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History of SUNY Schenectady

History of the College

See the first 50 Years of SUNY Schenectady in a timeline.

History and Facilities

SUNY Schenectady was officially established by the Schenectady County Board of Representatives on January 26, 1967, after a study made by a citizens committee that showed a need for a community college in the County. Following approvals by the State University of New York and the appointment of Trustees for SUNY Schenectady, the Van Curler Hotel was purchased by the County and designated as the site for the College. 

Located on the western edge of the City of Schenectady, the extensively renovated Van Curler Hotel was transformed into a college, and classes began in September 1969. The building was subsequently renamed Elston Hall in honor of Charles W. Elston. Mr. Elston was a member of the original Board of Trustees and served as chairperson of that board for eight years. Elston Hall houses traditional and electronic classrooms, computer, learning labs, science and culinary arts laboratories, the Casola Dining Room, the Van Curler Room, the Lally Mohawk Room, meeting rooms, the College Store, a cafeteria and offices. 

The Campus

In 1978, a multi-purpose building was constructed on campus that houses the Begley Library and the Carl B. Taylor Community Auditorium, home to musical performances and special events. 

The campus was further enhanced in 1987 when the Center for Science and Technology (CST) opened. This unique facility contains physics and chemistry laboratories, specialized laboratory facilities for computer networking, and faculty offices.

A campus development project was completed in 1992. This added a new Student Center in Elston Hall, which includes a cafeteria, the College Store, student lounge, recreational space, biology and geology laboratories and 15 classrooms. The South Wing addition to Elston Hall added four new culinary arts laboratories and an expanded restaurant facility, the Casola Dining Room. An enclosed pedestrian bridge connecting Elston Hall with the Center for Science and Technology was also added, providing improved access to the CST. 

In Spring 2000, SUNY Schenectady’s Gateway Building officially opened. The colorful one-story building houses general classrooms, a child-care center, the SUNY Schenectady Montessori Preschool and offices.

Construction was completed in Fall 2001 on the Stockade Building, a three-story academic building that houses computer classrooms, traditional classrooms, lecture halls, conference rooms, offices and specialty programs. The Stockade Building is connected to Elston Hall and the Begley Library through an enclosed walkway in the heart of campus. 

An impressive Culinary Arts Expansion in Elston Hall, completed in August 2007, houses the Casola Dining Room, two culinary arts laboratories, a dedicated kitchen for the Casola Dining Room, a bakery outlet, and a seminar room. 

In Fall 2011, SUNY Schenectady began offering classes at Center City in downtown Schenectady and expanded at Center City in Fall 2012.

Also in Fall 2012, the College opened a $3.9 million, 12,600-square-foot, two-story addition to the Begley Building for the SUNY Schenectady School of Music. The School of Music includes teaching studios, an industry-standard live recording studio, two specialized music classrooms, practice rooms, recital space, teaching studios, faculty offices and a student lounge.

In Fall 2015, the Office of Workforce Development and Community Education moved to the Kindl Building, 201 State St. in Schenectady. 

In January 2017, the Biotechnology Laboratory and Research Facility opened on the sixth floor of Elston Hall. The facility supports two degree programs – the Biotechnology (A.S.) and the Biological Technician (A.A.S.). The 3,800-square-foot facility houses two teaching laboratories, a research space dedicated to original scientific investigation in the fields of biology and biotechnology, a microscopic imaging room, and a student collaboration area. 

An outside quad area with attractive landscaping, benches, and trees, provides recreational and study space for students. A portion of Schenectady County’s bike-hike trail is located on the campus along the edge of the Mohawk River for use by students and the general public. 

In August 2021, the College opened a new Learning Commons in the Begley Building featuring: labs for math, writing and accounting; a Tutoring Center; the Center for Excellence in Teaching; study rooms; student collaborative spaces; a Career Center; IT support; a reading area; café; and library stacks. In Fall 2021, the College began offering classes in the new Confections Lab in the Mill Lane Artisan District for students in the Culinary Arts/Baking programs, and in the new Gaming Center at Center City for students in the Programming for Game Design program.


Former Presidents

Charles W. Scholes, President
July 1968-June 1970

Dr. Anthony E. Terino, Acting President
February 1970-June 1970

Robert D. Larsson, President
July 1970-June 1980

Karl A. Zipf, Acting President
September 1979-July 1980

Dr. Wright L. Lassiter Jr., President
July 1980-August 1983

Karl A. Zipf, Interim President
August 1983-March 1984

Dr. Peter F. Burnham, President
March 1984-May 1991

Dr. Gabriel J. Basil, Interim President
June 1991-April 1992

Dr. Gabriel J. Basil, President
April 1992-November 2008

Edward S. Baker, Interim President
December 2008-June 2009

Dr. Quintin B. Bullock, President
July 2009-February 2013

Dr. Martha J. Asselin, Interim President
March 2013-June 2015