Spearheaded by public education pioneer Horace Mann, Bridgewater State University – then known as Bridgewater Normal School – was founded in 1840. It has grown from its first home – a single room in the basement of Bridgewater Town Hall – to become the largest of the nine Massachusetts state universities and the third largest of the 29 public college and university campuses in the commonwealth.
Just over 11,000 full-time and part-time undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled at Bridgewater; the full-time faculty numbers 316, representing a net gain of more than 60 since fall 2002; and more than 90 undergraduate and graduate programs are offered by the university’s five colleges and one school – Louis M. Ricciardi College of Business, College of Education and Allied Studies, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Bartlett College of Science and Mathematics, College of Graduate Studies and the School of Social Work. The 270 acre campus is home to 38 academic, administrative and residential buildings.
Alumni and friends have raised more than $19 million to support faculty and student research, a myriad of undergraduate and graduate scholarships, international study opportunities and award-winning publications. These private investments complement growing levels of public support for the institution.
In recent years, the university and the commonwealth have committed nearly $3 million for classroom upgrades, $7 million for an extensive library renovation, $5 million for renovations of all dining halls, $6 million for bleachers, press box and synthetic football field and a top-to-bottom renovation and expansion of two residence halls. Currently under construction is a $58 million 500 bed residence hall. The commonwealth’s investment of $98.7 million for Bridgewater State’s new Science and Mathematics Center constitutes the single largest capital project ever undertaken by an institution in the state university system.
Vital to the long-term success of the institution is its recognition throughout the state and nation as an educational leader in the use of technology to improve teaching and learning. The first step in that direction took place in 1992, when Bridgewater secured a $10 million federal grant to build the John Joseph Moakley Center for Technological Applications. For two consecutive years, Yahoo! Internet Life magazine named Bridgewater among the “100 Most-Wired Universities and Colleges in America,” and the university earned the number six spot on Intel Corporation’s “Most Unwired College Campuses Survey.”
Together, these developments have combined to strengthen the university’s academic mission and expand its public service role. They were built on a series of initiatives that trace back to 1960, a watershed year in the life of the institution when a full-scale transition from an exclusively teacher-training institution to a comprehensive liberal arts university began.
Until that time, Bridgewater had been relatively small – approximately 500 students – but enjoyed a national and international reputation for excellence in teacher preparation. The preparation of the next generation of quality teachers remains a top priority, as evidenced by the institution’s 50-plus years of continuous accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.
During its time as a normal school, countless faculty and administrators nurtured the school carefully, despite varying degrees of support from the state, and overcame a host of difficult and sometimes dire situations, including a disastrous fire in 1924 that destroyed several of the few buildings that existed on the campus at that time.
While the institution’s earliest years were times of great challenge, efforts never flagged to continue strengthening the curriculum, and each succeeding generation left Bridgewater State University stronger than the generation that went before. The thriving and dynamic institution we see today is the best evidence of the success of that enduring commitment.