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.
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.
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
Memorial Chapel was named in honor of Almon Gunnison,
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.
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.