Originally founded as two separate colleges – Hobart College in 1822 and William Smith College in 1908 – Hobart and William Smith Colleges enjoy a rich and unique history that spans nearly 200 years on Seneca Lake. Below is a timeline of the Colleges’ major milestones and events from its foundation until present day.


John Henry Hobart, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, announces his plans for establishing a college in Geneva.


With the construction of its first building complete, Geneva College opens its doors to students. The all-male college was renamed Hobart College in memory of its founder in 1852.


Elizabeth Blackwell graduates at the top of her class from Geneva Medical College, making her the first woman in America to receive the degree of Doctor of Medicine.


The Hobart Herald, the student newspaper, begins as a monthly publication.


Geneva Nurseryman William Smith signs a deed of gift that establishes William Smith College – a “Coordinate School for Women.” The college enrolled its first class of 18 students two years later. The two colleges – Hobart for men and William Smith for women – share the same faculty, facilities and administration yet take classes separately.


The first joint commencement is held, eroding some of the strict separations between Hobart College for men and William Smith College for women.


Hobart College contracts with the Department of the Navy to establish a unit of the Naval V-12 program on campus, ensuring adequate enrollments for the Colleges during the war years.


A new curriculum known to students as “Western Civ” is established, the core of which is a sequence of “coordinate courses” dealing with the history, philosophy and literature of Western civilization and its social and political institutions.


On the occasion of William Smith College’s 50th anniversary, the first Elizabeth Blackwell Award is presented to medical missionary Gwendolyn Grant Mellon.


Hobart and William Smith’s team on television’s General Electric Bowl retires undefeated. 


WEOS (W – Echo of Seneca), which was established somewhere between 1947 and 1949, is converted from AM to FM and begins broadcasting a variety of live and recorded music, news and sports, including programming from NPR.

The Koshare Dance Collective debuts on the Bartlett Theatre stage. Today, Koshare is held at the Smith Opera House and draws nearly 2,000 attendees.


A new curriculum, to take effect for the classes of 1990, includes distribution requirements for courses in each academic division; a first-year “Ways of Knowing” course; sophomore-year disciplinary courses; and a strong recommendation of off-campus study, preferably abroad, during the junior year.


The Fisher Center for the Study of Women and Men is founded. Through curricular, programmatic and scholarly projects, the Center encourages the HWS community to explore the important issues facing men and women of our time. A men’s studies minor, the first in the nation, is offered.


The President’s Forum Speaker Series is launched and kicks off with a discussion on public service and volunteerism from Hillary Clinton.


Hobart and William Smith Colleges become the first college or university in the United States to offer an undergraduate major in the field of LGBT/Queer Studies. Now in its second decade in existence, The LGBT Studies program at HWS continues to grow and evolve.

The Finger Lakes Institute, an organization dedicated to the promotion of environmental research and education about the Finger Lakes region, is established and housed at 601 South Main Street in Geneva.


HWS President Mark D. Gearan signs the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, making Hobart and William Smith Colleges a charter member of an effort to reduce emissions of gases responsible for global warming.


In commemoration of the William Smith Centennial, the Centennial Center for Leadership is established at 603 South Main Street as an innovative space where HWS students can gain access to coursework, presentations, workshops and community projects that deepen their understanding of leadership. 


Campaign for the Colleges raises more than $205 million, making it the largest and most comprehensive fundraising effort in the Colleges’ history. In total, $74 million was added to the endowment, creating more than 90 new student scholarships, three new endowed professorships and 57 new endowed funds supporting programs in technology, public service and internships. The Campaign also allowed the Colleges to embark on a comprehensive campus revitalization initiative, constructing six new buildings and significantly renovating 22 others, as well as provided support for innovative programs that are housed in the new Rosensweig Learning Commons, the Finger Lakes Institute, and the Centennial Center for Leadership.


The new Gearan Center for the Performing Arts, named in honor of President Mark D. Gearan and Mary Herlihy Gearan, opens on campus. The facility provides academic and performance space for the departments of music, dance, theatre, and media and society.



Hobart and William Smith Colleges,
Geneva, NY 14456
(315) 781-3000

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