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The Early Years. . . Dr. Samuel Davey Marble: 1963-1973

as told by Eugene Hamilton, special assistant to the president for government relations

I'm sure that many here this evening have seen the movie or play, ‌"South Pacific." For those who have, I bet you will remember the catchy tune of "Happy Talk” from that movie. One of the lines from that song is, "You gotta have a dream. If you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?"  Well, that line in many ways describes the life of Samuel D. Marble and his contributions to this institution.


It's difficult. . . perhaps impossible . . . to imagine what it would have been like and what it would be like today had Sam Marble not come to this region in 1961 to assume the presidency of Delta College . . . and his eventually becoming president of Saginaw Valley College . . . and his fulfilling a dream of developing a four-year, degree-granting college. We would not be assembled in this wonderful place this evening had Samuel D. Marble . . . Sam to all of us . . . not had a dream and had that dream not been fulfilled.  

‌On November 13, 1963, the State Board of Education approved the "Articles of Incorporation" for a private four-year college which would be known as Saginaw Valley College. Those who knew Sam Marble and had heard of his reputation for pursuing impossible dreams knew that when all the facts were known, when the scenario was played out, that Sam Marble's prints would be all over the official documents.


We heard of his leadership in raising over $4 million dollars to acquire a campus site and to begin construction of a campus.
We heard of his appeal to his good friend Governor George Romney to grant State support to the new college. It was well known that Sam's dream of a four-year college was not taken lightly by the administration of Delta College which he had served for only two years, but we had also heard of Sam's remarkable ability to reconcile differences, his perseverance to see things through to the finish, and to convince everyone that they were the reasons for successful outcomes like Saginaw Valley College.

In fact, in 1963, when the formation of a four-year college was inevitable, Sam Marble wrote about: " . . . making peace with the Community College Administration and accepting THEIR offer to help us secure from the State of Michigan a full four-year institution with graduate study."


On March 23, 1964 Dr. Samuel D. Marble was officially appointed the president of the new college, and one of his first challenges was to gain State support. The official State of Michigan recognition happened on July 22, 1965 when Governor George Romney, with Sam Marble looking over his shoulder, signed the bill authorizing the college as one of Michigan's 15 State-supported, four-year institutions.


Sam Marble was instrumental in choosing the land on which SVSU currently sits and in raising the funds to purchase it. He also took pride in personally assisting with laying tiles in the first soccer field and in turning a few shovels to plant early trees on the campus.


I recall that his office, along with all faculty and staff offices, was located in the first campus building which was opened in 1967 with the curious name of the "66 Building" as its construction was approved in 1966. The second building, attached to the first,  was named the "68 Building," and you can figure out when it was opened. Soon after, a structure known as the Summer Theater was built . . . Summer Theater because it was a shell of a building and accommodated only warm weather productions.


Sam was anxiously awaiting the completion of Wickes Hall . . . SVC's first State-supported capital outlay project. Yes, "If you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true."

But all of Sam Marble's dreams did not come true. He had a dream of a college which was run in harmony by the faculty, the students, and the administration . . . each with an equal voice in the decision making. He dreamed of a "Community Government." His experiment in community government in 1972 at SVC was short-lived as it lasted only one year, and on January 14, 1973 the faculty and students voted to dissolve the "Faculty/Student" Senate. Sam Marble in his inimitable fashion said, "If that's what everyone wants, it's OK with me.”


Dr. Sam Marble was not himself an avid sports fan, (although he did climb to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in 1973), but he felt that some type of recreational facility was needed for students so in 1971, the Cardinal Gymnasium was built. Sam Marble cut the ribbon and offered remarks prior to the first varsity basketball game played in Cardinal Gym on December 1, 1971.

Sam Marble would be pleasantly surprised that the small and rather austere little gym  has evolved into the impressive Ryder Center. And he would look around our beautiful campus . . . a scene which he only imagined in 1963 . . . and he would see it as his dream come true.


Probably the final building, if it can be considered a building, which was constructed before Sam Marble's departure from SVC, was the "Observatory" on Pierce Road, and it still stands there surrounded by student residences.


Those that would come after Sam Marble have built buildings, and they have built academic programs as the times required. Sam Marble took a dream . . .  a dream to be enjoyed by many for years after him . . . and during a brief 10 years he formed the building blocks for what we have today . . . Saginaw Valley State University.‌  The spirit of Samuel Davey Marble is with us tonight.