Orange County gets a College

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Pre 1950

Drawing of Morrison Hall before SUNY Orange - contains text: "With a Barnful of Students and a Countyful of Faith"The 1940’s were dominated by World War II and the Holocaust. The first great movement of women from the home to the workplace had begun. Men had gone off to war and women replaced them to keep the war production going. War production pulled the US out of the Great Depression. When the war ended the men returned and the women had to give up their jobs to the returning men, but they had tasted independence.

By 1945 these men began returning home with their GI bill which included a free college education. In 1945 not only did Orange County not have a college but, except for West Point and a teacher's college that would become SUNY New Paltz, there was no college from New York City to Albany, NY west of the Hudson River. The end of the war brought an education crisis to the entire nation. Some states had a few low-income colleges but New York wasn’t one of them.

In 1945 Orange County was an agricultural county two hours from New York City. Of all of the counties in New York it had the lowest number of  High school age young people attending college. In September 1946 a Temporary junior college was set up for the returning servicemen. Some of the events in 1946 and 1947 that led to the formation of a new permanent college were;


May 13 Orange County citizen's group seeks a college for returning veterans
August 29 School leaders from four counties confer to discuss Columbia University branch at Middletown
October 25 Fordham, Cornell reported interested in Middletown campus idea
November 5 Orange, Sullivan and Ulster educators organize under Middletown Superintendent Carl Warren to seek a regional college
December 12 Fordham announces willingness to sponsor a Collegiate Center at Middletown

The Middletown Collegiate Center opened September 1946 in the Middletown High school with classes from 4 til 11pm. It was run by Fordham University a catholic college from the Bronx. A year after the college opened a church-state conflict ended Fordham’s sponsorship.


January 30 ACUNY takes over the Collegiate Center, contracts with Fordham to operate until September
February 3 96 students in the Collegiate Center classes conducted by Fordham at Middletown High School
September 1 Collegiate Center becomes extension center of Associated Colleges of Upper New York

news paper article First program of Associated colleges of Upper NY

The research for a permanent college didn’t begin until 1948, when Fred Germain created the committee for Higher education.  With the knowledge that the Collegiate Center would be closing soon, Germain a man known for getting whatever he went after began his quest for a permanent college in Orange County.  Using the local newspaper and Radio station, Germain waged a PR campaign to alert the people of Orange County of the need for a permanent college and the fact that the collegiate center was closing.   

First student to apply to college

Mr. Charles Cawein Jr. was the first student to apply to the college. Cawein addressed the graduates at the commencement exercises in May 2000

committee members meet o form a collegeCommittee members meet in a Furniture store in Middletown

Some of the major events of 1948 and 1949 leading to Orange County getting a college were;


January 2 Committee for higher education formed to keep the college at Middletown
February 7 Results of a study released by Carl Warren, superintendent of Schools in Middletown, which showed that fewer young people attend college in the county than anywhere else in the United States
March 7 Associated Colleges of Upper NY State are created at the behest of Governor Dewey
March 11 Committee for Higher Education files a request with Governor Dewey for a college in the area
April 4 Governor Dewey signs laws creating the State University of New York
November 28 SUNY requests continuation of Middletown Collegiate Center through June 1950
December 6 The committee estimates the cost of a college at a quarter of a million dollars and only half would come from the State. Orange County would have to match the funds.

new college discussion

Dr Lawrence L. Jarvis associate Commissioner of Education is shown addressing a crowd at Central School last night for a discussion of college possibilities for this area. Also on stage are Fred Germain and Carl V. Warren, Middletown school superintendent.

it wasn't built in a day

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Only one problem remained, there was no site picked for the college. Germain had to convince SUNY and the board of Supervisors to approve a college which had no campus.  Germain with a group of Orange County business men approached Christine Morrison in October 1948, to see if she would give up life use of her estate to the county.

Mrs. Christine MorrisonMrs. Christine Morrison
Morrison Hall, the 'mansion' of Orange County Community College, was built by Webb Horton. Its corner stone was laid in 1908, and the house was completed in 1910. When he died he left the property to his cousin, John H. Morrison, husband of Christine Morrison. Mrs. Morrison lived alone after the death of her husband in 1946. In 1950, she donated the mansion and property for it to become the home of Orange County Community College.


January 3 Committee for Higher Education prepares prospectus for locating the college in Middletown
August 25 Morrison Estate seen as a possible campus site by State University officials
September 15 Mrs. Morrison's willingness to give up life use of South Street estate reported
October 19 Horton Hospital trustees ask court permission for college use of Morrision estate
November 25 County supervisors vote 28-5 for conditional approval of a county-sponsored college
December 20 The committee launches a pledge drive throughout the county to raise the funds

Under The proposal, the state would pay half and the community would have to pay the other half. The community would also be obligated to raise $40,000 to acquire the college buildings

community obligation

On October 1949 she finally agreed to donate the estate to the county. The college now had a home and was finally approved; the new college was called Orange County Community College.

Fred Germain had convinced the farmers of Orange County  that their children needed a college, he convinced the conservative Board of Supervisors into making a big financial commitment. He also convinced Horton Hospital (The owners of the estate) and Christine Morrison to donate the estate to the county. College now became affordable and available to the capable rather than the privileged few.


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ed miner chosen as first president Interviewing new instructors for the college


The creation of the college does not go unnoticed on the national scene. Readers Digest, Look and Life magazines all publish articles about the new college and the people who made it possible are profiled as a national model.

Life magazine article

Look applauds Fred Germain

Click here to read a transcript of the Look Magazine article shown above (plain text).

readers digest article