A Short History of Purchase College

Purchase College was founded in 1967 with a distinct mission within the multi-campus State University system of New York: to establish a superior undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences along with professional, conservatory-level training in the visual and performing arts.

The site chosen for the campus was a 500-acre estate, Strathglass Farm, in the middle of Westchester County, 35 minutes from Manhattan. It was originally the property of Thomas Thomas, a Revolutionary war hero whose family cemetery still remains on campus. In order to transform the former cattle farm into a college for thousands of students, SUNY engaged some of the most prominent American architects to design the campus. Edward Larrabee Barnes created the master plan, and nine distinguished architectural firms designed specific buildings.

Construction began on the campus in 1967. The first students were admitted in 1968 under the Continuing Education program, 170 juniors were admitted in 1971, and the College's first commencement was held in 1973.

Today, Purchase has an enrollment of more than 4,200 students drawn from more than 45 states and 30 countries. Purchase’s influence as an artistic and intellectual center with a national and international reputation is due to its distinctive academic programs, its faculty and more than 12,000 alumni who are major contributors to education, science, business, the arts and entertainment. Graduates include Oscar, Emmy, and Tony Award winners, research scientists, CEOs of international corporations, prominent journalists, academics, teachers, and MacArthur “genius” award winners. Among the current faculty are Guggenheim, Fulbright and other national award winners.

Purchase’s School of the Arts, School of Humanities, School of Natural and Social Sciences, and School of Liberal Studies and Continuing Education are all increasingly focused on integrating the arts and the liberal arts as distinctive features of the campus. Numerous interdisciplinary programs have been launched, including cinema studies, creative writing, dramatic writing, journalism, new media, and women’s studies.

To complement and enrich the academic programs, Purchase provides an equally distinctive living, cultural and recreational environment. Additional residence halls and apartment complexes have been built for a growing on-campus population of approximately 2,600 student residents. There are now several Residential Learning Communities for first-year students, led by faculty-in-residence. The College also offers five sites—in China, France, Italy, Spain, and Turkey—for summer study abroad.

The Performing Arts Center, a four-theater complex considered one of the finest of its kind on the East coast, presents more than 100 professional and numerous student performances annually. The Neuberger Museum of Art, the tenth largest university museum in the country, presents 12–16 temporary exhibitions each year in addition to displays from the permanent collection. Both provide College members and the wider community with a rich concentration of the arts and contribute directly to the academic programs.

In the years ahead Purchase College will continue to provide innovative programs to meet the needs of an ever-changing society.