The history of Lesley University.
Edith Lesley Wolfard began the Lesley School in September, 1909, for the professional instruction of kindergarten teachers. Those first students gathered in the living room of her family home at 29 Everett Street, Cambridge, at a time when the kindergarten movement was an emerging idea and the preparation of women for careers outside the home a radical notion. "Kindergarten education in America will soon become established as a permanent unit in our national educational philosophy," she said at the time, and her vision extended far beyond training teachers. "I plan not merely to set up just another training school; I plan for us to be different; to consider the individual of basic importance; to inculcate the ideal of gracious living; and to foster the traditions of American democracy."
Her prophetic views on early education proved a foundation for Lesley's early growth, and the Lesley School prepared women for careers in kindergarten and early education classrooms throughout the century -- growing into Lesley College in 1945, and Lesley University in 2000. Edith Lesley's larger vision - the belief in the power of individuals and the role of education in an effective democracy - remained a central component of Lesley University's mission as the school expanded not only in size, but in academic offerings that, like education, play key roles in improving the lives of others and sustaining healthy communities. Counseling psychology, expressive therapies - a field invented at Lesley - environmental studies, and the arts: students in a range of disciplines and fields are guided by the founding educational principle of integrating theory and practice.
Lesley University today offers programs in 23 states and online, and is among the largest providers of teacher education in the nation, focusing on the educational needs not just in early education, but the preparation of quality teachers in math, science, special education and literacy. Edith Lesley Wolfard's living room - the entire school that first semester - today serves as the office of Lesley University President Joseph B. Moore in one of three Cambridge campuses. To learn more about the history of Lesley University, visit our Centennial page.
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