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Goddard College

Coordinates: 44°16′44″N 72°26′22″W / 44.2789°N 72.4394°W / 44.2789; -72.4394
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Goddard College
Former names
Green Mountain Central Institute & Goddard Seminary
TypePrivate online college
Established1863; 161 years ago (1863)
PresidentDan Hocoy[1]
Academic staff
Administrative staff
Students220 (Spring 2024)
Location, ,
United States

44°16′44″N 72°26′22″W / 44.2789°N 72.4394°W / 44.2789; -72.4394
CampusRural 175 acres (71 ha)
ColorsBlue and white
Goddard College's Greatwood Campus in Plainfield, Vermont

Goddard College is a private college with three locations in the United States: Plainfield, Vermont; Port Townsend, Washington; and Seattle, Washington. The college offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs. With predecessor institutions dating to 1863, Goddard College was founded in 1938 as an experimental and non-traditional educational institution based on the idea that experience and education are intricately linked.[2]

For many years, Goddard College operated a mix of residential, low-residency, and distance-learning programs. Goddard's intensive low-residency model was first developed for its MFA in Creative Writing Program in 1963.

In April 2024, Goddard announced that the college would close at the end of the spring semester, due to financial issues and a decline in enrollment.[3] Dan Hocoy, the president of Goddard College, stated that a final summer semester would be offered, with courses wrapping up in mid-August 2024.[4]

The college is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.


Goddard College began in 1863 in Barre, Vermont, as the Green Mountain Central Institute. In 1870, it was renamed Goddard Seminary in honor of Thomas A. Goddard [Wikidata] (1811–1868) and his wife Mary (1816–1889).[5] Goddard was a prominent merchant in Boston, and was one of the school's earliest and most generous benefactors.[5]

Founded by Universalists, Goddard Seminary was originally a four-year preparatory high school, primarily affiliated with Tufts College. For many years the Seminary prospered. But the opening of many good public high schools in the 20th century made many of the private New England academies obsolete. To attempt to save it, the trustees added a Junior College to the Seminary in 1935, with a Seminary graduate, Royce S. "Tim" Pitkin, as President.[6]

Royce S. "Tim" Pitkin, President of Goddard College for 31 years.

Royce S. "Tim" Pitkin was a progressive educator and a follower of William Heard Kilpatrick and other proponents of educational democracy. In 1936, under his leadership, the Seminary concluded that in order for Goddard to survive, an entirely new institution would need to be created. A number of prominent educators and laymen agreed with him. Pitkin was supported by Stanley C. Wilson, former governor of Vermont and chairman of the Goddard Seminary Board of Trustees; Senators George Aiken and Ralph Flanders, and Dorothy Canfield Fisher.[7] Pitkin persuaded the Board of Trustees to embrace a new style of education, one that substituted individual attention, democracy, and informality for the traditionally austere and autocratic educational model.

On March 13, 1938, Goddard College was chartered. In July 1938 the newly formed Goddard College moved to Greatwood Farm in Plainfield, Vermont.

The new Goddard was an experimental and progressive college. For its first 21 years of operation, Goddard was unaccredited and small, but it built a reputation as one of the most innovative colleges in the country.[8] Especially noteworthy were Goddard's use of discussion as the basic method in classroom teaching; its emphasis on the whole lives of students in determining personal curricula; its incorporation of practical work into the life of every student; and its development of the college as a self-governing learning community in which everyone had a voice.[9]

In 1959 Goddard College was accredited. One of the founding principles of Goddard was that it should provide educational opportunities for adults.[10] There was a great need for a program for adults who had not completed college, to obtain degrees without disrupting their family lives or careers. The Adult Degree Program (ADP), created by Evalyn Bates, was established in 1963. It was the first low-residency adult education program in the country.[2]

Over the years many experimental programs were designed at Goddard. These programs included the Goddard Experimental Program for Further Education, Design Build Program, Goddard Cambridge Program for Social Change, Third World Studies Program, Institute for Social Ecology, Single Parent Program and many others.

Based on its use of narrative transcripts instead of traditional letter grades, as well as learner-designed curricula, Goddard was among the founding members of the Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities. These included Franconia, Nasson, Antioch, and others.

In 2002, after 54 years, the college terminated its residential undergraduate degree program and became an exclusively low-residency college. Three years later, the college expanded to the West Coast and established a residency site in Port Townsend, Washington. In July 2011 Goddard began to offer their non-licensure education program in Seattle, Washington.

Goddard was placed on probation in 2018 by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) because of a perceived "[lack of] stability of executive leadership" and concerns about the college's financial resources.[11][12][13] The probation was lifted in 2020 after the college satisfied the commission that it had rectified those issues.[14]

In January 2024, Goddard announced that it would temporarily end its low-residency programs in favor of online learning.[15]

Goddard College will close in 2024, due to a precipitious decline in enrollment from 1,900 in the 1970s to less than 250 in 2024.[16]


Goddard College Greatwood Campus
Goddard College Clockhouse
Area15 acres (6.1 ha)
Built1908 (1908)
ArchitectJames T. Kelley; Arthur Asahel Shurcliff
Architectural styleShingle Style, Tudor Revival
NRHP reference No.96000253[17]
Added to NRHPMarch 7, 1996

Main campus, Greatwood: Plainfield, Vermont[edit]

The campus in Plainfield was founded in 1938 on the grounds of a late 19th-century model farm: The Greatwood Farm & Estate consists of shingle-style buildings and gardens designed by Arthur Shurcliff. The Village of Learning, consisting of eleven dormitory buildings, was constructed adjacent to the ensemble of renovated farm buildings in 1963 to accommodate an increasing student population. The Pratt Center & Library, designed to be at the heart of a larger campus, was constructed in 1968. No other significant new construction has been added to the campus since that time.

On March 7, 1996 the Greatwood campus was recognized for its historic and architectural significance by its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.[18]

Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend, Washington campus[edit]

A US Army post from 1902 to 1953,[19] much of the fort has been renovated and adapted as a year-round, multi-use facility dedicated to lifelong learning. It houses several organizations that comprise Fort Worden State Park. The fort is located on a bluff overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Admiralty Inlet near Port Townsend, Washington.

Columbia City, Seattle campus[edit]

Goddard College.

The MA in Education program, originally held in the Plainfield-based low-residency program, expanded in 2011 into Columbia City, one of Seattle's most ethnically and racially diverse neighborhoods.

The program is unique in that it trains students in bilingual preschool education. Students can focus on such areas as intercultural studies, dual language, early childhood, cultural arts, and community education, and create their plan of studies for each semester. The program is designed to serve students who cannot leave their families and communities for the residency. The “community campus” is housed in different buildings in the area.


Each Goddard student designs their own curriculum in accordance with their program's degree criteria.

In addition to fulfilling academic criteria in the subjects of the arts, the humanities, mathematics, natural sciences and social sciences, undergraduate students must also demonstrate critical thinking and writing, understanding of social and ecological contexts, positive self-development, and thoughtful action within their learning processes.

The college uses a student self-directed, mentored system in which faculty issue narrative evaluations of student's progress instead of grades. The intensive low-residency model requires that students come to campus every six months for approximately eight days. During this period, students engage in a variety of activities and lectures from early morning until late in the evening, and create detailed study plans. During the semester, students study independently, sending in "packets" to their faculty mentors every few weeks. When low-residency education began at Goddard, packets were made up of paper documents sent via the mail.

Since advances in the internet and related technology, in the 21st century most packets are sent electronically. They may contain artwork, audio files, photography, video and web pages, in addition to writing. The schedule and format of these packets differ from program to program, and content varies with each student-faculty correspondence. The focus is generally on research, writing, and reflection related to each student's individualized study plan.

At regular intervals students compile their work into "learning portfolios" to submit as part of a Progress Review before a cross-program board of faculty. The board ensures that all students' work is in compliance with the college's degree criteria. Undergraduates must complete a yearlong Senior Study, accompanied by final graduating presentations of work, before being awarded a degree.[20]


Eliot D. Pratt Center and Library[edit]

The Eliot D. Pratt Center and Library, located in Plainfield, Vermont, serves the entire Goddard College community. It is also open to the public. Its holdings contain over 70,000 physical items and access to over 20 electronic databases. The building also houses several administrative offices, an Archives room with artifacts from the 1800s to present, an Art Gallery, and WGDR (91.1 FM), a college/community radio station serving Central Vermont since 1973.

Goddard College Community Radio (WGDR and WGDH)[edit]

Goddard is home to Goddard College Community Radio, a community-based, non-commercial, listener-supported educational radio station. It has nearly 70 volunteer programmers who live and work in central and northern Vermont and who range in age from 12 to 78 years. WGDR, 91.1 FM, is licensed to Plainfield, Vermont. Its sister station, WGDH, 91.7 FM, is licensed to Hardwick, Vermont. Goddard College Community Radio is the largest non-commercial community radio station in Vermont; it is the only non-commercial station in the state other than the statewide Vermont Public Radio network[citation needed], which receives funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Haybarn Theatre[edit]

This structure was originally built as a barn in 1868 by the Martin Family and was one of the largest barns in Central Vermont. The Haybarn was originally used to store hay, grain and livestock. In 1938, when Goddard College purchased Greatwood Farm, they began the process of adapting the farm buildings into academic and student spaces. The Haybarn was renovated to provide a space for the performing arts.

For almost 75 years the Haybarn Theatre has been a place where the local community and the College come together to enjoy and appreciate the arts. The Haybarn hosts educational conferences, student and community performances, and the ongoing Goddard College Concert Series. Prior to reaching widespread fame, Phish played multiple concerts there in 1986 and 1987.[21]

Notable events[edit]

Alternative Media Conference[edit]

In June 1970 Goddard hosted the Alternative Media Conference; it attracted more than 1,600 radio DJs and others involved in independent media from all over the United States.[22] Featured presenters included Yippie founder Jerry Rubin,[23] spiritual leader Ram Dass,[24] Larry Yurdin,[25] and Danny Fields, Bob Fass and Paul Krassner from The Realist.

A music roster of up-and-coming bands was curated by Atlantic Records and included Dr. John and the J. Geils Band.[24] The conference embodied both the political activism and the free-love atmosphere of the time: a coalition affiliated with the Panther 21, The Guardian, Newsreel, Radio Free People, Liberation News Service, Media Women, and The New York Rat put together a packet highlighting the political side of alternative media.[26]

A second Alternative Media Conference was held on campus in 2013 to commemorate the college's 150th anniversary.[27] Thom Hartmann and Ellen Ratner were featured speakers.

2014 undergraduate commencement[edit]

In 2014, the graduating class of the college's undergraduate program selected convicted murderer and Goddard alumnus Mumia Abu-Jamal as commencement speaker.[28] Abu-Jamal, who had attended Goddard as an undergraduate in the 1970s, completed his Goddard degree from prison via mail while serving a sentence for the 1982 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.[29] Faulkner's widow criticized the selection of Abu-Jamal as a speaker,[30] as did US Senator Pat Toomey, the Vermont Troopers Association, the Vermont Police Chiefs Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.[28][31][32] The college's interim President, Bob Kenny, supported the right of students to select a commencement speaker of their choice.[33]

On October 5, the school released Abu-Jamal's pre-recorded commencement speech.[34][35] Philadelphia police protested against his being given a chance to speak.

Notable people associated with the college[edit]


Faculty, staff and administration[edit]

See also[edit]


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