Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Goddard College: An Impressive History and Relevant Still

Goddard College has a century and a half institutional history as a leader in the progressive education movement.

Founded in 1863 as Green Mountain Central Institute in Barre, VT, the school changed its name in 1870 to Goddard Seminary, a theological preparatory school in the Universalist tradition. The school especially prepared students to attend Tufts College, a school originally affiliated with the Universalist Church. Goddard was named for Thomas Goddard, Tufts 2nd Treasurer.

In 1919 Royce (aka Tim) Pitkin was graduated from Goddard Seminary and would later return to Goddard as its primary visionary and philosophical architect. After graduating from Goddard Seminary Pitkin went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont and a PhD from Columbia University. He was a contemporary of progressive education pioneers John Dewey and William Kilpatrick. Under his leadership, Goddard College would be guided by philosophies influenced by Dewey and Kilpatrick as well as by religious Universalism, the Danish Folk School, and the democratic principles exhibited by New England Town Meetings.

In 1929 the Goddard School for Girls was established and in 1935 Tim Pitkin returned to Goddard to organize Goddard Junior College as part of the Seminary. In 1937 Goddard Seminary was closed but Goddard was immediately resurrected as Goddard College, chartered in 1938. Also in 1938 Goddard relocated from Barre to Plainfield, VT, moving to the Greatwood Farm Estate. Pitkin was the reformed, relocated and renamed College’s first president. Tim Pitkin served as the college president from 1938 to 1969. He died in 1986. Since 1938, the school has been in continuous operation as Goddard College.

From 1938 to 1940 Goddard operated as a four year Junior College, that is, students attended the last two years of high school and the first two years of college. Goddard became a Baccalaureate degree granting school in 1943.

In 1952 Goddard started a summer work camp for urban youth to help rural farmers and also in 1952 Goddard awarded its first masters’ degrees.

In 1956 Goddard started the Educational Resources Project and its students would work as Teaching Assistants in nearby schools.

In 1959 Goddard received regional accreditation. Having never been a rich school and offering a progressive pedagogy that “traditional” schools didn’t understand, Goddard had been denied accreditation since the 40s. But in 1959 the college was unexpectedly given the New England Association of Schools and Colleges’ stamp of approval, and enrollment almost doubled immediately as a result.

In 1963 Goddard College initiated the Adult Degree Program – the first college in the US to do so.

In 1964 Goddard participated in another ground breaking experiment that would prove to be successful for decades to come. In 1964 a consortium of colleges was formed called the Union for Research and Experimentation in Higher Education. 10 colleges made up this “Union” and along with Antioch College, Sarah Lawrence College, Bard College, and Hofstra University, Goddard was a founding member of the consortium.  In 1969 the consortium changed its name to the Union for Experimental Colleges and Universities. It would go through a few more name changes, including The Union Graduate School, The Union Institute, and Union Institute & University as it is known today. But before UIU was a well-known, independent school of higher learning, it was a consortium of progressive colleges and Goddard was among them.

In 1966 Beat poet Allen Ginsberg performed at Goddard; in 1969 the Third World Studies Program was initiated and was in operation for 5 years, and the early 1970s saw more excitement for Goddard College.

In the 1970 the Goddard-Cambridge Program in Social Change was born and that program was in existence for 9 years. Also in 1970 a Design and Construction program was initiated, an alternative media conference was held where New Age spiritual leader Ram Dass offered a workshop, and from 1970 to 1974 the incredible Bread and Puppet Theatre was in residence at Goddard College!

In 1973 Goddard launched its own radio station (WGDR), in 1974 the Institute of Social Ecology was founded and would remain part of Goddard until the year 2000 when it became an independent institution, and in 1975 more new programs were launched – Integral Education, Inter-dimensions in the Visual Arts, Outdoor Education, and Women’s Studies.

In 1986 a single parents’ program was offered and in 1988 restoration of Goddard’s historic gardens began. 11 years later, The Greenwood Estate and Gardens, the Goddard College campus, was entered in the National Register of Historic Places.

Goddard had more innovations to offer the world of education. In 2002 the residential undergraduate program was closed and Goddard became an entirely low-residency college.

In 2012, with sites now in Washington state as well as in Vermont, Goddard remains an accredited institution of higher learning with its highest enrollment in 30 years!

Goddard, in all its incarnations, has always been a progressive and innovative school, and by the 1970s it was well known as a radical, counter-cultural college. When it was redesigned as Goddard College in 1938 it was unusual in that it offered no grades, gave no exams, and had no required courses. To this day Goddard offers a self-directed learning experience, faculty members are called co-learners or advisors rather than professors, grades are not given and unless other arrangements are made, transcripts are narrative evaluations rather than a dry and largely uninformative list of courses taken and grades given.

The Goddard philosophy early on was based on 4 educational principles:
Thought should be tested by action
We only learn what we can inwardly accept
One matures by carrying responsibilities suited to one’s capabilities
And College should provide education opportunities for adults because learning should continue throughout life.

The undergraduate degrees that Goddard offers today are:
The BA in Education, the BA in Health Arts & Sciences, the BA in Sustainability, the BA in Individualized Studies, and the BFA in Creative Writing.

Graduate degrees offered are:
The MA in Education (there is a licensure option as well as possible concentrations in School Counseling or Community Education), the MA in Health Arts & Sciences, the MA in Psychology (with an option of concentrating in Sexual Orientation), the MA in Sustainable Business & Communities, and the MA in Individualized Studies with possible concentrations in Transformative Language Arts, Consciousness Studies, or Environmental Studies. There are also two MFA programs, one in Creative Writing and one in Interdisciplinary Arts.

There are many notable graduates of Goddard College, including:

Frances Olsen, Law Professor (UCLA)
Page McConnell, Trey Anastasio, & Jon Fishman of the Band PHISH
Howard Ashman, actor/playwright/lyricist (Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, Beauty & the Beast)
Jay Craven, film director/screenwriter)
Tom Griffin, playwright (Boys Next Door)
Larry Feign, cartoonist (The World of Lily Wong)
Caroline Finkelstein, poet
Ann Gillespie, actor (Beverly Hills 90210)
Neil Landau, screenwriter/playwright/TV producer
Cara Hoffman, novelist (So Much Pretty)
William H. Macy, actor
David Mamet, playwright/direct, Pulitzer Prize winner

For 149 years Goddard has been trailblazing and challenging the status quo. People have literally come to Goddard to study from all over the world. If you want a challenging, non-traditional, stimulating, limited residency degree program that honors your vision while guiding you through academic theory, interdisciplinarity, and ethical practice, with financial aid available and without requiring you to quit your job or leave your community for more than a few days a year, then Goddard may be a dream come true.

The program isn't correspondence, it isn't online, it isn't's something else, something different, something more.

Whether you want to complete a Bachelor’s degree, earn a Master’s degree, or return to school for a second or third graduate level degree, Goddard College is worth your consideration. Learn more by visiting their website:

Information gathered from displays and literature at the Pratt Library at Goddard College as well as from the Goddard College website and other online sources.


Anonymous said...

"'s something else, something different, something more."

Yeah, it's a cult!

Durrell said...

the very best kind!