In the early 1920s, Bennington College emerged as an idea, an idea shared by a group of forward-thinking educators and civic leaders who believed that America needed a progressive new college to forge a new direction in higher education. In 1932, with charter and land secured, the College welcomed its first class of 87 students and this idea was given life. Eighty years later, it’s still flourishing.
It didn’t take long for Bennington to distinguish itself as a vanguard institution among American colleges and universities. Dancers flocked to the College in the 1930s and 40s to chart the course of modern dance. In the 1940s and 50s, as Bennington was the first college to include the visual and performing arts as an equal partner in the liberal arts curriculum, painters and sculptors gathered on its campus to redefine the visual arts canon. Always a fertile ground for writers, the 1980s and 90s saw an influx of young talent eager to push the boundaries of contemporary literature. Today, Bennington is a hub yet again, for artists, writers, scientists, scholars—innovators in every field—who want to apply their individual talents to addressing global issues of urgent concern.
Bennington has, in its persistent reinvention of liberal education, remained true to its founding virtues. It has gained stability not from motionlessness but from constant motion, not from states of rest but from unrelenting restlessness. Yet the underlying purpose of Bennington has been clear from the start: to place students at the helm of their own education; to guide them in the direction of their greatest potential; and to enlarge, deepen, and transform their lives.