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CM-01: Staten Island Community College (SICC) Records

Identifier: CM-01

Scope and Contents

Staten Island Community College (SICC) Records consists of ten series including administrative records, academic affairs records, student affairs records, alumni affairs records, public relations and media, events records, historical records, photographs, realia and grounds records.


  • Creation: 1955 - 1976

Conditions Governing Use

The researcher assumes full responsibility for compliance with laws of copyright. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Coordinator of Archives & Special Collections.

Biographical / Historical

Staten Island Community College (SICC) was founded in 1955, and ultimately merged with Richmond College, an upper division college, to form the College of Staten Island (CSI) in 1976. Administrative History: A long campaign for the establishment of a public college culminated in the establishment of Staten Island Community College (SICC) in 1955. The campaign for publicly supported higher education on Staten Island extended at least as far back as the early 1930's. The first organized movement appears to have started in 1932, when a committee and a petition drive were organized in the borough. In 1937, Staten Islanders again petitioned for a city college. Although the petitions ultimately contained 45,000 signatures, the city's financial condition prevented the Board of Estimate from approving a proposal from the Board of Higher Education of New York City for a four-year public college on Staten Island. The campaign was revived after World War II. Shortly after the war, Mark Dobbyn, Sr., suggested that a free college would be a fitting memorial to the veterans of Staten Island in a letter to the Staten Island Advance. Practical problems continued to prevent the establishment of a public college, but the movement gained new momentum in 1948. The establishment of the State University of New York (SUNY) that year created new possibilities for the establishment of a public college, as SUNY was authorized to share in the financing and operation of community colleges with local communities. At the same time, Staten Islanders elected Edward V. Curry, who had made a campaign promise to pursue a public college, to the Assembly. The availability of state funding also broadened the base of support for the college. Staten Islanders now attempted to obtain a college as either as a city college or as a branch of the state university. The process dragged on for several years due to many factors. There was a split among supporters of a public college, as some wanted a city college rather than a state-supported college. The lack of financial support from the city also continued to delay the establishment of a college. As early as 1949, the State University expressed its willingness to establish a community college if the city would pay its share of the cost, but the city would not give its support. But support for a community college, jointly supported by the state and city, continued to grow. In the early 1950's, the Board of Higher Education commissioned two reports on higher education facilities in the city. Both reports advocated the establishment of a community college on Staten Island. The second report, by Dr. John S. Diekhoff of Queens College, suggested that the college should "begin as two-year college until increased enrollment warranted its expansion into a four-year college." By 1955, the state, the city and the Board of Higher Education were in agreement that a community college should be established on Staten Island. In March 1955, the Board of Higher Education authorized Dean Walter L. Willig of City College and Professor Arleigh B. Williamson, a member of the Board, to undertake an educational survey of Richmond County. Their report"Proposal for the Sponsorship and Establishment of a Community College in the Borough of Richmond" was adopted by the Board of Education on April 18, 1955. On May 12th, the Board of Estimate of New York City approved the proposal, and on June 9th the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York also approved the proposal. SICC was established under the New York State Community College Law and was locally sponsored by the Board of Higher Education of the City of New York under the program of the State University of New York. The Board of Higher Education then created a special committee, headed by Professor Williamson, to oversee the creation of the new college. In a short space of time, Dean Walter L. Willig was appointed president, staff was selected, students were enrolled and space was acquired and altered for the college. SICC celebrated its official opening on September 17, 1956. The first classes were held on September 24th at 50 Bay Street in St. George. The first class had 112 students taught by a staff of 14 faculty members. The initial college curricula consisted of Business Technology, Mechanical Technology, Electrical Technology, Pre-Engineering and Liberal Arts & Sciences. The college worked quickly to establish itself during its early years. An evening session was established in February 1957, with an initial enrollment of 141 students. An expansion of its curriculum was approved in May 1957, and a Business Technology Department, full-time librarian and increased staff were added for the second academic year. By the end of the second year, the city had taken positive steps towards the purchase of land for a permanent campus in Sunnyside, which was formally approved by the State University in 1959. By 1960, the college enrolled 418 students and had continued to expand its staff and course offerings. The college also established a Transfer Program Committee to ensure that its students could make a smooth transition to the four-year municipal colleges. The college was one of the seven existing colleges incorporated into the City University of New York (CUNY) system upon its formation in 1961. During the 1960's, the college's growth continued at a rapid pace. It was clear from the beginning that its physical space also needed to expand to meet community demand. In 1959, it was necessary to refuse the requests of both the State University and Staten Island Hospital to add a community college program in nursing due to a lack of space. The program could not be added to the curriculum until 1965. The college was forced to acquire space in various buildings in St. George until the completion of its permanent campus in Sunnyside in 1967. By 1965, it had become clear that additional opportunities for higher education were needed on Staten Island. By this time, SICC had an enrollment of 1000 full-time and 1074 part-time evening students. Students at SICC and other community colleges encountered difficulty in transferring to four-year schools, as these had only a limited number of openings for junior transfer students. The Board of Higher Education opted to create a new college based upon the new "upper division" concept rather than a new four-year college. Richmond College, a school with undergraduate programs for juniors and seniors as well as selected graduate programs, was established as a senior college in the CUNY system in 1965. Richmond College held its first classes in 1967 in St. George, using the facilities left vacant by SICC upon its move to the new Sunnyside Campus. The late 1960's marked a time of transition for the college. The new Sunnyside campus allowed for expansion not previously possible in St. George. The fall 1967 enrollment was 2142 day and 1429 evening students, a total of 3571 students. The presidency of the college also changed with the retirement of President Willig, and William M. Birenbaum became President of SICC effective September 1, 1968. Birenbaum had previously been at several schools, including Long Island University and the New School of Social Research. He had a new vision for the college. President Birenbaum had been part of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, which was involved in the effort to establish a new college in Bedford Stuyvesant. The college was designed to help restore the neighborhood. Rather than having a traditional campus, the college buildings were to be weaved into the existing community. The corporation worked with community groups to develop a unique design that reflected the needs and desire of the surrounding community. Although CUNY rejected the design concept when it ultimately created Medgar Evers in 1967, Birenbaum sought to adapt the concept to SICC. Although SICC had just opened a new campus, the college's rate of growth meant that additional expansion would be necessary, and plans were made to create Learning Town. The concept called for the creation of a space that was not only college space, but a public space for learning. Due to the difference between the Bedford Stuyvesant and Ocean Terrace neighborhood, the space would not be integrated with the surrounding community; rather, an artificial town would be created on the campus site. The plans for Learning Town were met with mixed reaction by the SICC and local communities. Ultimately, it was never built due to due to the city's fiscal crisis, the anticipated closure of the Willowbrook State School and the formation of the College of Staten Island. The programs and enrollment of the college continued to expand in the 1970's. The combination of many factors including the new campus, the completion of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, population growth and the new CUNY policy of open admissions created a large growth in student enrollment at SICC. By the fall of 1972, SICC had 9744 students, of which 5770 were full-time. The college also was innovative in its programs and activities during this period, a fact that was recognized nationally when SICC was elected to membership in the Union for Experimenting Colleges & Universities in January 1970. The college also took advantage of a newly opened relationship with China and successfully negotiated what was probably the first collegiate mission of its kind to the country through the United Nations in 1973. At the time, it was among the largest missions that had been authorized for American visitors and allowed for the participation of 25 students and faculty and two members of the Board of Higher Education. But the city's fiscal situation created problems for higher education on Staten Island and throughout the city during the 1970's. As SICC received funding from both the city and the state, it remained fiscally sound despite facing a $2.2 million budget deficit for the 1975-1976 academic year. Richmond College, which received only city funding, was not so fortunate and was in danger of closing due to the fiscal crisis. As a result, SICC and Richmond College formed a federation in 1975 that allowed for the survival of both colleges and the maintenance of their separate missions and programs. The College of Staten Island was established in 1976 when the federation was discontinued in favor of a merger of the two institutions. President Birenbaum chose to resign from the presidency at the Staten Island Community College during the merger, and Richmond College President Edmond Volpe became the president of the new institution.


35 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The Staten Island Community College Records are divided into ten series and several subseries ADMINISTRATIVE AFFAIRS Administrative Units Reports and Other Publications ACADEMIC AFFAIRS Curriculum (General) Departments and Programs Events Faculty and Staff Publications and Reports Scholarships Theses and Other Student Research Projects STUDENT AFFAIRS Student Activities Student Organizations Student Publications Student Services and Publications ALUMNI AFFAIRS PUBLIC RELATIONS and MEDIA Books College Press Releases Media Clippings General Publicity EVENTS HISTORY Founding General History BUILDINGS Sunnyside Campus Learning Town PHOTOGRAPHS Campus Events Staff and Student Life Other REALIA.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers are part of the college's institutional record.

Under Revision
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the CSI Archives & Special Collections Repository