“Now it is time to think about where we are going. We begin with our third Five Year Plan. …But that is a mere beginning.”
Print Speech 2 of 5
The Next Phase
The Stony Brook campus opened on September 16, 1962. There were 780 students, including the first graduate students, and one dorm, creatively named G Dorm.
The history of Stony Brook for the next few years is far murkier than I can deal with here, but it is worth learning about from the several histories that have been published. In 1965, when John S. Toll became the second president, the first at the new location, he came with the expansive vision that shaped Stony Brook. It had always been the intention that Stony Brook and one unspecified upstate campus would be the two research centers of SUNY. This was to be a great research university. Dr. Toll immediately lured H. Bentley Glass from Johns Hopkins to be academic vice president, and Nobel laureate Chen Ning Yang from the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton to become Einstein Professor of Physics. These appointments would seem an incredible feat at a fledgling college, but I suspect no one who knows Johnny can be too surprised. In fact, what he accomplished at Stony Brook was unprecedented: A few years post-Sputnik, when the federal government had dramatically accelerated support of scientific research and graduate study, Stony Brook was virtually built top down, starting with excellence in research and graduate study, even before there was a secure base of undergraduate education on which to build. And it worked. President Toll also started to create the medical campus, and hired Edmund Pellegrino as vice president for the Health Sciences Center and Dean of the School of Medicine. The Hospital opened in 1980.
Johnny was here in tumultuous times, when buildings and even the Bridge to Nowhere were springing up with great speed and minimal—I am being kind—architectural merit; when students were protesting not only Vietnam but the living conditions at Stony Brook and sit-ins were the mode of the day; and when accelerating appointments of great professors provided the shape of the University’s tenured faculty for many years to come. For example, he hired a 30-year-old named Jim Simons to create a world-class math department, and Jim did just that, to the consternation of more established universities. It was a turbulent time all over the country, which many of us remember from our own adventures here or elsewhere, but which is remembered at Stony Brook both for the astonishing rapidity of the growth of research excellence and for the ankle-deep mud. Not to mention the infamous drug raid. As former University Provost and Distinguished Service Professor Sidney Gelber described that legendary night in his book Politics and Public Higher Education in New York State:
Following three months of undercover work by agents planted on the campus and disguised as hippies, a set of plans “…filled a 107-page book…entitled Operation in Stony Brook. …[it was] bolstered by 42 pages of dormitory maps.”…198 Suffolk County policemen carrying guns…arrived on campus in a caravan of 68 police vehicles. They arrested 35 people, 24 of whom were students, and collected 10 pounds of marijuana, one pound of hashish, some drug paraphernalia, and 2,000 pills, some of which turned out to be vitamins.”
The press coverage, like the raid itself, was so over the top that people still talk about that night 40 years ago.