Time of Change

Even before the bill that authorized a new site for the school became law, President Brownell and Deputy Commissioner Engleman began looking at potential properties. They decided on part of the Farnham property in Westville. The property was then a working farm, originally operated by William H. and Orella Nettleton Farnham in the 1850s. Their sons, William and A. N. Farnham, had taken control of the farm during the Morrill years of the Normal school. The brothers turned the farm into a massive operation, including fifteen hundred acres from the Hamden town line to Chapel Street where the Yale Bowl now stands. The farm’s main barn and storage building stood where Engleman Hall now stands. In 1947, the farm included about 150 acres, and was an ideal location for the NHSTC campus, but the current owners, brothers Myrlon and Birdey Farnham, were unenthusiastic about selling.
In January 1947, John Lyman became chairperson of the State Board of Education. Lyman and Mrylon were roommates during their days at Yale, where they were member of the Book and Bond fraternity, and had remained friends. Engleman urged Lyman to talk to Myrlon about selling the property. After several unsuccessful meetings, Farnham revealed to Lyman that he and his brothers had decided to sell 37 acres to the state for the college. A simple sign that identified “Farnham Acres” as the future home of NHSTC marked the future site.
The original plan for the campus called for a man-made lagoon, fronted by a large main building, book ended by male and female dorms and bordered on the far end by a gymnasium and athletic fields.
The move
As school began in September 1952, the power plant and the gymnasium were closer to completion than was the larger main building. This construction continued, and by early 1953 the central section of the main building and the entire gymnasium, named after former physical education professor Irma Pelz was completed. For the time being, most college activities continued on Howe Street. Faculty and students who did use the new building for classes traveled between the two campuses by car or public transportation.
The moving process would last longer than Dr. Brownell’s presidency. With no future in Yale’s dying education department, Brownell was looking to his next move. Warren G. Hill, Brownell’s right hand man became the acting president. In the spring of 1954, Hill argued for the construction of dormitories, at last NHSTC would catch up with its sister schools.
Under the leadership of Engleman and Brownell, NHSTC had already begun abandoning it’s role as a teacher’s college and redefining itself as a public general college.
Many of the faculty and students hoped that Warren Gardiner Hill would be appointed to the president position left by Brownell. But a select few knew that Hill had written a letter to Commissoner Engleman stating his unwillingness to be a candidate for the position. Barely thirty-four, he believed he could better serve the university as an assistant to the president.
The next president was Hilton C. Buley, formerly New Hampshire’s commissioner of education. Buley, who had been a teacher and administrator in New York, New Jersey and Wisconsin before earning his doctorate at Columbia University, was overseeing public schools in New Hampshire. Buley became president of NHSTC on July 1, 1954. The differences between Buley and his predecessor Brownell were obvious: Buley made a clear distinction between administration and faculty. Hill, an asset to Brownell, was a challenge to Buley’s power, and he was convinced to leave. Hill would become the youngest bureau chief to the State Department of Education.
When Buley took over, NHSTC and its sister schools were urging the State Board of Education to delete the word “teachers” from their names, to reflect the new function of the colleges to offer general eduction as well as teacher preparation programs. However, when a bill calling for name changes came before the General Assembly in March 1959, the State Board of Education was willing to endorse the name changes, but not the attached proposal of converting the schools into four-year general colleges. The General Assembly disagreed, changed the names of the colleges and expanded the programs of study. NHSTC was now Southern Connecticut State College.
The growth of the college’s curriculum was evident, as was the growth of the physical campus. When Dr. Buley arrived on Crescent Street, only sections of three buildings had been completed, and the whole campus amounted to only the original thirty-seven acres the Farnhams had sold the state. When he retired, in 1971, the college could claim 147 acres, eighteen fully completed buildings, and nine others in progress.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: