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Former GW Schools and Departments

Over the years The George Washington University has molded and adapted, while maintaining high standards in education and student enrichment. The dedication and inspiration of the faculty, staff and administrators, the enthusiasm of the students, and the continued encouragement and support of the alumni have helped The George Washington University meet the challenges of reorganization.

From the original Classical and Theological Departments and the Preparatory School to the multiple Schools and Colleges that presently make up The George Washington University, several disciplines have vanished from the curriculum, while others, under various names have continued at the University.

In its early history Columbian College referred to academic areas as "Departments" which had "Schools." It was not until around 1914 that our present form of Schools and Colleges, which contains "Departments" was developed. Following is a brief look at some of the subject areas that grew and were discontinued from the curriculum of the University.

Library Science

Within the first year of Cloyd Heck Marvin's Presidency in 1927, the University went through a significant modification in the educational organization of the University. The "new" organizational structure contained Columbian College, the Graduate School, the School of Education, the School of Engineering, the Law School, the School of Medicine, the School of Pharmacy, the Summer Sessions, and the Division of Library Science. All would survive except Library Science. In 1928 Alfred F. W. Schmidt began as Director and Professor of Library Science. He would remain as Director through the 1937/1938 academic year--no director was listed for 1938-1939. In 1939 Lester Allan Smith became the Acting Executive Officer for the Division. Library Science, as a program, was discontinued June 1941. Although the Division was being phased out prior to this date, the University wanted those students pursuing the degree to complete their studies. The Library Science Alumni Association was organized in 1932 and became an affiliate of the General Alumni Association in 1935. The Library Science Alumni Association is no longer active.


In 1821, Classical and Theological Departments were formed. The Classical Department would evolve into study in the liberal arts. The Theological Department, which opened September 5, 1821 would only survive until 1825. In May of that year, at a meeting of clergy and Baptist laymen, it was decided to move the School from Columbian College to Boston. Although the vast majority of the Trustees and Administrators were Baptist, by charter the Baptist Convention did not have control over academic decisions. It was not until 1868 that a second attempt at a Theological Department was organized by the College. The new Department had four "Schools." They were Biblical Interpretation, Christian Theology, Church History, and Ministerial Duties. This time the new schools had no denominational affiliation. This Department was discontinued in 1872 .


In 1903, a school for Nurses was established, with Miss Minnie Paxton serving as first superintendent of nurses. The School was discontinued in 1931. The property at 13th and L Streets was later sold by the University.

The Dental School

The opening of the Dental Department was approved by the Board of Trustees on June 13, 1887. The first two professors were Drs. H.C. Thompson, professor of Operative dentistry and J. Hall Lewis, Professor of Prosthetic Dentistry. That same year the Dental faculty met separately from the Medical faculty. From 1887 to 1920 the Dental School shared facilities with the Medical School.

By early 1920 the Board of Trustees was looking into the problem of whether the Dental School was financially feasible. In May 1920 it was decided to drop the Dental School from the curriculum. Although no longer a part of The George Washington University, the Dental alumni, as late as 1947, were encouraging the University to develop another School of Dentistry. The Dental School was discontinued in 1921. During the 34 years of its existence it had conferred 313 degrees. Of this number, eleven served as Presidents of the District of Columbia Dental Society.


In 1904 the Department of Architecture was added to the other departments and schools (Arts and Sciences; Medicine; Law; Politics and Diplomacy). With the establishment of the School of Engineering in 1914 Architecture was dropped from the curriculum and all degrees limited to the field of engineering.

The Junior College

In the major reorganization of the University that took place in 1930, the work of the freshman and sophomore years was separated from that of the junior and senior years and assigned to an autonomous Junior College. The basic objectives of this administrative division were as follows: 1) To provide a more unified and coordinated organization for work taken during the first two years of college and thus to provide a more effective transition between the secondary school and the University; 2) To provide liberal arts curricula for those who wish to continue the study of the liberal arts in Columbian College or elsewhere; 3) To provide the pre-professional disciplines required for admission to the schools of Pharmacy, Education, and Government; 4) To provide two-year terminal curricula in vocational training.

It was later absorbed into the 4 year program. In 1961 the proposal was approved by the Board of Trustees to merge the Junior College with Columbian College. The Associate of Arts Degree became optional.

Preparatory School

In 1821 the Preparatory School was established with the same fees as the Classical Department. It was the object of the School to provide a thorough preparation for entrance into the College. The faculty of the School had full equality with other members of the College.

By 1848 a separate building was erected for the Preparatory School. A second building was erected in 1882. The name of the School was changed from the Preparatory School to Columbian Academy in April of 1887. However, the Board of Trustees endorsed the action to discontinue the school at the end of the 1897 academic year.

In 1904 a new charter was granted to the University. By March of 1905, Section Two of an Act of Congress was approved, which supplemented the original charter of 1821. This section provided that colleges carrying on special lines of educational work could be made "educationally a part of the system of the University." This provision also stated that these colleges would be independent financial foundations.


Under this provision, the Board of Trustees incorporated the National College of Pharmacy into the University in 1905. The School of Pharmacy was located at 808 Eye Street from 1906 until 1919. The School would remain a part of the University until June 1964 when it was discontinued as a part of an educational reorganization. In 1928 the designation Department of Medicine was dropped and replaced by the School of Medicine, School of Nursing, and the University Hospital.

Veterinary Science

The same provision also applied to the College of Veterinary Medicine. It was in 1896 that Columbian University voted for a merger of the National Veterinary School. This was providing the Faculty of the Medical School approved, which they did. The Board of Trustees voted in 1898 to discontinue the college, with the exception of graduate work. The School was again reorganized in 1908 but abandoned in 1918.

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

When Columbian College became Columbian College of Arts and Sciences in 1962, the junior college ended. A few years later, a Graduate Council committee was appointed to examine the nature of the graduate school to administer, coordinate and regularize all work beyond the bachelor's degree. Consequently, the Graduate Council and the Graduate Division of Columbian College were consolidated into the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 1967. The first dean of the newly formed Graduate School was Arthur E. Burns, who had previously served as the chair of the Graduate Council. Dean Henry Solomon (1974-1990) succeeded Dean Burns. Dean Solomon's years in the Graduate School were characterized by unprecedented growth in programs, by zealous effort to raise standards of admission and performance, and by dramatic development of specialized Master's and Ph.D. programs. These programs, some conducted in off-campus centers, were shaped to the needs of particular student populations. Additionally, he made research an integral component of graduate education at The George Washington University.

Dr. Robert Kenny became Dean of Columbian College in 1989. Following the retirement of Dean Solomon in 1991, Dean Kenny assumed the duties of Acting Dean of the Graduate School. During his tenure as Dean, Dr. Kenny presided over the consolidation of the two schools. Dr. Kenny, a thirty-year faculty member and Professor of History retired at the end of the Spring Semester, 1992. After Dean Kenny's retirement, Dr. Linda Salamon began her tenure as the first Dean of the combined schools. Dr. Salamon left this position in 1996. In July 1995 the Board of Trustees voted to change the name of the Columbian College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences to Columbian School of Arts and Sciences.