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Between the World Wars

Peace after World War I meant a return to normalcy, a return to educating all those whose lives had been interrupted. The numbers of students and academic programs increased. Answering the need for vocational training, the University founded the School of Education (1918) and a College of Secretarial Science (1919), later renamed the College of Practical Arts and Letters. The Sargent School affiliated with the University in 1929, and subsequently became the Sargent College of Allied Health Professions.

Scattered in buildings throughout Boston, the University had no central focus. President Lemuel Murlin (1911-24) wished to unify the University and sought a location that would enable it to participate in the development of Boston, so that the University would be "in the heart of the city, in the service of the city." In 1920 and 1928, the University purchased the present Charles River Campus, fifteen acres between Commonwealth Avenue and the Charles River. The Riverbank Improvement Association had built a retaining wall and filled in the nearby tidal flats with rock from the construction of the Kenmore Square subway station. This beautiful new riverfront property made an ideal site for a campus. The University was forced to scale back its plans in the late '20s, however: the State Metropolitan District Commission used the right of eminent domain to claim the land nearest the river for the construction of Storrow Drive.

The increasingly unified campus fostered the development of student activities. Religious, literary, and musical groups proliferated. The University's Gilbert and Sullivan Light Opera Company became famous for its elaborate productions, and Gordon "Mickey" Cochrane, one of our first athletic heroes, attracted crowds to games and was later honored by election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

President Daniel Marsh (1925-50) sought to build upon this institutional spirit and, in 1931, established the annual celebration of Founder's Day. The sense of community engendered by this celebration became especially important in the '30s, when financial troubles again beset the University. Enrollment dropped. There were few jobs for students to earn money for tuition, and, seeing many unemployed college graduates, many students were not convinced that getting an education was worthwhile. In 1931, President Marsh asked all University employees to make a "voluntary relinquishment" of a portion of their salaries, and there were further cuts in the following years.

Steadfast in his plans for building the new campus, Marsh began a fundraising campaign. A new building for the College of Business Administration was erected in 1939, and several generous bequests and purchases of neighboring homes added greatly to the University's resources. The social welfare programs of the New Deal prompted the establishment of the School of Social Work (which had originated as the Department of Religious Education and Social Service) in 1940.

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Lemuel Murlin
Lemuel Murlin
Commonwealth Avenue, 1924
Commonwealth
Avenue, 1924
Daniel Marsh
Daniel Marsh
Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt
with BU students
Boston University
Boston University
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