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Sarah Lawrence College
MottoWisdom with understanding
TypePrivate liberal arts college
Established1926; 97 years ago (1926)
Academic affiliation
Endowment$110.2 million (2020)[1]
PresidentCristle Collins Judd (2017–present)
Location, ,
United States[2]

40°56′06″N 73°50′42″W / 40.935°N 73.845°W / 40.935; -73.845
CampusSuburban, 44 acres (18 ha)
ColorsGreen and white
Sporting affiliations

Sarah Lawrence College is a private liberal arts college in Yonkers, New York.[3][4] Originally a women's college, Sarah Lawrence became coeducational in 1968. A Sarah Lawrence scholarship, particularly in the humanities, performing arts, and writing, places high value on independent study.


William Van Duzer Lawrence

Establishment and development (20th century)

Sarah Lawrence College was established in 1926 by the real-estate mogul William Van Duzer Lawrence on the grounds of his estate in Westchester County and was named in honor of his wife, Sarah Bates Lawrence. The college was originally intended to provide instruction in the arts and humanities for women.[5] A major component of the college's early curriculum was "productive leisure", wherein students were required to work for eight hours weekly in such fields as modeling, shorthand, typewriting, applying makeup, and gardening.[6] Its pedagogy combined independent research projects which were individually supervised by the teaching faculty, and seminars with low student-to-faculty ratio, a pattern that it retains to the present. Sarah Lawrence was the first liberal arts college in the United States to incorporate a rigorous approach to the arts with the principles of progressive education, focusing on the primacy of teaching and the concentration of curricular efforts on individual needs.[6]

Sarah Lawrence

Harold Taylor, President of Sarah Lawrence College from 1945 to 1959, greatly influenced the college. Taylor was elected president at age 30, maintained a friendship with the educational philosopher John Dewey, and worked to employ the Dewey method at Sarah Lawrence. Taylor spent much of his career calling for educational reform in the United States, using the success of Sarah Lawrence as an example of the possibilities of a personalized, modern, and rigorous approach to higher education.[7]

Sarah Lawrence became a coeducational institution in 1968. Prior to this transition, there were discussions about relocating the school and merging it with Princeton University, but the administration opted to remain independent.[8]

Larry Ray scandal (2010)

See also: Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence

In 2010, Lawrence V. "Larry" Ray, born Lawrence Grecco (then 50),[9][10] resided in the on-campus apartment of his daughter, Talia Ray. Sarah Lawrence College later told New York magazine that it was not aware that he had been living on campus.[11] While there, Ray started a sex cult in which he presented himself to students as a former US Marine with Training in Psychological operations (also included in his alleged work history was working with the Central Intelligence Agency).[12] In 2011, he induced some students to move into apartment of Lee Chen in nearby New York City.[13][9][14] In 2013, four of Ray's victims graduated from Sarah Lawrence.[15]

In February 2020, he was charged by prosecutors in Manhattan with conspiracy, extortion, sex trafficking, forced labor, and other related offenses, following nearly 10 years of alleged transgressions with students and former students.[16][17][14] Ray was convicted on all counts and sentenced to 60 years in prison.[18][19]

College presidents

Main article: List of Presidents of Sarah Lawrence College

The first president of the college was Marion Coats from 1924 to 1929. She was a friend of Vassar College president Henry MacCracken and William Van Duzer Lawrence. Coats had traditional views of women's role in society that were at odds with her progressive approach to women's education. Cristle Collins Judd was introduced as president in 2017.[20]


At the undergraduate level, Sarah Lawrence offers an alternative to traditional majors. Students pursue a wide variety of courses in four different curricular distributions: the Creative Arts (writing, music, dance, theatre, film, and the plastic arts, such as painting, printmaking, drawing and sculpture); history and the social sciences (e.g., anthropology, economics, political science, and sociology); the humanities (e.g., Asian studies, art history, film studies, languages, literature, philosophy, and religion); and natural science and mathematics (biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, and mathematics). Classes are structured around a seminar-conference system through which students learn in small, highly interactive seminars and private tutorials with professors. Each student is assigned to a faculty advisor, known as a "don", who helps the student plan a course of study and provides ongoing academic guidance. Most courses, apart from those in the performing arts, consist of two parts: the seminar, limited to 15 students, and conferences, which is a meeting with a seminar professor. In these conferences, students develop individual projects that extend the course material and link it to their personal interests. Sarah Lawrence has no required courses, and traditional examinations have largely been supplanted by research papers. Additionally, grades are recorded only for transcript purposes—narrative evaluations are given in lieu of grades.[21] The college sponsors international programs in Florence, at Wadham College, Oxford, at Reid Hall in Paris, and at the British American Drama Academy in London. Sarah Lawrence also has the longest-running study abroad program in Havana, Cuba.[22] Accordingly, all of its 318 undergraduate degrees for 2022 were awarded in Liberal Arts and Sciences/Liberal Studies.[23]

Sarah Lawrence also offers Master's-level programs in Writing, the Art of Teaching, Child Development, Theatre, Dance, and Dance/Movement Therapy and is home to the nation's oldest graduate program in Women's History and the nation's first master's degree programs in Human Genetics and Health Advocacy.[citation needed]

Sarah Lawrence offers a program for people wishing to seek a BA. or a Master's and have been out of school for any period.

Exchange programs

International programs

The college has a number of international programs in four countries. Sarah Lawrence makes all practical efforts to preserve its most characteristic elements, such as one-on-one interaction with professors, small classes, and an emphasis on qualitative comprehension, in its programs overseas.

Graduate programs

Sarah Lawrence offers nine graduate programs, each of which confers the Master of Arts, Master of Fine Arts, or Master of Science degree upon its graduates.[26] These programs reflect the emphasis on interdisciplinary studies and the close student-teacher relationship that have come to be characteristic of the college's undergraduate program. Intensive work with faculty members, small seminars, and one-on-one conferences form the foundation of the curricular model. According to their own literature, the programs make an effort to balance the "theoretical (usually discussed in seminars and conferences) with the practical (in the form of fieldwork, practicums, research or creative work). This experiential work is most often conducted not in isolation, but in the midst of a community. Interdisciplinary work and ideas are encouraged, as is an ethic of social responsibility." There are approximately 298 graduate students at Sarah Lawrence.

Art of Teaching

The Sarah Lawrence College Art of Teaching Program offers training in education in both degree-track and continuing education formats. One component of the program is the Empowering Teachers Program, which was established in 1989 as a forum for the support of teachers and educational administrators, and has since expanded into a resource and network for more than 250 beginning and experienced professionals from 25 school districts in Westchester County and adjacent areas of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.[citation needed]


Further information: Criticism of college and university rankings (North America)

Academic rankings
Liberal arts colleges
U.S. News & World Report[27]72
Washington Monthly[28]155
THE / WSJ[30]200

In 2007, criticism of rankings of U.S. colleges and universities, particularly their perceived impact on the college admissions process, gained national prominence due in part to the March 11, 2007, Washington Post article "The Cost of Bucking College Rankings" by Michele Tolela Myers, a former president of Sarah Lawrence College. As Sarah Lawrence College dropped its SAT test score submission requirement for its undergraduate applicants in 2003,[31] thus joining the SAT optional movement for undergraduate admission, the college does not have SAT data to send to U.S. News for its national survey. Of this decision, Myers states, "We are a writing-intensive school, and the information produced by SAT scores added little to our ability to predict how a student would do at our college; it did, however, do much to bias admission in favor of those who could afford expensive coaching sessions."[32] At the time, Sarah Lawrence was the only American college that completely disregarded SAT scores in its admission process.[33] As a result of this policy, in the same The Washington Post article, Myers stated that she was informed by the U.S. News & World Report that if no SAT scores were submitted, U.S. News would "make up a number" to use in its magazines. She further argues that if the college were to decide to stop sending all data to U.S. News & World Report, their ranking would be artificially decreased.[32][34] Sarah Lawrence College now maintains a test-optional policy, with typically over half of applicants submitting their scores.

On June 19, 2007, following a meeting of the Annapolis Group, which represents over 100 liberal arts colleges, Sarah Lawrence announced that it would join others who had previously signed the letter to college presidents asking them not to participate in the "reputation survey" section of the U.S. News & World Report survey (this section comprises 25% of the ranking). Despite this public stance opposing these rankings, the 2019 edition ranked Sarah Lawrence tied for the 65th best liberal arts college in the nation.

In 2022, Forbes rated it 467th overall in its America's Top Colleges ranking, which includes 660 military academies, national universities, and liberal arts colleges. That same year, Washington Monthly rankings ranked Sarah Lawrence 155th in the liberal arts college category.

Political involvement and activism

Political activism has played a crucial role in forming the spirit of the Sarah Lawrence community since the early years of the college. As early as 1938, students were volunteering in working-class sections of Yonkers, New York to help bring equality and educational opportunities to poor and minority citizens, and the Sarah Lawrence College War Board, organized by students in the fall of 1942, sought to aid troops fighting in World War II. During a time when the college's enrollment consisted of only 293 students, 204 signed up as volunteers during the first week of the War Board.[35] During the so-called McCarthy Years, a number of Sarah Lawrence's faculty members were accused by the American Legion of being sympathetic to the Communist Party, and were called before the Jenner Committee.[36] Since that time, activism has played a central role in student life, with movements for civil rights and against the Vietnam War in the 1960s and for student and faculty diversity in the 1980s. Also in the 1960s, students established an Upward Bound program for students from lower-income and poverty areas to prepare for college.[37] Theatre Outreach, the Child Development Institute, the Empowering Teachers Program, the Community Writers program, the Office of Community Partnership, and the Fulbright High School Writers Program are among the many programs founded since the 1970s to provide services to the larger community. In the late 1980s, students occupied Westlands, the main administrative building for the campus, in a sit-in for wider diversity. Students occupied Westlands again in 2016, in a sit-in supporting improved wages and safer working conditions for the college's recently unionized facilities workers. For many years, the college has been considered as being at the vanguard of the gay rights movement and many other progressive causes.[citation needed]


Westlands House

Much of the 42-acre (17 ha) Sarah Lawrence campus was originally a part of the estate of the college's founder, William Van Duzer Lawrence, though the college has more than doubled its size since Lawrence bequeathed his estate to the college in 1926. The terrain is characterized by dramatic outcroppings of exposed bedrock shaded by large oak and elm trees. Many of the older buildings are in the Tudor Revival architecture style that was popular in the area during the early 20th century, and many of the college's newer buildings attempt an updated interpretation of the same style. The campus is divided into two distinctive sections, the "Old Campus" and the "New Campus": the first is roughly contained within the boundaries of the former Lawrence estate, and the area of the second was acquired sometime after the college's earliest years.

The area outside the original Lawrence estate holds the college's newer facilities. Several stately, century-old, Tudor-style mansions will be found among these newer additions, including Andrews, Tweed, Lynd, Marshall Field, and Slonim House: each was once a private estate, purchased by the college during periods of growth and expansion. The more modest Tudor houses along Mead Way, which also had been private residences, now serve as dormitories for students at the college. "Slonim Woods" is a group of newer, townhouse-style dormitories, built on the grounds of Slonim House.

The Campbell Sports Center was constructed in 1998 in response to an increased focus on physical fitness and sports. This facility includes an indoor pool, gymnasium, track, squash courts, and weight rooms.

In 2004, the college completed construction of a modern visual arts facility, the Monika A. and Charles A. Heimbold Visual Arts Center, with sleek architecture and environmentally friendly aspects which earned the college national press attention. Just down the road is Hill House, a six-story apartment building purchased by the college in the late 1990s that now lodges students. Across the street from Hill House is the large Wrexham house, also in the Tudor style, which the college purchased from the government of Rwanda in 2004; this building, once home to the Rwandan consul, has been renovated and is used for various postgraduate programs. At the opposite end of the campus stands the Science and Mathematics Center, completed in 1994.


Campus buildings
The Esther Raushenbush Library
Heimbold Visual Arts Center
Siegel Student Center
Tweed House
Slonim House
North Lawn and old dorms
Marshall Field
The Tea Haus
Center campus

Academic facilities

Administration buildings


Old dorms

The "Old dorms" refer to four original purpose-built student housing structures to the immediate north of Westlands in what is frequently referred to as the "central campus". Dudley Lawrence, one of the sons of William and Sarah Lawrence, achieved the remarkable feat of constructing three of these buildings in one year (1926–1927). The halls were designed by William Augustus Bates, who repeated the Neo-Tudor style of Westlands through the use of stone and timber materials, and mansard roofs. The interiors are also in keeping with the English Tudor architectural style found on most of the older buildings in the area, with thick plaster walls, hardwood floors, and leaded windows (since replaced with more energy-efficient double-pane windows). MacCracken, built a few years later than the other three, is situated to the south of Dudley Lawrence. The original elegant living rooms that were found in each building, excepting MacCracken, are now used as classrooms.[52]

New dorms
Pictured: Rothschild, Garrison, and Taylor Residence Halls (left to right) housed in one continuous, multi-level building. There are two visible entrances. The entrance connecting Rothschild and Garrison is one floor above the entrance connecting Garrison to Taylor, as the path along the building is at a slight incline. There are large rock formations visible in front of the building between the entrances, and medium-sized trees on the small patch of grass in front of the building.
Rothschild, Garrison, and Taylor (left to right)

Designed by the renowned architect Philip Johnson in the sparse modernist style of the time, the "New Dorms" were completed in 1960. The architectural style of the buildings is meant to be a modernist reflection of the three older dorms (Gilbert, Titsworth, and Dudley Lawrence) that stand on the opposite side of the North Lawn. The three buildings that comprise the New Dorms are connected by two glass atria in which the buildings' primary stairwells are found. With the exception of the large apartments in Rothschild, these dorms typically house first-year students.

The Mead Way houses

The Mead Way Houses are the eight former private homes that stand along the steep hill of Mead Way on the college's eastern end. The two southernmost houses, Robinson and Swinford, are occupied by administrative offices and the office of the campus internet radio station, and the northernmost six houses, listed below, are reserved for student living spaces. The northern houses include:


Sarah Lawrence College is the member of Skyline Conference of NCAA Division III. The college sponsors intercollegiate teams in crew (rowing), men's and women's cross country, equestrian, men's basketball, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's volleyball, men's and women's soccer, women's softball, and men's and women's swimming. In March 2011, the college announced that it would seek membership as a Division III member of the NCAA.[53] The college began competing as a full member of Division III in the 2015–16 academic year after receiving a waiver to the required four-year 'provisional' period.[54]

The college left the Hudson Valley conference after the 2013–14 season and joined the Skyline Conference beginning with the 2014–15 season.[55] The Skyline Conference contains several schools including SUNY Purchase and Yeshiva University which have played against Sarah Lawrence regularly over the past few years.

The college's official mascot is a Gryphon by the name of Godric. It was chosen in the 1990s to represent the college's athletic teams after a long period of fielding sports teams without one.[citation needed] Unofficially, the student body had long adopted the large resident population of 'Black Squirrels' as a de facto mascot to the college. The position of silent mascot that the 'Black Squirrel' occupied was financially endorsed by the college itself with the production of various Black Squirrel merchandise (including Sarah Lawrence clothing branded with the Black Squirrel image) and plush toys.[citation needed] It is only recently (post-2003) that efforts on the behalf of the college to establish the Gryphon as the icon of Sarah Lawrence have begun to take root.

Notable people

Main article: List of Sarah Lawrence College people


Among the prominent current or recent faculty of the college are fine art photographer Joel Sternfeld, poet Suzanne Gardinier, novelist Melvin Jules Bukiet, novelist William Melvin Kelley, novelist Tao Lin, poet Marie Howe, film historians Gilberto Perez and Malcolm Turvey, puppet-theatre artist Dan Hurlin, dancer/choreographer Sara Rudner, Jewish historian Glenn Dynner, philosopher Michael Peter Davis, and economist Franklin Delano Roosevelt III. In 2005, current faculty member Eduardo Lago won the oldest literary prize in the Spanish-speaking world, the Premio Nadal. In 1934, Joseph Campbell was offered a position as a professor at Sarah Lawrence College which he held until his retirement in 1972. Perceptual psychologist Rudolf Arnheim was on the faculty at Sarah Lawrence College for 26 years, beginning in 1943. Author Grace Paley taught at Sarah Lawrence for many years. Novelist and folklorist Heinz Insu Fenkl taught at the college at the beginning of his career. Argentinian choreographer Anabella Lenzu, work in New York City, is an adjunct professor teaching modern, ballet, and dance history. Randall Jarrell taught at Sarah Lawrence College following military service in World War II. Jarrell's 1954 novel Pictures from an Institution, an academic satire, is set at fictional Benton College, which some[who?] saw as modeled on Sarah Lawrence College.

Entertainment industry and performance arts

Sarah Lawrence alums who have entered the entertainment industry include film directors J. J. Abrams, Brian De Palma, Jordan Peele, producer Joshua D. Maurer, Laura Bickford, news personality Barbara Walters, and TV writer and author Noah Hawley. It was also referenced in the 1981 crime drama movie Fort Apache, The Bronx as a place of alibi for the 100 or so South Bronx residents who were brought to the 41st Precinct for questioning about the murders of the two rookie officers at the film's post-opening credits start. Notable actors include Jane Alexander, Sigourney Weaver, Larisa Oleynik, Cary Elwes, Sam Robards, Joanne Woodward, Téa Leoni, Golden Brooks, Eric Mabius, Melora Hardin, Andrew Lawton, Yancy Butler, Holly Robinson Peete, Robin Givens, Julianna Margulies, Lauren Holly, Max Bemis, Tovah Feldshuh, Kyra Sedgwick, Elisabeth Röhm, Guinevere Turner, Merritt Wever, Jill Clayburgh and Alice Pearce.[56] Carrie Fisher attended Sarah Lawrence, but left prior to graduating to begin filming Star Wars. Musicians include Yoko Ono, JD Samson, Lesley Gore, Carly Simon, jazz singer Stacey Kent, Slothrust, and Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo. Win Butler of Arcade Fire attended Sarah Lawrence but left after his first year to move to Canada. Dylan Brody, a humorist, author, and playwright, studied theater at Sarah Lawrence. Peter Gould, writer and producer of Breaking Bad, attended Sarah Lawrence. Lucian Kahn, singer/guitarist of the band Schmekel and game designer of Visigoths vs. Mall Goths, attended and graduated from Sarah Lawrence.[57]


Alumni involved in politics include Amanda Burden, city planning director for New York City; Sharon Hom, director of Human Rights in China; and two former members of the United States House of Representatives: Democrat and President Barack Obama's former Chief of Staff and Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel; and former Republican Congresswoman Sue W. Kelly.


Vera Wang, fashion designer and former Vogue editor, and Paul Johnson Calderon, television personality and fashion journalist, attended Sarah Lawrence.

Literature and biography

Alice Walker, the author of The Color Purple, is an alumna. Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto, is a graduate, as is Donna Raskin, book author and magazine writer; Constance Cappel, author; and Louise Glück, a poet and winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature. Alumna Nancy Huston is the author of numerous works and recipient of the Prix Femina in 2006 for the novel Lignes de faille (English translation: Fault Lines).


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