Antioch University New England, the first of the graduate programs offered by Antioch College, was founded in 1964 as the Antioch Putney Graduate School. It opened its doors in Putney, Vermont to a small but passionate group of students whose learning was facilitated by a visionary faculty influenced by the progressive teachings of Horace Mann and inspired by a new revolutionary American culture demanding greater social, economic and environmental justice.
This passion and commitment have proven resilient and sustainable through the years, even with name changes and relocations from Putney to Harrisville then Keene, New Hampshire, and to the current Avon Street campus in 1994. Antioch University New England claims its niche by integrating engaged scholarship with informed practice, and by responding and adapting to community and global needs.
Antioch University’s roots began as Antioch College. It first opened its doors in 1852 in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Antioch’s first president, Horace Mann, was a lawyer and Congressman from Massachusetts, a well-known abolitionist and social reformer. He is considered the founder of public education in the United States, believing that a well-educated populace was essential to a strong democracy. In his first graduation speech, Horace Mann implored the Antioch graduates to “be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” Those words remain throughout our history a guiding light of our values and an underlying commitment to an Antioch education.
Nonsectarian and co-educational from the outset, Antioch was a leader of progressive thought and innovation. Antioch was the first college in the country to have a woman faculty member as equal to her male counterparts. Antioch’s curriculum was the same for men and women and we admitted black and white students to learn together over a century before civil rights laws would require the same result. In the early 1860s, Antioch adopted a policy that no applicant could be rejected due to his or her race. Sadly, this was quite revolutionary for its time.
The modern Antioch began to take shape in the 1920s under the leadership of President Arthur E. Morgan. As an engineer and former Chair of the Tennessee Valley Authority, he was interested in progressive education. He reorganized the Antioch curriculum to include co-op, a structured method of combining classroom-based education and practical work experience. Antioch was the first liberal arts college in the United States to establish a co-op program. This important innovation in experiential learning has been widely reproduced throughout higher education today.
Always positioned at the forefront of social activism, the period during and after World War II proved even more groundbreaking for Antioch. During the war, Antioch participated in a program that allowed Japanese citizens incarcerated in internment camps to enroll at Antioch and move to Yellow Springs, Ohio.
Also in the 1940s and beyond, Antioch set out to diversify the campus by offering more scholarships to people of color. A number of famous African Americans graduated from the College, including Coretta Scott King, author, activist, civil rights leader, and the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Eleanor Holmes Norton, Congressional Delegate for Wash. D.C., and A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., civil rights advocate, author, and Chief Justice of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.
Other notable Antioch alumni include two Nobel laureates, Mario Capecchi (B.S. 1961), co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, and José Manuel Ramos-Horta (M.A., Peace Studies, 1984), co-recipient of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, and later President of East Timor (2007-2012).