The History of Sarah Lawrence College

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Historical Timeline

Compiled by Abby Lester, College Archivist, July 2007; last updated August 2017. All photographs ©Sarah Lawrence College Archives.

1920s: Founding the College

1924 William Van Duzer Lawrence, circa 1925. Photographer unknown. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesWilliam Van Duzer Lawrence approaches Henry Noble MacCracken, President of Vassar College, regarding the founding of a junior college for women in honor of his wife, Sarah Bates Lawrence. William Van Duzer Lawrence, circa 1925. Photographer unknown.
1926 William Van Duzer Lawrence writes the Letter of Instruction regarding the founding of the College.
1926 Marion Coats, circa 1929. Photograph by Mrs. W. Burden Stage. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesMarion Coats, Principal of Bradford Academy, is hired as President-Designate of Sarah Lawrence College for Women. She begins her term as the first President (1926-1929). Marion Coats, circa 1929. Photograph by Mrs. W. Burden Stage.
May 7, 1926 Portrait of Sarah Bates Lawrence by Violet Oakley, circa 1910. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesSarah Bates Lawrence dies. Portrait of Sarah Bates Lawrence by Violet Oakley, circa 1910.
December 9, 1926 Provisional charter granted to incorporate Sarah Lawrence College for Women.
May 16, 1927 William Van Duzer Lawrence dies.
May 25, 1927 Affiliation with Vassar College Ratified.
June 1927 Official College Seal designed by Violet Oakley. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesSeal of the College adopted. Designed by Violet Oakley, the seal includes the motto “Wisdom with Understanding.” Official College Seal designed by Violet Oakley.
June 1, 1927 By-Laws adopted by the Board of Trustees.
1928 Beatrice Doerschuk begins term as Director of Education (1928-1946).
June 1928 Bates Hall, circa. 1938. Photographer unknown. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesBates Hall (originally called Tower Hall) completed. Bates Hall, circa. 1938. Photographer unknown.
October 1928 Aerial view of Dudley Lawrence and Titsworth Halls, circa 1928. Photographer unknown. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesFirst three dormitories, Dudley Lawrence, Titsworth, and Gilbert (also known as the “Old Dorms”) are completed. Aerial view of Dudley Lawrence and Titsworth Halls, circa 1928. Photographer unknown.
October 4, 1928 The College welcomes its first students.
1929 Perkin's House (9 Mead Way) purchased.
1929 Wayside Cottage (7 Mead Way), later named Warren House and then Warren Green, purchased. Served as the President’s House from 1929 to 1947.
1929 Constance Warren (President, 1929-1945), 1941. Photograph by Irene Drew-Oggiano. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesConstance Warren begins term as second President (1929-1945). Constance Warren (President, 1929-1945), 1941. Photograph by Irene Drew-Oggiano.
June 1929 Excerpt from the 1929 yearbook. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesFirst commencement with one graduate, Ruth Wilmot '29. Excerpt from the 1929 yearbook.

1930s: Establishing a Pedagogy

June 1930 First graduating class (117) receives the diploma.
November 1930 MacCracken Hall, circa 1931. Photographer unknown. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesMacCracken Hall completed. MacCracken Hall, circa 1931. Photographer unknown.
November 1930 In response to the Great Depression, the student-run Social Service Activity establishes the “Community Chest” to support local, national, and international charities.
September 10, 1931 Absolute charter to grant BA degree awarded.
June 1933 First Bachelor of Arts degree awarded to Isabella Hayes at Commencement.
1934 Robinson House purchased (2 Mead Way).
May 1935 Andrews House, undated. Photograph by P.A. Nyholm. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesAndrews House purchased. Andrews House, undated. Photograph by P.A. Nyholm.
December 9, 1935 Charter Day is celebrated signifying the 10th anniversary of the granting of the provisional charter.
December 9, 1936 Elliott Dunlap Smith, Constance Warren, and Henry Noble MacCracken, December 9, 1936. Photographer unknown. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesAffiliation between the Board of Trustees of Vassar College and Sarah Lawrence College terminated. At the termination of the affiliation, Henry Noble MacCracken resigns from the Board of Trustees. Elliott Dunlap Smith, Constance Warren, and Henry Noble MacCracken, December 9, 1936. Photographer unknown.
1937 Child painting in the Nursery School, 1941. Photographer unknown. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesNursery School, predecessor to the Early Childhood Center, opens on campus. Child painting in the Nursery School, 1941. Photographer unknown.
1937 Morris House purchased (8 Mead Way).

1940s: The College During Wartime

1942 The College sponsors several intercultural forums to bring together many different racial groups from southern Westchester County called the United Nationalities Round Tables.
June 1942 Creation of a Student War Board to help Sarah Lawrence students find both work and service placements to help fill the needs in the surrounding communities brought about by the war.
1945 Harold Taylor (President, 1945-1959), circa 1949. Photographer unknown. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesHarold Taylor begins term as third President (1945-1959). Harold Taylor, ca. 1949 Photographer unknown.
1946 World War II Veterans as students in a science laboratory, 1940s. Photograph by Francis E. Falkenbury, Jr. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesFirst men are admitted as undergraduate students under the G.I. Bill. Veterans attending Sarah Lawrence College under the G.I. Bill, 1950. Photographer unknown.
1946 Esther Raushenbush appointed Dean of the College (1946-1957).
1947 Second President’s House purchased at 24 Brook Road. This served as the President’s House from 1947 to 1954 when the house was demolished to build the Sprain Brook Parkway.
February 28, 1947 Name of the College officially changed from Sarah Lawrence College for Women to Sarah Lawrence College.
July 15, 1949 Amendment approved by Regents to grant MA degree. The College introduces programs leading to individualized MA degrees.

1950s: Graduate Programs and McCarthyism

1951 First MA degrees granted (2 to men, 2 to women).
1951 Kober House purchased.
1951 The last of the men on the G.I. Bill graduate.
November 1952 Student Arts Center, designed by Architect Marcel Breuer, dedicated. Reisinger Auditorium opened.
1954 President’s House, 1955. Photographer unknown. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesThird President’s House (935 Kimball Avenue) with attached Morrill House purchased. President’s House, 1955. Photographer unknown.
1955 Tweed House purchased.
1957 Laura Bornholdt appointed Dean of the College (1957-1959).
1959 Gerard Fountain appointed Acting Dean and then Dean of the College (1959-1961).
1959 Harrison Tweed, 1959. Photographer unknown. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesHarrison Tweed appointed Acting President for 1959-60. Harrison Tweed, 1959. Photographer unknown.
May 1959 Marshall Field, circa 1960s. Photographer unknown. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesMarshall Field House purchased. Marshall Field, circa 1960s. Photographer unknown.

1960s: Coeducation & Continuing Education

1960 Paul Ward (President, 1960-1965), circa 1960. Photograph by Gary Gladstone. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesPaul Ward begins term as fifth President (1960-1965). Paul Ward (President, 1960-1965), circa 1960.
1961 Marjorie Downing appointed Dean of the College (1961-1964).
1961 Garrison, Rothschild, and Taylor (RGT) dormitories completed. Designed by architect Philip Johnson.
1962 Center for Continuing Education brochure cover. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesCenter for Continuing Education established as the first full-scale undergraduate program in the country designed for returning adult students. Center for Continuing Education brochure cover.
September 1962 Creation of the Mt. Vernon Tutoring Program. Students from Sarah Lawrence begin tutoring junior high school and high school students in Mt. Vernon on a one-to-one basis. This program lasted until 1970.
1963 Mansell House (10 Mead Way) purchased.
1964 Esther Raushenbush appointed Acting Dean of the College (1964-1965).
May 1964 Helen Merrell Lynd, Philosophy Faculty, 1929-1964. Photographer unknown. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesLynd House purchased. Lynd House is named for Helen Merrell Lynd, Philosophy Faculty, 1929-1964. Photographer unknown.
August 1964 Brebner House purchased.
1965 Jacquelyn Mattfeld appointed Dean of the College (1965-1971).
1965 Esther Raushenbush (President, 1965-1969), undated. Photographer unknown. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesEsther Raushenbush begins term as sixth President (1965-1969). Esther Raushenbush (President, 1965-1969), undated. Photographer unknown.
December 1966 The College receives a grant from the Department of Education to establish an Upward Bound Program on campus for high school students from surrounding communities to “raise their achievement level through academic, cultural, and social opportunities.” The program lasted until 1973.
1967 North Building completed.
September 1967 Creation of, and participation of Sarah Lawrence College in, the Cooperative College Center, a two year college that was a division of SUNY Purchase. The Cooperative College provided free tuition and only admitted students living below the poverty line from Yonkers, Mount Vernon, and New Rochelle.
1968 Students waving, September 1959. Photograph by Gary Gladstone. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesThe College becomes coeducational. Students waving, September 1959. Photograph by Gary Gladstone.
July 1968 The Institute for Community Studies is created through a Title I grant to forge connections between Sarah Lawrence and the neighboring communities of Bronxville and Mount Vernon. The Institute shut down in May 1969 after student-led protest.
1969 Marc Slonim, Literature Faculty and Director of Foreign Studies, 1943-1976. Photographer unknown. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesSlonim House purchased. Slonim House is named for Marc Slonim, Literature Faculty and Director of Foreign Studies, 1943-1976. Photographer unknown.
1969 The Human Genetics Graduate Program is established as the first graduate-level genetic counselor training program in the US
1969 Charles DeCarlo (President, 1969-1981), undated. Photograph by Gary Gladstone. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesCharles DeCarlo begins term as seventh President (1969-1981). Charles DeCarlo (President, 1969-1981), undated. Photograph by Gary Gladstone.
April 25, 1969 Charter amended to grant MFA degree in the performing arts and creative writing.

1970s: Growing the Campus—Curriculum and Grounds

1970 Swinford House purchased.
1971 Robert Wagner appointed Dean of the College (1971-1977).
1971 Child Development Graduate Program established.
1971 Lyles House purchased.
1972 Women’s History Graduate Program established as the first MA program of its kind.
1972 Andrews Court completed.
May 1973 Still functioning today, Youth Theatre Interactions, co-founded by Sarah Lawrence student Paul Kwame Johnson, is a community-based organization in Yonkers providing access and empowerment through creativity and theatre.
1974 Performing Arts Center, circa 1970s. Photographer unknown. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesPerforming Arts Center completed to replace the Student Arts CenterPerforming Arts Center, circa 1970s. Photographer unknown.
1974 Esther Raushenbush Library, undated. Photographer unknown. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesEsther Raushenbush Library completed. (Dedicated as Esther Raushenbush Library in 1980). Esther Raushenbush Library, undated. Photographer unknown.
1974 Faculty member Shirley Kaplan founds the Theatre Outreach Program to “connect with underserved communities in Westchester County and New York City and to help children, teens, and seniors 'find their voices' and discover new creative outlets.”
1976 Slonim Woods completed.
1977 Alison Baker appointed Dean of the College (1977-1980).

1980s: The Ilchman Years

1980 Health Advocacy Graduate Program established.
1980 Ilja Wachs appointed Dean of the College (1980-1985).
1981 Alice Stone Ilchman (President, 1981-1998), undated. Photographer unknown. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesAlice Stone Ilchman begins term as eighth President (1981-1998). Alice Stone Ilchman (President, 1981-1998), undated. Photographer unknown.
1984 Faculty House (161 Hampshire Road) purchased.
1985 Art of Teaching Graduate Program established.
1985 Barbara Kaplan appointed Dean of the College (1985-2007).
1987 Child Development Institute established and housed in the newly acquired 123 Boulder Trail.
Fall 1989 Andrews Court, 1989. Photograph by Jane Hoffer. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesAndrews Court completed. Andrews Court, 1989. Photograph by Jane Hoffer.

1990s: Building the Science and Sports Centers

1990 Schmidt House (6 Mead Way) purchased.
1994 Science Center and Bates Hall, November 1995. Photograph by Sven Martsen. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesAlice Stone Ilchman Science Center completed. Named for President Ilchman in 2006Science Center and Bates Hall, November 1995. Photograph by Sven Martsen.
1995 Creation of the Write-to-Right Program, an initiative to facilitate writing workshops for self-expression with incarcerated women at the Westchester County Correctional Facility.
1997 The College begins participation in the Bedford Hills College Program to teach courses to women in the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility leading to Bachelor’s and Associate’s degrees.
December 1997 Office of Community Partnerships and Service Learning created.
1998 Campbell Sports Center completed.
1998 The Pub renamed the Ruth Leff Siegel Center.
1998 Michele Tolela Myers (President, 1998-2007), February 2001. Photograph by Susan Woog Wagner Photography. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesMichele Tolela Myers begins term as ninth President (1998-2007). Michele Tolela Myers (President, 1998-2007), February 2001. Photograph by Susan Woog Wagner Photography.

2000s: Finding a Home for Visual Arts

2001 Hill House purchased.
2004 Heimbold Visual Arts Center, October 2004. Photograph by Don Hamerman. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesHeimbold Visual Arts Center completed. Heimbold Visual Arts Center, October 2004. Photograph by Don Hamerman.
2004 45 Wrexham purchased.
2007 Pauline Watts appointed Interim Dean of the College (2007-2009).
2007 Karen Lawrence (President, 2007-2017), 2007. Photograph by Dorothy Handleman. ©Sarah Lawrence College ArchivesKaren Lawrence begins term as tenth President (2007-2017). Karen Lawrence (President, 2007-2017), 2007. Photograph by Dorothy Handleman.
2009 Jerrilynn Dodds appointed Dean of the College (2009-2015).

2010s: Moving Forward

2012 Master of Science in Dance/Movement Therapy established.
January 2012 The Office of Community Partnerships implements Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, a day of widespread community service in Yonkers.
2013 Center for the Urban River at Beczak launched.
2015 Kanwal Singh appointed Dean of the College (2015- ).
2017 Cristle Collins JuddCristle Collins Judd begins term as 11th President (2017- ).
Cristle Collins Judd, 2017. Photograph by Stefan Radtke

Bibliography of College History

  • Benezet, Louis T. "The Sarah Lawrence Program." In General Education in the Progressive College, 49-73. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University, 1943.
  • Benson, Emanuel Mervin. A Pilot Research Study of Art Facilities in Six Colleges and Universities: Cleveland Institute of Art, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University, Pratt Institute, Sarah Lawrence College, University of Michigan. 1966.
  • Biklen, Sari Knopp. "The Progressive Education Movement and the Question of Women." Teachers College Record 1978 80(2): 316-355.
  • Bower, Betty Blanchard, and Brooks, Anita Zeltner. "Historically Speaking: The first of two articles on the beginnings of Sarah Lawrence College." Sarah Lawrence Alumnae Magazine 1949 (Fall): 5-7, 20-21.
  • Bower, Betty Blanchard, and Brooks, Anita Zeltner. "Historically Speaking: The second of two articles on the beginnings of Sarah Lawrence College." Sarah Lawrence Alumnae Magazine 1950 (Winter): 7, 24.
  • Coleman, Steven. To Promote Creativity, Community, and Democracy: The Progressive College of the 1920s and 1930s. Thesis (Ph. D.)--Columbia University, 2000.
  • Cullinan, Bernice E., and Zelda Ferber. The Sarah Lawrence-New York University Teacher Education Program, 1963-1969: An Evaluative Profile. New York: New York University, 1969.
  • Horowitz, Helen Lefkowitz. Alma Mater: design and experience in the women's colleges from their nineteenth-century beginnings to the 1930s. New York: Knopf, 1984.
  • Kaplan, Barbara. "Becoming Sarah Lawrence." Sarah Lawrence Magazine 2004 (Spring): 4-11.
  • Lehrfield, Joel. "Two Programs of Liberal Education: a commonplace analysis." Journal of General Education 1979 30(4): 255-265.
  • Lyon, Ruth. The Center for Continuing Education at Sarah Lawrence College (1962-1976): A Pioneer Program in Higher Education for Women. Thesis (M.A.)--Sarah Lawrence College, 1977.
  • McDonough, Colleen. The Founding of Sarah Lawrence College: A Case Study of the Contradictions in Progressive Education. Thesis (M.A.)--Sarah Lawrence College, 1978. (in unpublished papers)
  • Raushenbush, Esther. Occasional Papers on Education. Bronxville, N.Y.: Sarah Lawrence College, 1979.
  • Richter, Melissa Lewis, and Jane Banks Whipple. A Revolution in the Education of Women; Ten Years of Continuing Education at Sarah Lawrence College. [Bronxville, N.Y.]: Sarah Lawrence College, 1972.
  • Rose, Natalie. An Essential Indispensable Heritage: The Sarah Lawrence College Women's History Program, 1972-1979. Thesis (M.A.)--Sarah Lawrence College, 2004.
  • Sarah Lawrence College, and Charles Edward Trinkaus. A Graduate Program in an Undergraduate College: The Sarah Lawrence Experience. Middletown, Conn: Wesleyan University Press, 1956.
  • Sargent, Elizabeth. "Setting A New Ship A'Sail: The founding of Sarah Lawrence College." The Bronxville Journal 2: 59-79.
  • Trepp, Jean Carol, and Bronxville, N. Y. Sarah Lawrence College. The Uses of Field Work in Teaching Economics. Bronxville, N.Y.: Sarah Lawrence College, 1939.
  • Walters, Suzanne. "An Individual Education: The Foundations of Sarah Lawrence College." The Westchester Historian 79 (4): 100-112.
  • Warren, Constance. A New Design for Women's Education. New York: Frederick A. Stokes company, 1940.
  • White, Mary Mercer Wideman. "In The Beginning: The first president of SLC recalls the founding days of the college." Sarah Lawrence Alumnae Magazine 1950 (Spring): 5, 27.

Compiled by Abby Lester, College Archivist, 2007