Published May 25, 2022
In 1981, students attending UB were heading to classes while listening to songs like “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes, or “Endless Love” by Diana Ross and Lionel Ritchie. Maybe they were wearing “rad” jean jackets and getting ready for “gnarly” exams.
Among the passing trends and fashions, however, something new was developing on campus — something that would be holding strong 40-plus years later. The University Honors Program was established in 1981 by then-President Robert Ketter, who wanted the program to attract the brightest undergraduates to UB. He established a committee of distinguished faculty from across the university to develop an honors program. The first class consisted of just 17 students. Much has changed in 40 years, and with each passing year, the UB Honors College has grown bigger and better.
The Honors Program shifted to an Honors College in 2007 and is now located in a suite of offices — including the Don Schack Student Lounge — occupying more than 8,000 square feet on the first floor of Capen Hall. The inaugural Honors class was made up of 17 students; the Honors College currently enrolls more than 1,300 students.
While the college continues to expand, its core mission and values remain the same: to serve, educate and provide honors scholars with key academic services, academic enrichment opportunities and a robust curriculum that enhances their educational experience at UB.
“If UB is my home, then Honors is my family. In Honors, I know everyone, and everyone knows me, which makes me feel valued every day,” says Clayton Markham, a presidential scholar who just graduated with a degree in environmental engineering.
Markham, of Syracuse, is a recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence and will be attending Virginia Tech to pursue his PhD in environmental engineering.
“Honors has made me more globally minded, engaged in my community and fueled my fundamental curiosity about the world around me. All the personalized advising and financial support allowed me to focus solely on getting the very most out of my UB education,” Markham says.
Sydné Jackson, a graduating senior from Elmont, is a University Honors College scholar, a Millonzi Distinguished Honors scholar, a SUNY Chancellor’s Award recipient, and a recipient of a Pride of New York Scholarship.
“The community I’ve made through Honors is the aspect I’ve enjoyed the most of my education at UB,” Jackson says. “I’ve made many friends through Honors my first year that I still have to this day as well as supportive advisors who open us up to opportunities and experiences. During my time as a resident adviser, I was able to be in Governors Complex to mentor new Honors freshmen. Also, the Honors College advisers were the ones who nominated me for the SUNY Chancellor’s Award in the first place.”
While celebratory events were held throughout the academic year, alumni, current students and administrators recently attended a reception held to commemorate the important milestone.
“As the new director of the Honors College, it is an honor to welcome everyone here today,” said Patrick McDevitt, who holds a position as associate professor of history, as well as academic director of the Honors College. “I have been at UB for 20 years and I have worked with the Honors College one way or another, and I’ve always maintained that the Honors College is the happiest place at UB,” McDevitt said. “This is absolutely such a joy for me to formally be part of this on an everyday basis. And to be part of this staff and this community.
“What we hope is that the community that you all experienced is something we can continue and share with future generations of honors students.”
This academic year, the Honors College had three Fulbright winners, three Goldwater winners, three NSF Graduate Research Fellows Program recipients, and seven Chancellor Award recipients, among other award recipients.
“We’ve had a momentous year back in classes, and our scholars have done very well with obtaining prestigious scholarships and awards,” McDevitt said. “Every time we turn around, someone from the Honors College is doing amazing things.”
Very impressive. These records are distinguished.
Richard W Erbe