The Office of the President: Information about Lesley's past leaders
Edith Lesley Wolfard, 1909-1943
"Kindergarten Education in America will soon become established as a
permanent unit in national educational philosophy. I plan not merely to
set up 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 tradition of American democracy."
- Edith Lesley Wolfard
Marguerite R. Franklin, 1943-1944
"Be of good courage in the knowledge that educated teaching and informed
homemaking may well be your best contribution to War – or Peace."- Marguerite R. Franklin to the graduating class of 1944
The Leslyan, 1944
Trentwell Mason White, 1944-1959
"Teacher education is the most completely selfless of all possible
professional backgrounds since it instructs its students in learning to
develop someone else."- Trentwell Mason White
Commencement Address, Summer Session, August 16, 1957
Don Orton, 1960-1984
"Over the past two decades or so, I think Lesley has acquired its own
unique ethos, one that has placed high and appropriate emphasis upon
'experiential learning' as the centerpiece of its philosophy. Lesley had
and has a large number of risk takers. We value people and doing our
jobs well and our students are committed."- Don Orton
Furlong, Kathryn. "Recapping Twenty-Four Years of a College Presidency,"
The Lesley College Lantern, v. 11, n. 1 (Summer/Fall 1984): 1-2.
Margaret A. McKenna, 1985-2007
"I always remember that the students are at the heart of it, and I ask
myself, 'Will this make the lives of students better?' I want our
students to have an impact on the world, and I want to give them the
tools to do it."- Margaret A. McKenna
Handle, Louisa. "20 Years," Lesley Magazine, Fall (2005): 16-21.
In 1909 Edith Lesley [Wolfard] opened "The Lesley Normal School"
("normal" at the time designating teacher training schools) in her home
on Everett Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts to train young women to
become kindergarten and early elementary teachers.
Born on January 27, 1872 in what is now the country of Panama, Edith
was raised in Bangor, Maine where her family's circle of friends was
active in the new Kindergarten movement. Edith received her teacher
training at the Page Normal School in Boston, Massachusetts. In the late
1890s, she was working as a Kindergarten teacher in the Riverside and
Houghton Schools in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Edith attended, as a
special student, Radcliffe College where she studied philosophy. When
she completed her studies at Radcliffe, she founded the Lesley Normal
The first day of classes began on September 18, 1909. Influenced by
the philosophy of German educator Friedrich Froebel, Lesley's two-year
curriculum stressed the importance of physical activity – singing,
dancing and gardening – and play, particularly with blocks and similar
objects. Edith Lesley also stressed the values of treating students as
individuals and the importance of 'gracious living.' Edith taught
philosophy, child study, and the theories and methods of Friederich
Froebel. Her sister, Olive, taught folk dancing, games and storytelling.
Eleven students graduated at the First Parish Church in Harvard Square
on June 10, 1911. In the following year classes in household arts were
added and in 1918 a department known first as Domestic Science, later
(1939-1940) as Home Economics, was established, offering a one- or
two-year program which prepared students to work in various public
institutions, including schools and hospitals.
By the 1920s the school, now "The Lesley School," had twenty-two
instructors, had acquired three buildings for dormitories and had built
Alumni Hall for assemblies and classes. Extra-curricular activities came
to play an important role, with Wednesday afternoons reserved for
musical or theatrical student performances. Later in the decade a
three-year kindergarten and early elementary program was offered in
addition to the two-year course of study.
Edith taught at the school until the 1930s and then remained active
in the administration of the school until the late 1940s. Beginning in
the late 1930s as her health began to decline, Edith appointed Gertrude
Malloch, who had joined the school as a teacher and administrator in its
first decade, as chief administrator. In 1939 the school, to that point
privately owned, became a non-profit institution through incorporation,
and during the academic year 1939-1940 it added a four-year
teacher-training program. In 1941, the first recorded meeting of the
Corporation and the Board of Trustees took place. Edith numbered among
the members of the Trustees, and her husband, Merl Wolfard, was named
vice president of the board. Gertrude Malloch was named Principal of the
Lesley School. The Corporation was charged with the task of taking over
the Lesley School in order to "run a school or college with all the
facilities incidental thereto."
The School was suffering a decline in both enrollment and financial
generation at this time so that in 1942, Edith Lesley loaned the school
$8,300. The School was then able to, in 1943, transition to Lesley
College with Marguerite Franklin as the first President. Edith retained
the titles of Founder and Director Emeritus but her influence by this
time had dwindled. She continued to live in the house at 29 Everett
Street with Merl until her death on May 16, 1953.
Marguerite R. Franklin
1943-1944 Marguerite Franklin was born in 1893 in Rhode
Island to Julie A. Franklin, a superintendent of a settlement house and
later a teacher, and Benjamin Franklin, a salesman. She graduated from
Wheelock College in 1917, and in 1930 was hired by Wheelock as the
Assistant Supervisor of Practice. For the next 11 years, Marguerite
served in a variety of positions at Wheelock, including Assistant in the
Department of Observation and Practice Theory, Dean of Child
Psychology, Student Personnel Director as well as working with the
Kindergarten Education Department.
Marguerite came to Lesley during a time of transition, marked by both
an excitement around the transition to a college and a serious concern
over a potential financial crisis. In December 1942, the school met all
the requirements to be approved by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to
grant degrees. However during this time the school was hobbled by
declining enrollments: only about 60 students were enrolled in
1942-1943. Due to a loss of cash flow, many of the buildings on campus
were in poor condition and the school was having difficulty paying off
its debts. The tensions of the period created stress among the trustees,
who were looking for a leader to make necessary changes.
In April 1943, the trustees appointed Marguerite, a teacher from
outside the Lesley community to bring about the changes necessary for
creating a college atmosphere. By November, Marguerite was making
recommendations, such as discontinuing the three-year course in teacher
training and concentrating on the four-year BS degree in Education;
creating standards of "prestige" and "teacher ability" when hiring
part-time teachers; and growing the library.
President Franklin's active administrative changes helped Lesley
transition into its status as a college. At the end of 1944, President
Franklin left Lesley to become a professor at the Massachusetts College
After the unexpected death of Trentwell Mason White, Don Orton was
inaugurated on July 1, 1960. Don, born in 1918, earned his Bachelor's
degree in English from the University of Utah, a Master's degree in
Educational Administration from Ohio State University, and a Doctorate
in Education from Harvard University. Prior to joining Lesley, he was a
superintendent of schools in Utah, director of the University of Utah's
College of Education, and lecturer at Harvard University's Graduate
School of Education.
When Don arrived at Lesley, there were 631 undergraduate students. As
the 1960s progressed, enrollment continued to grow and the college
continued to offer a variety of student activities and clubs. During
this time, Lesley undertook its largest building project to date,
creating a quadrangle that encompassed the main section of the campus.
The new buildings included a new library, dormitory, and classroom space
to satisfy the needs of the growing student body.
During the 1970s, Lesley forged relationships with surrounding school
districts, which helped Lesley maintain an impressive 90 percent
placement rate for its newly-[graduated teachers. In the late 1970s, Don
helped to found the National Center for Economic Education at Lesley,
which sought to add the basics of economics into the elementary and high
school curriculum, and received national attention, including the
praise of President Carter.
The graduate school, under Don's tenure, increased its offerings to
include 18 different programs in the 70s, and added management degree
completion programs in the 80s. In 1981, Lesley initiated the School of
Programs in Management for Business and Industry (PMBI), which later
became the School of Management. By the mid-80s, the graduate school
enrollment was over 3,300, and, additionally, Lesley launched its first
off-campus program, the National Outreach program in Denver, Colorado.
In 1982, an academic and living-skills program for young adults with
learning disabilities was also founded, called the Threshold Program.
Don Orton stepped down as president of Lesley College in 1984.
In 1985, Lesley College inaugurated Margaret McKenna. During her 22-year
tenure, Lesley College became Lesley University. Margaret led the
transformation of the institution from a small college with 2,000
students in 1985 to a 12,000-student university with a national
presence. Under her leadership, the university's endowment increased
from less than $1 million to more than $77 million; the number of
academic facilities doubled; the diversity of faculty, staff, and
students increased; and the national programs expanded from eight states
to 23, making Lesley one of the largest graduate schools in the nation.
Some of the largest growth happened in the undergraduate school with
the addition of the Art Institute of Boston in 1998 and the school
becoming co-ed in 2005.
Soon after Margaret's inauguration, the New England Association of
Schools and Colleges (NEASC) approved Lesley's first Ph.D. program. The
first Ph.D. students were admitted in the fall of 1990. In the 1990s,
Lesley continued to increase the size of its campus by purchasing the
old Sears building at Porter Square, renaming it Porter Exchange, which
doubled its classroom space. Lesley college also joined Division III of
the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), distinguishing
itself as an institution that encourages both physical and intellectual
prowess. International programs increased, with offerings in Europe, the
Middle East, and Canada. In 1996, the Graduate School of Education was
officially established. In 1998, Lesley merged with the Art Institute of
The new millennium has proven to be one of success and distinction
for Lesley. In 2000, Lesley officially became a university, and its
undergraduate program was renamed Lesley College. In 2003, Princeton
Review named the University as one of the "Best Northeastern Colleges,"
and in 2004 Backpacker magazine named Lesley's Audubon Expedition
Institute as one of the "Top 5 Outdoor Education" programs. Lesley
College went co-ed in 2005, admitting men for the first time. In the
spring of 2006, President McKenna announced her retirement effective
June 30, 2007.
Prior to becoming President, Margaret McKenna served as vice
president of Radcliffe, deputy counsel in the White House and a civil
rights lawyer in the U.S. Department of Justice. She served on multiple
boards of directors for both non-profit and for-profit organizations and
has authored several publications on education policy and reform. She
has received numerous awards and honors from civic, educational and
civil rights organizations, and holds seven honorary degrees.
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