Associated Colleges of Upper New York
Hobart, Plattsburgh, and Utica, NY
There is still a website devoted to Champlain College, so the school still exists in the memories of its alumni and in the photos posted online. In addition, librarians at the present SUNY-Plattsburgh were most helpful in providing photos from their collection of ACUNY yearbooks for both Champlain and Mohawk colleges. A Sampson College yearbook has been digitized for Ancestry.com. The best source of information about the three schools comes from ACUNY, The Associated Colleges of Upper New York by Amy Gilbert, who served as Dean of the colleges.
The Associated Colleges of Upper New York were created at the end of World War II. Their purpose was to provide educational opportunities for returning servicemen, denied admission to existing schools because of overcrowding. The associated colleges were originally intended to operate for two years, so the three campuses had identical programs of study: pre-engineering, liberal arts and business administration. These programs were intended to provide a foundation, allowing students to transfer to a four-year program.
The U.S. Defense Department decommissioned three military bases to serve as temporary campuses—the Plattsburgh Barracks, the Naval Training Center at Hobart, and the Rhoads General Hospital near Utica.
With the exception of a few married students, the student body of each campus was composed of young males, living in more-or-less isolated military installations. As a result, social life revolved around organizations, clubs, and societies of interest to returning veterans. Religious organizations included Student Christian Association, Newman Club and Hillel Foundation; there were French, German, Italian and Spanish Clubs; hobby groups included chess, photography, radio, skiing, and skating. All campuses had yearbooks and newspapers. All had concert bands, orchestras, and glee clubs. All provided forums for drama, debate and public speaking, as well as art and literary societies. As many veterans had a strong interest in self-government, student councils was strong and active.
The initial absence of coeds on the campuses, led to importations of females for the big campus social events. It also led to an active effort to recruit female students.
Again, given the makeup of the student body at each campus, athletic competition was keen. Each campus fielded intercollegiate teams in football, lacrosse, soccer, cross country, basketball, swimming, baseball, track and field, tennis, and golf. Though the players were inexperienced at the college level and the schools had no athletic traditions into which players could be molded, the teams enjoyed at least modest success against smaller schools in the region. In addition, the three schools had their own conference, in which the competition was keen.
Plattsburgh, New York
According to the SUNY-Plattsburgh archives, Champlain College opened with 1,800 students. While students were mostly male veterans, Champlain actively recruited women. The original two-year charter was extended twice. On June 6, 1950 Governor Dewey proclaimed “Champlain as the first liberal arts school of the newly created State University of New York.” The SUNY archives say that in 1951, the "Champlain Plan" of education was inaugurated. According to this plan, freshman began with a general comprehensive course of study, followed by increasingly specialized instruction. As students progressed through the plan, they also received career guidance.
However, at the onset of the Korean War, the military reclaimed the Plattsburgh Barracks and converted them to a Strategic Air Base. Thus the campus closed in 1953.
Bricks and Mortar
Champlain College opened quickly on an emergency basis in September 1946, using existing facilities of the Plattsburgh Barracks. The barracks had been built initially in 1838 and had been occupied by the U.S. Army until 1944, when they became a base for the Army Air Force. The need for the facility at the onset of the Cold War caused the college to close.
During the 1953-1995 period, the Plattsburgh Air Force Base became the primary location for the SAC wing that protected the U.S. East Coast. That facility was closed in 1995. Now the base is under the jurisdiction of the Plattsburgh Area Redevelopment Corporation.
Administration Building, which also served as the library and post office. ("Plattsburgh Barracks,"
<www.fortwiki.com/Plattsburgh_Barracks>) Accessed 10-3-2017
Team name: Blue Jays
Colors: Blue and White
Champlain College began football in 1947, the second year of existence, continuing through 1952. Initially, the Blue Jays competed against the other emergency colleges—Mohawk, Sampson and Devens. By 1950 Champlain was the only one of these schools left. In 1951—the school’s first year with seniors—they played a seven-game schedule against New York, New England and Canadian competition. In the last game of the season, the Blue Jays upset Brandeis (MA) 19-12 for their only win. They tied Loyola of Montreal. Losses were to, Ithaca (NY), Norwich (VT), St. Lawrence (NY), Southern Connecticut, and Union (NY).
The 1951 Champlain College Blue Jays. (Image from Du Lac, courtesy of Feinberg Library, State University of New York at Plattsburgh)