History

History

Beginnings (1831-1900)
University Extension (1900-1946)
Rapid Growth (1947-1968)
Progress Amid Challenges (1968-1990)
Reorganization and Integration (1990-2004)
GS Today (2005- )

1831

A nontraditional student curriculum is conceived with the offering of the first “Literary and Scientific Course” geared toward working adults.

1891

Non-degree students at Columbia University, 1891Upon a suggestion from President Seth Low, Columbia University begins to offer classes to non-degree students and the general public, including women.

1900

Summer courses are offered to part-time students; Nicholas Murray Butler serves as Director of the Summer Session.

1904

Nicholas Murray Butler, now President of Columbia University, organizes adult education classes into a formal program called Extension Teaching, which offers a broad array of classes, from classical studies to highway engineering and vegetable gardening.
  Nicholas Murray Butler, President of Columbia UniversityNicholas Murray Butler, nicknamed “Nicholas Miraculous” by Teddy Roosevelt, served as President of Columbia University from 1902-1945 and shared the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize.

1909

Columbia creates the Writing Program, which is administered by Extension Teaching.

1911

Extension Teaching begins to offer courses in business, leading to the 1916 founding of the School of Business. Extension courses also eventually give rise to The School of Dental and Oral Surgery.

Extension Teaching receives a new name—University Extension—and begins to grant the Bachelor of Science degree.

1926

University Extension registers a total of 19,000 students, including many who work with instructors in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Long Island. This is the largest-ever enrollment of students in the history of adult education at Columbia.
  James Chidester Egbert, Director of University ExtensionJames Chidester Egbert, Director of University Extension (1910-42)

1942

James Egbert retires after six decades of service at Columbia, including 32 years as director of University Extension. Professor Harry Morgan Ayres becomes the new Director and implements revisions to the curriculum.
  Harry Morgan Ayres, Director of University ExtensionHarry Morgan Ayres, Director of University Extension (1942-48).
“I do not want adult education. I want a college education for adults.”

1947

Partly to meet the needs of GIs returning from World War II, University Extension is reorganized as an undergraduate college and designated the School of General Studies.

1948

Columbia President Dwight Eisenhower and his wifeColumbia President Dwight Eisenhower and his wife Mamie mingle with students and faculty at GS Holiday Tea.

1950

GS shieldBorrowing from the family crest of Samuel Johnson, the first instructor and President of King’s College, GS students create the first GS shield. Notable features of the GS shield include an owl and the school motto, "Lux in Tenebris Lucet," or "The light that shines in the darkness," both signifying that GS students attend classes at night.
  Women at GSAs students and faculty members, women have been an integral part of the School of General Studies since its inception.

1951

Dean Louis HackerFormer University Extension student Louis Hacker, now a respected professor of American history and economics, is named the first Dean of the School of General Studies (1951-58).

1952

The GS chapter of Phi Beta Kappa is established.

1954

GS institutes a joint-degree program with List College of the Jewish Theological Seminary.

1955

The Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program, the first program of its kind in the United States, is established.
  The Alumni HouseThe Alumni House, now called Buell Hall, housed General Studies for many years.

1957

Pat BooneIn 1957 Pat Boone had three number one songs, starred in two films, hosted his own television show, and graduated from GS.

1958

Dean Clifford LordClifford Lord (1958-64) succeeds Dean Louis Hacker and sponsors substantial curriculum revisions, transforming GS into a liberal arts college.

1964

The School of General Studies was formerly located in Buell Hall before moving to Lewisohn Hall in 1964. GS moves to the old School of Mines building, now renamed Lewisohn Hall in honor of Adolph Lewisohn, an industrialist and philanthropist who originally helped fund the building’s construction.

Dean Clifford Lord resigns to become President of Hofstra University; he is succeeded by Clarence Walton.

  The statue of Le Marteleur (The Metal Worker)

In front of the newly named Lewisohn Hall, men prepare the statue of Le Marteleur (The Metal Worker) to be moved to the new School of Engineering building.

  Philanthropist Adolph LewisohnComposer George Gershwin's rendering of philanthropist Adolph Lewisohn. The sketch was donated to the School by former GS student Ira Gershwin.

1966

Lewisohn Hall’s Baer Room is dedicated to Helene Gilbert Baer, GS ’50, recipient of the University Alumni Medal (1960) and GS Distinguished Service Award (1961). Mrs. Baer was founder and director of the GS Alumni Association and served as the national chairman of fund raising for the school. She was married to Albert M. Baer, Chairman of the GS Advisory Council and the 1963 recipient of the GS Owl Award.
  Helene Gilbert BaerHelene Gilbert Baer, GS graduate and benefactor.

1968

GS begins to offer the Bachelor of Arts degree.
  Dean Clarence WaltonDean Clarence Walton (1964-69)

1969

Dean Clarence Walton leaves GS to become President of Catholic University. His successor, Aaron Warner (1969-1977), focuses on increasing enrollment in an attempt to make the GS curriculum available to the broadest possible range of talented individuals.

1972

Dean Aaron Warner  Dean Aaron Warner (1969-1977)

1977

Ward DennisWard Dennis (1977-92) succeeds Aaron Warner as Dean of GS; Dean Warner becomes director of the newly-established Division of Continuing Education and Special Programs.

1980

Baruj Benacerraf, GS ’42, receives the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work in genetics.

1981

Lewisohn HallAlumni and friends raise funds to renovate Lewisohn Hall.
  The Division of Continuing Education and Special Programs is re-established as a branch of the School of General Studies.

1987

GS institutes the Master of Arts program in Liberal Studies.

1990

The Faculty of Arts & Sciences is created, unifying the faculties of Columbia College, the School of General Studies, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the School of International and Public Affairs.

1993

Dean Caroline BynumDean Caroline Bynum (1993-94).

1995

Dean Gillian LindtContinuing work begun by Dean Caroline Bynum, Dean Gillian Lindt (1994-97) leads an administrative reorganization that separates the continuing education programs, Summer Session, American Language Program, Columbia-sponsored study abroad programs, and the non-degree and visiting students programs from the undergraduate degree granting program and the Postbaccalaureate Premedical program. The new structure enables the School of General Studies to focus on its core mission: to attract, train, and support nontraditional students who possess exceptional academic potential within the challenging intellectual environment that is Columbia University.
  The Liberal Studies M.A. program moves to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

1997

Dean Peter AwnPeter Awn becomes the Dean of GS and works aggressively to continue the academic integration started by his predecessors, Dean Caroline Bynum and Dean Gillian Lindt.

1998

Former GS Dean Caroline Bynum becomes the first woman in Columbia history to be named University Professor.

2002

After years of lobbying, General Studies Student Council members ensure that GS students can fully participate in on-campus student organizations.

2004

Columbia celebrates its 250th anniversary.

2005

GS enjoys a deeper applicant pool, with increased student matriculation and persistence in both the undergraduate college and the Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program.

2007

Columbia University School of General Studies celebrated 60 years of success as the only freestanding college in the Ivy League in which nontraditional undergraduates are fully integrated into the rigorous, traditional undergraduate curriculum--taking the same classes with the same faculty and earning the same degree as all Columbia University undergraduates.

2009

The School of General Studies renews its commitment to military veterans by becoming a participant in the Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program, part of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008.