History of NYU

NYU's Silver Center

Throughout its 186 years, the University has witnessed a changing world and major turning points in history: 

1832: First classes are held at Clinton Hill, near City Hall in Lower Manhattan.

1835: The University Building opens on Washington Square East.  School of Law established.

1841: School of Medicine established. 

1894: The undergraduate college moves to more spacious University Heights campus in the Bronx.  Back at Washington Square, the University Building is demolished and construction begins on the Main Building, later renamed the Silver Center.

1917: The U.S. enters World War I, decreasing University enrollment and straining the budget.  Chancellor Brown establishes branches of the Student Army Training Corps fulfilling the University's public responsibility during the war, and also helping save the school from financial ruin.   

1929: The stock market crashes on Black Tuesday, starting the Great Depression.  In the coming years, Chancellor Chase founded the Division of Continuing Education,the Center for Research and Graduate Studies and the School of Public Service in order to keep enrollment up despite the economic state.

1995: President Brademas's $1 billion fund-raising goal is met five years early.

2001: The September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center send shockwaves through the University, which had occupied several downtown buildings as dormitories in 1998.

2004: President Sexton announces two new fund-raising and spending programs.  The first is a 7-year, $2.5 billion fund-raising campaign.  The Partners Fund is proposed to expand the faculty of arts and science by 20 percent within five years.

2010: NYU Abu Dhabi welcomes its inaugural class of students.

2013: NYU Shanghai welcomes its inaugural class of students.

Open to All

In 1831, Albert Gallatin, the distinguished statesman who served as Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, declared his intention to establish “in this immense and fast-growing city … a system of rational and practical education fitting for all and graciously open to all.”

At that time, most students in American colleges and universities were members of the privileged classes. Gallatin and the University’s founding fathers planned NYU as a center of higher learning that would be open to all, regardless of national origin, religious beliefs, or social background.

A Different University Today

While the University’s commitment to these ideals remains unchanged, in many ways Albert Gallatin would scarcely recognize NYU today. From a student body of 158, enrollment has grown to more than 50,000 students at three degree-granting campuses in New York City, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai, and at study away sites in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America. Today, students come from every state in the union and from 133 foreign countries. The faculty, which initially consisted of 14 professors and lecturers (among them artist and inventor Samuel F. B. Morse), now totals over 3,000 full-time members.