Celebrating 85 Years of Endicott College | Soundings Magazine (2024)

The campus has changed dramatically since 1939, but the foundational principles that guided Endicott to where it is now? They’re still very much the same.

Celebrating 85 Years of Endicott College | Soundings Magazine (1)

Published on: May 21, 2024

On September 19, 1939, Endicott College officially opened its doors to 38 students from eight states.

Eighty-five years later, the College will celebrate its anniversary throughout the 2024-25 academic year with events to commemorate the College’s impact since its founding by Dr. Eleanor Tupper and her husband, the Reverend Dr. George O. Bierkoe, the first president of Endicott. (Tupper became the second, following Bierkoe’s death.)

But did you know that before Endicott stood out as a success story among the proliferation of northeastern colleges, the College nearly shuttered? It’s true.

When enrollment sharply declined in the 1980s, Endicott “leaned into our internship model,” explained Provost Sara Quay. “Our institution began as a two-year women’s college that, rather than closing, transformed itself first to a co-educational four-year undergraduate college, and then into a doctoral-degree granting institution.”

Celebrating 85 Years of Endicott College | Soundings Magazine (2)

“Endicott is a relatively young college, especially in New England, yet our story is impressive,” said Quay. “The 85th anniversary provides an opportunity to share that story by honoring Endicott’s past, celebrating our present, and looking to our future.”

But to understand Endicott’s future, you must first understand its roots, traced back to the entrepreneurial spirit of the Tupper family.

Harnessing the power of experience

In Tupper’s book Endicott and I, she paints a picture of her father, Clarence E. Tupper, as a man dedicated to uplifting others. This ethos influenced Eleanor deeply, shaping her vision for education. Raised on her family’s farm, she learned invaluable skills like creativity, problem-solving, organization amidst chaos, and an unwavering work ethic.

In 1939, Tupper and Bierkoe brought this vision to life with Endicott. Their meticulous planning, innovative marketing, and unwavering determination set the foundation for the College’s enduring success.

Grounded in women’s equality long before the second-wave feminism of the 1960s, Endicott’s philosophy centered around helping women achieve vocational and educational independence in the absence of their spouses who were sent overseas to fight during World War II.

In a post-Depression American landscape with a war raging across Europe, it took guts and vision to shake up the traditional higher education scene. But that’s exactly what Tupper and Bierkoe did. They gave women the chance to thrive in male-dominated fields by cultivating knowledgeable and empowered citizens. And today, you can see those same values shining through in every independent-minded Endicott student.

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Then and now, an education at Endicott College still leads to a passionate career—all by design.

“Life reveals to youth that ambition and success need experience as an ally,” Tupper wrote in Endicott and I. “To obtain this experience becomes the major problem of many a college graduate unless, along with her formal education, it is woven into her pattern of training.”

In an increasingly competitive job market, the Tupper family’s vision of a school that provides experience-powered learning has proven to be invaluable 85 years later. In 2024, career outcomes exceeded the state and national averages, with 99% of Endicott graduates employed or in graduate school, and 94% employed in a position related to their program of study.

Establishing an Endicott for the future

Endicott’s 85-year history began with a bold idea that has grown into a tight-knit community of students, alumni, faculty, and staff who deeply care about the future of the College. And while Endicott’s campus has changed dramatically since 1939, the core of its founding principles has remained the same.

“We have changed in almost every way in terms of growth: the number of students, faculty, staff, academic programs, and buildings,” said Quay. “However, we have not changed in terms of being a community that puts students first, believes in our mission, and genuinely enjoys working together toward our common goal of educating students from the undergraduate through the doctoral level.”

Both Tupper and Bierkoe wanted each student to obtain a worthwhile education at Endicott, develop experience in their field of study, and thrive in an area that strengthened the community.

It was their belief that this would lead to a happier and more fulfilling life—a pursuit that both Tupper and Bierkoe were afforded themselves through their own educations.

Current President Steven R. DiSalvo, Ph.D. spoke about the power of education at his 2019 inaugural address when he said, “This is more than an inauguration. It is in fact a celebration of the power of education itself. Something which many of us here have dedicated most of our professional lives, and we all know firsthand the power of education, in all its forms—to change lives, to broaden perspectives. Whether it’s the classic novel that triggers contemporary questions, the mentoring relationship that can set an inquisitive mind on a rewarding new path, or the internship that sparks a passion for a previously unknown profession.”

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This commitment to education is evident in new buildings like the Cummings School of Nursing & Health Sciences, which opened in fall 2023, and other initiatives like the Presidential Speaker Series, which brought Rick Steves and Joan Lunden to campus for talks that weren’t just for Gulls, but were open to the community, as well.

As Endicott’s reach extends beyond Hale Street, the College’s Tadler Center for the Humanities, which hosted Stephanie Land in the spring of 2024—in addition to award-winning artists and writers including Kiese Laymon, Imani Perry, and Kate Bolick, to name but a few—Endicott is also in the midst of establishing itself as a hotbed for the humanities and entertainment along the North Shore.

This is also by design.

In 2020, Endicott unveiled a new strategic plan, Sail Beyond the Shore, to steward the College to new milestones on its path to success. As part of that journey, Spread Your Wings: The Campaign for Endicott College launched in 2022. It marked the College’s inaugural $75M comprehensive fundraising effort, set to boldly shape the College’s future.

Quay, who started working at Endicott in 1998, remembers an old plaque on campus that “said something like, ‘Endicott’s founders, Eleanor Tupper and George Bierkoe, built castles in the air and then put foundations under them.’ A reference to a longer quote by Henry David Thoreau,” she explained.

“I always thought the sentiment captured the essence of Endicott as a college that dreams big, isn’t afraid to change and innovate, and works tirelessly to ensure the foundations of excellence are in place.I expect Endicott at 100 to embody these same values.”

Celebrating 85 Years of Endicott College | Soundings Magazine (2024)
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