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, and by 1911 his efforts resulted in a New York State bill to fund the project: the aforementioned appropriation bill signed by Governor Dix. 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.
The first dean of the college was William L. Bray, a Ph.D., graduate from the University of Chicago, 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. 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.
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. Research at the college commenced in 1912, with a study of New York state firms using lumber, including from which tree species and in what 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.
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". 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.
ESF's main campus, located in Syracuse, New York, is where most academic, administrative, and student activity takes place. The campus is made up of nine main buildings:
Baker Laboratory: Named after Hugh P. Baker, Dean of the College from 1912–1920 and again 1930-33. The building is the location of several computer clusters and auditorium-style classrooms. It is home to the Department of Environmental Resources Engineering and the Division of Environmental Science. The building underwent a $37 million overhaul in the early 2000s, providing updated space for the Tropical Timber Information Center and the Nelson C. Brown Center for Ultrastructure Studies. Baker Lab is the site of ESF's NASA-affiliated Research Center. Baker Laboratory houses two multimedia lecture halls, a "smart" classroom outfitted for computer use and distance learning, and two construction management and planning studios. It also has a full-scale laboratory for materials science testing, including a modern dry kiln, a wood identification laboratory, shop facilities (including portable sawmill) and wood preservation laboratory.
Bray Hall: The building is the oldest on campus, completed in 1917, the largest building devoted to Forestry at the time. It is named after William L. Bray, a founder of the New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University and its first dean, 1911-12. It is the location of most administrative offices and the Department of Forest and Natural Resources Management. The State University Police department is located in the basement.
Gateway Center: The campus' newest building, opened in March 2013, "sets a new standard for LEED buildings, producing more renewable energy than it consumes," according to Cornelius B. Murphy, Jr. The building is "designed to achieve LEED Platinum Certification". The ESF College Bookstore, Trailhead Cafe, and Office of Admissions are located in the Gateway Center.
Illick Hall: The building was completed in 1968, and is home to the Department of Environmental and Forest Biology. It is named after Joseph S. Illick, a dean of the State University College of Forestry at Syracuse University. There is a large lecture hall (Illick 5) on the ground floor. Several greenhouses are located on the fifth floor. The Roosevelt Wildlife Museum is also located in the building.
Jahn Laboratory: Named after Edwin C. Jahn, former head of the New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University. The building was completed in 1997. Home to the Department of Chemistry.
Marshall Hall: Named after Louis Marshall, one of the founders of the New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University. Home to the Landscape Architecture and Environmental Studies departments. The Alumni (Nifkin) Lounge, Tree House (snack bar) and Marshall Auditorium are located within. Twin brass plaques in the entryway commemorate the contributions of Marshall and his son, alumnus Bob Marshall.
Moon Library: Dedicated to F. Franklin Moon, an early dean of the College. Completed in 1968, along with Illick Hall. A computer cluster and student lounge are located in the basement.
Walters Hall: Named after J. Henry Walters, who served on the College's Board of Trustees. Completed in 1969. Home to the Department of Paper and Bioprocess Engineering. The pilot plant in the building includes two paper machines and wood-to-ethanol processing equipment.
Centennial Hall: ESF's on-campus student dormitory, commemorating the college's 100th anniversary. The facility is capable of accommodating 280-300 freshman (in double or triple studio rooms with private bath), 116 upperclassmen (in single bedroom suits with private bath), and an additional 56 upperclassmen (in 4-bedroom, 2-bath apartments). A $31 million project, Centennial Hall opened in 2011.
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.
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. The campus, established in 1912, 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.
Field stations and forests
Newcomb campus, c. 1973
Cranberry Lake: The College's environmental and forest biology summer field program is located at the Cranberry Lake Biological Station, on Cranberry Lake in the Adirondack Park.
Newcomb: The Adirondack Ecological Center and Huntington Wildlife Forest, a 15,000-acre (6,000-hectare) field station in the central Adirondack Mountains, are located near Newcomb, New York. The site includes the Arbutus Great Camp, bunkhouses, and a dining center, among other facilities.
Syracuse: The Lafayette Road Experiment Station is located in the City of Syracuse.
Thousand Islands: The Thousand Islands Biological Station and Ellis International Laboratory are situated in the Thousand Islands, New York.
The Arturo and Maria Sundt Field Station, ESF's first international field station, is being used for both research and teaching. A former farm, it is located near the town of Coyolito, in the province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica, approximately one mile (1.6 km) from the Gulf of Nicoya on the country's west coast.
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." 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.
The admission rate for applicants to ESF is 61 percent (Fall 2018). ESF is ranked at 55th in the 2020 US News & World Report rankings of the top public national universities. Furthermore, ESF is ranked 121st in the 2020 US News & World Report list of the best National Universities (both public and private). U.S. News & World Report ranked ESF as 64th best graduate school in Environmental/Environmental Health Engineering category in 2016. 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").
Front entrance, Marshall Hall
Forbes Magazine ranked ESF #54 in its listing of “America’s Best College Buys” for 2012. Forbes.com has also ranked ESF at No. 3 on its 2010 list of the 20 best colleges for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). 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 Treehugger.com, a website devoted to sustainability and environmental news. 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.
The Online College Database ranked ESF at No. 6 on its list of "50 Colleges Committed to Saving the Planet" for 2013. 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.
ESF is classified as a "Carnegie R2 Doctoral Universities: High Research Activity" institution. 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. Since that time, the research initiatives of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) have expanded greatly as both faculty and students conduct pioneering studies, many with a global reach. 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.
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, Soccer Team, Sigma Lambda Alpha, 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.
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%.
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. It can be harvested without negatively affecting the environment. For this reason, ESF 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.
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. 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. Gateway and other buildings on campus utilize rooftop gardens to reduce energy consumption and water runoff.
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. The men's soccer team was invited to the 2012 USCAA National Championship Tournament in Asheville, North Carolina, making it to the semifinals.
ESF has a long tradition of competing in intercollegiate woodsman competitions in the northeastern US and eastern Canada. The team came in first in both the men's and women's divisions of the northeastern US and Canadian 2012 spring meet. Students at the SUNY-ESF Ranger School, in Wanakena, compete as the Blue Ox Woodsmen team.
ESF is an autonomous institution, administratively separate from Syracuse University, while some resources, facilities and infrastructure are shared. 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.
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
Friends and Family BBQ
Festival of Places
Free Movies Nights
Woodsmen Team (Forestry Club)
ESF Day of Service
More than 19,000 have graduated from ESF since its founding in 1911. The college's Alumni Association was founded 14 years later, in 1925. Notable alumni include:
Bruce C. Bongarten, BS '73, former Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, ESF
Joseph Buongiorno, MS '69, Class of 1933 Bascom Professor of Forest Economics, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Roger Donlon, first man to receive the Medal of Honor in Vietnam
Christopher Dunn, BS '76, Director of Cornell Plantations
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.
Sol Feinstone, '15, historian, businessman, conservationist
Jean Fréchet, MS '69, PhD '71, Henry Rapoport Chair of Organic Chemistry and Professor of Chemical Engineering, UC Berkeley - Dendritic Polymers: Dendrimers; 2013 Japan Prize Laureate His PhD student, Will Dichtel professor of chemistry at Cornell, earns MacArthur 'Genius Award' 9/2015
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."
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
Lissa Widdoff, BS '79, Executive Director, Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation
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.
^Liu, Shijie; Abrahamson, L.; Scott, G. (2012). "Biorefinery: Ensuring biomass as a sustainable renewable source of chemicals, materials, and energy". Biomass and Bioenergy. 39 (April): 1–4. doi:10.1016/j.biombioe.2010.12.042.
^Heavey, Justin; Kelleher, Michael (2009). Climate Action Plan for SUNY ESF. Department of Renewable Energy Systems. p. 6,21.
^Wong, N. H.; Cheonga, D.; Yana, H.; Soha, J.; Ongb, C.; Siab, C. (May 2003). "The effects of rooftop garden on energy consumption of a commercial building in Singapore". Energy and Buildings. 35 (4): 353–364. doi:10.1016/s0378-7788(02)00108-1.