College celebrates 150th anniversary

Brendan McDonough/Livingston County NewsLining it up. SUNY Geneseo students enjoy a game of croquet on the college green in front of the Integrated Science Center last week as part of the college’s sesquicentennial celebrations.

GENESEO – The celebrations were in full swing last week at SUNY Geneseo as the college celebrated it’s 150th anniversary.

“The college was founded in 1871 as a Normal School for teachers. This is the kick-off of the entire year’s festivities,” said Kerri Howell, the college’s chief communications and marketing officer. “Sept. 13, 1871 was the first day of classes. We began celebrating a few weeks ago with our class of 2024 coming in because they are the 150th class.”

Howell said while some things have changed at SUNY Geneseo over the years, others have stayed the same.

“What has changed is the make up of the student body,” she explained. “Back when we were founded, it was largely female. They were studying to be teachers and many of the men were overseas and the women were back behind. When you look at old pictures you do not see a lot of men.”

The diversity of the student body has also changed and, in 2017, the college started hosting a “lavender graduation” event to recognize graduating seniors that are LGBTQ+ and allies for their contributions to the Geneseo community.

Such programs are intended to help recognize the resilience and advocacy demonstrated by LGBTQ+ students in light of unique experiences and potential obstacles within higher education.

To help celebrate all of the college’s accomplishments, croquet was set up Sept. 13 on the College Green.

“Croquet was very popular here. There was a factory on Main Street for many years that produced croquet mallets and sticks and we are doing a nod to that,” explained Howell.

The factory, the American Croquet Company, was at 5 Main St. in Geneseo. It also began in 1871. The Livingston County Historical Society had volunteers assisting the students with croquet and sharing information about the history of croquet in Geneseo.

“The students are here and they are getting root beer floats. Back in 1871, that was the treat that people would have.”

While croquet isn’t unique to SUNY Geneseo, the activity maintains a special place in Livingston County, said Howell.

As the county is in the midst of a year of celebration for its own bicentennial, croquet seemed a natural choice, she said.

“It shows our partnership with them. They are celebrating their 200th anniversary this year, so it is kind of in conjunction with that,” she said. “They are a little bit older than we are but still it is nice to be able to partner with them.”

Freshman Caden McCormack was one of those who stopped by to play, though he said it isn’t something he initially planned on doing.

“It was available at the moment and I am in between classes, so I decided to do something somewhat memorable,” said McCormack.

Also enjoying the game and helping to create some memories was sophomore Will Hall.

“I have played it in my backyard before, someone just came up to me and I had time,” he said. “I am having a good time and I am actually pretty good. It is surprisingly a good game for beginners.”

Liz Porter, a Geneseo resident, said she stopped by to take a swing or two because of the ease and simplicity of the game.

“It is easy and it is not dangerous and it is all between you and your ball,” said Porter. “It is very easy you just get a mallet and get a ball, watch someone ahead and there are two ways to hold a mallet and there are some basic rules to follow and you catch on right away.”

A host of other activities is planned for the coming months to help celebrate the college’s 150th anniversary including a National Sock Give Away Day event that will see the college give away 500 pairs of special, limited edition socks on a first-come, first-served basis.

The giveaway is scheduled for Dec. 3 from 1 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the lobby of the MacVittie College Union.

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