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A Legacy of Loyalty:
The Gunnisons and Appletons

Almon Gunnison 1868 served as president of the University from 1899-1914.

When St. Lawrence University began, Alpheus Baker Hervey (president, 1888-94) said, “the seed out of which this institution grew was undoubtedly the desire on the part of the Universalist body in the state of New York for a better educated ministry.”
These Universalist ideals thrived at St. Lawrence thanks in large measure to the Gunnison family. Thirteen members of the family attended St. Lawrence; they were active as students and became even more active as alumni, serving as trustees and as members of the Alumni Executive Council. One, Almon Gunnison, served as president of the University at the turn of the 20th century.

Almon graduated from the Theological School in 1868 and became one of the most well-known people in the Universalist Church. He was called to pastorates in Bath, Maine; Brooklyn, New York; and Worcester, Massachusetts, where he was known as a power in the religious and civic life of the city.

While keeping busy in the Universalist Church, he was also serving as a trustee of St. Lawrence, and in the summer of 1899, he was called to the presidency. As president, he established the agricultural department, obtained a separate science building through a gift from Andrew Carnegie, and set a goal to create an endowment fund of $200,000 which, with the help of the faculty and students, was easily obtained.

In 1913, Almon Gunnison resigned due to illness and was named president emeritus for his notable contributions to St. Lawrence. Gunnison Memorial Chapel was named in honor of him, but Almon was just one of many Gunnisons with exemplary service to St. Lawrence. Almon’s brothers, Walter 1875 and Herbert 1880, both graduated from St. Lawrence. Walter was a professor of Latin and literature for 10 years, while Herbert became a trustee.

Gunnison Memorial Chapel was named in honor of Almon Gunnison, St. Lawrence’s seventh president and the first president of the merged Theological School and College of Letters and Science. The chapel is the host of two of St. Lawrence’s most cherished traditions, the Holiday Candlelight Service and the playing of its carillon at 5 o’clock each weekday when classes are in session.

Toward the end of Almon’s tenure as president and trustee, he worked with Trustee Charles W. Appleton 1899, who was another one of the most active and loyal alumni at the time. Charles was a trustee for 31 years and helped St. Lawrence in tremendous ways. When St. Lawrence raised enough money in the late 1940s to build an arena for the hockey teams and social events, it was named in his honor for his immeasurable contributions to the University.

The two families officially joined together when Oliver Appleton ’27, Charles’ son, and Elsa Gunnison ’26, Almon’s granddaughter, married. Today, the Elsa Gunnison Appleton Riding Hall, a personal ambition that Elsa and Oliver wanted for the University, remains a constant reminder of how hard the two families worked, sometimes independently and sometimes together, to make St. Lawrence what it is today.

It’s clear that both the Appleton and Gunnison families have remained loyal to St. Lawrence. Hugh “Gunner” Gunnison ’52’s son, Stanley ’77, represents the fifth generation in the family to attend St. Lawrence, while two of Elsa and Oliver’s children, Frederic ’55 and Charles ’60, and two of their grandchildren, Oliver N’93 and Charles ’94, have also attended. Gunner, Oliver, Frederic and Charles all served on the Alumni Executive Council and Oliver was a member of the Board of Trustees and was awarded emeritus status.

Gunner, who represents the fourth generation of Gunnisons to attend St. Lawrence, is an emeritus professor of education after spending 27 years teaching at St. Lawrence. “St. Lawrence is a big part of my life. I have a bond with the school because of my family,” he says.

Although he may not be teaching at St. Lawrence anymore, he is still giving to St. Lawrence and to the Canton community. Living in Canton, Gunner and his wife, Patricia, have a private counseling practice and often interact with students.

Both of these families have had a profound effect on St. Lawrence. The earlier generations of Gunnisons helped build St. Lawrence, and the later generations, along with the Appleton family, have continued that legacy.


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