Farmingdale’s First Class: The Lost Generation of 1919

Authored by Robert Voyles

Commencement schedule

The remnants of the first commencement program for the New York State School of Agriculture on Long Island Class of 1919.

Farmingdale State College was not always named as such and had a narrower purpose than what it has become today. It began as an agricultural school, then called the New York State School of Agriculture on Long Island, with class sizes not much larger than a dozen students (Farmingdale State College 2018b). The college will be celebrating its centennial graduation in the spring of 2019 and there is a desire to reminisce about the first graduating class 100 years ago in 1919. Outside of a few documents that detail the day-to-day of school administration and the 1919 class yearbook, little information has been retained in the school archives of the first class. The commencement program normally is a booklet filled with information on the activities that take place for graduation. The program for the Class of 1919, however, had little to show except for a schedule.

The Class of 1919 attended school during World War I, graduating in its immediate aftermath. This is the tail end of what is deemed the Lost Generation that came of age during these years. Every single member of this generation is now deceased and it is more important than ever to keep their history documented and alive (Longley 2018).

The class yearbook as well as other administrative documents note and honor a former student who would have graduated in the first class. Jack Bamforth dropped out of school to join the war effort and was killed in action. There was an “In Memoriam” page in the yearbook dedicated to him (The New York State School of Agriculture on Long Island 1919). Another distinction is made for the sole female graduate of the Class of 1919, Kathryn Freeman (Farmingdale State College 2018a). The school board had minutes taken at a meeting in regards to the upcoming graduation and listed the students by name. Kathryn Freeman was listed, but there was a noticeable and intentioned separation when denoting the names of the graduates as well as being listed last (Committee on Subsistence 1919). The historical perspective of this is noted since 1919 was an era in American history that women were only just on the cusp of gaining suffrage.

It comes down to the fact that there is little information on the class after they graduate. Farmingdale State College is making efforts to rectify this with the college library promoting the first class’s presence for the upcoming centennial. Records increase exponentially after the first class with an abundance of documents on the school in later years. It is important to be able to reference time periods like this that often don’t get the recognition it should. The Vincentian tradition at St. John’s University can be exemplified by analyzing the remnants of information left from this graduating class. There are men who fought and died in a war that was overshadowed and forgotten by future conflicts and women receiving the same higher education as men before they were political equals. The core values of respect and opportunity are demonstrated by the mere existence of the individuals of the Class of 1919 (St. John’s University 2018).

References

Committee on Subsistence. 1919. “Notations and Recommendations for Committee on Subsistence.” May 14, 1919. Record Group 1: Historical Manuscripts. Box 2, Folder: Board of Trustees Minutes Jan-Dec 1919. Farmingdale State College Archives.

Farmingdale State College. 2018a. “Historical Perspective.” Last modified July 26, 2018. https://www.farmingdale.edu/commencement/april-2013/historical-perspective.shtml.

Farmingdale State College. 2018b. “Student Life at Farmingdale.” Last modified July 26, 2018. https://www.farmingdale.edu/library/college-archives/history-student-life.shtml.

Longley, Robert. 2018. “The Lost Generation and the Writers Who Described Their World.” Last modified March 7, 2018. ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-lost-generation-4159302.

The New York State School of Agriculture on Long Island. 1919. The NYSSA 1919. Farmingdale, NewYork: 1919. Farmingdale State College Archives.

St. John’s University. 2018.  “Our Mission.” Last modified 2018.https://www.stjohns.edu/about/our-mission.

 

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