The Corbett House, once the property of the Sisters of St. Francis convent, now houses Lewis & Clark's graduate school. Photo by Aidan D'Anna

Exploring the origins of the historic LC graduate school

The Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling traces its roots all the way back to 1929. The sprawling green on the other side of Palatine Hill that LC students now recognize as the graduate school used to belong to the Sisters of St. Francis convent, who purchased the land from the Corbett family in 1929 to use as their retreat and conference center.

Meanwhile, Albany College administrators were discussing the possibility of establishing graduate programs on their campus miles away, unaware that one day their plans would intersect with the convent’s newly acquired property. In 1939, Albany College became certified by the Oregon Board of Education as a teacher training institution for secondary schools. Five years later, the newly named Lewis & Clark College offered its first graduate degree, the Master of Education. 

Expanding from Albany College’s one year teaching credential, the Master of Education was a one year degree that certified graduates to teach only high school. Two years later, LC became the first college in Oregon to offer elementary school certifications at the graduate level. Four students graduated with the high school certification in 1947, but after the addition of a second certification, this number expanded to 35 graduates in 1949. 

In 1951, LC expanded its graduate offerings to include a Master of Music Education degree. Taught by symphony composers and musicians, the Master of Music Education program was considered prestigious, but due to budget cuts in public schools and subsequent decreased interest the program was discontinued in 2013. 

In the mid-1950s, LC became heavily invested in its teaching program — in 1957 the degree earned accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, and in 1964, LC joined nine other Oregon Colleges in the Oregon Program, a set of guidelines for schools with teaching programs that emphasized more in-class observation and learning time for future teachers. To adapt to this new change in focus the college changed the name of the degree. The Master of Education degree became the Master of Arts in Teaching degree. By the late ’60s the education program was the largest program at the college; one third of all LC students graduated with either a major in education or a Master of Arts in Teaching degree. The program had grown so large that it needed its own space on campus — offices and education classrooms were given a permanent home in the Albany Quadrangle. 

Despite the huge success of the teaching program, in 1972, LC created its third graduate degree: the Master of Education in Counseling. This program was created in response to huge demand for trained mental health professionals; by its second year it boasted an enrollment of 150 students, a huge jump from 32 in its first year. In 1980, a specialization was added to this degree: the Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology. This degree also had a Master of Science option and a track for school psychology, and its unexpected popularity led to a comprehensive review of the program and the eventual tripling of the amount of courses offered for counseling degrees. 

All of LC’s graduate programs were organized into the Graduate School of Professional Studies in 1984, but they did not have their own campus until 2000, when LC purchased the Corbett Estate from the Sisters of St. Francis. The property was renamed the South Campus, and was completely renovated from the spring of 2000 to the fall of 2001 with a $4.5 million gift from the Mary Stuart Rogers Foundation, the largest gift ever given to a school of education in Oregon. In 2001, the redesigned and renamed Graduate School of Education moved to the South Campus.

 In 2003, the graduate school made its most recent degree addition to include degree focused on marriage, couple and family therapy. This addition led to a conversation among administration around the goals and values of the graduate program, and in 2005 its name was changed for the final time to reflect a mental health oriented mission. The LC Graduate School of Education and Counseling now offers 57 programs and graduates close to 500 students every year.

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