Kirkland College: A brief history

Kirkland College, the last coordinate women's college in America, was born in the mid-1960s during a time of great change. As social structures were questioned, moon exploration beginning, and educational frameworks stretched beyond traditional boundaries, Kirkland was created. The college opened her doors in 1968.

Kirkland was founded upon the principles of critical discourse, independent exploration and innovative approaches to learning. Students were encouraged to develop independent judgment and beliefs by designing their own education with the help of advisors. Perhaps most importantly, Kirkland created a supportive environment for women.

The college had a young administration and faculty and created nearly everything from scratch – from her seal, to her purposeful architecture, academic (and open) curriculum, to the creation of divisions (versus departments), self-governance and concentrations (versus majors). She offered in-depth evaluations versus grades and fostered a strong sense of community and engagement. Every corner of the campus vibrated with possibility and synergy. We could examine any topic in depth, thus preparing us for challenging and rigorous lives, careers and graduate studies.

Our counterpart, Hamilton College, embraced tradition, structure - the tried and true. That counterpoint created a generation of graduates willing to embrace diverse thought before it was fashionable, to take risks academically and emotionally, and to face the challenging and the fearsome with a well-executed plan.

It is important and necessary to place this college into context some four decades later. Our impressions may illustrate the value of what was lost when Kirkland was absorbed into Hamilton College in 1978. Additionally, they are intended to help document, and commemorate the vibrant women’s school that impacted the Hamilton College of today. We invite you to meet her enthusiastic and committed faculty, administration and the 1100+ young women and their families who put their faith in the bold educational promise and possibilities of Kirkland College.

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