Briarcliff College

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This article is about the former college in Briarcliff Manor, New York. For the college on Long Island, New York, see Briarcliffe College. For the university in Sioux City, Iowa, see Briar Cliff University.
Briarcliff College
A brick building with a circular drive
Dow Hall in the early 1900s
Active 1904 (1904)–1977 (1977)
Type Private
Location Briarcliff Manor, New York, United States
41°08′18″N 73°49′29″W / 41.138443°N 73.824842°W / 41.138443; -73.824842Coordinates: 41°08′18″N 73°49′29″W / 41.138443°N 73.824842°W / 41.138443; -73.824842
Former names
  • Mrs. Dow's School for Girls
  • Briarcliff Junior College
Brick building with circular drive
Dow Hall within Pace University in 2014

Briarcliff College was a women's college in Briarcliff Manor, New York. The school was founded in 1903 and closed in 1977, and its campus remains as a satellite of Pace University.


Mrs. Dow's School for Girls was founded in 1903 at the Briarcliff Lodge; two years later, Walter W. Law gave Mary Elizabeth Dow 35 acres and built the Châteauesque Dow Hall (Harold Van Buren Magonigle was its architect[1]). Dow retired in 1919 and Edith Cooper Hartmann began running the school with a two-year postgraduate course; the school became a junior college in 1933.[2] Briarcliff remained a junior college until 1957, shortly before the presidency of Charles E. Adkins and when it began awarding four-year bachelor's degrees.[2][3] The school library, which had 5,500 volumes in 1942, expanded to about 20,000 in 1960. By the time of its closing, it had about 300 students.

The school prospered from 1942 to 1961 under President Clara Tead, who had a number of accomplished trustees, including Carl Carmer, Norman Cousins, Barrett Clark, Thomas K. Finletter, William Zorach, and Lyman Bryson. Tead's husband Ordway Tead served as chairman of the board of trustees. The school gradually improved its academic scope and standing, and was registered with the State Education Department and accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools in 1944. In 1951, the Board of Regents authorized the college to grant Associate of Arts and Associate of Applied Science degrees. The following year, the Army Map Service selected the college as the only one in the country for professional training in cartography.[2]

In 1944, Shelton House, a building across Elm Road, was purchased as a dormitory, and a classroom and office wing was dedicated in 1951. In 1955, after Howard Deering Johnson joined the board of trustees, the dormitory Howard Johnson Hall was built. From 1963, Briarcliff College rapidly expanded, constructing two dormitories, the fine arts and humanities building, the Woodward Science Building, and a 600-seat dining hall. In 1964, the college began offering the Bachelor of Arts and of Sciences degrees. The Center for Hudson Valley Archaeology was opened in 1964. Enrollment at the college jumped from around 300 to over 500 from 1960 to 1964; by 1967, enrollment was at 623, with 240 freshmen. During the Vietnam War, students protested US involvement, and Adkins and trustees resigned; James E. Stewart became president. In 1969, twelve students, led by student president Edie Cullen, stole the college mimeograph machines and gave nine demands to the college. The next day, around 50 students participated in a 48-hour sit-in at Dow Hall. Josiah Bunting III became president in 1973 and Pace University and New York Medical College of Valhalla began leasing campus buildings. The college had 350 students in 1977, and students enjoyed half-empty dormitory buildings.[2]

With the growing popularity of coeducation in the 1970s, Briarcliff found itself struggling to survive. President Josiah Bunting III leaving for Hampden-Sydney College in spring 1977 contributed to the problems the college was having. Rather than continue to struggle, the college's trustees voted to sell the campus to Pace University, a New York City-based institution.

Rather than merge Briarcliff with Pace, the trustees attempted to reach a collaboration agreement with Bennett College, a junior women's college in nearby Millbrook which was also struggling with low enrollment. The plan did not work, however, and Briarcliff College was sold to Pace in April 1977 for $5.2 million after both Briarcliff and Bennett entered bankruptcy.[2][4] The original Mrs. Dow's School building remains as Dow Hall at Pace University.


Enrollment in Briarcliff College since 1942
Year 1942 1951-1952 1960 1964 1967 1977
Enrollment 42 220 300 500 623 350

Notable people[edit]


  • Mary Elizabeth Dow (1903-1919)
  • Edith Cooper Hartmann (1919-)
  • Doris Flick (-1942)
  • Clara Tead (1942-1960)
  • Charles E. Adkins (1960-1968)
  • James E. Stewart (interim)
  • Thomas E. Baker (1970-1973)
  • Josiah Bunting III (1973-1977)



  1. ^ Yasinsac, Robert (2004). Images of America: Briarcliff Lodge. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-3620-0. OCLC 57480785. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Cheever, Mary (1990). The Changing Landscape: A History of Briarcliff Manor-Scarborough. West Kennebunk, Maine: Phoenix Publishing. ISBN 0-914659-49-9. LCCN 90045613. OCLC 22274920. OL 1884671M. 
  3. ^ "Charles E. Adkins; College President, 85". The New York Times. August 15, 1995. Retrieved June 1, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Education: Closing Colleges". Time Magazine. August 15, 1977. Retrieved June 1, 2014. 

External links[edit]