What will Dowling College's Oakdale campus finally become after the sale to Mercury International?
What will the former Dowling College campus in Oakdale become? Another college with a new name? That would be a long process, but it's possible say the new property owners.
Being a former graduate of Dowling College from the 1980s, I am happy to learn that Mercury International of Delaware who is affiliated with the buyer of record, Hong Kong based NCF Capital Ltd which purchased Dowling's Oakdale campus last fall for $26.1 million, is proposing to reopen the historic 25-arces of waterfront property as Oakdale College with an international flavor.
However, that's aways off and besides Mercury's plans are not firm as they indicated at the informal public meeting at Islip Town Hall West which was held on February 6th.
There will many big hurdles in front of them such as submitting an application with the state Board of Regents to operate the site again as a college as well as needing a special permit from the town planning board to operate as a degree-granting facility.
And of course, the biggest challenge being able to enroll students into a new college as well as competing with other established Long Island 4-year colleges and universities; St. Joseph's (Patchogue), Stony Brook University, Molloy College (Rockville Centre), Hofstra University (Hempstead), Adelphi University (Garden City) and Five Towns College (Dix Hills). Then there's Suffolk County Community College with campuses in Selden and in Riverhead.
If someone were to tell me you will outlive the college you graduated from, I would not believe them. I'd say, no way, not possible. Well, it did happen to me when Dowling College closed after 48 years (1968-2016).
Dowling's Oakdale campus focal point was the 110-room, 45,000 square feet William K. Vanderbilt summer home later renamed Fortunoff Hall after a former benefactor Alan Fortunoff who paid to restore the mansion after a fire in 1974 badly damaged the historic structure.
The campus was later renamed Rudolph Campus after another wealthy benefactor, Scott Rudolph. To think my college closed because it became saddled with too much debt, $65.8 million to be exact, is sad and shocking.
Why did Dowling close? Likely adding a second 101-acre campus in 1994 in Shirley on Long Island, who's education focus was National Aviation and Transportation was a huge and costly mistake. That campus' auction sales was halted on February 5th after the top bid was $10.2 million to an unnamed buyer.
Years ago when I was a student in Oakdale, Dowling was not able to expand their student dormitories since the Idle Hour historic community would not allow it. As a result, Dowling looked to expand and build that sports facility they didn't have at their campus in Oakdale elsewhere.
So the dormitories and sports facilities were built in Shirley and Dowling over expanded. I though the campus in Oakdale was appealing enough to attract students who had a genuine interest in the Arts, Sciences, Business, Teaching and Aviation. They already had a small fleet of planes, a Rowing, Flying, Tennis, Basketball, Baseball and Lacrosse team. Wasn't that enough? Apparently not.
To think the degree that sits below the workstation I write from is from a middle states accredited college that doesn't exist anymore is sad and downright depressing. To see online both campuses being made available in bankruptcy via separate sealed-bid sales was hard to believe.
I'm was hoping another college or university would buy the Oakdale campus and turn it into what it was meant to be; a college. Or somehow Dowling could have stayed opened if they were only able to find that financially healthy educational partner. However, they weren't able to. It's well documented that they tried, but to no avail.
The winner of the bankruptcy auction was initially Princeton Education Center LLC, who had the highest bid of $26.5 million when court documents were filed on Friday, April 7, 2017. However, they never closed on the prime property.
I say winner considering the William K. Vanderbilt summer mansion (Fortunoff Hall) alone was valued at $56 million.
So instead, NCF Capital Ltd., later learned to operate under the name Mercury International of Delaware had the 2nd highest bid at $26.1 become the actual buyer. They were identified in court documents as "An educational end-user."
I'm somewhat relieved that Dowling will apparently remain a place of learning and is designated as an Islip Town landmark district, both diminish my sadness slightly.
The Oakdale campus may end up reopening as a college. However, myself, and my fellow alumni will forever feel a sense of loss that Dowling College is no more.