State College

In Bridgewater's history, a history of
education in America


 Horace Mann
Called "Father of the Normal School movement," Mann was Secretary of Education for the commonwealth. As early as the mid-1830's he began advocating for the development of Normal Schools in the US to prepare teachers, based on successful models in France.

BSC's first home
In the basement of the local town hall, classes opened at
Bridgewater on September 9, 1840, with 28 students.

N. Tillinghast
The austere West Point graduate and former Army captain was appointed principal in 1840. With the school finally well-
established, he retired in 1857.

Normal School
In August, 1846, the new Normal School Building opened at Bridgewater, the first building constructed in America for the
preparation of teachers. A rock on the college quadrangle today
commemorates the location.

The Boydens
Albert Gardner Boyden, Class of 1849, became principal in 1860; he was succeeded 46 years later by his son, Arthur Clarke, an 1871 graduate of the school, who was the first president of what became Bridgewater State Teachers College. He remained in office until his death in 1933.

New Normal School In 1890, the original Normal School building,erected in 1846 and enlarged several times, was replaced by the large brock structure above, which had a training school for prospective teachers in the basement. In 1924, a fire destroyed this building and several others, and Boyden Hall replaced it.

Adrian Rondileau Appointed president in 1962, Adrian Rondileau would serve for 25 years and lead the most ambitious expansion in the college's history. The new Martha Burnell Campus School (1978) was among his building projects.

Adrian Tinsley and Dana Mohler-Faria
The first woman president of the college, who took office in 1989, Adrian Tinsley led major campaigns to build new buildings, raise money for the college, and strengthen the college academically, including its teacher education program.

Her successor, Dr. Dana Mohler-Faria, who took office in 2002, was a 12-year veteran at Bridgewater and a 30-year veteran of service in the state's public higher education system. At Bridgewater, he had previously served as Vice President for Administration and Finance. In that capacity, among other accomplishments, he instituted and oversaw a $70 million new construction and building renovation program, the largest in the college's long history.




1839 — At the urging of Horace Mann, Secretary of Education for the commonwealth, the first normal schools for the preparation of teachers were approved by the Legislature and opened in Massachusetts. The two schools were located at Lexington (later moved to Framingham) and Barre (later moved to Westfield). Thus although Bridgewater came into existence a year later, it is the oldest permanently located institution of public higher education in Massachusetts.

Up until this time, there had been no formal training of prospective teachers in the United States. Those who taught were often itinerant farmers who, between planting seasons, earned extra money by teaching in elementary schools (there were few public high schools in America prior to 1865).

The opening public salvo in the effort to establish normal schools in Massachusetts occurred during the winter of 1837-1838, when a man named James Lancaster wrote a series of articles in a Boston newspaper advocating the concept. His work is cited as among the major influences which resulted in the Legislature's approval of a bill in 1838.

However, opposition to the idea was still so strong that the Legislature refused to call these "State" schools; thus, for the first six years of its life, BSC was officially called "Bridgewater Normal School." It was until after 1846 that the name was changed to Bridgewater State Normal School."

1840 — Nicholas Tillinghast, a West Point graduate, is appointed principal of the Normal School at Bridgewater. He had spent the previous year visiting the normal schools at Lexington and Barre so he would be fully prepared when Bridgewater opened.

Artemis Hale, a local Bridgewater resident, is considered the man most responsible for the establishment of the school in Bridgewater, as there was much local competition (Plymouth, Taunton, Middleboro) in the selection process. Bridgewater residents raised $10,000 to buy books and scientific apparatus.

September 9, 1840 — Bridgewater opens with an enrollment of seven men and 21 women. The school's first home is in the basement of the town hall. Tillinghast is both principal and the only instructor.

The term consisted of two terms of 14 weeks each, although students were not required to attend consecutive terms.

August, 1846 The first building in America constructed for the purpose of training teachers is dedicated by Horace Mann at Bridgewater. Today one can view his remarks inscribed on a tablet inside the entrance to the Horace Mann Auditorium: "Coiled up in this institution, as in a spring, is a vigor whose uncoiling may wheel the spheres."

1850's — From the earliest days, student teachers from Bridgewater State Normal School were allowed to practice teach in town schools, subject to occasional disputes between local and school officials. By the time of the Civil War in 1861, BSN had created its own laboratory school.

1860-1933 — For a total of 73 years, Bridgewater was led by a man named Boyden. Albert, the father, who had graduated from the school in 1849 and who had served as an assistant to both Tillinghast and his successor, Marshal Conant, was appointed principal in 1860. His son Arthur, Class of 1871, succeeded him in 1906, remaining until his death in 1933.

For most of the 19th century, tuition was free to students who promised to teach in Massachusetts schools upon graduation. By 1921, a four-year curriculum had been introduced, and in 1933 the first bachelor's degrees were awarded from what had become Bridgewater State Teachers College;

1865 — Starting in 1865, at the close of the Civil War, students attending Bridgewater had to stay for two years in order to complete the academic program, and in order to be admitted, students had to declare their intention to become teachers. It wasn't until 1894 that a student had to be a high school graduate to be admitted.

1890 — A new Normal School building is erected on the site of the original 1846 building, and a training school is located in the basement.

1900 — By the turn of the century, Bridgewater had established a national reputation for excellence in the preparation of teachers, and its graduates had gone on to found schools and colleges across the United States (including Northeastern University, founded by Frank Speare, class of 1893). Among the first women college presidents in America was a Bridgewater graduate.

1932 — Beginning in 1921, a Bachelor of Education degree was awarded at Bridgewater, but in 1932, when the school officially became Bridgewater State Teachers College, the degree changed to a Bachelor of Science in Education. Enrollment had climbed to 500 students. In 1939, the graduate school was established.

1960 — A liberal arts curriculum was first introduced and the college became State College at Bridgewater. Starting in 1959, the SAT was required for admission. Within the next decade, the curriculum would expand to include a variety of undergraduate majors.

1970-1990 — These were years when the college expanded dramatically: enrollment quadrupled, the number of faculty tripled, and two dozen new buildings were constructed.

In terms of enrollment, teacher education remained the college's largest single undergraduate major (as it is today). In the 1980's, as the college diversified its curriculum, majors in Aviation Science and in Management Science began to enroll large numbers of students.

1990 to present — In 1992 the college established the School of Education and Allied Studies and the School of Arts and Sciences. These moves were followed several years later by the creation of the School of Management and Aviation Science.

The opening of the John Joseph Moakley Center for Technological Applications in 1995 gave Bridgewater a fresh avenue to influence teacher education as the new facility is dedicated to helping educators in the state and throughout the country use technology for teaching and learning. As a result, Bridgewater's reputation for excellence in the field of education received a vigorous boost.

Between 1999 and 2002, the college successfully completed its first endowment campaign, raising $10 million dollars to support the academic activities of students and faculty.

Today Bridgewater, which is regarded as the "home of teacher education in America," has the largest enrollment of teacher education students in the Commonwealth.