Introduction to Rollins College
Rollins College stands among those small, coeducational, independent liberal arts institutions that contribute distinctively to the vitality and diversity of American higher education. Founded in 1885 under the auspices of the Congregational Church, and designed to bring the educational standards of New England to the Florida frontier, Rollins was the first college in Florida. In 1885, admission requirements were similar to those of other good liberal arts institutions of the day: Latin and Greek, language and composition, plane geometry, history of Greece and Rome, and so on.
Rollins is nonsectarian and independent, and is supported through tuition, investments, and gifts from alumni, friends, and foundations. The College offers a challenging curriculum leading to the Artium Baccalaureus (Bachelor of Arts) degree. This curriculum, which includes thirty-one major fields of study and more than sixteen hundred courses, reflects a distinctive and innovative approach to education.
The College is located in Winter Park, an attractive residential community adjacent to the city of Orlando. Fifty miles from the Atlantic Ocean and seventy miles from the Gulf of Mexico, the seventy-acre campus is bounded by Lake Virginia to the east and south. A traditional Spanish-Mediterranean architecture characterizes the College facilities.
Rollins College educates students for global citizenship and responsible leadership, empowering graduates to pursue meaningful lives and productive careers. We are committed to the liberal arts ethos and guided by its values and ideals. Our guiding principles are excellence, innovation, and community.
Rollins is a comprehensive liberal arts college. Rollins is nationally recognized for its distinctive undergraduate and selected graduate programs. We provide opportunities to explore diverse intellectual, spiritual, and aesthetic traditions. We are dedicated to scholarship, academic achievement, creative accomplishment, cultural enrichment, social responsibility, and environmental stewardship. We value excellence in teaching and rigorous, transformative education in a healthy, responsive, and inclusive environment.
Rollins College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Rollins College also may offer credentials such as certificates and diplomas at approved degree levels. Questions about the accreditation of Rollins College may be directed in writing to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA, 30033-4097, by calling 404-679-4500, or by using information available on the SACSCOC website (http://www.sacs.org).* Rollins obtained its SACSCOC accreditation in 1927 and has had no lapses in accreditation. Rollins’ accreditation was last reaffirmed in 2015
; and the College’s Fifth-Year Interim Report was accepted by SACSCOC in 2021. Rollins’ next reaffirmation of accreditation will take place in 2025.
Rollins College also holds additional program-level accreditations, approvals, or memberships. The College’s undergraduate and graduate business programs are accredited by The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International). The undergraduate music program has been a full member of the National Association of Schools of Music since 1931. The chemistry program has received approval by the American Chemical Society since 1974. The undergraduate and graduate programs in education and teaching are approved by the Department of Education of the State of Florida, and the graduate counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Additionally, the College’s Cornell Fine Arts Museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums.
Rollins also holds institutional memberships in the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the American Council on Education, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the Council of Independent Colleges, Associated Colleges of the South, the College Entrance Examination Board, the Florida Association of Colleges and Universities, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida, Inc.
*The contact information for SACSCOC is provided to enable interested constituents to ask questions about Rollins’ accreditation status. Inquiries about Rollins College, such as admission requirements, financial aid, educational programs, etc., should be sent directly to Rollins College and not to the Commission’s office. The Commission is to be contacted only if there is evidence that appears to support that Rollins is not in compliance with a requirement or a standard of accreditation.
Undergraduate Programs: The College of Liberal Arts offers day courses in a variety of studies that lead to baccalaureate degrees. The Hamilton Holt School offers evening courses that lead to baccalaureate degrees in a variety of majors.
Graduate Programs: In addition to undergraduate degrees, the Hamilton Holt School offers graduate programs leading to master’s degrees in counseling, education, human resources, liberal studies, teaching, and planning in civic urbanism. The Roy E. Crummer Graduate School of Business offers the Master of Business Administration degree through its early advantage (3/2), executive, and professional MBA program tracks. The Crummer Graduate School also administers the Centers for Management & Executive Education, Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership.
Consistent with the purposes set forth in the 1885 Charter of the College, Rollins continues to prepare students for “virtuous and useful lives.” The future of Rollins College depends on its excellence – the quality of the educational experience, the quality of students and faculty, the quality of individual performance, and the quality of our life and work together.
One afternoon in 1880, in a garden in Daytona, Florida, Lucy Cross had a vision – a college in Central Florida. Five years later she had garnered the support of the Congregational Church and in January 1885, representatives from five Central Florida communities competed for the privilege of becoming the College’s home. The three-year-old town of Winter Park emerged as the undisputed winner, benefiting from a generous gift offered on its behalf by a Chicago businessman, Alonzo Rollins. Named in his honor, Rollins College was incorporated on April 28, 1885. The Rev. Edward Payson Hooker, who helped establish the College, served as its first president (1885-1892).
From its inception the College has been coeducational and has attracted students both from the local communities of Central Florida and from the North. Its two objectives were to serve Florida’s educational needs and “to provide an opportunity for youth of the North, whose health demands that they should spend a considerable portion of the year in a more genial climate to pursue their studies” (Annual Catalogue, 1905-1906).
Early years saw the addition of “tasteful buildings,” including residence halls that were built on the notion of a “cottage plan.” One of these structures, Pinehurst Cottage, still occupies a visible place on the campus and ties the modern Rollins, with its Spanish-Mediterranean architecture, to its roots in turn-of-the-century Florida.
President George Morgan Ward (1896-1902), who later served as pastor of financier Henry Flagler’s chapel in Palm Beach, Florida, guided the College through the devastating financial times following the citrus freeze of 1894-1895.
William Fremont Blackman was a faculty member at Yale University when he was called to the Rollins presidency in 1902. During his term in office (1902-1915), President Blackman faced a national depression and diminishing enrollment, yet he substantially increased the College’s endowment, added to its facilities, and won the support of the Carnegie Foundation.
These early years also included strong ties to the country of Cuba. During the Spanish-American War, more Cuban students studied at Rollins than at any other American institution, and even in the 1920’s, Rollins football and basketball teams competed against the University of Havana.
President Hamilton Holt (1925-1949), a nationally recognized journalist, editor, and internationalist, brought national visibility to the College in its middle years, and left a legacy which includes a distinguished tradition of “experimental” education. During Holt’s administration Rollins College established the Conference Plan, which emphasized close teacher-student contact. Under this plan, teachers and students shared the learning experience around a conference table, an activity that led students to develop clear standards by which to judge their work. The College retains aspects of this method, particularly in its program for first-year students, but not to the exclusion of other significant approaches to teaching.
The Holt years brought many national figures to campus including Nobel Peace Prize winner Jane Addams, author Majorie Kinnan Rawlings, Countess Alexandra Tolstoy, Justice William O. Douglas, and Edward R. Morrow. Perhaps most notably, in January 1931, Rollins hosted a Curriculum Conference, with the distinguished educator John Dewey as Chairman. The resulting recommendations – which emphasized “Individualization in Education” – were implemented by Rollins in the Fall of 1931. So provocative were these innovations, that Sinclair Lewis, in his Stockholm address accepting the Nobel Prize in literature, listed Rollins first of all the colleges in the United States doing the most to encourage creative work in contemporary literature.
During the administration of Hugh F. McKean (1951-1969), the College developed the Honors Degree program for exceptionally well-prepared and qualified students. He also established graduate programs in education and business, the Hamilton Holt School, and the former Brevard Campus, which together provide evening education programs for nearly 2,000 adults annually. Although President McKean was a student and professor of art, his administration brought significant advances and general strengthening of the College programs in business administration, economics, and the sciences.
Jack B. Critchfield (1969-1978), elected president of Rollins from a position at the University of Pittsburgh, moved the College in new directions by establishing programs in environmental and interdisciplinary studies, graduate and undergraduate programs in criminal justice, and strengthening support from the business community.
Thaddeus Seymour (1978-1990) served previously as dean of Dartmouth College and president of Wabash College in Indiana. As Rollins celebrated its centennial, President Seymour defined its goal of providing superior liberal arts education in a personal and caring environment. During his administration, Rollins successfully completed a $43.9-million fund-raising campaign that provided facilities and endowment to support quality improvement and enhanced reputation. During this time, the faculty also completely reformulated the College’s curriculum, based on the pioneering work of the well-known educator D.S. Bloom. Students pursued courses that fulfilled general education requirements in skills (composition, mathematics, foreign language, and decision-making), the cognitive area (social, natural, and physical sciences), and the affective area (arts and literature). The framework of this curriculum remains in place to this day, although it continues to be refined.
Under the leadership of Rita Bornstein (1990-2004), who was previously vice president of the University of Miami, the College focused on strengthening its commitment to excellence, innovation, and community. Standards were raised, innovative academic programs were introduced, and co-curricular activities were developed around themes of leadership education and civic engagement. In 1997, Rollins reaffirmed its role as a leader in the national conversation on liberal education, hosting leading educators for a conference entitled “The Rollins Colloquy - Toward a Pragmatic Liberal Education: The Curriculum of the Twenty-First Century.” President Bornstein also oversaw the largest fundraising effort in Rollins’ history. Widely considered to have transformed the College, The Campaign For Rollins secured $160.2 million, providing support for academic programs, scholarships, faculty chairs, and facilities, and significantly strengthening the College’s financial health. Thanks to the generosity of donors and astute financial management, the College’s endowment more than quintupled during Bornstein’s presidency.
In March 2004, Lewis M. Duncan, formerly Dean of Dartmouth College’s Thayer School and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at the University of Tulsa, was elected as the fourteenth president of the College. On his appointment, President Duncan remarked that the coming years are certain to be ones of extraordinary change, challenge, and opportunity in higher education. He has stated that the world has never faced greater need for quality liberal education for a rising generation of citizen leaders and that Rollins College is exceptionally well positioned to answer this call.
As national recognition of the College’s quality has grown, both the number and quality of applicants for admission have escalated, permitting the College to be more selective while enrolling a larger, more diverse student body. Building on a tradition of excellence, innovation, and community more than a century old, Rollins College continues to offer rigorous, relevant higher-learning opportunities while holding firm to its commitment to personalized education in a nurturing environment.