A mix of alumni, local leaders and school officials gathered around a 91-year-old oak tree Thursday, opened a 25-year-old time capsule and reflected on the first 100 years of .
It was 100 years ago this week that Titanic set sail for the first – and last – time, Fenway Park ushered in a new era of Boston baseball and the Long Island Agricultural and Technical Institute was chartered.
Farmingdale State has changed with the times, repositioning itself from a farm-focused to tech-minded institution while expanding to four-year degree programs and serving an ever-growing enrollment. In many ways, the metamorphosis mirrors Long Island’s development over the last century from agrarian to bustling suburb.
“We have been known by many names,” said Brian Maher, director of the Long Island Educational Opportunity Center at Farmingdale State. “Though our mission has changed over the past five generations to meet the challenges of the Long Island economy, our focus has always been the same: To provide a quality academic environment so those who seek knowledge can find it.”
Perhaps the most telling example of how far the East Farmingdale school has come was when college President W. Hubert Keen held a milk carton in one hand and a dozen eggs in the other, SUNY-produced dairy items taken from the time capsule. This school has gone from milking cows to mining computer data in short order.
"A lot of the agricultural programs were discontinued about 1985," Keen said. "That was a traumatic time for the college because they had been so heavily staked to that."
While Farmingdale State reinvented itself and forged ahead, it never lost its core. That was serving the Long Island population.
While the school’s anniversary is Sunday, officials chose to mark the event by rededicating Memorial Oak Plaza, a tree planted in 1921 to commemorate those lost in World War I.
It was a solemn occasion once again as Farmingdale State students who were killed during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade were remembered.
"We have student veterans here on campus who have served overseas in all theaters of operations," said Eric Farina, director of Veterans' Affairs at Farmingdale State. "They too are ordinary people who were thrown into extraordinary circumstances."
A tall oak next to Whitman Hall provided the gathering point. One hundred years of accomplishments fuelled the spirit of the day.
Note: Jason Molinet is an adjunct professor at Farmingdale State.