Living Lesley: The Evolution of Lesley University

"I plan not merely to set up another training school; I plan for us to be different; to consider the individual of basic importance; to inculcate the ideal of gracious living; and to foster the tradition of American democracy."

- Edith Lesley Wolfard


For over a century, Edith Lesley’s vision for creating more than a mere “teacher training school” has been realized. 

In 1909, the Lesley Normal School was established by Edith Lesley Wolfard to train young women to become kindergarten teachers.  The first class consisted of 9 students who gathered to learn in Lesley’s only campus building, Edith’s home at 29 Everett Street.

Nearly forty years later, the Lesley School expanded its academic programs, enrollment, and campus, and officially became a four-year college in 1945.  By the 1950s, Lesley achieved regional and national accreditation, and in 1954 was empowered to confer a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education. The 1960s through 1990s continued to bring change, growth, and innovation to Lesley’s academic and student life.  In the new millennium, Lesley became a recognized university consisting of more than 7,500 undergraduate and graduate students, 6 schools, 3 campuses, 59 buildings, and over 85,000 alumni.

Edith Lesley’s principles of individuality, gracious living, and democracy still provide a guiding philosophy for the university’s curriculum today.  With a firm foundation for teacher education and unique programs in the social sciences, human services, and fine arts, Lesley University allows students to not only pursue careers, but also become responsible educators, leaders, and citizens.

Explore the following materials from the Lesley University Archives, which illustrate Lesley’s vibrant curriculum, campus, and community throughout the years.


Lesley University Archives