Henry B. Buckham was the first principal of the Normal School which had its formal opening on October 25, 1871. He specialized in firsts—selecting the first faculty, outlining the first course of study, suggesting the organization of the first alumni association, steering the first graduates through the institution, and providing stability for the new school.
Two months after the resignation of Mr. Buckham on August 4, 1886, James M. Cassety was elected principal of Buffalo Normal School. His tenure at the school was characterized by cautious expansion. Cassety's chief contributions to the Normal School were expanding the School of Practice to accommodate additional practice teachers; making changes in the course of study to conform to other normal schools in the state, establishing a kindergarten and a training school, adding drawing and manual training courses to the curriculum, and constructing a science building and principal's residence. Mr.Cassety resigned his position in 1909.
Dr. Daniel Upton began his career in Buffalo in 1893 as a supervisor of drawing in the Buffalo schools. In 1909, he succeeded Dr. Cassety as principal of the Buffalo Normal School. His first task was to propose building a new normal school (now Grover Cleveland High School) to accommodate the growing demands for teacher education. His dream was realized with the opening of the new building in 1914. His other accomplishments were establishing Home Economics and Industrial Arts departments, beginning summer sessions, and inaugurating Saturday extension classes.
In 1919 Dr. Harry Rockwell was appointed principal of the Buffalo Normal School and went on to be named the college's first president.