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History of NYU

NYU's Silver Center

Throughout its 175 years, the University has bore witness to 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.

1941: After the U.S. enters World War II, military training was established on campus.  The War Placement Bureau was organized to assign many of technically trained faculty and staff to military and civilian agency positions.  The University Heights campus became largely militarized while liberal arts and language training was offered for Army officers at Washington Square.  Following the war, the University received the largest contingent of returning veterans in the nation, and enrollment rose back to its pre-war levels.

1968: Student activism becomes a major part of university life, as students engage in civil rights demonstrations at Washington Square Park.  The late 60s and early 70s sees an unprecedented degree of student involvement with civil rights and anti-war movements.  Students also start demand changes within the University, staging sit-ins, boycotts, and marches protesting tuition and dormitory rate increases.

1970: President Hester’s administration embarked on a mission to raise $222.5 million in five years, the largest fund-raising effort ever undertaken by the University.  

1973: University Heights campus is closed, with the University's main campus shifting back to Washington Square.

1976: The annual commencement ceremony is shifted from Madison Square Garden to Washington Square Park.

1985: President Brademas introduces the Billion Dollar Campaign, a landmark fund-raising plan to raise $1 billion by the year 2000.

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.

2007: Plans are announced to open a portal campus in Abu Dhabi.  When it opens in October 2009 it, along with the University's 10 other academic centers, will become part of NYU's Global Network University.

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

2013: NYU Shanghai welcomes its inaugural class of students.

Open to All

One hundred and seventy five years ago, Albert Gallatin, the distinguished statesman who served as secretary of the treasury under President Thomas Jefferson, 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, 1831, most students in American colleges and universities were members of the privileged classes. Albert 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 nearly 40,000 students attending 14 schools and colleges at six different locations in Manhattan and in over 20 study-abroad countries around the world. Students come from many foreign countries. The faculty, which initially consisted of 14 professors and lecturers (among them artist and inventor Samuel F. B. Morse), now totals over 3,100 full-time members.

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