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The facilities in Lee Hall reflect college founder Edward Austin Sheldon's philosophy that an enriched body should accompany an enriched mind. Sheldon saw the value in physical development through physical work, play and recreation. Today, Lee Hall houses both the Intramurals and Recreation and Environmental Health and Safety departments.
A big job
In 1955, New York State Governor W. Averell Harriman visited the SUNY Oswego campus to announce the start of the combination physical education/central heating facility now called Lee Hall. Construction for the Athletic and Recreation Center began alongside Johnson Hall and Lakeside Dining Hall. Under contract to John W. Rouse Co. of Governeur, Lee Hall was the largest of all ongoing construction representing a $2,225,000 investment which included a central heating plant and a new gym.
After three years of construction, the athletic and recreation center opened in 1958. According to a 1961 news release, the giant facility offered "a main gymnasium which could be divided into two separate courts, a swimming pool, four bowling alleys, a modern dance studio, gymnastics area, squash and handball courts and an indoor archery range, adequate locker space for men and women." Later, this building would be named for Mary V. Lee who served as a tireless advocate of physical fitness in the institution's formative years.
Mary V. Lee was a student of Oswego herself in 1862 when she arrived from New Britain Normal School in Connecticut. After her graduation, she left Oswego for a short time to establish a city training school in Davenport, Iowa and study medicine at the University of Michigan. When she returned to Oswego, she assumed the position as head of the physiology and physical culture department. Principal Sheldon thought highly of the Oswego alum as he noted her "enviable reputation" as a strong and capable educator who contributed her scientific perspective to Oswego. Long the picture of health whose contributions to student fitness were unparalleled, Mary V. Lee ultimately could not conquer an illness that claimed her on July 24, 1892.
The numerous student activities made possible through the facilities offered by the Athletic and Recreation Center in Lee Hall stood testament to Lee's belief in the importance of physical fitness on campus. The variety of teams, sports and other activities offered a way for each student to participate in recreational activity and contribute to campus fitness.
During the 1961 Oswego centennial celebration, Lee was honored in a review of the college's history of athletics. Max Ziel wrote that Lee "wielded an influence in early women's physical education which is felt even today." It was this influence that made the athletic and recreational center a fitting facility to bear her name.
In 2010, the campus welcomed an addition to Lee Hall that further advocated for environmental health. A PowerAIR Sail, which would be coupled with Lee Hall's electrical system to generate power, was installed on the roof of the building in July. This $50,000 wind turbine can generate power with winds as low as three miles per hour. In 12 years, the college estimates the turbine will have generated enough power to cover the cost of the initial investment.
-- Kathleen Davis, Class of 2012