Maxwell School celebrates 90th anniversary with 1924-themed party

Chancellor Kent Syverud joined the anniversary party attendees to cut the signature cake.

With food, ice cream, cocktails and a signature birthday cake, the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs celebrated its 90th birthday Thursday in the Joseph A. Strasser Commons.

The 90th anniversary party, an open house-style party hosted by the Maxwell School, is one of two school-wide celebration events in honor of Maxwell’s 90th anniversary during Syracuse University’s Orange Central weekend. The other is the Tanner Lecture Series on Ethics, Citizenship, and Public Responsibility with Richard Ravitch.

Photo: Shannon Hazlitt
Political Science Prof. Chris Faricy attends the 90th birthday party of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

“Celebrating our past, assessing our legacy, looking toward the future” is this anniversary’s theme. “While celebrating our history, we will use the upcoming 90th anniversary to build toward our centennial and beyond. In this vein we’ve decided not only to celebrate the past, but to use this milestone as an opportunity to chart our path to our next great big anniversary in 2024,” wrote James B. Steinberg, Dean of Maxwell School, in the Maxwell Perspective magazine

The Maxwell School opened officially on October 3, 1924, as the School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, according to the Maxwell 90th website. It offered an undergraduate citizenship course, a new political science department and weekly seminar in political science. A one-year graduate program in public administration was the nation’s first MPA.

The Maxwell School was later redefined as a graduate school and renamed for its donor, SU trustee George Maxwell, according to the website. It grew to include a full array of scholarly programs in the social sciences, additional professional degrees, curriculum and teaching for SU undergraduates and a robust research portfolio. As the school evolved, its core emphases — citizenship, social science scholarship and professional education in public affairs — remained as they began. Now the Maxwell School is consistently ranked number one in the MPA program in America by U.S. News and World Report.

The anniversary party began at 4 p.m. with various small dishes and lively music. In a setting themed to match the founding year, 1924, students, faculties and professors started to pick up food and to chat with each other. Chancellor Kent Syverud and his wife Dr. Ruth Chen attended the party to celebrate the Maxwell School’s history and spirit. They stood among the crowd and talked to professors and students.

As more and more people came, Steinberg thanked everyone with a microphone and invited Syverud to cut the signature cake. “Thanks, everybody. I think rather than give a long speech, I’d like to make us sing “Happy Birthday” to Maxwell,” Syverud said. Then he led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday,” which brought the party to a high point. Balloons fell from the ceiling as the song ended, and Syverud cut the first piece of Maxwell’s four-layer birthday cake. All attendees had the chance to share this birthday cake.

As a significant event for the Maxwell School, the whole Syracuse community joined the celebration and shared such a special moment.

Christina Rhinehart, the director of fiscal Operations and administration at the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science, said that the day’s party showed how successful the Maxwell has been the past ninety years. “It is a lovely party,” she said. “I hope more alumni come to celebrate it.”

“Ninety years are a great history for all students who graduated from here, professors who taught here and those people who are in the Maxwell today,” said Lewis Rapaport, a former Maxwell student and a member of Maxwell School Advisory Board. “This party is a good celebration for 90th birthday.”

Current students play a key role in the continuing development of the Maxwell School. Many of them attended the party to inherit the Maxwell sprit.

Michael Riccardi, an international and political philosophy freshman, said he is proud of Maxwell’s accomplishments. “Although I did not take many classes, I hope the four-year college life in Maxwell will expand my mind.”

“The 90th anniversary shows how strong the programs of the Maxwell are,” said Kara Coughlin, a public administration and international relations graduate student. “It provides students a chance to meet with the Advisory board members and alumni. That’s great.”

In an interview, Steinberg said there are a lot of individual events in honor of the 90th anniversary held by multiple departments to highlight different aspects of what they do.  

“Maxwell has an extraordinary history and are very influential on many ways in high education by bringing the policies and communities together and by having interdisciplinary programs in the social sciences,” he said. “It is a great opportunity to reflect on this distinguished history and to think how we sustain in the future.” 

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