Purchase College History
Purchase College, part of the State University of New York (SUNY) network of 64 universities and colleges, was founded in 1967 by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who envisioned a major, publicly funded university system. Purchase would uniquely combine on one campus conservatory training in the visual and performing arts with programs in the liberal arts and sciences. The site selected was a 500-acre working farm, originally the property of Thomas Thomas, a Revolutionary War hero.
Edward Larrabee Barnes was appointed master architect. His plans called for “a city within the country” where almost all the buildings were clustered around a great open space. Fields and meadows would be preserved. In addition to Barnes, seven other major architects helped to design individual buildings.
Construction of the campus began in 1967, and the first building finished was the Neuberger Museum of Art, completed in 1971. It was to contain the works of American masters collected over half a century by Roy R. Neuberger. Meanwhile, students were first admitted in 1968 in the Continuing Education program. In 1971, Purchase College admitted its first matriculated students, 200 junior transfers, followed by the first full freshman class in 1972. The college’s first commencement was held in 1973. In 1978, construction of the campus complex was completed and the Performing Arts Center formally opened to the public.
Today, with its professional training and related programs in the Conservatories of Dance, Music, and Theatre Arts, its School of Art+Design encompassing the full range of visual arts, its accomplished faculty in the Schools of Film & Media Studies, Humanities, and Natural & Social Sciences, and the lifelong learning opportunities provided by the School of Liberal Studies & Continuing Education, Purchase College is distinctive among other colleges in the country. To learn more, please visit our Academic Programs site.