Sunday, September 19, 2021


It was not only colleges and universities that slaked America’s thirst for enlightenment. In 1874, John Heyl Vincent and Lewis Miller founded Chautauqua Institution.


Chautauqua Institution is sited on the western shore of Lake Chautauqua in the county of the same name, the westernmost in New York State. Each year (COVID aside), for nine weeks visitors gather in this idyllic location to attend days filled with lectures, exhibitions, and performances by premiere thinkers, practitioners, artists, theologians, performers, and leaders from around the world.


Vincent was a bishop in the United Methodist Church committed to enhancing adult education. Miller was an inventor and philanthropist who was especially generous to UMC causes. Incidentally, Miller was also father-in-law to Thomas Edison.


They had taken their inspiration from the Lyceum movement that flourished in the earlier decades of the 19th century. The original function of the Chautauqua Assembly was to provide training for United Methodist Sunday-school teachers. Vincent and Miller recognized that for many adults and older children, Sunday school was the only continuing education available, so from the beginning, their summer sessions included lectures on moral philosophy, the newest scientific developments, literature, artistic performances, and even religion.


What began as a “church camp” for adults, with participants staying in tents on wooden platforms, transformed into a village of Victorian gingerbread cottages and a non-sectarian center of American intellectualism in only a few years.


President Grant appeared during the 1875 season and instantly lent prestige to the fledgling movement. In 1879, Schools of Languages and Music were founded. These included continuing education opportunities for school teachers. Today, the Music School is one of the leading summer festivals for aspiring professionals, as are the Schools of Dance, Theatre, and Art. A School of Theology began in 1881, followed by the School of Liberal Arts in 1885. By that year, the Chautauqua Press had already published 93 titles, and there were “Chautauquas” in more than 30 states.


In addition to these “sons of Chautauqua,” for about fifty years, traveling tent Chautauquas were a staple of American culture, and for many rural communities were their only imported cultural event. There was no direct association between these tent Chautauquas and the Institution, and the traveling shows ranged from very legitimate intellectual revivals to little more than vaudeville shows.


Chautauqua Institution served as the summer home of the New York Symphony. When that group merged with the New York Philharmonic, Chautauqua formed its own symphony in 1929, which provides a summer venue for musicians from many of our nation’s finest orchestras. Also in 1929, the Institution founded one of the longest continuously operating summer opera companies.


An early and important initiative of the original Chautauqua Institution was the founding of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle (C.L.S.C.) during the summer of 1878. The C.L.S.C. was a four-year course of assigned home reading. It was the first organized reading circle in the country — a Victorian MOOC. The Chautauquan was published as an anthology of course readings, old and new.


Its charter states that:


This new organization aims to promote habits of reading and study in nature, art, science, and in secular and sacred literature, in connection with the routine of daily life, (especially among those whose educational advantages have been limited,) so as to secure to them the college student's general outlook upon the world and life, and, to develop the habit of close, connected, persistent thinking.


The participants received study guides. Regional discussion groups were formed. Initially all participants were expected to return to the Institution for four summers for lectures and discussions of what they had read the previous year. Material was offered in a four-year sequence, and new students could join in at any year. Exams were administered, and at the end of four years, diplomas were awarded.


The C.L.S.C. still exists, and one of its contemporary features is that the authors of each year’s books (which are often best sellers) appear on the Institution’s program and lead additional discussion sessions for the C.L.S.C. students.


The C.L.S.C. inspired the foundation of the Continuing Education program at the University of Chicago, and I am convinced helped prime the pump for the “Great Ideas” project that would begin there soon after.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Reflections on 9/11


There are moments in history that provide a universally shared memory: Pearl Harbor was one for my parents, but it was not part of my generation’s collective experience. Now, as we memorialize the victims of the September 11th attacks 20 years later, it is not part of the memory of our students, but their lives have certainly been shaped in the shadows of those tragic events. Even the recent tragedies in Afghanistan are echoes of 9/11.


There are many lessons to be learned from that tragic day. We were all reminded how truly connected we were. It felt as though everyone knew a victim, a first responder, or at least, had a loved one who experienced peripheral trauma. Susquehanna lost two beloved and promising young alumni. We recognized if only briefly, how interconnected we really are.


For me, the lasting lesson was what we did in the days immediately following September 11. We pulled together. Crime virtually disappeared in New York City. We became neighbors. Civility and grace were our watchwords, and kindness was abundant. We allowed ourselves to be led by our better angels. We proved that we are better together. Then it wore off.


Today, our nation and world are plagued by fractiousness and rancor. As we remember those whom we lost twenty years ago today, we can best honor them by committing to regain those halcyon moments that arose in the wake of their loss.

Monday, August 30, 2021

A Brief History of American Higher Education - Part Three


A Brief History of American Higher Education

Part Three — The Democratization of Institutions and Ideas




At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, there were numerous threats to academic freedom including a handful of celebrated cases.


·      In 1895, Edward Bemis was forced to resign from the faculty of the University of Chicago for speaking against monopolies and in support of the Pullman strike.

·      In 1900, Edward Ross was forced to resign his post at Stanford through the intercessions of benefactress Jane Stanford for eugenics remarks that would provoke volatile debate today as well. Mrs. Stanford exercised her authority over the protestations of Stanford’s president and faculty.

·      In 1915, the president of the University of Utah summarily dismissed two professors and two instructors prompting 14 of their colleagues to resign in protest, which became the first investigation led by the newly founded American Association of University Professors (AAUP).


The AAUP was founded by the philosophers, Arthur Lovejoy and John Dewey with significant support from the anthropologist, Franz Boas. The mission of the AAUP from their website is as follows:


The mission of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is to advance academic freedom and shared governance; to define fundamental professional values and standards for higher education; to promote the economic security of faculty, academic professionals, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and all those engaged in teaching and research in higher education; to help the higher education community organize to make our goals a reality; and to ensure higher education's contribution to the common good. Founded in 1915, the AAUP has helped to shape American higher education by developing the standards and procedures that maintain quality in education and academic freedom in this country's colleges and universities.


It is through their efforts that the standards applied to academic freedom, tenure, and shared governance across the Unites States have been developed and refined. Every faculty handbook has been shaped by their collective influence.


Protecting the ability of scholars to report what they have observed and discerned is foundational to a developed democracy. For a fascinating history of the AAUP, I commend University Reform: The Founding of the American Association of University Professors by Hans-Joerg Tiede.


Great Ideas


In 1917, John Erskine proposed creating a two-year program on classics in translation at Columbia. Erskine reasoned that the Great Books were written for general audiences in each generation, but that language and approach made the classics distant and elitist. The faculty initially rejected it.


World War I gave Erskine a chance to test his theories as Director of the Education Department for the Y.M.C.A. and the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe. Flush from his success on the front, he persuaded the faculty at Columbia University to allow him to teach General Honors, a two-year seminar devoted to the Great Books.


Among Erskine's early students at Columbia were future University of Chicago faculty members Richard McKeon, Stringfellow Barr, Scott Buchanan, and Mortimer Adler.


During his first year as president of the University of Chicago, Robert Hutchins hired Mortimer Adler as a faculty member. Adler suggested replicating the two-year Honors Seminar of his own Columbia student experience. Beginning in 1931, Adler and Hutchins led the seminar at Chicago for two decades. It was in Chicago that the course drew national attention for its use of Socratic method and for the many celebrity guests the course attracted, including Lillian Gish, Orson Welles, and Gertrude Stein.


At Columbia and Chicago, the “Great Books/Great Ideas” curricula were an elective track for a select group of students, and in Chicago, the curriculum moved into the University Extension program in the 1940s, a berth created decades earlier by the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle (more on that in the next installment).


At St. John’s College, originally King William’s School, founded in 1696 in Annapolis, the great books were successfully expanded into a universal curriculum. St. John’s is one of our nation’s oldest academic institutions, but it struggled for many years to remain viable. To quote an earlier iteration of their website:


Rather than close the school the board decided on one last desperate measure. In 1937 they brought in Stringfellow Barr and Scott Buchanan, two academics [from Erskine’s class at Columbia and then the faculty at Chicago] who had revolutionary educational ideas, to completely revamp the curriculum. Buchanan, who was appointed dean, thought that the traditional liberal arts could be used as a formal structure for learning; he devised a course of study with the great books as the basis for discussion classes. Another important feature of his plan was the inter-relatedness of the disciplines; he proposed a college with a unified, all-required curriculum and no departments or majors.


St. John’s has expanded to two campuses, the second site in Santa Fe utilizes a reading list that incorporates many more Eastern classics than the Annapolis campus. The twin colleges have undertaken a bold campaign, Freeing Minds, to create long-term financial viability and access through an aggressive fundraising effort.


G.I. Bill


Following the First World War, the American Legion began to actively lobby for benefits for veterans. These efforts were redoubled during World War II leading congress to adopt the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 with strong bipartisan support Broadly known as the G.I. Bill, the Act provided a variety of financial rewards including low-interest business loans and mortgages; up to a year’s unemployment pay; and tuition support for high school, vocational training, and college.


At the Act’s conclusion in 1956, 5.6 million G.I.s had completed vocational training, and 2.2 million had attended college. A series of subsequent initiatives have been called G.I. Bills including those after the Vietnam War and Post 9/11.


The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 created the largest influx of new students in American higher education history. Many institutions created temporary “barracks” to accommodate this wave of new students, which stimulated particular growth at regional public institutions, preparing them for the next growth spurt that would occur when the baby boomers headed to college.


The G.I.s who benefitted from the Act were disproportionately White, because the Act accommodated Jim Crow exclusions creating an even greater educational divide between Blacks and Whites. Likewise, many banks engaged in discriminatory lending practices that excluded many Black servicemen from benefits they had rightfully earned. It would be another two decades for fair access to be legally guaranteed.


The Great Society


Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society produced many of our nation’s most progressive efforts for positive transformation. These included the creation the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio, Job Corps, Head Start, Medicare and Medicaid, and the three most significant pieces of civil right legislation in the 20th century.


These were the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Related legislation included the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, and the Higher Education Act of 1965.


The Higher Education Act has been reauthorized eight times. The ninth reauthorization has been due since 2013. The act contains eight large-scale sections, called titles. Title IV is focused on student assistance. This created federal loan and grant programs that made a college degree possible for millions of students who had previously been denied access due to their economic status.


The most significant of these aid programs, is the Pell grant. Originally called the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant, the program was renamed in honor of Senator Claiborne Pell. Unlike loans, Pell grants do not need to be repaid. They are need-based and are awarded to students whose families are in or near the bottom financial quintile. Over 5 million students are attending college or technical school with Pell support. This year, the maximum Pell award is $6,495.


The grant has not kept up with the cost of education, nor has it kept pace with inflation, which is why there is a coordinated lobbying campaign led by numerous national higher-education organizations to Double Pell with the next reauthorization and to tag it to inflation moving forward. This would make college truly affordable for many of our poorest families. The aid would follow the student, which guarantees student choice, and would make many degree programs “free” for the students who have the least capacity to pay.


The Higher Education Act profoundly changed the face of higher education. It created access for millions of deserving students who had been excluded in the past. It was one of our nation’s greatest acts of democratization, and the expansion of Pell would make good on its initial promise for generations to come.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

A Brief History of American Higher Education: Part Two — Building a New Nation


A Brief History of American Higher Education


Part Two — Building a New Nation


Following the Revolutionary War, liberal arts colleges began to multiply. Many had sponsorships and cultivation from early political figures and Founding Fathers, including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Patrick Henry, and Alexander Hamilton.

In his final annual address to Congress, Washington outlined his dreams for a new nation, calling for the formation of a national university and a national military college:

I have heretofore proposed to the consideration of Congress the expediency of establishing a national university and also a military academy. The desirableness of both these institutions has so constantly increased with every new view I have taken of the subject that I can not omit the opportunity of once for all recalling your attention to them.


The assembly to which I address myself is too enlightened not to be fully sensible how much a flourishing state of the arts and sciences contributes to national prosperity and reputation.


True it is that our country, much to its honor, contains many seminaries of learning highly repeatable and useful; but the funds upon which they rest are too narrow to command the ablest professors in the different departments of liberal knowledge for the institution contemplated, though they would be excellent auxiliaries.


Amongst the motives to such an institution, the assimilation of the principles, opinions, and manners of our country-men by the common education of a portion of our youth from every quarter well deserves attention. The more homogenous our citizens can be made in these particulars the greater will be our prospect of permanent union; and a primary object of such a national institution should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic what species of knowledge can be equally important and what duty more pressing on its legislature than to patronize a plan for communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country? G. Washington, Eighth Annual Address, 7 December 1796


Our national military academics are a partial fulfillment of Washington’s vision. The large land-grant institutions of the following century may be seen as an adapted realization of his dream of a national university.


The spread of colleges across the United States followed the spread of settlements. Often private colleges were associated with the faith traditions of the settlers. Some had strong ties to abolitionists, like Knox, Oberlin, Berea, and Illinois Colleges.


Soon states began to establish public universities. William & Mary and Rutgers, both Colonial Colleges are the oldest of our public institutions, but they were private institutions when founded. The oldest public universities in the U.S. are the University of Georgia and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The former was chartered first, and the latter began instruction first. Both began operation while Washington was still president of the new Republic.


The rise of industrialization, immigration, and growing democratization shaped the growth and character of higher education in America.


The scientific advancements and the industrial revolution created new needs for technical experts. The first technical school was the École Polytechnique, which was founded in Paris in 1794. The first technical school in the United States was the Lyceum, founded in Gardiner, Maine in 1822. It provided a 2-year training program for farmers and mechanics and became the forerunner of the Agricultural and Mechanical universities that flourished at the end of the century. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which was founded in upstate New York in 1824, was the first engineering school in the U.S.


As curricula diversified, so did student populations. In 1833, Oberlin College was founded and was open to Black students at that time. In 1837, the Institute for Colored Youth, which is now known as Cheney University of Pennsylvania was founded as the first college for Black students in the U.S. This, our oldest Historically Black College or University (HBCU) is now part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.


The Emma Willard School, a leading preparatory school for women, was founded by its namesake in 1814, and is considered the first higher-education institution for women in the U.S. In 1835, Mariette and Emily Ingham founded Ingham University in Attica, NY. It was the first women’s university chartered in the U.S. In 1837, Ingham moved to nearby LeRoy, NY. It closed in 1892. Wesleyan College in Macon, GA was founded in 1836, and is the first college in the world to be chartered to grant degrees to women. In 1837, Mary Lyons founded Mount Holyoke College, which became the model for many of the leading women’s college in the nation. One year later, Oberlin admitted women, becoming our first co-educational institution.


In the 1830s, a political movement began to unfold advocating for the creation of agricultural colleges. Jonathan Baldwin Turner, a faculty member at Illinois College became a leading proponent of this effort. In 1853, the Illinois Legislature adopted a proposal drafted by Turner encouraging the Illinois delegation to put forward federal legislation to create land-grant universities promoting agricultural and industrial research and education.


Soon the Illinois contingent realized that such an act was more likely to pass if it were proposed by an eastern politician. Justin Morrill of Vermont took the lead. The Morrill Act was passed by Congress in 1859 and vetoed by President James Buchanan. Morrill resubmitted the act with the addition that the new institutions would also teach military science. The revised act as signed into law by Abraham Lincoln on 2 July 1862 launching one of the greatest national expansions of higher education in our history.


Against the backdrop of the Civil War, Lincoln’s presidency included the creation of our nation’s land-grant universities, the groundwork for the Alaska Purchase, the initiation of the transcontinental railroad, the completion of the transcontinental telegraph, and Emancipation Proclamation.


The second Morrill Act of 1892 called on then segregated states to create land-grant universities for Black students. These include Florida A&M and North Carolina A&T, which is now the largest HBCU in the country.


Many land-grant universities were created in response to the Morrill Act. Some states identified existing institutions to be their land grants. Here are the current land-grant universities.



·      Alabama A&M University (HBCU)

·      Auburn University

·      Tuskegee University (HBCU, unofficial but de facto land grant)


·      University of Alaska Fairbanks


·      Diné College (tribal college)

·      Tohono O’odham Community College (tribal college)

·      University of Arizona, Tucson


·      University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

·      University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff (HBCU)


·      University of California, Berkeley


·      Colorado State University


·      University of Connecticut


·      University of Delaware

·      Delaware State University (HBCU)

District of Columbia

·      University of the District of Columbia (HBCU)


·      University of Florida

·      Florida A&M University (HBCU)


·      University of Georgia

·      Fort Valley State University (HBCU)


·      University of Hawaii


·      University of Idaho


·      University of Illinois


·      Purdue University


·      Iowa State University


·      Kansas State University (The first institution created as a result of the Morrill Act)


·      University of Kentucky

·      Kentucky State University (HBCU)


·      Louisiana State University

·      Southern University and A&M College (HBCU)


·      University of Maine


·      University of Maryland, College Park

·      University of Maryland, Eastern Shore (HBCU)


·      University of Massachusetts, Amherst

·      Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Privately founded in response to the Morrill Act)


·      Michigan State University


·      University of Minnesota

·      White Earth Tribal and Community College

·      Red Lake Nation College (tribal college)

·      Leech Lake Tribal College

·      Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College


·      Mississippi State University

·      Alcorn State University (HBCU)


·      University of Missouri

·      Lincoln University (HBCU)


·      Montana State University


·      University of Nebraska, Lincoln


·      University of Nevada, Las Vegas

·      University of Nevada, Reno

New Hampshire

·      University of New Hampshire

New Jersey

·      Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

New Mexico

·      New Mexico State University

New York

·      Cornell University (The 8th and only non-Colonial College member of the Ivy League)

North Carolina

·      North Carolina State University

·      North Carolina A&T State University (HBCU)

North Dakota

·      North Dakota State University

·      Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College (tribal college)


·      Ohio State University

·      Central State University (HBCU)


·      Oklahoma State University

·      Langston University (HBCU)


·      Oregon State University


·      Pennsylvania State University

Rhode Island

·      University of Rhode Island

South Carolina

·      Clemson University

·      South Carolina State University (HBCU)

South Dakota

·      South Dakota State University


·      University of Tennessee

·      Tennessee State University (HBCU)


·      Texas A&M University

·      Prairie View A&M University (HBCU)


·      Utah State University


·      University of Vermont


·      Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University — Virginia Tech

·      Virginia State University (HBCU)


·      Washington State University

West Virginia

·      West Virginia University

·      West Virginia State University (HBCU)


·      University of Wisconsin, Madison


·      University of Wyoming