Lesley University
Former names
Lesley School (1909–1944)
Lesley College (1944–2001)
School of Practical Art (1912–1967)
Art Institute of Boston (1967–1998)
MottoPerissem Ni Perstitissem (Latin)
Motto in English
I Would Have Perished Had I Not Persisted
TypePrivate university
Established1909; 115 years ago (1909)
Endowment$186.2 million (2020)[1]
PresidentJanet L. Steinmayer
ProvostJonathan Jefferson (interim)
Students6,593 (2018–19)[2]
Undergraduates2,707 (2018–19)[2]
Postgraduates3,886 (2018–19)[2]
CampusUrban, 15.87 acres (6.42 ha)[3]
Colors    Green and white
Sporting affiliations
NCAA Division III
New England Collegiate Conference
Lesley University is located in Massachusetts
Lesley University
Location in Massachusetts
Lesley University is located in the United States
Lesley University
Lesley University (the United States)

Lesley University is a private university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.[4] As of 2018–19 Lesley University enrolled 6,593 students (2,707 undergraduate and 3,886 graduate).[5]


1909–1998: Lesley School/College and the School of Practical Art/Art Institute of Boston

The Lesley School (also known as Lesley Normal School) was founded by Edith Lesley in 1909 at her home at 29 Everett Street, Cambridge. The school began as a private women's institution that trained kindergarten teachers. As such, it espoused the work of Friedrich Froebel, who invented the concept of kindergarten as a complement to the care given to children by their mothers. Teacher and writer Elizabeth Peabody opened Boston's first Froebel-inspired kindergarten in 1860; more kindergartens followed. Central to the Froeblian philosophy is the idea that individuals are important and unique, a focus that remains today at Lesley University.

Edith Lesley, after having lived in Panama and Maine and studied in Freiburg, Germany, moved to Boston and became involved with public school teaching. She completed kindergarten training, took courses at Radcliffe College, and then began to plan her own kindergarten training school. She wanted a school that would "consider the individual of basic importance; to inculcate the idea of gracious living; and to foster the tradition of American democracy." [quote from "A Century of Innovation," Brown and Forinash, eds.] Now married, Lesley and her husband expanded the school by constructing an addition at the rear of their home, which today is known as Livingston Stebbins Hall.

Around 1913, the Lesley School began training for elementary teachers. In 1941, the Lesley School reorganized under a board of trustees; in 1944, it received authority to award baccalaureate degrees and became known as Lesley College. In 1954, the college began to award graduate degrees; it later added majors in the fields of education, counseling, human services, global studies, art therapy, and management.

The School of Practical Art was founded by Roy Davidson in 1912. The school's early philosophy was based upon John Ruskin's words that it is "in art that the heart, the head, and the hand of a man come together" and Davidson's own belief that "beauty comes from the use."[6] The school increasingly embraced the fine arts and developed a growing liberal arts curriculum; in 1967 the school was renamed the Art Institute of Boston to acknowledge its increased focus upon fine art as well as design, illustration, and photography.

Presidents of Lesley University[7]
Edith Lesley 1909–1938
Gertrude Malloch 1938–1943
Marguerite Franklin 1943
Trentwell Mason White 1944–1959 (died in office)
Sam Wonders 1959–1960 (acting)
Don Orton 1960–1985
Margaret A. McKenna 1985–2007
Joseph B. Moore 2007–2016[8]
Jeff A. Weiss 2016–2018
Richard S. Hansen 2018–2019 (interim)[9]
Janet L. Steinmayer 2019–present[10]

1998–2009: Lesley becomes coeducational, builds new dormitories

In 1998, the Art Institute of Boston and Lesley College merged,[11] and became Lesley University in 2001.

When university status was gained, the original colleges became the undergraduate units of the university. Lesley College's two graduate schools rounded out the university's four main academic units. In 2005, Lesley College (at that point, an all-female liberal arts college) became coeducational.

In 2006, the university acquired Prospect Hall, a former church listed on the National Register of Historic Places, with the goal of bringing the Art Institute of Boston to Cambridge.[12]

In 2007, Joseph B. Moore became president of Lesley. The following year, the university entered into a partnership with Episcopal Divinity School to jointly operate their Brattle Street campus and purchase several buildings. This move added dormitories, a dining hall, and classrooms, as well as an expansion in library services and administrative space.[13]

In 2009, the university celebrated its centennial and embarked on its first major construction since the 1970s. Dormitories at 1 and 3 Wendell street were added to the residential life offerings. Both buildings are LEED Gold–certified.[14]

2010–2018: Lesley opens Lunder Arts Center, expands Cambridge footprint

In 2013, construction on the Lunder Arts Center began in Porter Square. The project was built on the former site of the North Prospect Church, which was moved slightly to the south and repurposed.[15] Also in 2013, Lesley University's constituent colleges, the Art Institute of Boston and Lesley College, were renamed College of Art and Design and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, respectively; the change is reflective of the cohesion and growth of the two colleges.[16]

In 2015, the College of Art and Design officially left Kenmore Square in Boston and joined the remainder of the university in Cambridge. This move marked the completion of the Lunder Arts Center as well as the first time in 17 years that the university was entirely housed in Cambridge. The Lunder Arts Center was awarded a LEED Gold certification[17] from the U.S. Green Building Council. Lesley also won a prestigious Preservation Award[18] from the Cambridge Historical Commission for the restoration of the historic former North Prospect Church as part o the Lunder Arts Center project.

At the end of the 2014–15 academic year, President Joseph B. Moore announced that he would retired the following year.[8] In 2016, Jeff A. Weiss[19] became president and resigned in 2018 due to personal health reasons (he almost immediately became Chief Strategy and Transformation Office at Mass General Brigham[20].). In 2018, Richard S. Hansen became interim president.[21]

In July 2018, Lesley announced the purchase of the historic buildings formerly owned by the Episcopal Divinity School (EDS), making Lesley the sole owner of the 4.4-acre Brattle Campus.[22] The purchase included five buildings – St. John's Memorial Chapel, Wright Hall, Burnham Hall, Reed Hall and 4 Berkeley St. – and the remainder of Sherrill Hall.[23] Since 2008, Lesley and EDS had jointly owned Sherrill Hall as part of the schools’ condominium agreement.


In 2021, Lesley briefly piloted a community-based partnership with DeMello International Center in New Bedford, Massachusetts.[24]

Part of a long-term demographic trend of fewer college attendees in the United States, enrollment at Lesley declined by about a third from 2011 to 2021.[25] In fall 2023, Lesley laid off 30 faculty members and 20 staff, largely from the undergraduate College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The university also eliminated some low-enrolled academic programs, including all of the social sciences majors, and announced an overall restructuring of the university, branded as "Better Lesley."[25]


Home of Edith Lesley, Office of the President on the Doble Campus
Undergraduate Admissions on the Doble Campus
The historic landmark which was once the North Avenue Congregational Church and the North Prospect Congregational Church, is now Lesley University's John and Carol Moriarty Library, part of the Lunder Arts Center completed in January 2015.

The university, with its component undergraduate colleges, graduate schools, and centers, offers more than 20 undergraduate majors and over 90 Adult Bachelor's, Master's, Certificates of Advanced Graduate Study, and PhD programs at its Cambridge and Boston campuses, as well as off-campus and online. The Lesley Center for the Adult Learner offers an adult bachelor's degree program, including on- and off-campus courses as well as online and hybrid courses targeted toward adult learners.

The university is made up of the following academic units:[26]

The university library system is made up of the following units:[27]


South Campus

The South Campus is in Harvard Square.[29] It is home to four residence halls, a dining hall, classrooms, the Sherrill Hall, and the Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences—that building is also the birthplace of Charles Sanders Peirce.

Doble Campus

The Doble Campus is adjacent to Cambridge Common.[29] It is home to residence halls and a dining hall, classrooms, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, as well as Marran Theater and a variety of administrative offices. It is also home to many student life facilities, such as the Margaret McKenna Student Center, the Information Commons (a 24-hour computer lab and study space), and the fitness center. The campus is named for Lesley benefactor and former chair of the Lesley Corporation, Frank C. Doble.[30]

Porter Campus

University Hall on the Porter Square campus

The Porter Campus is in Porter Square.[29] It is home to the majority of the university's classroom space, the College of Art and Design, the Lunder Arts Center, the Graduate School of Education, as well as Student Administrative and Financial Services, the university bookstore, the Moriarty Library and the majority of the university's art galleries.[31]

Student life

Residential life

Residential Life at the university is for undergraduates. The program emphasizes community building, personal growth, and offers many leadership opportunities. Including: Community Advisors (Resident Assistants), Community Council, Residence Life Advisory Board, and Summer Resident Assistants. The university offers a variety of housing options from traditional style dormitories to Victorian homes and suite-style apartments.


Lesley University participates in the NCAA Division III's[32] New England Collegiate Conference.[33] Its athletic teams' nickname is the Lynx.[34]

Athletic Teams

Notable alumni


  1. ^ As of June 30, 2020. U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2020 Endowment Market Value and Change in Endowment Market Value from FY19 to FY20 (Report). National Association of College and University Business Officers and TIAA. February 19, 2021. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c "Lesley by the Numbers | Lesley University".
  3. ^ "2019 Lesley University Town Gown Report to City of Cambridge" (PDF). Lesley University. 2019. p. 4.
  4. ^ Massachusetts Institutions – NECHE, New England Commission of Higher Education, retrieved May 26, 2021
  5. ^ "Lesley by the Numbers | Lesley University". lesley.edu. Retrieved 2021-11-01.
  6. ^ Roy Davidson (1717). Prospectus, The School of Practical Art. The School of Practical Art, Boston, Massachusetts. pp. 4–5, 8–9.
  7. ^ "History of Lesley University Presidents". Lesley University. 2016. Retrieved October 31, 2016.
  8. ^ a b Krantz, Laura (4 May 2015). "Moore to Step Down as Lesley University President Next Year". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  9. ^ "Never a placeholder, Hansen leaves Lesley 'a better place' | Lesley University". lesley.edu. Retrieved 2019-08-05.
  10. ^ "Janet L. Steinmayer named Lesley's seventh president | Lesley University". lesley.edu. Retrieved 2019-08-05.
  11. ^ "Art Institute of Boston Merging with Lesley College". www.tfaoi.com. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  12. ^ Scola, Jessica (2007-01-25). "Lesley plans to expand to North Prospect Church". Cambridge Chronicle & Tab. Archived from the original on 2013-09-21. Retrieved 2013-09-15.
  13. ^ "Lesley University to expand into Harvard Square". GateHouse News Service. 2008-03-07. Archived from the original on 2013-09-21. Retrieved 2013-06-24 – via Cambridge Chronicle & Tab.
  14. ^ "Bruner/Cott Architects and Planners – Lesley University Residence Hall". brunercott.com. Archived from the original on 1 February 2015. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  15. ^ "Lunder Art Center – Lesley University". lesley.edu. Archived from the original on 2015-04-16. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  16. ^ "Tuition and Fees". lesley.edu. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  17. ^ "Lunder Arts Center at Lesley University | U.S. Green Building Council". www.usgbc.org. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  18. ^ "Restoration of North Prospect Church brings Lesley a city preservation award | Cambridge Day". 2015-06-17. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  19. ^ McDonald, Danny. "Citing personal health, Lesley University president Jeff Weiss is stepping down". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  20. ^ "Jeff A. Weiss, Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer | Mass General Brigham". www.massgeneralbrigham.org. Retrieved 2024-02-17.
  21. ^ "Richard Hansen named interim president | Lesley University". lesley.edu. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  22. ^ Stendahl, Max (2018-07-23). "Lesley expands Cambridge footprint, buying rest of Brattle campus". Boston Business Journal. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  23. ^ "Lesley University expands Brattle Street presence with purchase of historic Episcopal Divinity School buildings". Boston Real Estate Times. 2018-07-19. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  24. ^ [1]
  25. ^ a b Hilary Burns (October 6, 2023). "Lesley University is laying off faculty members, cutting programs amid budget crunch". The Boston Globe.
  26. ^ "The Four Schools – Lesley University". lesley.edu. Archived from the original on 2015-09-05. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  27. ^ "Library Services". lesley.edu. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  28. ^ "Lesley Celebrates Dedication of The Evelyn M Finnegan '48 Children's Literature Collection – Lesley University". lesley.edu. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  29. ^ a b c "Campus Map – Lesley University". lesley.edu. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  30. ^ "Doble Campus". lesley.edu. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  31. ^ "Our Campus – Lesley University". lesley.edu. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  32. ^ "Roster of Institutions". New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Retrieved March 12, 2011.[permanent dead link]
  33. ^ "About the NECC". New England Collegiate Conference. Retrieved March 12, 2011.
  34. ^ "Lesley Athletics". Lesley University Athletic Department. Retrieved March 12, 2011.

42°22′47.98″N 71°07′01.63″W / 42.3799944°N 71.1171194°W / 42.3799944; -71.1171194