Very few people outside of the Finger Lakes region in central New York state are aware of a unique educational endeavor that inspired students, faculty and others in the higher education community. This weekend marks the 30th anniversary of the closing of Eisenhower College in Seneca Falls.
‘What was Eisenhower College?’ one might ask. It was the brainchild of local officials in Seneca Falls who sought to establish an institution of higher learning that served the community and continued President Dwight Eisenhower’s dream of fostering greater international understanding.
Eisenhower College opened its doors in 1968 and welcomed 303 students its first year of existence. It featured a World Studies curriculum that made it mandatory for students to enroll in courses such as music, art, history, science, philosophy and literature, foreign language and physical education. Pamela Romeo Havens, who graduated from the college in 1978, observed, “World Studies engendered in us a broader understanding of and appreciation for the uniqueness and commonalities of people around the globe.” (quoted in the July 22, 2012 Finger Lakes Times article about Eisenhower College) Eisenhower College was ahead of its time in its commitment to an international ethos in its curriculum. For all its self-promotion and the accolades it receives for requiring all students to study abroad, Goucher College cannot claim that it was the first college to effectively inculcate in its students an international awareness through curricular programming.
“Over four years, I got a whole new perspective on the world,” commented David Catherman in the Finger Lakes Times article. He was a member of the inaugural class in 1968.
Equally important, the college cultivated strong relationships with the Seneca Falls community. Too often we see college/universities adopt an ambivalent attitude toward relationships with the surrounding community; this was not the case with Eisenhower College.
Sadly, due to a significant financial deficit, Eisenhower College closed in 1982. Its campus now houses the New York Chiropractic College.
Although gone, Eisenhower College is hardly forgotten. It has an active alumni association and its archives are housed in Seneca Falls. But for me the magic of that college still resonates. There was something magnetic about a ‘World Studies’ curriculum. Little did we all know how innovative and prescient this program was.
Source: Eisenhower College Archives (http://www.eisenhowercollege.org/399-Galleries-VintageCampus.asp)