History of the College

On December 8, 1966, the Board of Regents and the Trustees of the State University of New York voted to establish a college that would serve the residents of Columbia and Greene Counties. In February 1968, Columbia-Greene opened a temporary office in Catskill and in January 1969 moved to Athens under the leadership of the institution’s first President, Edward Owen. The first graduation in June 1971 was staged at Catskill High School and saw 35 students receive associate’s degrees in a dozen areas of study.

In 1974, the College moved to its current campus in Hudson, and the following year received accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

1978 – 1989

Roger A. Van Winkle took the College’s helm in September 1978 and under his leadership expanded the curriculum from science and liberal arts to include new vocational programs, non-credit classes, and training for business and industry. Enrollment swelled over the next several years to a record peak of 1,428 credit students in 1982 and more than 6,000 non-credit students by the mid-1980s.

Dr. Robert K. Luther became the third President in July 1984 and the campus saw sweeping expansion in the arts and technologies, with the addition of three new campus buildings: a Day Care Center (1988) and the Arts and Technology Centers (1990). The addition of new programs in automotive technology, fine arts, and nursing put Columbia-Greene on track to becoming a comprehensive community college.

In April 1989, Dr. Terry A. Cline became the fourth President. Under his leadership, the Ford ASSET program became an option for automotive technology students that complemented the department’s core program with Toyota.

1990 – 2000

Shortly after celebrating its silver anniversary in 1994, Columbia-Greene experienced a disappointing decline in enrollment, reaching a low of 1,034 FTEs in 1996 – 1997. During the same period, the College revised its Master Plan to include a major renovation of the Main Building.

The Quad on the CGCC campus

With support from the sponsoring counties, groundbreaking for the $13 million reconstruction plan – titled Project Renew – began in spring 1996. Two unused courtyards became a sky-lighted Student Services Court housing the Bursar, Financial Aid, and Records and Registration. An Academic Support Center, built adjacent to the Library, sported 140 internet-connected computers. Other new spaces included four science laboratories and a nursing center with state-of-the art equipment. Renovations also transformed classrooms, lecture halls, and administrative offices.

Accompanying Project Renew were new certificate programs in automotive technology for service and parts professionals (1997); computer graphics and design (1998); and Webmaster (1999); and a new associate degree in massage therapy (1999). In addition, non-credit programs experienced growth with an annual enrollment of more than 8,000 by the end of the decade.

During this time the College also acquired the Hudson River Environmental Field Station at the Cohotate Preserve in Greene County. Sitting on the west bank of the Hudson River approximately two miles north of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, the Field Station serves as a College laboratory, classroom, and research center.

In December 2000, Dean of Community Services James R. Campion, a 26-year-veteran of Columbia-Greene, became the College’s fifth President.

2001 – 2017

The Campion administration revitalized the long-range planning process, revised the Master Plan, Marketing and Recruitment Plan, introduced new academic programs including teacher education with SUNY New Paltz (2002), and furthered the mission of higher education through the diverse communities of Columbia and Greene Counties.

Fall 2004 saw a record high enrollment with 1,800 credit students, and in 2006, the College dedicated the Professional Academic Center. Funded with assistance from New York State Senator Stephen Saland, the facility completed the Master Plan and rounded out the campus’ quadrangle.

2018 – Present

In fall 2018, the College embarked on a four-phase $20 million capital project that included building the Construction Technology Center. Other work included upgraded heating and cooling, new roofing, installation of LED lighting throughout the buildings, repaved parking lots, improved outdoor lighting, and a renovated entrance to the Main Building.

Dr. Carlee Drummer became the sixth President of Columbia-Greene on July 1, 2019. Shortly after her arrival, the United States confronted its first pandemic since the 1918 Spanish flu. Yet the College continued to move forward.

In January 2021, Columbia-Greene became part of the Achieving the Dream network, joining six other community colleges around the nation in the Building Resiliency in Rural Communities for the Future of Work cohort. Through this initiative, the College is adopting new practices that are making an impact on student success.

When the world turned upside down in 2020, the College pivoted to new ways of course delivery and is now able to offer a wide choice of learning options including in-person, online, remote, and hybrid.

Columbia-Greene also began offering a variety of micro-credentials – certificates in a particular field that help people who need credentials quickly to enhance – or embark on – a career.

The College also forged new partnerships with SUNY Delhi and The Olana Partnership / Olana State Historic Site. The former enables students in nursing, business, criminal justice, environmental sustainability, and computer science to earn a bachelor’s degree closer to home at the Columbia-Greene campus. This collaboration is especially important for nurses who graduated after 2017 and must earn the Bachelor of Science in Nursing within ten years in order to keep their license.

A new “learn and earn” collaboration with The Olana Partnership and the Olana State Historic is  year-long engagement for students that culminates in a series of paid workforce and internship experiences during the summer. This initiative is the first of its kind in the State – and possibly the nation! – to offer an array of learning and career opportunities intersecting the arts, business, environmental science, marketing, and management of a non-profit arts-based enterprise. The collaboration also showcases the historic connection between two community-serving organizations that share the stunningly beautiful property developed by Frederic Church.

Responding to the growing shortage of automotive technicians in New York, Columbia-Greene began ramping up its automotive technology program, expanding relationships with Toyota and Subaru and welcoming the addition of Audi/Volkswagen to the curriculum.

Between 2019 and 2022, the College received a number of grants including $1 million to expand the Building Construction Technology Program; $305,480 to add electric vehicle certification to the automotive curriculum; and $88,000 to support the nursing program.