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Samuel P. Capen

Before Samuel P. Capen became Chancellor of UB in 1922, the University of Buffalo was a group of loosely affiliated professional schools housed in four buildings located throughout downtown Buffalo.  The deans of the schools of Medicine, Pharmacy, Law and Dentistry were responsible for the day-to-day operations of their individual schools.  The chancellor and a board of trustees known as the UB Council oversaw the administration of the university as a whole.  UB's chancellors and UB Council members had successful careers as lawyers and businessmen in addition to their duties with the university.


In the early 1900s, there was a growing desire among university leadership for UB to become more than a conglomeration of professional schools.    Under the leadership of Chancellor Charles P. Norton, the university began to take steps toward the goal of a Greater University of Buffalo.  In 1909 the Erie County Almshouse property on Main Street was purchased by the university to be the centralized campus.  When the American Medical Association began requiring accredited medical schools include liberal arts education, UB founded the College of Arts and Sciences in 1913 with the help of a gift from the Women's Educational and Industrial Union and a generous donation from the Knox family.  Lastly, in 1920, UB carried out an extremely successful endowment campaign which raised $5 million (equal to $75 million in 2022) in ten days.  That the donations came from over 24,000 donors was considered a grass-roots effort for that time.


Now the university's leadership set their focus on finding a full-time chancellor,  

Charles P. Norton

Charles P. Norton, the University of Buffalo's sixth chancellor, seated on an ornate chair, wearing his formal academic cap and gown.

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Charles P. Norton, a successful lawyer, was the University of Buffalo's sixth chancellor.  Serving as chancellor from 1905-1920, he was a driving force in UB's early modernization efforts.                                                                                                                                                           

The College of Arts and Sciences

The University of Buffalo's first Townsend Hall, located at 25 Niagara Square in Buffalo, New York, circa 1915

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UB's first Townsend Hall was located at 25 Niagara Square.  A gift of the Women's Educational and Industrial Union, it served as the home of the College of Arts and Sciences, and later the Evening Session and School of Social Work.  Circa 1918

The Campus

An aerial photograph of the South Campus of UB taken on the Main Street side of campus, 1921. Old Erie County Almshouse buildings can be seen as well as Foster Hall under construction.

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The South Campus of UB as seen from Main Street in 1921.  Purchased from Erie County, the property had previously served as the site of the Erie County Almshouse.  Some original Almshouse buildings would be torn down while others would be significantly renovated for use by UB.

The 1920 Endowment Campaign

A billboard that reads "Buffalo! Give generously for your Boys and Girls. University of Buffalo Endowment Campaign October 7-18.  The billboard also includes a drawing of a college age boy and girl and buildings for the new campus.  An inset on the billboard reads "Build for Buffalo!"

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This billboard and others like it helped advertise the University of Buffalo's 1920 Endowment campaign.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              


  • John Lord O'Brian as interviewed by Shonnie Finnegan (transcript), July 10, 1968, 1.1, 2-1-350, John Lord O'Brian Miscellanea, 1913-1974.
  • Park, Julian.  A History of the University of Buffalo, 1917. Reprinted from Volume XXII of the Publications of the Buffalo Historical Society.