The Gilman Center for International Education
When SUNY Orange’s Gilman Center for International Education is completed in the coming months, it will provide a sparkling home for the College’s burgeoning Global Studies programs and will serve as a fitting tribute to Benjamin A. Gilman, a longtime Congressman and revered public servant known internationally for his compassion, advocacy for human rights and artful ability to build relationships across cultural, economic, language and religious barriers.
College administrators were joined by Gilman, his wife Georgia and a host of local dignitaries for the Gilman Center groundbreaking ceremony Aug. 2 on the College’s Middletown campus. College officials expect to complete the project within six months. All told, the Center will encompass nearly 5,000 square feet of space, blending new construction with interior renovation of existing space. Piazza Brothers, of White Plains, N.Y., will serve as the project’s general contractor with subcontractors All Bright Electric and Thomas Kempton Jr., Inc., handling electrical work and HVAC/minor plumbing, respectively.
Construction of a beautiful glass and aluminum entryway along the building’s south exterior will give the Library a glistening new façade facing Harriman Hall. The 900-square-foot entryway will feature a circular foyer and a reception desk, and will include an open floor plan suitable for receptions and gatherings. Outside, a circular promenade, a nearby patio and landscaping will accent the entryway.
The focal point of the Center’s impressive exterior will be a ring of flagpoles that surround the entryway, with each flagpole carrying the colors of a country in which Gilman served or helped foster strong international relations on behalf of the United States during his career.
A sizeable portion of the Gilman Center will be carved from the College’s current Library. Interior renovations to the Library will include a large 1,800 square-foot lecture room/classroom space with the capacity to hold more than 250 occupants, installation of the latest technological equipment to accommodate presentations, and movable furniture to allow for a variety of configurations. There will also be a large open space where students can gather in small discussion groups or find a quiet spot for individual study. Associated with the Center will also be an international lecture series.
Throughout the Gilman Center’s interior, suitable spaces will be allocated to showcase research papers, artwork, memorabilia and other items from Gilman’s more than 30 years in Washington, as well as his travels abroad. International studies and global understanding were cornerstones of Gilman’s career in government, and they also create the foundation for the mission of the Gilman Center.
“From the moment the concept of the Gilman Center was initiated, I have been anxiously awaiting the day when construction would begin,” said Dr. William Richards, SUNY Orange president. “The Gilman Center will give our Global Studies program a tremendous boost, and will benefit our students greatly in the years to come. But, I’m most pleased to be able to honor Ben in a fashion worthy of such a legendary public servant and humanitarian.”
SUNY Orange offers an associate in arts degree in international studies, under the auspices of a newly created Global Studies department. The program includes a broad range of courses with international themes in the humanities and social sciences, and it requires students take classes in foreign languages, international relations, world history and international literature. Most graduates of SUNY Orange’s international studies program transfer to four-year colleges or universities prior to gaining employment in a vast array of professions, including language interpreter, international business, international law, government or diplomatic relations, import-export business, or high school teacher.
In addition to his 30 years of service on the House of Representatives’ International Relations Committee, Gilman served as the committee chair from 1995 to 2002. He joined the International Relations committee soon after first being elected to Congress in 1973. He is a recipient of the Distinguished Service Gold Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the State Department. He also served as a public delegate to the United Nation’s U.S. Mission at the request of President George W. Bush.
His lengthy resume of accomplishments, appointments and assignments includes serving as a Congressional delegate to the United Nations under Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick in 1981. He was a member of the Ukraine Famine Commission; served on the U.S. European and the U.S. Mexican Interparliamentary conferences; was a Congressional Advisor to the U.N. Law of the Sea Conference; sat as co-chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs; and participated on the International Task Force on Narcotics.
Through his advocacy of human rights, Gilman brought about numerous "prisoner exchanges," resulting in freedom for prisoners in East Germany, Mozambique, Cuba, the Soviet Union and several other nations. Gilman was the Executive Member of the Human Rights Caucus. During the 101st Congress (1989-91), he was chairman of the House Task Force on Emigration of Soviet Jewry. In 1993 he was appointed a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council and re-appointed in 1997.
Gilman was the senior Republican on the Government Reform and Oversight Committee. He also co-founded the House Select Committee on Narcotics, was ranking Republican on that committee (1977-1989) and served as a premier member of that committee until its abolition in February 1993.
Gilman became actively involved in fighting world hunger and malnutrition during the mid-1970s. He authored legislation creating the Presidential Commission Against Hunger, on which he served and subsequently, the Select Committee on World Hunger. A member of the Select Committee on Prisoners of War and Missing in Action in Southeast Asia, from 1975 to 1977, Gilman subsequently served as Chairman of the Task Force on the issue. He has taken our nation's fight for an accounting of our POW's and MIA's to Vietnam, Laos and China.
Gilman, who flew 35 missions over Japan as an aviator during World War II, earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal, with Oak Leaf Clusters. He served in the New York State Assembly from 1966 to 1972 before being elected to Congress. He was also an assistant attorney general in the state’s Law Department and served as counsel to the State Assembly’s Committee on Local Finance.
Gilman has held memberships in countless local organizations, including the American Legion, the Jewish War Veterans, the Masonic Veterans, the Otisville Grange and the Hudson-Delaware Boy Scout Council. He is a former County Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a member of the B.P.O Elks and a 33 degree Mason in Hoffman Lodge. He was co-founder and charter member of the Middletown NAACP chapter.
Born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. on Dec. 6, 1922, Gilman was educated in the public schools of Middletown before receiving his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business and Finance in 1946. He earned a law degree from the New York Law School in 1950 and returned to Middletown to begin a law practice before ultimately entering public service.
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