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About ESF
A History of ESF

  • ESF Traditions
    "Eustace B. Nifkin" and other things that are uniquely ESF

Founded in 1911 to "help in the solution of forestry problems" the New York State College of Forestry was founded in partnership with Syracuse University. That first year, 52 students enrolled, and there were two faculty members along with Dean Hugh P. Baker. Classes met in two classrooms in the basement of Lyman Hall of Natural Sciences on the SU campus.

Under the direction of Dean Baker, the faculty grew and forest lands for instructional and experimental purposes were secured. One of the hallmarks of the College is its research, which dates back to 1912. A study on what firms were using wood in New York State and the species and quantities of lumber they used was the forerunner of countless research projects conducted at the College over the years.

In 1912, the College opened its Ranger School in Wanakena, N.Y., in the Adirondacks. Students from the College in Syracuse spent two months "blasting out rocks, and leveling enough ground for the first frame building which was to serve as classroom, dining room, kitchen and sleeping quarters."

The state purchased 12 acres of land adjacent to Syracuse University from the university in 1913. Four years later, Bray Hall was completed and the College "gained a permanent home. But there were no state funds available to hire vehicles and workers to move the books, furniture, desks, surveying and laboratory equipment and other college possessions from temporary quarters at Syracuse University to the new building. Faculty members and approximately 200 students volunteered their services and completed the move in just two days." Bray remained the only building on the ESF campus until Marshall Hall's completion in 1933.

From the early years of its existence, College leaders saw the need to respond to the broader, rather than more specific, needs of environmental professionalism. Over the years, programs were added in design, engineering, and life sciences, as well as natural resources management.

In the late 1940s the first women graduated from the College, one with a degree in landscape engineering and two with degrees in pulp and paper. While these were the first women to complete their degrees, the college had been enrolling women as early as 1915.

With the formation of the State University of New York in 1948, the College became recognized as a specialized college within the state university system, having been state-supported from the very beginning. The name was changed to the State University College of Forestry at Syracuse University.

In 1972, the College's name and focus were changed yet again, to better reflect the tradition and grounding of forestry in the environment, and the capabilities of our academic programs. By special act of the New York State Legislature, the College became the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Today, the College is at the forefront of developing the technologies to create a sustainable future. ESF has taken a leadership role in species preservation, raising public awareness of biodiversity and sustainability.

The campus continues to grow and change. The Gateway Center, the LEED Platinum building that has become the hub of campus life, opened in 2013. The building displays specimens from the College's Roosevelt Wild Life Collection, the Trailhead Café, the offices of Admissions and Outreach and conference space. ESF opened its first residence hall, Centennial Hall, in 2011.

The College offers 24 undergraduate and 30 graduate degree programs, including doctoral (Ph.D.) programs, and is ranked among the nation's finest universities. Our students take an active role in campus life through the student government, clubs and honor societies. And of course, our students take special pride in taking one week to celebrate the campus's favorite holiday—Earth Day.

*from A History of the New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University 1911-1936