College Record 2020-2021

A Brief History

The faculty takes pride in their ability to simultaneously challenge and reinforce the values and goals students bring to Keuka College. Faculty members also welcome the intellectual stimulation afforded by a diverse, curious, and energetic student body. They confidently encourage, guide, and educate so that upon graduation, students possess the knowledge, skills, and confidence necessary for success in a world of increasingly competitive opportunities.

“This grand and noble enterprise.” These dignified words, taken from the school's founding resolution, led to the establishment in 1890 of Keuka College & Institute as a coeducational preparatory college. The indefatigable founder of the College, the Rev. Dr. George H. Ball, selected the College’s original 157-acre site that “made up in scenery what it lacked in fertility.” Today, the main campus building still bears the name Ball Hall in tribute to the man who recruited the first faculty of the College & Institute. Those teachers, and the ones who followed, exemplified the College’s motto: “Committed teachers and scholars devoted to providing maximum attention to the individual student.”

The intellectual strength and spirit of Keuka College comes from the many dedicated individuals who have taken an active part in its more than 125-year history. For more than a century, each succeeding generation of Keukonians has built a unique institution upon the four cornerstones of academic excellence, social responsibility, the practical application of learning, and accessibility.

Keuka College became a women’s college in 1921. Dr. Arthur H. Norton undertook the first of three major campus expansions, underscored the institution’s spiritual commitment to Christian leadership, and rapidly expanded the liberal arts and science curriculum. The “small but great” College attracted statewide attention because of the service its students, faculty, and graduates rendered among the rural citizenry. At that time, the alumni of no other college in the state provided a more valuable educational service, administering to 75 churches and instructing thousands of rural children, the majority from poor families. The rich tradition of active service to the community was already well established and particularly evident throughout the Depression. As one eloquent trustee of the College remarked: “[At Keuka] the highest education is that in which the individual perceives the highest responsibility to be the use of intellectual training and acquired knowledge in the creative service to others.”

During the 1940s, Keuka College’s size and reputation increased. Adding to the wartime effort, Keuka College established its nursing cadet program and the Field Period® program came to fruition. To this day, Field Period® exemplifies the innovative spirit and philosophy of the College. By the end of the decade, Katherine Gillette Blyley, the dean and former English professor, had risen to become the College’s first female president. Under her leadership, the College developed and expanded its student body, programs such as Field Period®, and the school's stellar reputation. 

Along with increased enrollments, the next three decades witnessed the expansion of facilities devoted to virtually every aspect of campus life. New physical arts, library, and natural science buildings were constructed, and the architecturally-distinctive spiritual center of the campus, Norton Chapel, was dedicated.
In 1985, Keuka College once again became a coeducational institution. True to its historical willingness to accept change while faithfully adhering to its basic values, Keuka College revised its core requirements and substantially increased the number of major programs. In addition to highly regarded professional programs requiring licensure (nursing, occupational therapy, education, and social work), the College today offers a multifaceted business curriculum as well as its long-established programs in the humanities and natural and social sciences.

Since the early 2000s, Keuka College has added master’s degree programs, adult and online education, and in-country international programs. Some students are also pursuing Keuka College degrees at partner universities in China and Vietnam.