Harry Westcott Rockwell was named principal of the Buffalo State Normal School (now known as Buffalo State College) in 1919.
In 1926 the name of the institution changed from the Buffalo State Normal School to the New York State College for Teachers at Buffalo. Rockwell became the college's first president.
During his tenure, Buffalo State experienced tremendous growth. In 1919 the student body numbered 275 students. When Rockwell retired in 1951, the student body had grown to 2,022. Rockwell presented over 10,000 diplomas and awarded more than 5,000 degrees in his 32 years of service. Under his guidance, the college moved from its 3.5 acre normal school site (presently Grover Cleveland High School on Fourteenth Street) to its 55-acre Elmwood Avenue location.
Through Dr. Rockwell's efforts, the college won state approval as a teachers college, became the first state-operated college to offer a bachelor of science degree in elementary education, won an "A" rating from the American Association of Teachers Colleges, and began granting master's degrees for its graduate programs. He also instituted a building plan for the college.
From 1931 to 1951, when he retired, a student union, two dormitories, and a library were built; a science and industrial arts buildings were in the blueprint stage and a fine arts building was in the planning stage.
Dr. Rockwell retired in 1951. Rockwell Hall was named for him as a symbol of his dedicated service to the college.