State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry

State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Motto "Improve Your World"
Type Public
Established 1911
Endowment $22 million (2014)[1]
President Quentin D. Wheeler[2]
Academic staff
127 full-time[3]
47 part-time
Students 2,778 (2010)[4]
Undergraduates 2,200
Postgraduates 578
Location Syracuse, NY, USA
Campus Urban and Rural
Colors green, white & gold
Athletics USCAA (HVIAC)
Sports basketball, cross-country, golf, soccer, woodsman
Nickname Mighty Oaks
Mascot Oakie

The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF, or ESF) is an American, specialized, doctoral-granting institution based in Syracuse, New York. It is immediately adjacent to Syracuse University, within which it was founded, and with whom it maintains a special relationship. ESF is a part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system. ESF also operates facilities in the Adirondack Park (including the Ranger School in Wanakena), the Thousand Islands, elsewhere in central New York, and Costa Rica. The College's curricula focus on the understanding, management and sustainability of the environment and natural resources. ESF is considered by Peterson's to be the premier college in the U.S. for the study of environmental and natural sciences, design, engineering, policy and management of natural resources and the environment.[5] The college has expanded its initial emphasis on forestry to include professional education in environmental science, landscape architecture, environmental studies, and engineering in addition to distinguished programs in the biological and physical sciences.[5] ESF is ranked at 43rd in the 2017 US News & World Report rankings of the top public national universities.[6][7] It commemorated its centennial in 2011.[8]



The New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University was established in 1911 through a bill signed by New York Governor John Alden Dix. The previous year, Governor Hughes had vetoed a bill authorizing such a college.[9] Both bills followed the state's defunding, in 1903, of the New York State College of Forestry at Cornell.[10][11] Originally a unit of Syracuse University, in 1913, the College was made a separate, legal entity.

Hunter Mountain, Twilight (1866) by Hudson River school artist Sanford Robinson Gifford, showing the devastation wrought by years of tanbarking and logging.

Syracuse native and constitutional lawyer Louis Marshall, with a summer residence at Knollwood Club on Saranac Lake and a prime mover for the establishment of the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve (New York), became a Syracuse University Trustee in 1910. He confided in Chancellor James R. Day his desire to have an agricultural and forestry school at the University,[12] and by 1911 his efforts resulted in a New York State bill to fund the project: the aforementioned appropriation bill signed by Governor Dix.[13] Marshall was elected president of the college's Board of Trustees at its first meeting, in 1911; at the time of his death, eighteen years later, he was still president of the Board.[14]

The first dean of the College was William L. Bray, a Ph.D., graduate from the University of Chicago,[15] botanist, plant ecologist, biogeographer and Professor of Botany at Syracuse University. In 1907 he was made head of the botany department at Syracuse, and in 1908 he started teaching a forestry course in the basement of Lyman Hall. Bray was an associate of Gifford Pinchot, who was the first Chief of the United States Forest Service.[16][17] In 1911, in addition to assuming the deanship of forestry, Bray organized the Agricultural Division at Syracuse University. He remained at Syracuse until 1943 as chair of botany and Dean of the Syracuse Graduate School.[18]

In 1915, the same year that Dr. Bray published The Development of the Vegetation of New York State, he became one of the founding members, along with Raphael Zon and Yale School of Forestry's second dean, James W. Toumey, of the Ecological Society of America.[19] In 1950, the 1917 "activist wing" of that Society formed today's The Nature Conservancy.[20][21]

Most of the professors, in the early years of the College of Forestry at Syracuse and the Department of Forestry at Cornell's New York State College of Agriculture were educated in forestry at the Yale School of Forestry. The forestry students at Syracuse but not at Cornell were referred to as "stumpies" by their classmates.

Fifty-two students were enrolled in the school's first year, the first 11 graduating two years later, in 1913.[22] One of the hallmarks of the College, its research, dates back to 1912, beginning with a study on what firms were using lumber in the state of New York as well as the wood species and quantities.


In 1912, the College opened its Ranger School in Wanakena, New York, in the Adirondacks. The College began enrolling women as early as 1915, but the first women to complete their degrees—one majoring in landscape engineering and two in pulp and paper—graduated in the late 1940s.[23]

In January 1930, Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, recommending an allocation of $600,000 towards construction of the college's second building, in honor of Louis Marshall, recently deceased, noted that: "under [Marshall's] leadership and the leadership of its late dean, Franklin Moon, the School of Forestry made giant strides until it became recognized as the premier institution of its kind in the United States".[24] The cornerstone of Louis Marshall Memorial Hall was laid in 1931 by former Governor and presidential candidate Alfred E. Smith who was elected to assume the presidency of the college's Board of Trustees.

Affiliation with SUNY

With the formation of the State University of New York (SUNY) in 1948, the College became recognized as a specialized college within the SUNY system, and its name was changed to State University College of Forestry at Syracuse University. In 1972, the College's name was changed yet again to State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Unlike other state-supported degree-granting institutions which had been created at private institutions in New York State, the New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University was an autonomous institution not administratively part of Syracuse University. In 2000, SUNY System Administration established ESF's "primacy" among the 64 SUNY campuses and contract colleges for development of new undergraduate degree programs in Environmental Science and Environmental Studies.[25]



"Young Abe Lincoln on Horseback", sculpture by Anna Hyatt Huntington, on the SUNY-ESF campus
Autumn colors, Bray Hall
Centennial Hall

ESF's main campus, located in Syracuse, New York, is where most academic and administrative activity takes place. The campus is made up of nine main buildings:

Bray Hall, Marshall Hall, Illick Hall, and Moon Library border the quad. Other buildings on the Syracuse campus include one for maintenance and operations, a garage, and a greenhouse converted to office space. Among planned new buildings is a research support facility.

The historic Robin Hood Oak (photo below) is located behind Bray Hall. The tree is said to have grown from an acorn brought back by a faculty member from the Sherwood Forest in England. It was the first tree listed on the National Registrar of Historic Trees in the United States.


SUNY-ESF Ranger School, Wanakena

Students in the forest and natural resources management curriculum may spend an academic year (48 credits) or summer at the Ranger School, in Wanakena, New York, earning an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in forest technology, surveying, or environmental and natural resources conservation.[31] The campus, established in 1912,[32] is situated on the east branch of the Oswegatchie River that flows into Cranberry Lake, in the northwestern part of the Adirondack Park. It includes the 3,000-acre (12 km2) James F. Dubuar Memorial Forest, named after a former director of the Ranger School.[33][34]

Field stations and forests

New York
Newcomb campus, c. 1973
Costa Rica


University rankings
Forbes[40] 241
U.S. News & World Report[41] 99
Washington Monthly[42] 95

The ESF mission statement is "to advance knowledge and skills and to promote the leadership necessary for the stewardship of both the natural and designed environments."[43] ESF is a "specialized institution" of the State University of New York, meaning that curricula focus primarily on one field, the College's being environmental management and stewardship. Students may supplement their education with courses taken at Syracuse University. ESF has academic departments in the fields of chemistry; environmental and forest biology; environmental resources engineering; environmental studies; forest and natural resources management; landscape architecture; and paper and bioprocess engineering. Environmental science programs offer students integrative degrees across the natural sciences.[44]

ESF is considered a very competitive school. Admission is selective; however, a 39.7 percent acceptance for fall 2011 increased to 50.5 percent in fall 2014 as reported by U.S. News & World Report.[45][46] ESF is ranked at 43rd in the 2017 US News & World Report rankings of the top public national universities.[6][47] Furthermore, ESF is ranked 99th in the 2017 US News & World Report list of the best National Universities (both public and private).[6][6] The Washington Monthly College Guide ranked ESF No. 49 among the nation's top service-oriented colleges and universities for 2012 (and 6th in "community service participation and hours served").[48]

Front entrance, Marshall Hall

Forbes Magazine ranked SUNY-ESF #54 in its listing of “America’s Best College Buys” for 2012.[49] has also ranked SUNY-ESF at No. 3 on its 2010 list of the 20 best colleges for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). SUNY-ESF is listed at No. 2, ahead of top programs like Duke, Cornell and Yale, among the best college environmental programs in the nation by, a website devoted to sustainability and environmental news.[50] In 2007, DesignIntelligence magazine ranked ESF's undergraduate and graduate programs in "Landscape Architecture", respectively at No. 12 and No. 9 in the United States.[50]

The Online College Database ranked SUNY-ESF at No. 6 on its list of "50 Colleges Committed to Saving the Planet" for 2013.[51] The ranking relates in part to one of the school's newest programs, Sustainable Energy Management. Launched in 2013, the program focuses on energy markets, management, and resources. Global issues such as responsible energy use and development of sustainable energy sources are critical focal points in the STEM major.[52]


The first research report published in 1913 by the College of Forestry was the result of the above noted USDA Forest Service supported study of the wood-using industries of New York State.[53] Since that time, the research initiatives of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) have expanded greatly as both faculty and students conduct pioneering studies, many with a global reach.[54] SUNY-ESF researchers delve into topics well beyond the boundaries of central New York. Recent international sites of research interest include Madagascar, the Amazon floodplains, Mongolia and the Galapagos Islands. Vermont and the Sierra Nevada are other locales within the US where recent research has focused. Current research efforts include the Willow Biomass Project and the American Chestnut Research and Restoration Project.

Campus life

The 'Robin Hood Oak' (Q. robur), direct descendant of Major Oak, of Sherwood Forest, England[55]

Many students identify themselves as a "Stumpy" (or "Stumpie"). The nickname was given to students by their neighbors at Syracuse University, probably in the 1920s, and most-likely refers to forestry "stump jumpers". Although originally used as an insult, today, most students embrace the nickname with pride.

Students at the Syracuse campus enjoy many activities on and off campus. There are a number of student clubs and organizations at ESF, including the Undergraduate Student Association, Graduate Student Association, Woodsmen Team, Bob Marshall Club, Alpha Xi Sigma Honor Society,[56] Soccer Team, Sigma Lambda Alpha honor society, The Knothole (weekly newspaper), Papyrus Club, The Empire Forester (yearbook), Landscape Architecture Club (formally the Mollet Club), Forest Engineers Club, Environmental Studies Student Organization, Habitat for Humanity, Ecologue (yearly journal), the Bioethics Society, Green Campus Initiative, Baobab Society, and the Sustainable Energy Club. Wanakena students have their own woodsmen and ice hockey teams. A number of professional organizations are also open to student membership, including the Society of American Foresters, The Wildlife Society, Conservation Biology club, American Fisheries Association, and the (currently defunct) American Water Resources Association.

ESF has an agreement with adjacent Syracuse University that allows ESF students to enjoy many amenities offered by SU. ESF students take courses at their sister institution, can apply for admission to concurrent degree and joint certificate programs, and may join any SU organization except for NCAA sports teams. SU students are also welcome to enroll in ESF classes. Because of this, students feel a certain degree of integration with the Syracuse University community. Every May, ESF holds a joint commencement ceremony with Syracuse University in the Carrier Dome. ESF's baccalaureate diplomas bear the seals of both the State University of New York and Syracuse University.

Students also enjoy a variety of shops, restaurants, museums, and theaters in Syracuse, and nearby Marshall Street and Westcott Street.

Gateway Center

ESF has launched several programs, both within the confines of campus and other locations to reduce its carbon emissions. The Gateway Center utilizes sustainable energy resources to generate power and heat utilized across the campus. The building includes a state-of-the-art, combined heat-and-power (CHP) system, producing 65% of campus heating needs along with 20% of its electrical needs. The CHP system uses biomass to drive a steam turbine and produce electricity, while natural gas is used for steam heating along with additional electricity. It has been estimated this building alone is responsible for reducing ESF's carbon footprint by 22%.[57]

The Gateway Center's roof garden (foreground)

Increased global awareness of global warming and reduced nonrenewable resources has driven ESF to invest in biomass. Biomass is a renewable resource that draws light energy, carbon dioxide, and water from the environment; in return oxygen is released.[58] It can be harvested without negatively affecting the environment. For this reason, SUNY-ESF has launched a program to grow its own biomass, known as the Willow Biomass Project. Benefits of woody willow include, high yields and fast growth times, quick re-sprouting,and high heat energy is produced when burned. Woody willow also increases habitat diversity significantly contributes to carbon neutrality.[59]

The Gateway Center was one of the final stages in the school's Climate Action Plan, that encompasses the vision of carbon neutrality and reduced fossil fuel dependence by 2015. Currently, the school rests in Phase III of the program and is on track to reach its goal. Included in Phase III is the opening of The Gateway Center, retrofits to Illick Hall, and rooftop greenhouse replacement.[60] One other advancement towards carbon neutrality can be seen on top of the campus's buildings. Rooftop gardens provide reduced energy consumption and water runoff. Shrubbery, soil thickness, and moisture content all can contribute to increased energy savings.[61] Gateway and other buildings on campus utilize rooftop gardens to reduce energy consumption and water runoff.



SUNY-ESF is affiliated with the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA), fielding six teams in four sports:

ESF athletics is a member of the Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.[62]

The school's men's cross-country team are three-time USCAA national champions 2011-2013. The women's cross-country team came in second or third in the same tournaments, respectively.[63][64][65] The men's soccer team was invited to the 2012 USCAA National Championship Tournament in Asheville, North Carolina, making it to the semifinals.[66]


ESF has a long tradition of competing in intercollegiate woodsman competitions in the northeastern US and eastern Canada.[67] The team came in first in both the men's and women's divisions of the northeastern US and Canadian 2012 spring meet.[68] Students at the SUNY-ESF Ranger School, in Wanakena, compete as the Blue Ox Woodsmen team.[69]

Club sports

In addition to the intercollegiate USCAA and woodsman teams, ESF students participate on club sports teams at both ESF and Syracuse University, including ESF's competitive bass fishing team,[70][71][72] and SU's quidditch team.[73][74] Students at the Ranger School participate in the Ranger School Hockey Club.[75]

Athletics history

In one notable part of the College's history, Laurie D. Cox, professor of Landscape Architecture, was responsible for establishing Syracuse University's renowned lacrosse program in 1916, including players from the New York State College of Forestry.[76]

Affiliation with Syracuse University

ESF was founded in 1911 as the New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University, under the leadership of Syracuse University Trustee Louis Marshall, with the active support of Syracuse University Chancellor Day. Its founding followed several years after the cessation of state funding to the earlier New York State College of Forestry at Cornell.[77]

ESF is an autonomous institution, administratively separate from Syracuse University, while some resources, facilities and infrastructure are shared.[78] The two schools share a common Schedule of Classes; students may take courses at both institutions, and baccalaureate diplomas from ESF bear the Syracuse University seal along with that of the State University of New York. A number of concurrent degree programs and certificates are offered between the schools. ESF receives an annual appropriation as part of the SUNY budget and the state builds and maintains all of the college's educational facilities. The state has somewhat similar financial and working relationships with five statutory colleges that are at Alfred University and Cornell University, although unlike ESF, these statutory institutions are legally and technically part of their respective host institutions and are administered by them as well.

ESF faculty, students, and students' families join those from Syracuse University (SU) in a joint convocation ceremony at the beginning of the academic year in August and combined commencement exercises in May. ESF and SU students share access to library resources, recreational facilities, student clubs, and activities at both institutions, except for the schools' intercollegiate athletics teams, affiliated with the USCAA and NCAA, respectively.[79]


The best known tradition among ESF students is that walking across the quad is shunned. The tradition, which dates back to at least the early 1960s, is intended to inhibit tracks from being worn into the lawn. Hecklers have been known to yell and even tackle people walking across the quad. However, other activities such as frisbee and soccer playing are encouraged on the Quad.

Eustace B. Nifkin, ESF's previous mascot, is an unofficial student. He first appeared in the 1940s after a group of students summering in the Adirondacks thought him up. Ever since, he has appeared on class rosters, written articles for The Knothole, and sent mail to the College from around the world. He has a girlfriend, the lesser-known Elsa S. Freeborn. SUNY granted him a bachelor's degree in 1972. The Alumni Lounge in Marshall Hall is dedicated to Nifkin.

Another well known legend is that of Chainer or Chainsaw who supposedly graduated in 1993.

Traditional events include:

  • Earth Week events
  • Spring Banquet
  • December Soiree
  • Friends and Family BBQ
  • Coffee Haus
  • Festival of Places
  • Paper run
  • Donut Hours
  • Waste Audit
  • Free Movies Nights
  • Insomniacs
  • Woodsmen Team (Forestry Club)
  • SUNY ESF Day of Service

Notable alumni

More than 18,000 have graduated from ESF since its founding in 1911. The college's Alumni Association was founded fourteen years later, in 1925.[80] Notable alumni include:

  • Reginald E. Balch, MS '28, Canadian photographer and scientist
  • Bruce C. Bongarten, BS '73, former Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, SUNY-ESF
  • Joseph Buongiorno, MS '69, Class of 1933 Bascom Professor of Forest Economics, University of Wisconsin-Madison[81]
  • Roger H.C. Donlon, first man to receive the Medal of Honor in Vietnam
  • Christopher Dunn, BS '76, Director of Cornell Plantations[82]
  • Ronald J. Eby, BS '69, PhD '74, National Medal of Technology award, 2007 for his work in pediatric medicine. A polysaccharide / carbohydrate chemist whose career was devoted to vaccine development.[83]
  • Frank Edwin Egler, plant ecologist and pioneer in the study of vegetation science
  • Patrick Flood, BS '74, Maine state legislator
  • Sol Feinstone, '15, historian, businessman, conservationist[84]
  • Jean Fréchet, MS '69, PhD'71, Henry Rapoport Chair of Organic Chemistry and Professor of Chemical Engineering, UC Berkeley - Dendritic Polymers: Dendrimers;[85] 2013 Japan Prize Laureate[86] His PhD student, Will Dichtel professor of chemistry at Cornell, earns MacArthur 'Genius Award' 9/2015[87]
  • Delfin Ganapin, Jr., PhD '87, Global Manager, Global Environmental Facility Small Grants Program, United Nations Development Program[88]
  • William M. Harlow, BS '25, MS '26, PhD '28, SUNY ESF Professor in the field of wood technology
  • Stephen Kay, BLA '73, golf course architect
  • Edwin Ketchledge, BS '49, Distinguished Teaching Professor of Botany and Dendrology, SUNY-ESF[89][90][91]
  • Robin W. Kimmerer, BS '75, author of Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses; Professor of Biology and Director, Center for Native Peoples, SUNY-ESF
  • Michael Kudish, PhD '71, author, historian, forester and professor
  • Meyer Laskin... "Dad loved his work, but he was most himself and most alive in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York that he fell in love with while in forestry school. I was 10 the first time we went backpacking."[92]
  • Raymond (Ray) Leonard, Ph.D., skipper of the ill fated sailboat S. V. Satori made famous in the book and movie, The Perfect Storm; a pioneering forest ecologist at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in W. Thornton, NH.[93]
  • Moshe Levy, PhD '55, professor of chemistry, discoverer of living polymerization, and solar energy researcher
  • Bob Marshall, BS '24, forester, writer and wilderness activist
  • Joe Martens, MS '81, former Commissioner, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation[94]
  • Donald E. Moore III, BS, PhD '76, animal behaviorist, zoo-based wildlife biologist, Associate Director of Animal Care Sciences, Smithsonian National Zoo, Washington, DC[95]
  • James D. Morrissey, BS '58, "first American to climb the east face of Mt. Everest"[96]
  • Clarence Petty, BS '30, forest ranger, conservationist and outdoorsman
  • Harry Frederick Recher, ornithologist
  • Bruce Shelley, BS '70, computer game designer
  • Sgt. William Shemin, Ranger School 1914, BS after the war, Medal of Honor recipient for bravery in World War I[97][98]
  • Earl Lewis Stone, Jr., BS '38, In 1948, he became the first endowed Charles Lathrop Pack Professor of forest soils at Cornell University. Retired 1979[99]
  • Lissa Widdoff, BS '79, Executive Director, Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation[100]

The accomplishments of additional outstanding ESF alumni are documented at:

Environmental leadership

From soon after its founding, ESF affiliated individuals have been responsible for establishing and leading prominent scientific and advocacy organizations around the world focused on the environment. Others have provided leadership to governmental environmental agencies.

See also


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