Mission and History
Wheelock College Timeline
See an interactive timeline of Wheelock history from 1888 to the present.
As a private college with a public mission, Wheelock strives to be the premier college educating people to create a safe, caring, and just world for children and families. As we have since 1888, we contribute to the vitality of families, communities, and societies by:
- Educating students who are well prepared academically and as practitioners with real-world experience—ready to be leaders and advocates, confident in their abilities, and sought after in a wide range of careers;
- Advocating for programs, policies, and laws that enhance the quality of life for children and families.
We are committed to being a dynamic, rigorous, and transformational learning, living, and working community underpinned by theory, practice, research, and advocacy.
We infuse all we do with a focus on achievement, integrity, mutual respect, multiculturalism and diversity, and social justice with a global perspective.
We value the power of partnerships and collaborations to effect positive change for children and families.
We work to ensure that graduates view their Wheelock experience as a valuable investment that serves them well throughout their professional and personal lives.
In 1888, when Lucy Wheelock stepped into the Chauncy-Hall School to begin her first kindergarten teacher training class, she could scarcely have imagined where that step would lead. At the time, she felt it was a daring venture—that she was "not equal to such a high calling." But Lucy Wheelock grew into leadership. Many decades later, Wheelock College is living testimony to her ability to shape a vision of the future, and then to change and grow.
Lucy Wheelock left a legacy of inspired action and a mission that has not wavered in more than a century: to improve the lives of children and families. Generations of Wheelock graduates have kept the promise of that mission.
During her first 25 years as director of Miss Wheelock's Kindergarten Training School, Lucy Wheelock made it her mission to fulfill the potential she saw in early childhood education. She led students in investigating new ways of learning about children, in studying the developing field of psychology and its applications to how children learn, in carefully observing children at play and in the classroom, and in considering ideas about parent education and home-school cooperation that are at the core of Wheelock's program today.
Miss Wheelock and her training classes in Boston were at the forefront of the kindergarten movement nationally. By 1914, she had moved the Wheelock School to newly constructed facilities on Boston's Riverway, and over the next 25 years she broadened the scope of its educational programs, inventing new courses and projects that nurtured the bonds between children and families.
Convinced that early childhood education was the solution to many of society's problems, Lucy Wheelock also committed her students to learning about the lives of poor immigrant families in Boston's Portuguese, Filipino, and Italian neighborhoods—an early foundation for Wheelock's continuing involvement with multicultural education and with its neighboring communities.
In 1939, when Lucy Wheelock retired after her 50th year as director, the Wheelock School incorporated as a nonprofit institution: Wheelock College. The new name signaled an extended period of growth. The academic program expanded to four years; the curriculum was revised in response to advances in educational theory and scholarship in the arts and sciences; and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts authorized Wheelock to grant the Bachelor of Science degree.
By the 1950s, Wheelock had established graduate degree programs and was ready to expand the concept of its mission once again. The Graduate School enriched its professional curriculum and research programs, and began integrating more advanced scholarship and the contributions of working professionals.
Over the years, the College has continued to take the lead in early childhood education and has broadened its vision to include service to children's social and health needs.
As Wheelock's mission has maintained this focus, the College's reputation for innovation and leadership has deservedly grown. In achievement and in reputation, Wheelock is among the nation's finest higher education institutions in preparing teachers, social workers, and child life professionals for service to children and families.