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Long IslandEducation

Adelphi archivists work to preserve Dowling College's history

The effort is geared to cataloging 380 linear feet of material that was moved from Dowling's Oakdale campus to Adelphi last summer after the Suffolk college's closure in 2016.

Adelphi University archivist David Ranzan shows items from

Adelphi University archivist David Ranzan shows items from now-closed Dowling College, including a bust of its namesake, philanthropist Robert W. Dowling, last Thursday. Archival material from Dowling was sent to Adelphi when the Oakdale college closed in 2016. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Credit Adelphi University archivist David Ranzan for riding to the rescue.

With the closing of Dowling College and liquidation of its assets in 2016, Ranzan sprang into action to save what he considers a critical part of academic history on Long Island, as well as for Adelphi.

His months-long effort resulted in 380 linear feet of archival material from Dowling's Oakdale campus being delivered via moving truck to Adelphi in Garden City. Because Dowling once was a satellite campus of Adelphi, it is fitting, Ranzan said, for the material to have its home there.

The collection is not all papers such as school newspapers and commencement programs. It includes a bust of Dowling’s namesake, Robert W. Dowling, several large presidential portraits and athletic trophies.

“It’s extremely important” to preserve such material, Ranzan said. “First of all, just because of Adelphi University. It is its history and it was an extended arm of Adelphi University and it needed to be saved.”

Plus, as smaller universities disappear or close, “it is really important to understand that they existed," he said.

Dowling College — which lost its accreditation, ran out of funds and closed two years ago — sold the Oakdale property for $26.1 million at auction last year as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. Dowling’s 25-acre Oakdale campus — including the mansion of the property's original owner, William K. Vanderbilt — was bought at auction by NCF Capital Ltd., a Hong Kong company. It now is owned by Mercury International LLC, an entity affiliated with NCF.

Dowling's origins stemmed from Adelphi's Suffolk County satellite school, started in 1955. Adelphi bought the former Vanderbilt estate in the early 1960s and Dowling College became independent in 1968.

Soon after the sale, Ranzan approached the representative in charge of the liquidation, Neil Bivona of RSR Consulting LLC, about transferring the college archives to Adelphi, and by March 2017, they reached an agreement, according to Adelphi officials. The request made its way through the courts and was approved.

One morning last summer, Ranzan arrived at the former Dowling campus at 8 a.m. as decades of collegiate history were loaded into a moving truck.

Since then, he and the archives staff have begun preserving and processing the material. It includes everything from course catalogs, minutes of meetings and presidential papers, to doctoral dissertations, master’s theses, photographs, student newspapers and yearbooks.

The archivists are about one-third of the way through the collection and Ranzan anticipates they should be complete by the spring. They are creating a “finding aid” to help those who want to search the Dowling archive.

Thomas Daly, who graduated with Dowling’s first class in 1971 and served as dean of student affairs and dean of aviation, is part of a current effort, launched by several alumni, to try to resurrect the school. He had feared that important papers and other artifacts from Dowling’s history would end up in the trash. He said that the alumni group had started trying to remove some materials, but didn’t know where to store them.

“Adelphi stepped in and we couldn’t believe it and they were fantastic,” Daly said.

Frank Corso Jr., a 1977 Dowling graduate and president of the Dowling College Alumni Association, noted in a statement that Dowling and Adelphi have a history going back to day one.

Even when Dowling became independent of Adelphi, a relationship between the schools continued through the years, Corso said. Adelphi offered some of its programs at Dowling, and the founders of Dowling included several Adelphi administrators, such as the school’s first president, Allen Robinson, who was a former Adelphi dean.

“Our intent is to continue the relationship we had in the past,” Corso said. “I’m very pleased, and the alumni association is very pleased for David and Adelphi taking that step to collect and save the archives.”

From the Dowling College archives

  • Commencement programs, including Adelphi Suffolk College's last and Dowling College's first, 1968-69
  • News clipping announcing the approval of the charter by the Board of Regents, 1968
  • Administrative page of Dowling College's first yearbook, 1969
  • Image of Robert W. Dowling, college's benefactor and namesake (1895-1973)
  • Student Handbook, 1992-93
  • Personalized New York license plate, “FOR MBA,” 1990s

Source: Dowling College Archives Collection, Adelphi University and Special Collections, Garden City, N.Y.

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