Faculty Handbook 2016–17
draft in progress

Purchase College History

Purchase College was founded in 1967 by Governor Nelson Rockefeller as the “cultural gem ” of the State University of New York system. It was envisioned that the college would uniquely combine, on one campus, professional training in the visual and performing arts with distinguished programs in the liberal arts and sciences.

The site chosen for the campus was a 550-acre estate in the middle of Westchester County and 35 minutes from New York City. Formerly the Strathglass Farm, the land once belonged to Thomas Thomas, a Revolutionary War hero, whose family cemetery is on the property. 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 and the first building, the Neuberger Museum of Art, was completed in 1971. In 1978, construction of the campus complex was completed, and the Performing Arts Center formally opened to the public.

The first continuing education students were admitted in 1968, and an Educational Opportunity Program was established in Mount Vernon in 1969. 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.

Today, Purchase College has an enrollment of more than 4,200 students drawn from approximately 39 states and 33 countries. The college’s influence as an artistic and intellectual center with a national and international reputation is due to its distinctive academic programs, distinguished faculty, and more than 24,000 alumni who are major contributors to education, science, business, the arts, and entertainment.

  • Alumni include Pulitzer Prize recipients; Oscar, Emmy, Tony, Obie, and Drama Desk Award winners; research scientists; CEOs of international corporations and prominent journalists, academics, and teachers; and MacArthur “genius award ” winners.
  • Among the current members of the faculty are recipients of prestigious national awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News; Emmy, Grammy, ASCAP, Drama Desk, Obie, Bessie, and Tony Awards; American Institute of Graphic Arts design awards; Guggenheim, Fulbright, and Ford Foundation fellowships; National Science Foundation grants; and National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships.

Various public reports, including those on student enrollment, student profiles, and retention and graduation rates, are available on the Office of Institutional Research’s document repository site.

Updated June 20, 2016

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Related Resources:

Purchase College History Project
A collection of oral and written histories, historical documents, pamphlets, videos, and websites