Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bard College

Because we are heading off to New York in (goodness the days are flying by) a week and a half, Mrs. Lilhanand, our chaperone, suggested to us that each student pick one topic and research it, so that when we reach the Big Apple and start our sight-seeing, we'll have, as she put it, a "resident expert" on each visit. I chose Bard College to blog about, because it’s on my short-list of colleges and seems like an interesting school at the very least. Enjoy!

Covering more than 500 acres of land, Bard sits at the edge of the Hudson River in New York, about ninety miles away from New York City and a two-hour drive away from Massachusetts.

Bard College was originally known as St. Stephen's College, founded in 1860 during the tumultuous year before the secession of the Southern states that kicked off the Civil War. Associated with the Episcopal church of New York City, the college offered a curriculum that prepared devoted men for entrance into the seminaries of the church.
In 1919, under the watchful eye of Dr. Bernard Iddings Bell, the school began a change to a more secular curriculum with a wider scope and breadth with the inclusion of social and natural sciences.

In 1928 St Stephen's College became an undergraduate school of Columbia, and in 1934 the college officially changed the name to Bard College to honor the founder, John Bard. The Dean at the time of the re-naming was one Donald Tewksbury, who was one of the first in this period of America higher education to place an emphasis on both fine and performing arts in a liberal arts curriculum. In the '40s Bard expanded its repertoire by engaging professors from Europe to teach varying subjects, from economy to symphony orchestra to philosophy. In 1944, Bard became a coeducational college in its own right, severing its ties with Columbia while maintaining an affiliation with the Episcopal church. After this, Bard attracted more professors who brought the school prestige in the arts of literature and writing. Also during this period came several of Bard's stated academic goals for its students, which still are applied today and rely largely in part on promoting an independent and self-thinking student with a common code of ethics and an understanding of the history of humans.
The modern Bard does have some differences from its expansion in the 20th century. The college is organized as, as it says on the Bard website, “a central body surrounded by significant institutes and programs - “satellites” - that strengthen its curriculum.” This unique structure makes Bard College very different from the larger universities as its focus is primarily on undergraduate studies, with each “satellite” of research, graduate study, or community outreach serving as an educational enhancement for the undergraduate students at Bard.
Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts
Music plays a large role at Bard as well. Started in the summer of 1990, the annual Bard Music Festival is designed to give the festival-goers an appreciation of the great composers. Each year, one composer is chosen as the theme, and the festival celebrates that composer by performances of their pieces, lectures, demonstrations, and essays. This musical bend eventually led to the creation Bard College's Conservatory of Music in 2005. Bard also has had a historical interest in the community, an interest that is continued today through many projects at the college: there is the Human Rights Project, an interdisciplinary program that encourages students to study and take part in the modern human rights movement; there is the Bard Prison Initiative, founded by a Bard alum, where students work to restore or promote higher education in New York prisons.

Bard College seems like a great place to visit, and I'm excited to see it, although I must admit I'm also very eager to enjoy the views on the train ride up from NYC to Bard, as I've heard the view along the Hudson is spectacular.


  1. I was not aware that Bard used to be affiliated with Columbia, interesting. Their music wing is quite extensive but their new science building is something else, a real WOW.

    Yes the train ride is spectacular going up the Hudson River.
    Just think in less than two weeks you will see it all....get your camera ready.

  2. Irene,

    Your trip to Bard should be all that more exciting now that you know something about the school and it's history. The history of a thing tells so much.