History & Preservation
Established in 1880, Emerson College is named for its founding president, Charles Wesley Emerson, an orator, preacher, and teacher. Over the years, the institution has evolved from a small New England school of oratory to a multifaceted college with an international reputation.
While Emerson remains committed to its historic mission as a specialized academic institution, its curriculum reflects the emergence of interdisciplinary study as a mode for teaching and learning, and affirms new directions for the fields of communication and the arts.
Throughout its history, Emerson has shown the capacity to respond to the changing educational demands within communication and the arts. It was the first college in New England to establish an educational FM radio station (WERS, 1949), now repeatedly identified in The Princeton Review as the number one student-run college radio station in the country. It was also among the first colleges in the nation to establish a program in children’s theater (1919) and one of the first colleges to offer undergraduate programs in broadcasting (1937).
The College’s other pioneering achievements include:
- Offered professional-level training in speech pathology and audiology (1935);
- Established a closed-circuit television broadcast facility, WERS-TV (1955);
- Created a Bachelor of Fine Arts in film (1972); and
- In 1980, the College initiated a comprehensive graduate-level program in professional writing and publishing—the first such program in the nation specifically designed to meet the expressed needs of the publishing industry.
The College has continued to innovate, adding a Master of Fine Arts in Media Art, a Bachelor of Science in Marketing Communication, and an undergraduate program in Business and Entrepreneurial Studies.
The Boston campus has been assembled during the past 30 years as the College moved to the Theatre District from the Back Bay. Since 1993, Emerson has invested more than $500 million in preserving and restoring such historic spaces at the Cutler Majestic Theatre and the Paramount Center and also creating new facilities, such as the Tufte Performance and Production Center.
Emerson’s decision to create the “Campus on the Common” is widely credited with reviving and revitalizing this section of Boston, attracting the development of private residences, hotels, restaurants, and other retail spaces. The College’s opening of the Paramount Center and Residence Hall in 2010 on the site of the decaying Paramount Theatre brought new life to the lower Washington Street corridor, which today in 2017 is a hub of activity, also with new restaurants, retail, and private residences.
The Paramount Center, a three-building arts-residence complex includes the renovated 596-seat Paramount Theatre, a 125-seat Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theatre, the 170-seat Bright Family Screening Room (named in honor of Vice President and LA Founding Director Kevin Bright ’76), faculty offices, nine rehearsal spaces, a scene shop, and a residence hall for 262 students.
Today, Emerson is continuing its legacy of preservation and restoration through its plans to renovate the Little Building, the Colonial Theatre, and create a new residence hall in Boylston Place. When these projects are completed by the Fall of 2019, the College will be able to house nearly 70 percent of its students and will have preserved several additional historic spaces for future generations.