A Pioneer of Theory and Practice in the Arts and Sciences, Education, and Human Services
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 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at a time when the kindergarten movement was an emerging idea and the preparation of women for careers outside the home a radical notion. Her guiding principle for Lesley was "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."
Edith Lesley's belief in the power of individuals and the role of education in an effective democracy remained the foundation for the school's educational philosophy as it grew into Lesley College in 1945, and Lesley University in 2000.
Lesley University today is among the largest providers of teacher education in the nation through our undergraduate program and our Graduate School of Education, focusing on the educational needs not just in early education, but the preparation of quality teachers in math, science, special education and literacy.
As Lesley grew beyond its roots as a "Normal School" for kindergarten instructors, academic offerings were continuously expanded, building innovative programs in the social sciences, human services and the fine arts, guided by the founding educational principle
of integrating theory and practice. Lesley University students can now pursue careers, at both the undergraduate and graduate level, in fields including counseling and psychology, expressive therapies — a field invented at Lesley — and creative writing.
Edith Lesley Wolfard's living room — the entire school that first semester — today serves as the office of Lesley University President Jeff A. Weiss in one of three Cambridge campuses. To learn more about the history of Lesley University, visit our Centennial page.
Office of the President
A History Through Presidents
President's Speeches and Letters
Board of Trustees
Office of Equal Opportunity and Inclusion
29 Everett Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Strategic Plan 2012 - 2016
Our mission, aspirations, and the current context of American higher education inform our long-term vision as well as our priorities for the next four years.
Celebrating one hundred years as a leader in higher education, the Centennial Page honors Lesley's growth as an institution with alumni stories, historic photo galleries, videos from Centennial Commencement and our downloadable Centennial Publication.