Hi Peter, there is a webpage with some info on building names and history:
To answer your first question, for most of the school's history up through the 1940s there was just one building, and it did not have a name. In the 1950s and '60s the growth of the school led to the addition of many buildings and various committees of faculty and administrators gave them their names. Wayne Dedman, a history professor, who wrote a history of the school in the late 1960s, was a leading figure in these committees. They picked people because of particularly significant contributions to the college, their disciplines and so forth. So for example Hartwell was named after Ernest Hartwell who was president in the late 1930s and helped not only stave off a threatened closure of the school but secured a new building for it. Mortimer was named for Mary Mortimer who was here in the 1840s and went on to become a noted figure in higher education for women.
While the people buildings are named for all have their points, I suppose one I personally have been most intrigued by is Malcolm MacVicar. He started life as a ship's carpenter in Canada on the Great Lakes, and worked his way through school, becoming a teacher and administrator in our predecessor, the Brockport Collegiate Institute. That was a private school, struggling financially, and MacVicar secured the school a spot as one of the newly established state "Normal" schools, or teacher training schools. He was a leader in the Normal school movement and the establishment of campus schools for teacher training in New York. After leaving Brockport in 1867 he went on to help found McMaster University in Toronto, and then, in connection with early training as a Baptist minister, he served as first president of Virginia Union University in Richmond, a college established for higher education for black students in the post Civil War era by the American Baptist Society.
I think all the people buildings are named for have their points of contribution to the college, scholarship and our students. It's just unfortunate that we only have so many buildings to be given names to recognize people with!
One building fact little known to today's students: from the mid 1970s to the early 1990s there was a building complex called only "Stage XVI," at the west end of campus, towards Redman Road. During the construction expansion of the post WWII era buildings were simply numbered at first, "Stage I, Stage II..." Stage XVI was the last such construction, town house style dorm buildings for students. The construction was poorly sited however and the buildings quickly deteriorated to the point that they were closed and then torn down in the early 1990s. So Stage XVI never got to the point of being named after anyone.