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The Pleasantville Campus

When Mr. And Mrs. Marks donated their sprawling home and surrounding acreage to Pace College in 1962, there was only one string attached: an informal understanding that a gigantic copper beech tree near the house, which today is the focal point of the upper campus, would remain undisturbed. The house itself, though, has enjoyed anything but a tranquil existence over the years.

Originally constructed to house patients being treated for mental and nervous disorders at Dr. George C. S. Choate's Sanitarium, the Marks residence had been a wing of Choate House, 1a building Pace College would later add to its Westchester holdings. One of Dr. Choate's most famous patients was the crusading newspaper publisher and politician, Horace Greeley. Following his defeat for the Presidency of the United States in 1872, an exhausted Greeley, who had a farm in nearby Chappaqua, checked into Dr. Choate's Sanitarium, where he died a few weeks later. Dr. Choate himself passed away in 1896, but the Sanitarium remained open for another decade.

In 1909 Dr. Choate's widow had the sizable wing her husband had constructed moved to its present location closer to Bedford Road. Her intention was to occupy the house while turning over her original home to her newly married son. The actual job of detaching and moving the wing from the original home, built by shoe manufacturer Samuel Baker in 1867, began on New Year's Day 1909 and lasted until summer. Considerably heavier than the contractor estimated, the house, pulled by teams of horses, inched along. Getting it past the pond, while at the same time avoiding the beautiful old trees that Mrs. Choate did not want disturbed, were major challenges.

When the house was at last on its new foundation, the interior had to be completely redone. It was well worth the effort, though, because Mrs. Choate lived there until her death, at age 95, in 1926. Thereafter the house had three more private owners: banker Dunham B. Scherer, advertising executive Lewis H. Titterton, and Wayne C. Marks.

After Mr. Marks presented his alma mater with this extraordinary gift, the College gave serious consideration to offering a two-year program in Westchester. The hope was that, upon completion 1of all lower division courses, students would transfer to Pace in Manhattan. In November 1962 the State Education Department approved an amendment of the Pace College charter to permit the school to "operate an institutional Branch in Westchester County. “ There was one slight problem, however. Despite the fact that Dr. Marks's generosity had enabled the College to purchase an additional 4.2-acre parcel contiguous with the Marks estate, the school owned only 11.59 acres. The Town of Mount Pleasant zoning law required 15 acres for the type of construction Pace envisioned for the site. In February 1963 Pace went before the town's zoning board of appeals and obtained the necessary variance to permit construction of two Georgian style-brick buildings, one on either side of the Marks mansion.

Two months later, a ground-breaking ceremony took place; a cornerstone ceremony was held just a month after the formal ground-breaking. In addition to honoring Dr. and Mrs. Marks, the cornerstone ceremony recognized the contribution of Dr. Charles H. Dyson, whose generous donation funded the science building then under construction. Throughout the spring and summer of 1963, construction proceeded almost without a hitch. Even the weather cooperated. The project had to be shut down for only one day because of inclement weather.

In mid-summer Dr. William McAloon, who had been appointed Dean of Pace College Westchester, took up residence on the campus to supervise the construction work and continue the job, begun in the spring, of recruiting 100 day and 125 evening students for September 1963. Enrollment exceeded the goals. The freshman class totaled 143 day students. Evening enrollment was 265. Equally impressive was the fact that the evening students were employed by 100 different companies. In addition to the regular day and evening students, 50 women were attending either day session classes or a special lecture series on archaeology offered in the afternoon.1

The campus to which all of these people came on opening day, September 16, 1963, was still an active construction site, but Dyson Hall, with its science laboratories and classrooms, was sufficiently completed, at a cost of $15 per square foot, to permit occupancy. When one considers that the building had been erected in only five months, this is no small achievement. Students attending classes during Pace's freshman semester in Westchester joked about driving over dirt roads on campus in the morning and heading home over blacktop in the early afternoon, but, at the very least, the furious pace of construction was a sure sign that the College was an institution on the move.

So, too, was the incredible turnout at an open house held at Pleasantville in November 1963. Four hundred people attended, but before the school could accept additional students, more classrooms were needed. Therefore, in May 1964, construction of Willcox Hall began. Bryon Willcox, class of 1916 and a trustee of Pace College, had pledged $1,000,000 to his alma mater prior to his death in 1963. His estate made the actual donation, and the building named in honor of Mr. Willcox was finished in 1965. At that time the cafeteria was moved from the Marks mansion to Willcox Hall; the library was moved to Willcox from Dyson, and the remainder of Willcox was used for classrooms, the bookstore, a gymnasium, and offices. Inter-office mail service between the New York and Westchester campuses on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays commenced in late September 1965. Earlier that month, in its progress report to the Middle States accrediting body, Pace was able to proudly report that "the College now has 17 classrooms, 1 physical science laboratory and 1 biology laboratory. In addition, there is adequate space for faculty offices, two student lounges, a Student Activities Office and a large reception room in the original Marks' residence. Parking facilities for 300 cars, a large athletic field and three tennis courts have also been provided."" In January 1965 the charter of Pace College had been amended to permit the granting of the B.B.A. degree in Westchester. The overwhelmingly positive response to the institution and the tremendous increase in the number of students wishing to earn the baccalaureate degree in a suburban setting had caused the trustees to rethink their original plan to grant only associate degrees in 1Westchester. Not only did they move ahead with a full four-year program, but in the spring of 1965 Saturday classes were introduced in Westchester.

At this time the College also attempted to acquire additional property on the other side of Bedford Road. This 400-acre parcel, known as Graham Hills, extended down as far as the Hawthorne interchange. Although the land was owned by the County and administered by its Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation, it had been considered as a possible site for a new campus of the State University of New York. When S.U.N.Y. chose Purchase, Dr. Mortola wrote to Westchester County Executive Edwin G. Michaelian, "You will recall that, prior to acquisition by the County, we had begun negotiations to acquire some part of this property. Upon learning of the County's interest, we withdrew in order to avoid causing any embarrassment to County officials who had been so helpful to Pace in its development in Westchester." Dr. Mortola informed the County Executive that Pace College was interested in acquiring 100 acres of the Graham Hills property in order "to expand ... to a total day enrollment of 2,000." In May 1965 the Board of Trustees resolved to authorize the College "to make application to acquire at least 100 acres of the Graham Hill site in Westchester County."

Twenty-five years later Pace had still not expanded to the other side of Bedford Road but, in the interim, it acquired additional land contiguous with the original campus. By the summer of 1968 Choate House was being transformed into a dormitory and thought was being given to renovating Smith House for use as an executive conference center. But it had not been all smooth sailing. There had been a legal dispute with the Briarcliff School Board involving property desired by both the school district and Pace College. A compromise was ultimately reached, and in November 1968 Pace was able to reveal its master plan for the Pleasantville campus. Addressing the board of directors of the Westchester County Association, a powerful and influential organization of businesses and corporations, Dr. Mortola spoke about the new dormitories which would rise on part of the College's 175-acre campus by 1970, plans for a student center, and another classroom building to complement Miller Hall, then under construction. He summarized developments at Pace by saying, "The success which the college has already enjoyed and the warm reception it has received in Westchester gives us confidence that it will succeed. Already the college has an enrollment of 1,700 students. It now has its third building under way and within the next three years four additional buildings will be completed."

One of those buildings, Miller Hall, named after Samuel Miller, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, 1was in partial use by the fall of 1969. During the spring of 1970, as construction proceeded on the other new additions to the campus, Pace College acquired the Robert Green property in Pleasantville, thereby enlarging the campus by thirteen more acres.

Students arriving for the 1970-71 academic year were greeted by not only a bigger campus, but also a newly inaugurated mini-bus service between Pace Westchester and Pace New York. The bus departed from Pleasantville five days a week at 12:30 p.m., made the reverse trip leaving New York at 2:30, and departed from Pleasantville on its final run of the day at 6:15 p.m. Curiously, the first published schedule indicated that the estimated travel time between Pleasantville and New York in the afternoon was one hour! The approximate time for the evening trip to Manhattan was one hour and fifteen minutes. Presumably, members of the Pace community who ended up sitting in traffic rather than breezing right through as the schedule implied had time to contemplate the incredible growth of the university in the 1960s and early 70s. Anyone who has been around Pace, even for a short while, quickly realizes that the institution is constantly evolving. Both historically and contemporaneously, Pace is a dynamic environment.

Indicative of that dynamism was the dedication of Lienhard Hall in December 1971. Named for Gustav 0. Lienhard, class of 1926, who served as president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a Pace trustee, the building contained classrooms and laboratories for the School of Nursing. The following December the Student Center was dedicated. Six months earlier, the person who had supervised both the physical and academic expansion of the Pleasantville campus, Dr. William F. McAloon, retired and was succeeded by physicist and former Columbia University administrator Dr. Warren Goodell who, in 1977, was succeeded by Dr. Thomas P. Robinson.

Dr. McAloon bade farewell to Pace at the 1972 commencement exercises on the Pleasantville campus. Since 1968, there had been separate commencements for New York and Westchester. In Pleasantville, the ceremonies took place outdoors, but in June 1972 a heavy downpour sent graduates, faculty, administrators, trustees and guests scurrying for the auditorium. Despite the unplanned interruption, Dr. McAloon was able to deliver a farewell address which contained a plan for Pace's future in Westchester County: "Part of that blueprint should be a dedication to become an institution of higher learning where scholarship is prized. Another part of the blueprint should be the continuing tradition that we have here at Pace to become a place of warm human influences that merge into an experience never to be forgotten by our graduates."

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