Wellesley College


Wellesley College is a in , United States. Founded in 1870 by as a , it is a member of the original , an unofficial grouping of elite current and former women's colleges in the northeastern United States. Wellesley's of $2.2  is the largest out of all women's colleges and the 49th largest among all colleges and universities in the United States in 2019. Wellesley is home to 56 departmental and interdepartmental majors spanning the liberal arts, as well as over 150 student clubs and organizations. Wellesley athletes compete in the . Its 500-acre (200 ha) campus was designed by and houses the Davis Museum and a . Notable alumnae and affiliates include two ; the first female nominee for from a major party; noted academics, journalists, writers, politicians, diplomats, activists, businesspeople, filmmakers, and entertainers; and recipients of , , , and Awards, the , and the .


Wellesley was founded by Pauline and , believers in educational opportunity for women, who intended that the college should prepare women for "...great conflicts, for vast reforms in social life". Its charter was signed on March 17, 1870, by Massachusetts Governor . The original name of the college was the Wellesley Female Seminary; its renaming to Wellesley College was approved by the on March 7, 1873. Wellesley first opened its doors to students on September 8, 1875. At the time of its founding, Wellesley College's campus was actually situated in ; however, in 1880 residents of West Needham voted to secede and in 1881 the area was chartered as a new town, Wellesley. Wellesley College was a leading center women's study in the sciences. Between 1875 and 1921, Wellesley employed more female scientists than any other U.S. institution of high education. After , it was the second college in the United States to initiate laboratory science instruction for undergraduates. In early 1896, , the first professor of physics and astronomy, was among the first U.S. scientists to conduct experiments in . The first president of Wellesley was . There have been thirteen more presidents in its history: , , , , , (later Mildred McAfee Horton), , Ruth M. Adams, , (later the president of from 1993–2004), , , and current president . The original architecture of the college consisted of one very large building, College Hall, which was approximately in length and five stories in height. It was completed in 1875. The architect was . College Hall was both an academic building and residential building. On March 17, 1914, it was destroyed by fire, the precise cause of which was never officially established. The fire was first noticed by students who lived on the fourth floor near the zoology laboratory. It has been suggested that an electrical or chemical accident in this laboratory—specifically, an electrical incubator used in the breeding of beetles—triggered the fire. A group of residence halls known as the Tower Court complex are located on top of the hill where the old College Hall once stood. After the loss of the Central College Hall in 1914, the college adopted a master plan in 1921 and expanded into several new buildings. The campus hosted a during the and began to significantly revise its curriculum after the war and through the late 1960s. In 2013 the faculty adopted an to make its scholarship online. The school has admitted transgender, non-binary, and genderqueer students since adopting an inclusive admissions policy in 2015.


The campus overlooks Lake Waban and includes evergreen, deciduous woodlands and open meadows. , Boston's preeminent landscape architect at the beginning of the 20th century, described Wellesley's landscape as "not merely beautiful, but with a marked individual character not represented so far as I know on the ground of any other college in the country". He also wrote: "I must admit that the exceedingly intricate and complex topography and the peculiarly scattered arrangement of most of the buildings somewhat baffled me". The campus is adjacent to the privately owned , the gardens of which can be viewed from the lake's edge on campus. The original master plan for Wellesley's campus landscape was developed by Olmsted, , and in 1921. This landscape-based concept represented a break from the architecturally-defined courtyard and quadrangle campus arrangement that was typical of American campuses at the time. The site's glaciated topography, a series of meadows, and native plant communities shaped the original layout of the campus, resulting in a campus architecture that is integrated into its landscape. The campus offers multiple housing options, including Tower Court, which was built after College Hall burnt down, the Quad (Quint, including Munger), the “New Dorms”, referring to the east-side dormitories erected in the 1950s, and multiple “Branch Halls”, including both a Spanish and French-speaking house. In total, Wellesley offers 17 different residence halls for students to live in. The most recent master plan for Wellesley College was completed in 1998 by Associates. According to the designers, this plan was intended to restore and recapture the original landscape character of the campus that had been partially lost as the campus evolved through the 20th century. In 2011, Wellesley was listed by as one of the most beautiful college campuses in the United States. Wellesley is home to Green Hall, completed in 1931, the only building bearing the name of famed ; the building was funded by her children. Part of the building is the Galen L. Stone Tower, housing a 32-bell instrument which is routinely played between classes by members of the Guild of Carillonneurs. Houghton Chapel was dedicated in 1899 in the center of the college campus. The architectural firm of designed Houghton of gray stone in the classic floor plan. The exterior walls are pierced by stained glass windows. Window designers include ; ; ; and . The chapel can seat up to 750 people. Houghton is used by the college for a variety of religious and secular functions, like lectures and music concerts, and is also available for rental. The lower-level houses the Multifaith Center. In 1905 donated $125,000 to build what is now known as Clapp Library, on the condition that the College match the amount for an endowment. The money was raised by 1907 and construction began June 5, 1909. In 1915 Carnegie gave another $95,446 towards an addition. This renovation added a recreational reading room, offices, archives, a reserve reading room, added space for rare books and additional stacks. The building underwent renovations from 1956–1959, that doubled its size. From 1973 to 1975 a major addition was added to the right-hand side of the building. In 1974 the building was renamed for Margaret Antoinette Clapp, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and member of the 1930 class who served as the 8th college president from 1949–1966. The Davis Museum, opened in 1993, was the first building in North America designed by -winning architect , whose notion of the museum as a “treasury” or “treasure chamber” informs its design. The Davis is at the heart of the arts on the Wellesley campus adjacent to the academic quad and is connected by an enclosed bridge to the Jewett Arts Center, designed by . The collections span from ancient art from around the world to contemporary art exhibitions, and admission is free to the general public.


The current president of Wellesley College is . With a remarkable track record of accomplishments—she founded the Connors Center for Women's Health and Gender Biology at —she has led in the field of women's health, taking an interdisciplinary approach to biology by integrating insights from sociology, economics, and many other fields. Paula Johnson was the Grace A. Young Family Professor of Medicine in the Field of Women's Health at , as well as professor of epidemiology at the . Johnson succeeded to become in July 2016. Wellesley's fund-raising campaign in 2005 set a record for liberal arts colleges with a total of $472.3 million, 18.1% more than the goal of $400 million. According to data compiled by , Wellesley's campaign total is the largest of any liberal arts college. In late 2015, the college launched another campaign, with a goal of $500 million. Many notable alumnae including , , , , and collaborated on the campaign video and launch festivities. As of Fall 2017, over $446 million has been raised.

Wellesley Centers for Women

The Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) is one of the largest -focused research-and-action organizations in the United States, and a member of the National Council for Research on Women. Located on and nearby the Wellesley College campus, WCW was established when the Center for Research on Women (founded 1974) and the Stone Center for Development Services and Studies at Wellesley College (founded 1981) merged into a single organization in 1995. It is home to several prominent American feminist scholars, including and . The current executive director of the Wellesley Centers for Women is Layli Maparyan. Since 1974, the Wellesley Centers for Women has produced over 200 scholarly articles and over 100 books. The Wellesley Centers for Women has five key areas of research — education, economic security, mental health, youth and adolescent development, and gender-based violence. WCW is also home to long-standing and highly successful action programs that engage in curriculum development and training, professional development, evaluation, field building, and theory building. Those programs include the National SEED Project, the National Institute on Out-of-School Time, Open Circle, the Training Institute, and ''Women's Review of Books.''


Wellesley's average class size is between 17 and 20 students, with a student-faculty ratio of 8:1. More than 50 departmental and interdepartmental majors are offered. Wellesley offers support to nontraditional aged students through the Elisabeth Kaiser Davis Degree Program, open to students over the age of 24. The program allows women who, for various reasons, were unable to start or complete a bachelor's degree at a younger age to attend Wellesley. Wellesley offers dual degree programs with the and the , enabling students to receive a Bachelor of Science at those schools in addition to a Bachelor of Arts at Wellesley. Wellesley also has a joint 5-year BA/MA program with 's International Business School, which allows qualified Wellesley students to receive a Masters of Arts degree from the school as well as a Bachelor of Arts at Wellesley. Wellesley College offers research collaborations and cross-registration programs with other Boston-area institutions, including , , , and .


The 2020 annual ranking of ' categorizes admission to Wellesley as "most selective". For the Class of 2023 (enrolling fall 2019), the middle 50% range of was 680–750 for evidence-based reading and 680–780 for math, while the middle 50% range for the composite score was 31–34 for enrolled first year students. For the incoming class of 2025, Wellesley received a record 7,920 applications and (16%) were offered admission.

Transgender applicants

The college's admissions policy was updated in 2015 to allow and to be considered for admittance. While transgender and non-binary students have attended the college since its inception, media outlets recognize that the first Wellesley students who applied as out transgender women enrolled in Fall 2017.

Nontraditional age applicants

Wellesley began its program for s in 1971, when the Continuing Education Program was launched. This program was renamed in 1991 for Elisabeth Kaiser Davis, a member of the Class of 1932. Wellesley allows applicants older than 24 who had begun but have not completed a bachelor's degree to apply to the Elizabeth Kaiser Davis Degree Program. Davis Scholars are fully integrated into the Wellesley community; they take the same classes as traditional students and can choose to live on campus. According to the Wellesley web site, Davis Scholars' "diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives enrich the lives of the whole student body."


In its 2021 rankings of national liberal arts colleges in the U.S., ' ranked Wellesley tied for 4th best overall, 1st for women's colleges, 13th for "best value", tied at 11th for "best undergraduate teaching", and tied at 63rd for "top performers on social mobility". In 2020, ' ranked Wellesley 13th among 218 liberal arts colleges in the U.S. based on its contribution to the public good, as measured by social mobility, research, and promoting public service. In addition, '' 2019 "America's Top Colleges" ranked the institution 44th among 650 U.S. colleges, service academies and universities. Wellesley College is by the .

Student life

Approximately 98% of students live on campus. Some cooperative housing is available, including a sustainable living co-op and a French language house located slightly off-campus. Wellesley offers housing for s as well, though not for their children or spouses, which is a point of frequent debate on campus. The college has five dining halls, one each in Pomeroy, Tower Court, Stone-Davis, and Bates Halls, and another in the Lulu Chow Wang Campus Center. Additional food options on campus include a /coffee shop in the Campus Center, a bakery in Claflin Hall, Collins Café outside the movie theater, El Table, a student-run sandwich shop in Founders Hall (an academic building housing many of the humanities classes), and Café Hoop, a student-run cooperative cafe in the basement of the Campus Center that is known for its late hours and queer-friendly environment. Next to Café Hoop is the pub, Punch's Alley, which serves alcohol to those over 21. For more than 30 years, Wellesley has offered a cross-registration program with . Students can participate in research at MIT through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). In recent years, cross-registration opportunities have expanded to include nearby , , and . To facilitate cross-registration, the connects Wellesley to the and MIT campuses in ; additionally the college also operates a shuttle to the and campuses. It is also a member of a number of exchange programs with other small colleges, including opportunities for students to study a year at , , , , , , , , and .


The college has approximately 180 student organizations, ranging from cultural and political organizations to community service, publications, , and . WZLY is the college's campus radio station. It is entirely student-run and plays on 91.5 FM in the town of Wellesley and some surrounding areas. Founded in 1942, it holds claim to the oldest still-running women's college radio station in the country. In the 80s, it earned the nickname "Electric Ladyland" after the Jimi Hendrix album of the same name. Wellesley College does not have any ; it does, however, have a number of societies centered around common academic interests. There are currently six active societies on campus: Alpha Kappa Chi (the "history" society), Alpha Phi Sigma (the "lecture" society), Tau Zeta Epsilon (the "art and music" society), Zeta Alpha (the "literature" society), Agora Society (the "political science" society), and Shakespeare Society. The societies sponsor many lectures and events on campus, and contribute funding to events sponsored by other departments and organizations. They have an application process called "tea-ing", and organize on-campus parties. The majority of students are not members of societies. Publications on campus include ''Counterpoint'', the monthly journal of campus life; ''The Wellesley News'', the campus newspaper; ''International Relations Council Journal,'' the internationally oriented campus publication; and ''The Wellesley Review'', the literary magazine.


Wellesley fields 13 teams – basketball, crew, cross country, fencing, field hockey, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming & diving, tennis, track & field, and volleyball. Wellesley does not have a mascot in the traditional sense – its sports teams are referred to both individually and collectively as "the Blue" (the school colors are and white). Wellesley's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) is composed of representatives from the athletic and club teams. Wellesley is a member of the and the Eastern Conference Athletic Conference (ECAC) and competes primarily as a member of the (NEWMAC). Additionally, the fencing team competes as a member of the Northeast Fencing Conference (NFC) and the golf team became an associate member of the Liberty League during the 2012–2013 school year. In 1951 Barbara Bruning won women's individual intercollegiate golf championship (an event conducted by the (DGWS) — which later evolved into the current NCAA women's golf championship). Wellesley is also a member of the consortium of women's colleges, and participates in competitions in cross-country, volleyball, crew, swimming & diving, squash, and tennis. Wellesley Athletics is headquartered out of the Keohane Sports Center (the KSC), named for former college president . Built in 1985, the KSC features a field house, a pool, squash and racquetball courts, a 200m track, a climbing wall, four indoor tennis courts, and various other exercising areas. It also houses the administrative offices. The campus also has four outdoor playing fields and an outdoor track, as well as eight outdoor tennis courts and a boathouse. The Wellesley College Crew Team, affectionately known as "Blue Crew", was founded in 1970 and was the first women's intercollegiate rowing team in the country. In 2016, "Blue Crew" won the as a team for the first time in Wellesley history, with their 1st Varsity boat coming in first place and their 2nd Varsity 8+ boat coming in second place. This historic win marked the first time a team from Wellesley College won a national championship, and also marked the first time a women's college won the NCAA Rowing Championships. Wellesley also fields club teams in archery, alpine & Nordic skiing, equestrian, ice hockey, rugby, sailing, squash, Ultimate Frisbee, and water polo. Squash was originally a varsity sport but was downgraded to a club sport status in 2017. In addition, there is a Quidditch team that competes with teams from other colleges and universities in the area. From 1943 to 1946, won multiple national in both singles (1943, 1946) and doubles (1943, 1944). Wellesley has taken home one team national championship (Blue Crew's win at the NCAA Championships in 2016), three individual national champions, and one individual boat champion in its history. In 1991, Karyn Cooper was the NCAA Tennis Singles Champion. In 2011, Randelle Boots was the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Champion in the mile. In 2015, Maura Sticco-Ivins was the NCAA National Champion in the 3 meter diving competition and runner-up in the 1 meter diving competition. Sticco-Ivins was named the 2015 NCAA Division III Diver of The Meet. Wellesley College Diving Coach Zach Lichter was voted the 2015 NCAA Division III Female Diving Coach of The Year. In addition to these three individual champions, in 2016, Wellesley College's 1st Varsity 8+ boat became a national champion in its event at the NCAA Rowing Championships in Gold River, CA. Wellesley College Crew Team's head coach, Tessa Spillane, was voted the 2015-16 NCAA Division III Rowing Coach of The Year (after having also won the honor in 2010-11). Additionally, Wellesley College Crew Team's coaching staff (Tessa Spillane, Hannah Woodruff, and Seth Hussey) received the 2015-16 Division III National Coaching Staff of the Year award.


As is the case with all of the , Wellesley College has many traditions, many of them carried over from the late nineteenth-century. Some have been adapted and modified over time, but the original focus and fun remains. is a highly anticipated annual tradition at the college dating back to 1895. Each upperclasswoman has a wooden hoop, often passed down to her from her "big sister". Before graduation, the seniors, wearing their graduation robes, run a short race while rolling their hoops. The winner of the race is said to be the first woman in her class to achieve success, however she defines it. This was changed after the 1990 Commencement speech by then first lady, Barbara Bush. In the early 20th century, however, the winner was said to be the first in her class to marry; in the 1980s, the winner was said to become the class's first CEO. The winner is awarded flowers by the president of the College, and then tossed into Lake Waban by her classmates. The tossing of the winner into the lake began several decades ago when a male, dressed as a Wellesley student, won the race. When, upon his victory, it was discovered that he wasn't a Wellesley student, he was thrown into the lake. The night before the race, many "little sisters" will camp out on the racecourse near the Library to save a good starting position for their "big sisters". Some other traditions include step-singing, dorm and class crew races, "Lake Day", "Spring Week", "Flower Sunday", and "Marathon Monday". Class trees are one of Wellesley's more visible traditions; each graduating class plants a tree during its sophomore year. Class trees, as they are called, can be found all over the campus, marked with each class year on a stone at the base of the tree. During sophomore year, students also design and purchase class sweatshirts. The Wellesley campus is just before the halfway mark on the course, and students come out to cheer runners in what has become known as the "Scream Tunnel". Student have been cheering on runners since the first running of the marathon. In 1966 the school heard word that a woman was running in the race and turned out in numbers in cheer her on. claims to have heard them from half a mile away. The women ran out into the road and raised their arms to form a tunnel. , who would later serve as Wellesley president from 1993 to 2007 was present for the 1966 race. “The word spread to all of us lining the route that a woman was running the course. We scanned face after face in breathless anticipation until a ripple of recognition shot through the lines and we cheered as we never had before. We let out a roar that day, sensing that this woman had done more than just break the gender barrier in a famous race.” Once women were officially allowed to register for the 1972 race the campus cheer tradition became more popular. Before current crowd control techniques that only allow students to cheer from the south side of the street, students would form a tunnel anywhere from 5 to 8 feet wide. The Alumnae Achievement Awards, begun in 1970, are another annual tradition; each year, three alumnae are recognized for outstanding achievements in their respective fields. Recipients have included , , , , , , , and , among many others. The Ruhlman and Tanner Conferences, supported by Wellesley alumnae, are held every year for students to share their learning experience within the college community. Classes are canceled on these days. The Tanner Conference is held in the fall to celebrate outside-the-classroom education, including internships and summer or winter session research projects. Ruhlman, in the spring, is a chance for students to present projects they've been working on in courses or independent research during the year. Both conferences encompass panels, readings, and multimedia projects.

Student body

Fifty-eight percent of all Wellesley students receive financial aid. Not including outside scholarships, the average grant awarded is $39,000. In February 2008, the college eliminated offering financial-aid loans to students from families with incomes under $60,000, including international students and Davis Scholars, and it lowered the total amount of student loans by one-third (to a maximum of $8,600 total over four years) to students from families with incomes between $60,000 and $100,000. The maximum loan level for other students on aid is $12,825 total for four years. Of Wellesley's student body, as of 2019 less than half of students are Caucasian, with roughly a third of the student body identifying as Asian, and a significant number of Latina and African-American students. Students come from over 60 countries and all 50 states, with 90% of students hailing from outside of Massachusetts.

Notable alumnae and faculty

Notable alumnae

File:Hillary Clinton by Gage Skidmore 2.jpg, File:Secalbright.jpg, File:Portrait of Katharine Lee Bates, ca. 1880-1890.jpg, File:Cokie Roberts (49094906053).jpg, File:Diane Sawyer 2011 Shankbone.JPG, File:Nora Ephron cropped.jpg, File:Marjory S Douglas Friends photo.jpg, File:Soong Mei-ling in Taiwan (June 1960).jpg, File:Pamela Melroy.jpg, File:Annie Jump Cannon 1922 Portrait.jpg, Wellesley's alumnae are represented among business executives and also work in a variety of other fields, ranging from government and public service to the arts. They include the first woman to be named professor of clinical medicine , class of 1906; architect , class of 1972; author (author and publisher) class of 1914; astronomer , class of 1884; archaeologist , class of 1924; astronaut class of 1983; screenwriter , class of 1962; composers and ; and professor and songwriter . Journalists , , , , and also graduated from Wellesley as did , United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and political scientist , class of 1961. , a member of the , graduated from Wellesley, as did (B.A. 1886; M.A. 1889), president of the . Both ('59), and ('69), have spoken about the formative impact their Wellesley experiences had on their careers. Secretary Albright also returns annually to campus to lead the , a month long pedagogical seminar where students learn more about global affairs through analysis and action. Additionally, three U.S. ambassadors (, , and ) are Wellesley alumnae. (also known as Madame Chiang Kai-shek), the former First Lady of , graduated from Wellesley. Other notable Wellesley graduates who have received the college's Alumnae Achievement Award include: '20, public health expert, physiologist, toxicologist; '54, journalist, food writer; '22, writer, naturalist; '75, an entrepreneur, financial, and social equity activist; '68, electronic music composer, recording artist; '43, opera singer; '38, astronomer; '12, environmental activist, author; '77, particle physicist; '62, writer and director; '53, ornithologist; '42, psychologist; '64, media educator; '59, (pen name ) author; '90, a quantum astrophysicist; '55, conceptual artist and cultural critic; '45, writer; '54, historian, feminist scholar; and '46, costume designer.

Notable faculty

Notable Wellesley faculty include: * , art historian and a * , Nobel Peace Prize-awarded economist and peace activist. * , award-winning poet, novelist, essayist, and the author of "", a Wellesley College alumna and the namesake of Bates Residential Hall. * , Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. * , economist who researches real estate and developed the Case-Shiller index with from Yale and Allan Weiss. * , poet and New Yorker writer * , Pulitzer Prize-winning author and the namesake of the main library. * , economic historian credited with creating the field of industrial history; she was the first female faculty member to teach statistics in the US. * , sociologist, a former vice president of American Sociological Association (ASA) and a former president of Eastern Sociological Society (ESS), credited with creating the fields of , , and . * , Spanish poet and literary critic * (born Charlotte Riefenstahl), physicist * , History professor who published books on German Enlightenment * , physicist and astronomer * , Luella LaMer Professor of Women's Studies and Professor of Philosophy, notable for her work in the feminist philosophy of language * , women's studies scholar whose 1988 published works on the concept of privilege led to the identification of various privileges and laid the foundation for the current "check your privilege" movement. * , Russian-American novelist, who is best known for his novel '. He taught Comparative Literature and Russian at Wellesley. * , Women's and Gender Studies professor who uncovered the American . * , former Chairman of the and mentor to Hillary Rodham Clinton during her years at Wellesley. * , Political Scientist in the field of International Relations * , the first Black female philosophy professor to receive tenure in the U.S, and a renowned conceptual artist. * (1853-1928), philologist and educator * , physicist and astronomer

See also

* *, singing group *


External links

Wellesley College Athletics website
{{authority control Private universities and colleges in Massachusetts