of the College was William L. Bray, a Ph.D., graduate from the University of Chicago[9], botanist, plant ecologist, biogeographer and Professor of Botany at Syracuse University. In 1907 he was made head of the botany department at Syracuse, and in 1908 he started teaching a forestry course in the basement of Lyman Hall. Bray was an associate of Gifford Pinchot, who was the first Chief of the United States Forest Service.[10][11] In 1911, in addition to assuming the deanship of forestry, Bray organized the Agricultural Division at Syracuse University. He remained at Syracuse until 1943 as chair of botany and Dean of the Syracuse Graduate School.[12]

In 1915, the same year that Dr. Bray published The Development of the Vegetation of New York State, he became one of the founding members, along with Raphael Zon and Yale School of Forestry's second dean, James W. Toumey, of the Ecological Society of America.[13] In 1950, the 1917 "activist wing" of that Society formed today's The Nature Conservancy.[14][15]

Most of the professors, in the early years of the College of Forestry at Syracuse and the Department of Forestry at Cornell's New York State College of Agriculture were educated in forestry at the Yale School of Forestry. The forestry students at Syracuse but not at Cornell were referred to as "stumpies" by their classmates probably up until woman were admitted to the college.

Fifty-two students were enrolled in the school's first year, the first 11 graduating two years later, in 1913.[16] One of the hallmarks of the College, its research, dates back to 1912, beginning with a study on what firms were using lumber in the state of New York as well as the wood species and quantities. In 1912, the College opened its Ranger School in Wanakena, New York, in the Adirondacks. The College began enrolling women as early as 1915, but the first women to complete their degrees—one majoring in landscape engineering and two in pulp and paper—graduated in the late 1940s.[17]

In January 1930, Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, recommending an allocation of $600,000 towards construction of the college's second building, in honor of Louis Marshall, recently deceased, noted that: "under [Marshall's] leadership and the leadership of its late dean, Franklin Moon, the School of Forestry made giant strides until it became recognized as the premier institution of its kind in the United States".[18] The cornerstone of Louis Marshall Memorial Hall was laid in 1931 by former Governor and presidential candidate Alfred E. Smith who was elected to assume the presidency of the college's Board of Trustees.

With the formation of the State University of New York (SUNY) in 1948, the College became recognized as a specialized college within the SUNY system, and its name was changed to State University College of Forestry at Syracuse University. In 1972, the College's name was changed yet again to State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Unlike other state-supported degree-granting institutions which had been created at private institutions in New York State, the New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University was an autonomous institution not administratively part of Syracuse University. In 2000, SUNY System Administration established ESF's "primacy" among the 64 SUNY campuses and contract colleges for development of new undergraduate degree programs in Environmental Science and Environmental Studies.[19]


Main campus

The Syracuse campus is ESF's main campus, and is where most academic and administrative activity takes place. It is made up of seven main buildings:

  • Baker Laboratory: Named after Hugh P. Baker, Dean of the College from 1912–1920 and again 1930-33. The building is the location of several computer clusters and auditorium-style classrooms. It is home to the Department of Construction Management and Wood Products Engineering, and the Department of Environmental Resources and Forest Engineering. The building recently underwent a $37 million overhaul; providing updated space for the Tropical Timber Information Center and the Nelson C. Brown Center for Ultrastructure Studies. When the renovation is complete, Baker Lab will be the site of ESF's NASA-affiliated Research Center. Baker Laboratory houses two multimedia lecture halls, a "smart" classroom outfitted for computer use and distance learning, and two construction management and planning studios. It also has a full-scale laboratory for materials science testing, including a modern dry kiln, a wood identification laboratory, shop facilities (including portable sawmill) and wood preservation laboratory.[20]
  • Bray Hall: The building is the oldest on campus, completed in 1917, the largest building devoted to Forestry at the time. It is named after William L. Bray, a founder of the New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University and its first Dean, 1911-12. It is the location of most administrative offices, and the Department of Forest and Natural Resources Management.
  • Illick Hall: The building was completed in 1968, and is home to the Department of Environmental and Forest Biology. It is named after Joseph S. Illick, a dean of the State University College of Forestry at Syracuse University. There is a large lecture hall (Illick 5) in the basement. Several greenhouses are located on the fifth floor. The Roosevelt Wildlife Museum is also located in the building. All of the bathrooms in this buildings mysteriously smell horrid, despite being very clean.
  • Jahn Laboratory: Named after Edwin C. Jahn, a dean of the New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University. The building is the newest on the campus, completed in 1997. Home to the Department of Chemistry.
  • Marshall Hall: Named after Louis Marshall, one of the founders of the New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University. Home to the Landscape Architecture and Environmental Studies departments. The Alumni (Nifkin) Lounge, Gallery (snack bar), Campus Bookstore, and Marshall Auditorium are located within. Twin brass plaques in the entryway commemorate the contributions of Marshall and his son, alumnus Bob Marshall.
  • Moon Library: Dedicated to F. Franklin Moon, an early dean of the College. Completed in 1968, along with Illick Hall. A computer cluster and student lounge are located in the basement.
  • Walters Hall: Named after J. Henry Walters, who served on the College's Board of Trustees. Completed in 1969. Home to the Department of Paper and Bioprocess Engineering. The pilot plant in the building includes two paper machines and wood-to-ethanol processing equipment.
  • Gateway Building: Currently under construction: "The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) broke ground Friday, Aug. 6, 2010, for construction of the new Gateway Building, a $28.3 million project that will showcase the college's commitment to sustainability through a sophisticated array of renewable energy technologies." The new building will be a showcase for green infrastructure and development. "The Gateway Building's design and construction sets a new standard for LEED buildings, producing more renewable energy than it consumes," said ESF President Cornelius B. Murphy, Jr. The building is expected to be completed with LEED Platinum certification.[21]

Bray Hall, Marshall Hall, Illick Hall, and Moon Library border the quad. The college's new student dormitories, dubbed "Centennial Hall" after the institution's 100th anniversary, opened up for business on August 24, 2011. There are also a maintenance and operations building, garage, and greenhouse converted to office space. Among new buildings being planned is a new research support facility.

The historical Robin Hood Oak is located behind Bray Hall. The tree is said to have grown from an acorn brought back by a faculty member from the Sherwood Forest in England. It was the first tree to be listed on the National Registrar of Historic Trees in the United States.

The Ranger School at Wanakena

Wanakena campus

Students in the forest and natural resources management curriculum spend an academic year (48 credits) or summer at the Ranger School, as it is simply called, to earn an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in forest technology or surveying.[22] The campus is situated on the Oswegatchie River that connects to Cranberry Lake, in the northwestern part of the Adirondack Park. It includes the 3,000-acre (12 km2) James F. Dubuar Memorial Forest.[23]

Other campuses

  • Cranberry Lake Biological Station: Located in the Adirondack Park, it is the site of the College's summer field program in environmental and forest biology.[24]
  • Huntington Wildlife Forest: A 6,000 hectare (15,000 acre) field station in the central Adirondack Mountains located near Newcomb, New York. It includes the Adirondack Ecological Center[25] the Arbutus Great Camp, bunkhouses, and a dining center, among other facilities.
  • Tully Campus: Location of the Heiberg Memorial Forest and Genetic Field Station.
  • Warrensburg Campus: Location of the Charles Lathrop Pack Demonstration Forest and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation's Environmental Education Camp.
  • Thousand Islands Campus: Situated in the Thousand Islands are the Thousand Islands Biological Station and Ellis International Laboratory.
  • Forest Experimental Station: Located in the City of Syracuse.


The ESF mission statement is "to advance knowledge and skills and to promote the leadership necessary for the stewardship of both the natural and designed environments."[26] ESF is a "specialized institution" of the State University of New York, meaning that curricula focus primarily on one field, the College's being environmental management and stewardship. Students supplement their education with courses taken at Syracuse University. ESF has academic departments in the fields of chemistry; construction management and wood products engineering; environmental and forest biology; environmental resources and forest engineering; environmental science; environmental studies; forest and natural resources management; landscape architecture; and paper and bioprocess engineering. Interdepartmental environmental science programs offer students integrative degrees across the natural sciences.

ESF is considered a very competitive school. Admission is more selective, with an acceptance rate of 43.1 percent for fall 2009. ESF is ranked at 34th, tied with Michigan State University, and Miami-Ohio, and ahead of all other SUNY schools in the 2011 US News & World Report rankings of the top public national universities. Furthermore, ESF is ranked 79th in the 2011 US News & World Report list of the best National Universities (both public and private), also ahead of all other SUNY schools. The Washington Monthly College Guide has ranked ESF No. 26 among the nation's top service-oriented colleges and universities.

University rankings (overall)
Forbes[27] 277
U.S. News & World Report[28] 79
Washington Monthly[29] 26

Forbes Magazine ranked SUNY-ESF #23 in its listing of “America’s Best College Buys” for 2010. has also ranked SUNY-ESF at No. 3 on its 2010 list of the 20 best colleges for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). SUNY-ESF is listed at No. 2, ahead of top programs like Duke, Cornell and Yale, among the best college environmental programs in the nation by, a website devoted to sustainability and environmental news. DesignIntelligence magazine has ranked ESF's undergraduate and graduate programs in "Landscape Architecture", respectively at No. 12 and No. 9 in the United States.

Campus life

Many students identify themselves as a "Stumpy" (or "Stumpie"). The nickname was given to students by their neighbors at Syracuse University, probably in the 1920s, and most-likely refers to forestry "stump jumpers". Although originally used as an insult, today, most students embrace the nickname with pride.

Students at the Syracuse campus enjoy many activities on and off campus. There are a number of student clubs and organizations at ESF, including the Undergraduate Student Association, Graduate Student Association, Woodsmen Team, Bob Marshall Club, Alpha Xi Sigma Honor Society, Soccer Club, Sigma Lambda Alpha Honor Society, The Knothole (weekly newspaper), Papyrus Club, The Empire Forester (yearbook), Landscape Architecture Club (formally the Mollet Club), Forest Engineers Club, Habitat for Humanity, Ecologue (yearly journal), the Bioethics Society, Green Campus Initiative, and Baobab Society. Wanakena students have their own woodsmen and ice hockey teams. A number of professional organizations are also open to student membership, including the Society of American Foresters, Wildlife Society, Conservation Biology club, American Fisheries Association, and the (currently defunct) American Water Resources Association.

ESF has an agreement with adjacent Syracuse University that allows ESF students to enjoy many amenities offered by SU. ESF students take courses at their sister institution, can apply for admission to concurrent degree and joint certificate programs, and may join any SU organization except for NCAA sports teams. SU students are also welcome to enroll in ESF classes. Because of this, students feel a certain degree of integration with the Syracuse University community. Every May, ESF holds a joint commencement ceremony with Syracuse University in the Carrier Dome. ESF's baccalaureate diplomas bear the seals of both the State University of New York and Syracuse University.

Students also enjoy a variety of shops, restaurants, museums, and theaters in Syracuse, and nearby Marshall Street and Westcott Street.

Affiliation with Syracuse University

ESF was founded in 1911 as the New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University, under the leadership of Syracuse University Trustee Louis Marshall, with the active support of Syracuse University Chancellor Day. Its founding followed the Governor's veto of annual appropriations to a separate New York State College of Forestry at Cornell.[30]

ESF is an autonomous institution, administratively separate from Syracuse University, even while some resources, facilities and infrastructure are shared.[31] The two schools share a common Schedule of Classes; students take courses at both institutions, and baccalaureate diplomas from ESF bear the Syracuse University seal along with that of the State University of New York. A number of concurrent degree programs and certificates are offered between the schools, as well. The college receives an annual appropriation as part of the SUNY budget and the state builds and maintains all of the college's educational facilities. The state has similar relationships with five statutory colleges that are at Alfred University and Cornell University.

ESF faculty, students, and students' families join those from Syracuse University (SU) in a joint convocation ceremony at the beginning of the academic year in August, and combined commencement exercises in May. ESF and SU students share access to libraries, recreational facilities, student clubs, and other activities at both institutions, except for the schools' intercollegiate sports teams, affiliated with the NCAA and NAIA, respectively.[32]


The best known tradition among ESF students is that walking across the quad is shunned. The tradition most likely started in the 1980s or 1990s to inhibit tracks being worn into the grass. Hecklers have been known to yell and even tackle people walking across the quad. However, other activities such as Frisbee and soccer playing are encouraged on the Quad.

Eustace B. Nifkin, ESF's previous mascot, is an unofficial student. He first appeared in the 1940s after a group of students summering in the Adirondacks thought him up. Ever since, he has appeared on class rosters, written articles for The Knothole, and sent mail to the College from around the world. He has a girlfriend, the lesser-known Elsa S. Freeborn. SUNY granted him a bachelor's degree in 1972. The Alumni Lounge in Marshall Hall is dedicated to Nifkin.

Another well known legend is that of Chainer or Chainsaw who supposedly graduated in 1993.

Traditional events include:

  • Earth Week events
  • Spring Banquet
  • December Soiree
  • Friends and Family BBQ
  • Coffee Haus
  • Festival of Places
  • Paper run
  • Donut Hours
  • Waste Audit
  • Free Movies Nights
  • Insomniacs
  • Woodsmen Team (Forestry Club)


More than 18,000 have graduated from ESF since its founding in 1911. The college's Alumni Association was founded fourteen years later, in 1925.[33] Notable alumni include:

  • Reginald E. Balch, MS '28, Canadian photographer and scientist
  • Bruce C. Bongarten, BS '73, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, SUNY-ESF
  • Joseph Buongiorno, MS '69, Class of 1933 Bascom Professor of Forest Economics, University of Wisconsin-Madison[34]
  • Roger H.C. Donlon
  • Frank Edwin Egler
  • Sol Feinstone, '15, historian, businessman, conservationist[35]
  • Jean Frechet, MS '69, Ph.D.'71, Henry Rapoport Chair of Organic Chemistry and Professor of Chemical Engineering, UC Berkeley - Dendritic Polymers: Dendrimers[36]
  • Stephen Kay, BLA '73
  • Edwin Ketchledge, beloved SUNY ESF Professor emeritus of botany and dendrology dies at age 85, June 30, 2010[37][38][39]
  • Michael Kudish, PhD '71
  • Moshe Levy, PhD '55
  • Bob Marshall, BS '24
  • Clarence Petty, BS '30
  • Harry Frederick Recher
  • Bruce Shelley, BS '70
  • Earl Lewis Stone, Jr., BS '38; In 1948, he became the first endowed Charles Lathrop Pack Professor of forest soils at Cornell University. Retired 1979[40]
  • Lissa Widdoff, '92, Executive Director, Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation[41]

The accomplishments of additional outstanding ESF alumni are documented at:

Environmental Leadership

From soon after its founding, ESF affiliated individuals have been responsible for establishing and leading prominent scientific and advocacy organizations around the world focused on the environment. Others have provided leadership to governmental environmental agencies.

Related Pages



  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Rodgers, A.D. Liberty Hyde Bailey: A Story of American Plant Sciences. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1949.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Alpert, Herbert. Louis Marshall: 1856-1929. 2008. ISBN 978-0-595-48230-6. p. 36.
  8. ^ Louis Marshall,"Champion of Liberty", selected papers and addresses(in 2 volumes), edited by Charles Reznikoff,1957. Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia,PA.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Bray, William. Forest Resources of Texas. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Bureau of Forestry, 1904.
  11. ^ "The Knothole: Student Life and Government". April 4, 2008. Volume 61 Issue 9. Retrieved on October 23, 2009.
  12. ^ "Chrono-Biographical Sketch: William Bray". A Biographical History of Biogeography by Charles H. Smith, Ph.D., Joshua Woleben, and Carubie Rodgers/ Retrieved on October 23, 2009.
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ SUNY-ESF. 2008. Alumni Directory. 100th Anniversary Edition. Syracuse, NY, p. 455.
  17. ^ "A History of ESF". SUNY-ESF website. Retrieved on October 26, 2009.
  18. ^ Adler, Cyrus, "Louis Marshall: A Biographical Sketch", American Jewish Year Book, 1930-31, pp. 54-55
  19. ^ Peter D. Salins. "Guidelines for Consideration of New Undergraduate Degree Programs in Environmental Science/Studies". Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  20. ^ "ESF's Baker Laboratory Revamped for Engineering". ESF Office of Communications. Retrieved on October 23, 2009.
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Adirondack Ecological Center". SUNY-ESF website. Retrieved on October 23, 2009.
  26. ^ "ESF Mission & Vision". SUNY-ESF website. Retrieved on October 23, 2009.
  27. ^ "America's Best Colleges". Forbes. 2011. Retrieved October 6, 2011. 
  28. ^ "National Universities Rankings". America's Best Colleges 2012. U.S. News & World Report. September 13, 2011. Retrieved September 25, 2011. 
  29. ^ "The Washington Monthly National University Rankings". The Washington Monthly. 2011. Retrieved August 30, 2011. 
  30. ^ Education & Agriculture, A History of the NYS College of Agriculture at Cornell University, 1963, by Gould P. Colman, page 161, Cornell University Press
  31. ^
  32. ^ "The ESF-SU Relationship". State University of New York. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  33. ^ "Alumni". SUNY-ESF Alumni website. Retrieved on October 23, 2009.
  34. ^
  35. ^ So Who Was Sol Feinstone?, 
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  39. ^
  40. ^
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  42. ^
  43. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (December 6, 2009). "Clarence Petty, Protector of the Adirondacks, Dies at 104". The New York Times. Retrieved May 24, 2010. 
  44. ^
  45. ^ Graham, Frank Jr. 1978. The Adirondack Park: A Political History. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, p. 147
  46. ^
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^ Sutter, Paul S. 2002. Driven Wild: How the Fight against Automobiles Launched the Modern Wilderness Movement. Seattle: University of Washington Press, p. 231
  50. ^ "SAF Presidents", 5/14/2009. Available: Accessed November 15, 2009.
  51. ^ SUNY-ESF, "Howard (Bud) Ris", n.d. Available: Accessed November 15, 2009.
  52. ^ The Catalyst, "Howard's End", 2(2), Fall 2003, pp. 2-4, 19. Available:
  53. ^ Shabecoff, Philip. 2003. A Fierce Green Fire: The American Environmental Movement. Washington: Island Press, p. 81
  54. ^
  55. ^
  56. ^

External links

Coordinates: 43°02′05″N 76°08′08″W / 43.034793°N 76.135475°W / 43.034793; -76.135475

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