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Iwasaki Library

A Short History of Emerson College

1877

Charles Wesley Emerson, minister at the Unitarian Church in Chelsea, Massachusetts, enrolls in Boston University's School of Oratory, studying Delsarte and Swedenborg under the direction of Professor Lewis B. Monroe.

1879

Emerson studies medicine in Philadelphia and delivers a course of lectures on elocution, expression, voice culture, art, and topics related to the study of oratory at the Unitarian Church of Vineland, New Jersey. In Boston, Lewis B. Monroe dies and Boston University closes its School of Oratory.

1880

Emerson opens the Boston Conservatory of Elocution, Oratory, and Dramatic Art at 13 Pemberton Square in Boston. Ten students enroll in the first class. Courses of Instruction are arranged into 18 categories: Physical training, Vocal culture, Articulation, Emphasis, Reading of prose and poetry, Dramatic reading and recitation, Humorous reading and recitation, Bible and hymn reading, Declamation, Delivery of orations and sermons, English literature, Aesthetic culture, Dramatic action, Art criticism, Teaching methods, and Defects of speech.

1881

Name of the institution is changed to Monroe Conservatory of Oratory, in honor of Emerson's teacher.

1886

The College rents new quarters at 36 Bromfield Street.

1887

Henry L. Southwick receives his degree from the College and joins the faculty.

1888

Dr. Emerson publishes his four volume set of readings in oratory, The Evolution of Expression, which will become the core text of the curriculum. Curriculum is redesigned into 16 departments: Oratory, Voice culture, Gesture, Evolution of expression, Perfective laws of art, Dramatic interpretation, English literature, Rhetoric, Singing, Physical culture, Anatomy physiology and hygiene, Vocal physiology, Psychology and philosophy, Art and aesthetic culture, and Life and personal development.

1889

Henry L. Southwick becomes a financial partner with Dr. Emerson in the operation of the College. Southwick is put in charge of the teaching of dramatics.

1890

Institution's name is changed to Emerson College of Oratory. Enrollment surpasses 500 students.

1891

College rents larger quarters at Odd Fellows Hall, on Berkeley and Tremont streets in the South End.

1892

The Emerson College Library is established under the auspices of the Southwick Literary Society.

1894

Henry Southwick and Charles W. Emerson purchase the Boston School of Oratory from Moses T. Brown, and merge it with Emerson College of Oratory.

1895

Henry L. Southwick organizes a Shakespearean company, comprising himself and students, which presents plays at The Boston Museum and the Tremont Theater in Boston and in other New England cities. This experience leads Southwick to consider the educational value of dramatics.

1900

Faculty members Henry and Jessie Southwick and William H. Kenney purchase the institution from Charles W. Emerson.

1901

The College rents new quarters at Chickering Hall on Huntington Avenue.

1903

Charles W. Emerson retires. William J. Rolfe, Shakespearean scholar and actor, becomes the second president of Emerson College of Oratory. Henry Southwick reorganizes the curriculum into 7 departments: Oratory, Voice training, Literary interpretation, Dramatic and platform art, Physical training, Language and literature, and Pedagogy.

1908

The Student Government Association holds its first meeting.

1911

The College rents new quarters at 30 Huntington Avenue.

1919

Emerson is granted right to award Bachelor of Literary Interpretation (B.L.I.) degree.

1919

The nation's first collegiate level program in Children's Theater is established at Emerson.

1924

Emerson offers its first course in Journalism through the Evening Division.

1928

Emerson purchases its first piece of real estate, a woman's dormitory building at 373 Commonwealth Avenue.

1930

Full charge and control of College affairs is given over to the Board of Trustees by owners William H. Kennedy, Henry Southwick, and Jessie Southwick.

1931

Intermural sports program begins with organization of volleyball games.

1932

Under the leadership of Dean Harry S. Ross, the first course in radio broadcasting is offered by Arthur F. Edes, program director at WEEI, Boston. The Department of History and Social Sciences is established.

1933

Harry S. Ross is appointed the fourth President of Emerson. 130 Beacon Street is purchased to house administration and classrooms. It is the first building purchased for what will become the present day campus.

1934

Dr. S. Justus McKinley is recruited to head the Department of History and Social Sciences. The building at 128 Beacon is purchased.

1935

Professional training program in Speech Pathology is offered for the first time.

1936

The Departments of Modern Languages and Philosophy and Religion are formed. Emerson is granted the right to award the Bachelor of Arts degree. Emerson College Theater is constructed in the Carriage House behind 128-130 Beacon.

1939

The name of the institution is shortened from Emerson College of Oratory to Emerson College.

1941

Emerson is granted the right to award the Master of Arts degree.

1945

The post-war era, the GI Bill, and the Broadcasting curriculum combine to cause a noticeable change in the student body. Once primarily female, it is increasingly divided evenly between men and women.

1946

Boylston Green is elected the fifth President of the College. Unlike his predecessors Emerson, Rolfe, Southwick, and Ross, he had no prior association with the College.

1947

Student newspaper, The Berkeley Beacon, commences publication.

1948

Beginning of a one-year Certificate of Broadcasting program offered through the Evening Division.

1949

Broadcasting Division receives FCC approval for an educational broadcasting license, and student-operated radio station WERS goes on the air for the first time with 10 watts power. President Boylston Green resigns. Godfrey Dewey serves as acting president until February 1951.

1950

Emerson becomes a member of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Undergraduate enrollment is 399 students.

1951

Dean Jonathon French is appointed acting president, then president in December 1951. He is never inaugurated. Intercollegiate Debate Program is organized. WERS power is increased to 300 watts.

1952

The College is in a severe financial crisis and seeks a $50,000 emergency fund. Russel Stafford, Chairman of the Corporation, states that without these funds, the College has three alternatives: Go broke, sell out, join up [with another institution]. A grass roots movement, led by the National Alumni Council, forms against the idea of a merger. This culminates in a recommendation from the Council to the Trustees that they resign, to be replaced by a majority of alumni. They do! The reconfigured Board of Trustees elects former Emerson history faculty member S. Justus McKinley as the fifth president of Emerson College.

1953

The Robbins Speech and Hearing Clinic opens its doors at 145 Beacon Street. WERS power is increased to 18,000 watts.

1954

Moss Hart's Lady in the Dark is presented as the first Annual Spring Musical. The broadcasting center, including a professionally equipped television studio, is dedicated at 130 Beacon.

1955

Emerson is authorized to grant the Bachelor of Science in Speech, Master of Science in Speech, and Honorary degrees. WERS-TV presents the first program of closed-circuit TV.

1958

Emerson is authorized to grant the Bachelor of Music degree in conjunction with the Longy School of Music.

1960

373 Commonwealth Avenue is sold in order to purchase a dormitory building at 100 Beacon Street. There are 609 undergraduate and 29 graduate students enrolled.

1961

150 Beacon Street is purchased for dormitory space, dining hall, and administrative offices. Major gifts from Elisabeth Abbot Smith and J.F. Buzzard enable the Library to move from cramped quarters on the fourth floor of 130 Beacon into its own building at 303 Berkeley.

1962

WERS wins the UPI Tom Phillips Award for outstanding achievement in broadcasting, becoming the first college-operated radio station to achieve this honor. Emerson student-produced segments will win this award for the next four years.

1964

96 Beacon Street is purchased for use as a student union. 132-134 Beacon Street is purchased for use as a dormitory.

1965

The Thayer-Lindsley Parent Centered Nursery for Hearing-Impaired Children opens. The College purchases the Deertrees Theater in Harrison, Maine, which housed a 6-credit summer theater program open to students from Emerson as well as other area colleges.

1966

The European Summer Session offers first overseas programs in England and Greece.

1967

The faculty Graduate Study Committee is formed. Richard Chapin, former Dean of the Harvard Business School, is inaugurated as the seventh president of Emerson College.

1969

The Faculty Assembly is formed to encourage more faculty input into administrative decisions. Physical Facilities Study compares present site with seven local alternatives. No move is planned.

1970

The Academic Planning Committee approves the First Level Program, a two-year, interdisciplinary course of study and electives designed to replace the All-College Requirements. The building at 67-69 Brimmer Street is purchased to house the program. 1624 undergraduates and 98 graduate students are enrolled.

1971

Emerson is authorized to grant BS, BFA, and MFA degrees.

1972

Corporation and Trustees authorize the election of a faculty and a student representative on the Board.

1974

The College leases, then purchases 534 Beacon for use as the Fensgate dormitory.

1975

Gus Turbeville, former professor and chair of the sociology department at the University of Wisconsin at Superior, and former president of Coker College in Hartsville, South Carolina, is inaugurated as the eighth president.

1979

Allen E. Koenig, formerly the executive director at the Idyllwild Campus of the University of Southern California, is inaugurated as the ninth president of Emerson College. President Koenig discusses a merger with and relocation to Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. However, no agreement is reached and the decision is made to remain at the present location.

1980

President Koenig proposes and the Board of Trustees approves a Master Facilities Plan as a guide to the major renovation of College facilities. Over the next four years, new performance spaces, classrooms, and faculty offices are created in the Theater Arts building at Brimmer Street; the Library/Learning Resources Center is renovated at 150 Beacon; 303 Berkeley is renovated for use by the Humanities and Social Sciences Division; a new radio/audio complex is created at 126 Beacon; and construction begins on two new television stations behind 130 Beacon. 1632 undergraduates and 122 graduate students are enrolled.

1981

The new All College Curriculum is implemented, raising the Liberal Arts requirements from 27 to 40 credits and establishing a Communication Curriculum of 20 credits. The Charlesgate dormitory is purchased.

1982

The first ever EVVY Awards are held at Emerson College.

1984

The administration building at 355 Commonwealth Avenue and Communication Studies building at 21 Commonwealth Avenue are purchased. Emerson is authorized to grant MFA in Creative Writing.

1985

Lawrence, Massachusetts is chosen as a new location for Emerson College. Although the mayor of Lawrence has stated that the property will be taken by eminent domain and sold to Emerson for a token payment of $100, the five private landowners disagree with this arrangement and take the case to court.

1986

The Los Angeles Program is established, offering courses and internship credits to matriculated juniors and seniors.

1988

Judge John Forte rules in favor of Emerson and the City of Lawrence, allowing the riverfront site of the proposed new campus to be taken by eminent domain. 0 Marlborough is purchased for use as a dormitory and dining hall. Kasteel Well in The Netherlands is purchased and becomes the home of Emerson's overseas program.

1989

The new General Education Curriculum, developed by the Ad Hoc Committee to Re-examine the All-College Requirements beginning in 1985, is implemented. Despite victory in the battle over the new campus site in Lawrence, the declining value of the College's Boston real estate and escalating costs of constructing the new campus in Lawrence cause President Koenig to put the move on hold. By June, Koenig resigns as president to take a new position as president of Chapman College in Orange, California. The Emerson Majestic Theatre celebrates grand re-opening with Musical Theatre Society production of George M! Emerson is granted the right to award PhD in Communication Disorders.

1991

John Zacharis is inaugurated as the tenth president of Emerson College.

1992

President Zacharis, stricken with leukemia, dies shortly after requesting a medical leave of absence. Vice President and Academic Dean Jacqueline Liebergott, who was appointed acting president during his leave, is appointed interim president. Emerson signs a purchase and sale agreement for a 14-story building at 180 Tremont. Emerson initiates a national search for a new president.

1993

Emerson faculty, administration, and staff join together to produce "Majestic Moments," a musical variety revue in honor of the 90th anniversary of the construction of the Emerson Majestic Theatre.

The brownstone facades of 143-145 Beacon and 303 Berkeley are restored.

The Emerson College Board of Trustees unanimously elects Jacqueline Weis Liebergott as the College's 11th president.

President Liebergott submits a 10-year master plan to the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

1993

The Division of Communication Disorders receives a $400,000 bequest from alumna Naomi Stroh Janover to support academic and clinical programs and a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support training for minority undergraduate students to become speech-language pathologists.

The Emerson College Library's book stack capacity is augmented by 17,000 volumes through the removal of interior walls, closets and hallways.

The master's degree program in Global Marketing and Advertising is established at the EIIC in Maastricht.

Emerson and the ProArts Consortium receive a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to establish a network of substance abuse professionals within ProArts schools. The program is run out of Emerson's Alcohol and Other Drug Education Center.

President Liebergott hosts the first-ever staff luncheon, an event organized to recognize the important role that staff members play in maximizing Emerson's effectiveness. Also initiated by President Liebergott are luncheons and dinners at the end of the academic year to recognize individuals who have served the College for 10 years or more.

Access to the Internet is provided to students at the Emerson College Library through Fenway Libraries Online.

Emerson Independent Video, a student organization, wins three awards from the National Association of College Broadcasters: HBO Special Event Award for 1993 Evvys, Best College TV series for Brian's Room, and Best Station Promo/PSA for the 1993 EIV promo.

The Emerson College Parents Program is organized by Marillyn Zacharis to serve as a liaison between parents and the College.

Strategic planning process begins with an all-day workshop presented by Dr. Raymond Haas. More than 100 members of the Emerson Community participate. The Steering Committee and seven task forces for strategic planning are organized.

The first John C. Zacharis Book Award honoring the best debut book of short fiction or poetry is awarded to Jessica Treadway for her book Absent Without Leave and Other Stories.

Jacqueline Weis Liebergott is inaugurated as the 11th president of Emerson College.

1994

The Mission and Curricular Affairs Task Force holds four hearings to review the proposed new mission statement for the College.

Emerson College and Tufts University announce the establishment of a joint graduate degree program in the field of health communication.

Emerson purchases the Little Building, a 12-story commercial structure next to the Emerson Majestic Theatre and across the street from 180 Tremont Street.

Division of Communication Disorders awarded three Patricia Roberts Harris Fellowships to support graduate education in speech-language pathology for African-American students.

1994

Strategic Planning Task Forces meet throughout the spring and submit their completed reports in May. The strategic Planning Steering Committee meets over the summer to condense the individual reports into a 13-page planning document.

The professional première of Bill W. and Dr. Bob takes place at the Emerson Majestic Theatre. The play, which tells the story of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, was co-produced by the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency, Harvard Community Health Plan Foundation, Harvard Medical School Division on Addictions, and Emerson College.

President Liebergott announces plans to relocate the EIIC from Maastricht, the Netherlands to Brussels, Belgium.

Emerson senior Brian Vermiere is chosen as the co-host of Maximum Drive, a program on the Family Channel.

In September, the College admits the largest and most academically qualified class in its 114-year history. The Class of 1998 boasts a 3.0 grade point average and a combined SAT score average of 1040.

Emerson's teacher certification programs are evaluated by a team from the Massachusetts Department of Education and receive a five-year approval.

The Emerson-Tufts Health Communication Program enrolls its first 23 students.

A working draft of the Strategic Plan is approved by the Steering Committee and presented to the Emerson community. Public hearings are held regarding the scope and content of the plan.

Emerson extends health care benefits to the domestic partners of gay and lesbian faculty, administration, and staff. Under the plan, dental coverage and tuition waivers are also available.

A gift of $100,000 from Mrs. Mary E. Tufte initiates the installation of the Internet on campus. The Internet Lab located on the 4th floor of 180 Tremont is dedicated in her honor.

The Cecil and Helen Rose Ethics in Communication Scholarship is established through a $300,000 contribution. It is the first endowed full-tuition scholarship in Emerson's history.

The Emerson College Board of Overseers is restructured, with each member agreeing to serve as a member of a "visiting committee" to one of the College's academic divisions. The Overseers will also be asked to raise funds and identify resources for the College.

Edward Bernays, the "Father of Public Relations," celebrates his 103rd birthday at a reception in the Division of Communication Studies, sponsored by the Public Relations Student Society of America.

Restoration is completed on the brownstone façades of College buildings at 126, 128, 130, 132-134, 168 Beacon Street and 21 Commonwealth Avenue. Renovations begin at the Little Building.

1995

Emerson's men's athletic teams become charter members of the Great Northeast Atlantic Conference.

The Media Services Center moves from the basement of the Library to the 3rd floor of 180 Tremont Street.

Both faculty and staff members volunteer to read aloud to students at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School as part of a community service program initiated by the President's Office and Boston Partners in Education.

The Board of Trustees adopts the Strategic Plan, 1995–2000.

1995

Emerson College is selected to be a member of the New Media Centers Program, an innovative nonprofit organization that teams industry and academia to improve higher education.

Emerson's student newspaper, The Berkeley Beacon, is named "Best All Around Non-Daily" at the regional competition sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists.

WERS-FM receives the Community Service Program Award from the National Association of College Broadcasters for the third straight year.

The sales of the Fensgate and Charlesgate residence halls and the Ames administration building are completed. Administrative offices are relocated to the 12–14th floors of 180 Tremont Street.

The Media Services Center acquires an Avid digital non-linear editing system in April. In August, studio installation begins, supported by a gift from Mrs. Mary E. Tufte and a grant from the Davis Foundation.

The John C. Zacharis Forensics and Debate Seminar Room is dedicated at 21 Commonwealth Avenue.

A long-term lease is signed for the building at 216 Tremont Street. The offices of Facilities Maintenance, Human Resources, Athletics, and Health Services relocate to this building.

Communication Disorders is awarded three additional Patricia Roberts Harris Fellowships to support graduate education for African-American students in speech-language pathology.

Telecommunications/fiber optic network installation begins in the summer of 1995 to be completed in October 1995.

The Little Building opens on schedule in September.

1997

Emerson purchases 216 Tremont Street, the Union Bank Building, to house the Robbins Clinic, Thayer Nursery, classrooms, and offices.

1998

180 Tremont is renamed the Ansin Building in honor of Edward Ansin's parents, Sydney and Sophie, after donating $1 million.

1998

Emerson purchases the Walker Building at 120 Boylston Street to house its library as well as classrooms and offices.

2003

The Tufte Production and Performance building becomes the first purpose-built structure created and built for Emerson College.

2005

Emerson College partners with the city of Boston to refurbish Rotch Playground for use by the College's sports teams.

Emerson College purchases the Paramount Theatre and adjoining Adams House Annex.

2006

Piano Row Residence Hall becomes the second purpose-built facility for Emerson College. It not only serves as a dormitory but also houses the school’s first gymnasium.

2006

Emerson College purchases the Colonial Building for conversion to student dormitories.

2007

Emerson College begins renovation of the Paramount Theatre and Adams House Annex for use as a theater, dormitories, and classrooms.

2008

Emerson purchases property in Los Angeles and selects an architect to build the Los Angeles Center, which will become the administrative center of the LA campus.

2009

The Colonial Building opens to students in the fall.

2010

The Paramount Theatre re-opens for the first time in 34 years.

2011

Lee Pelton becomes Emerson's 12th president

2012

Groundbreaking for the new Los Angeles Center takes place on March 8.  

Emerson College joins the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference

2013 Kevin Bright is named the Senior Executive Director and Founding Director of the Los Angeles Center.