History & Mission
Helping Students Succeed for More Than 155 Years.
Dean College Mission Statement
Dean College is a private, residential New England college grounded in a culture and tradition that all students deserve the opportunity to discover and exceed their greatest aspirations. A personal and transformative community since 1865, Dean tirelessly inspires our students to unimagined heights through personalized support and integrated delivery of academic, co-curricular and experiential learning. Our graduates are lifelong learners who thrive in their careers, embrace social responsibility and demonstrate leadership.
This is The Dean Difference.
Dean College History
Timothy G. Senter began a term (1866 – 1871) as first Principal. The cornerstone was laid on May 16, 1867. Dean Hall was completed in 1868 and the first Commencement was held with 13 graduates. The Rev. J.R. Weston served as appointed Principal from 1872 to 1878.
The Academy offered men and women a well-rounded program of academics, athletics, and student activities. In addition, the Academy provided students a personal atmosphere that identified and cultivated the strengths of its students, preparing them for admission to college. An excellent reputation soon resulted, and the standards set during the early years have formed a strong tradition followed by Dean today.
Dean Hall was scarcely four years old when it suffered a devastating loss. During the summer of 1872, the building was destroyed by fire. The founders began rebuilding immediately and dedicated a new Dean Hall on June 7, 1874. During 1878 – 1880, the Academy became "a young ladies" institution for two years with Miss H. M. Parkhurst as Acting Principal.
Lester L. Burrington became principal in 1879 and helped to stabilize curriculum and faculty. Soon, Dean won recognition as a school affording a sound education within the reach of families of moderate means, and its reputation spread to distant states. Mr. Burrington was elected to the Massachusetts Legislature in 1896 and resigned as principal at the end of the winter term.
The "Peirce Era," one of the most significant in Dean's history, began in 1897 with the appointment of Arthur W. Peirce as principal. "Awpie," as his initials caused him to be nicknamed, was a kindly generous man, who was unable to believe ill of any boy or girl. His faith in young people rendered such a respect and loyalty for him that any transgression by any student was regarded disapprovingly as a personal affront to "Awpie." To this day, alumni are eager to recite their fond memories of him.
Several Franklin residents were leadership supporters of Dean. In October of 1901, ground was broken for a science building, the gift of two affluent Franklin alumnae, Miss Lydia P. Ray (1872) and her sister Miss Annie Ray (1874), daughters of then-trustee Joseph G. Ray. Miss Lydia subsequently married "Awpie," and Miss Annie married Adelbert D. Thayer of Franklin.
Dean Academy grew in many ways during Mr. Peirce's administration. Students attracted by its prestige came from nearly all the states and several foreign countries. Enrollment increased until 1931 when the graduating class numbered 146, the largest in the history of the Academy.
The school's athletic director and coach Daniel E. Sullivan '05, came to Dean in 1910 and, for 27 years, led Dean athletic teams in a long succession of victories over both academy schools and colleges. Dean played the freshman teams of Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and Annapolis, as well as many preparatory school teams. Indeed, a season with Dan Sullivan could equip a boy for some of the hardest knocks that adult life could offer.
The beloved "Awpie" died suddenly of a heart attack on December 20, 1934. To succeed him, the trustees appointed Earle Sessions Wallace '05, who came to Dean with progressive ideas and an enthusiasm for a "junior college" institution. This concept was not accepted readily in New England, because it constituted a drastic change from the conventions of the four-year college. Mr. Wallace persisted in his ideals and, almost single-handedly, obtained a charter from the Massachusetts Legislature in May 1941, authorizing the establishment of Dean Junior College.
In 1945, the first associate degrees were awarded and President Wallace resigned due to ill health. William Chadwick Garner was appointed President and Headmaster and faced numerous challenges. The coeducational Academy, in existence since 1865, providing preparation for a four-year college or university, was fully accredited. The Junior College, all women at that time, serving fundamentally as terminal preparation in vocational training, was not accredited.
After careful study, President Garner recommended that the Academy be discontinued and that the emphasis be placed on the junior college program. In June 1957, the last class of Dean Academy, all boys, was graduated. Dean Junior College opened in September of that year to capacity enrollment of men and women students with the mission of preparing students for transfer to four-year colleges. During the same year, Dean was accredited by the New England Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.
During the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, a comprehensive building program was completed resulting in the addition of Pieri Gymnasium, Peirce Science Center, the E. Ross Anderson Library, the Garner Student Center, and three residence halls. In addition, the College acquired several Franklin properties that were converted into faculty and staff housing, residence halls, classrooms, and office space.
Following the retirement of President Garner, Donald E. Deyo served as president from 1968-71. In 1972, Richard E. Crockford took over leadership of the College and served for 19 years. During his tenure, many new transfer and career-oriented associate degree programs were developed and several new facilities opened. These included the Children's Center, a laboratory pre-school; the Academic Computer Center; WGAO, the College radio station; and the Telecommunications Center, featuring video broadcast and editing studios. In addition, enrollment in the Division of Continuing Education grew to over 1,200-part time students. Mr. Crockford retired, and Dr. Frank B. Bruno was appointed President and served from 1991 – 1992. John A. Dunn, Jr. was appointed President and served from 1992 – 1995.
Three big changes occurred at Dean in 1994. The school officially changed its name on February 9, 1994, to Dean College, the team mascot was changed from Red Demons to Bulldogs and Dr. Paula M. Rooney was appointed President in July 1995.
Under Dr. Rooney’s leadership, the growth of Dean College accelerated. This evolution began with the physical transformation of campus, modernizing infrastructure and technology. Dean became one of the first college campuses to get wi-fi, and the MBTA commuter rail station steps from campus was named the Dean College/Franklin Station. Over the course of Dr. Rooney’s tenure, Dean unveiled a number of capital improvements, including the Green Family Library Learning Commons, the reimagined Campus Center including the state-of-the-art Main Stage Theatre and Smith Dining Center, the Dorothy & Glendon Horne ’31 Hall, the Morton Family Learning Center, the newly renovated Grant Field and Longley Athletic Complex, the newly remodeled Digital Studios and Radio Station and the Rooney Shaw Center for Innovation in Teaching.
A strong focus was placed on strengthening the academic curriculum, expanding offerings and attracting experienced faculty. Dr. Rooney championed for introducing four-year baccalaureate degree programs in addition to the two-year associate degrees, and officially launched Dean’s first bachelor’s degree in Dance in 2000. Since then, Dean has added over 30 bachelor’s degree and associate degree programs. More than 93% of current students are baccalaureate students and the College’s reputation has grown as a four-year school, affirming the strength of the curriculum and the value of a Dean degree. Notable programs were expanded and introduced, including Communications, Dance BFA, Sports Broadcasting, Sport Management, Theatre and more.
In 2014, the Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance celebrated 50 years of dance education, and in 2015, Dean College celebrated its sesquicentennial anniversary—150 years of rich history and milestones. To accelerate students’ career preparation and offer experiential learning opportunities, Dean collaborated with Kraft Sports + Entertainment to establish the Center for Business, Entertainment & Sport Management, as well as introduced the Dean Career Advantage (DCA).
The year 2020 marked Dean’s 155-year anniversary, the 25-year anniversary for Dean College President Dr. Paula M. Rooney, the 20-year anniversary of the approval of our first bachelor’s degree, Dance, and the year the NCAA Division III Membership Committee granted Dean College active Division III membership status. Most recently, the College completed renovations to several athletic spaces and the Green Family Library Learning Commons, including the addition of the Theodore and Cynthia Berenson Center for Writing, Mathematics and Presentation Excellence. In 2021, the Dean R. Sanders ’47 School of Business was named to honor the alumnus whose bequest represents the largest estate gift in the College’s 156-year history. After an exceptional 27-year tenure as President of Dean College, Dr. Rooney announced that she would conclude her time at Dean at the end of the 2021-22 academic year, and the Campus Center was renamed the Dr. Paula M. Rooney Student Center in honor of her tenure as the most student-centered president of Dean College.
As an accredited private co-educational college offering full-time, part-time, associate and bachelor’s degrees, Dean College provides a supportive academic environment that thrives on student engagement, exceptional teaching and delivering The Dean Difference. The Dean Difference is exemplified through each student's commitment to their professional futures, social responsibility and leadership.
Today, Dean serves 1,200 full-time students and 400 part-time students, with more than 25,000 alumni. Outside of the classroom, students participate in 16 NCAA Division III athletic teams and more than 40 on-campus groups and organizations. Our beautiful 100-acre campus is located only 30 miles from Boston, MA and Providence, RI, and is accessible to Boston by commuter rail. The Dean College/Franklin station is only a five-minute walk from campus.
Today’s students, faculty, and staff thrive in a learning and work environment that is a century-and-a-half in the making. Fittingly, our College motto, inspired by Dr. Dean’s family saying, is Forti et Fideli Nihil Difficile: “To the strong and faithful nothing is difficult.”