OSWEGO, NY – Students around Oswego will pay homage this coming school year to a man whose name is synonymous with education.
The 2011-2012 school year will be dedicated to Dr. Edward Austin Sheldon, according to a resolution unanimously passed Tuesday night by the Oswego Board of Education.
Sheldon is the founder of the college that today is SUNY Oswego.
According to the resolution, “We, the members of the Oswego City School District Board of Education and Mr. William W. Crist, Superintendent of the Oswego City School District, do ordain that the school year from Sept. 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012, be dedicated to Dr. Edward Austin Sheldon, who lived from 1823 to 1897; and
WHEREAS, in 1841, Dr. Edward Austin Sheldon opened an Orphan and Free School for the children who could not afford to pay the tuition to attend the public schools, the money being provided by subscriptions from worthy individuals and organizations of the community.”
In 1853, he consolidated by law the 12 school districts into one district with a single board of education and served as superintendent, a position he held from 1853 to 1866.
In the spring of 1861, he opened the Oswego Primary Teachers’ Training School, which in 1865 began receiving an annual stipend from the state and became a state institution.
The resolution continues: “WHEREAS, the fame of the school spread and other schools were interested in the Oswego Method which was derived from the Pestalozzi Method; and
WHEREAS, in 1942, his former Normal Teachers’ Training School, now a four-year school, was fully accredited as a college and granted its students a degree; and
WHEREAS, the revolutionary Oswego Method impacted what would later become other SUNY schools around the state, influenced teacher training academies in every state and sent graduates to education leadership positions as far away as Brazil, Japan and the Philippines within its first two decades; and
WHEREAS, Dr. Sheldon, with the able assistance of select teachers, both men and women, and the encouragement of enthusiastic, influential people of the area, achieved the realization of the importance of public education as a force in building the great city of Oswego and the great Empire State of New York.”
“This is something twofold. Mrs. Cole (a district resident) really did take the initiative to do this. She has a great-grandmother who actually worked with and was instructed by Dr. Sheldon and so she has a connection there that is very meaningful,” Crist said.
The other piece of this is SUNY Oswego is celebrating is sesquicentennial, their 150th anniversary, this year, he added.
“As a result of that, I think this is very fitting that we recognize this individual, Dr. Sheldon, as the city has also done by resolution, making this school year as the year of Dr. Sheldon,” Crist said.
“If one thing more than another contributed to my success, it has been to select good teachers,” Sheldon wrote in his autobiography. “Without them, success is impossible. With them, a superintendent may succeed against all odds.”
Of his demanding professional nature, he added, “In fact, I had things my own way so completely that I got the title – ‘Pope Sheldon.’”
Sheldon (1823-1897) grew up on a farm where everyone was considered equal and shared equally in the chores.
He studied to become a lawyer, but had to leave college after one year. He contracted pleurisy from, in his own words, “inordinate laughter.”
He found that he had an aptitude for growing plants and came to Oswego in 1847 to form a nursery in partnership with another man. When the business failed, he needed to support himself and became a teacher.
The recognition of Sheldon’s connection to the school district and college continues to build upon the partnerships that the two entities, Crist pointed out.
“He started the teachers’ school and Dr. Sheldon was the first (secretary – a position equivalent to today’s superintendent) of the Oswego City School District,” he said. “I think this was a great acknowledgment and certainly appreciate the board unanimously supporting this.”