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Lawrence University is a deliberately small, residential college of liberal arts and sciences and a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. Founded in 1847, Lawrence is a community of 1,500 intellectually curious students that bring a diversity of experience and thought from nearly every state and 50 countries outside the U.S. The energy and passion for learning is palpable from the classroom to the dorm room and throughout the campus.

Lawrence University is devoted to Individualized Learning, their most unique and defining attribute. Individualized Learning is an academic commitment characterized by professor/mentors whose foremost motivation is teaching and a rigorous curriculum designed to create the opportunity for every student to be educated as unique individuals. That's why nearly two-thirds of all courses have the optimal student-teacher ratio of 1 to 1. Moreover, Lawrence is among only 19 colleges in the United States with overall student-faculty ratios less than 9:1. Individualized Learning helps transform the university’s students into critical thinkers, articulate writers and collaborative problem-solvers that are prepared for success in a rapidly changing world.

According to a study by the National Science Foundation, Lawrence ranks in the top 14 nationally among baccalaureate institutions in its percentage of graduates who go on to earn doctorate degrees. Including all institutions, Lawrence ranks 28th nationally based on institutional-yield ratio, just behind Johns Hopkins University and tied with Duke University.

Lawrence is located adjacent to downtown Appleton, Wisconsin—a remarkably vibrant community of 72,000 in which the town and the college benefit from one another. Located on a bluff overlooking the Fox River, Lawrence is known for its friendly, open campus, its multi-interest students and the variety of musical, artistic, athletic and scholarly activities that students, faculty, staff and local residents readily embrace.

 History of Lawrence University

The Founding

Lawrence University, like the city of Appleton in which it is located, owes its origins to the perseverance of frontier ministers and to the philanthropy of wealthy Bostonians. In 1847, the Boston merchant Amos A. Lawrence commissioned Rev. William Harkness Sampson, Rev. Henry Root Colman, and Rev. Reeder Smith to establish a school on land he owned in the Wisconsin Territory. Lawrence pledged $10,000 to endow the school, on condition that the Methodists, represented by Sampson and Colman, match his gift. Even before the money could be raised, the Territorial Legislature, on January 15, 1847, granted a charter to Lawrence Institute, a name that was changed to Lawrence University when classes first began on November 12, 1849.

The Early Years

During its first 40 years, Lawrence University struggled with the problems of a developing frontier: the failure of wheat crops, the disruptions of the Civil War, and the chaos of financial panics. Through it all, seven different college administrations held fast to the tenets of a strong classical education. The early curriculum, though constrictive and conservative by today’s standards, was, on the whole, rather broad for the time, and the alumni of that era attained distinguished careers in education, business, the ministry, law, and politics.

The return of Dr. Samuel Plantz to his alma mater as president in 1894 marked a turning point for Lawrence. During his 30-year administration, the student body grew from 200 to 800; the faculty increased from nine to 68; the endowment grew from less than $100,000 to $2,000,000; and the physical plant was enhanced by the construction of eight major buildings. During these years, Lawrence’s pursuit of academic excellence was reflected in the selection of its first Rhodes Scholar in 1904 and the establishment of a Phi Beta Kappa chapter in 1914.

During Plantz’s administration, the Conservatory of Music came into its own as a separate part of the university with the addition of six faculty members, the introduction of curricular offerings in public school music and music history, and the acquisition of a building devoted exclusively to music instruction.

Lawrence College

In 1913, the institution adopted the name Lawrence College to underscore its commitment to undergraduate liberal education. That commitment received further articulation during the administration of President Henry Merritt Wriston (1925-37), when the college charted a course that it has followed faithfully to the present day. In the words of the catalog of 1934, “The ultimate purpose of liberal education at Lawrence is the establishment and improvement of standards — standards of thought and expression, of taste and interest, of character and ethics, of health and sane living.”

While holding fast to these enduring goals of liberal education, Lawrence continually has reassessed and reshaped its academic program in response to the changing contours of knowledge and changing views on the nature of learning. The tutorial system, first instituted by President Wriston, has blossomed into a wide range of options for independent learning. Freshman Studies, introduced by President Nathan Marsh Pusey (1944-53), today remains a distinctive expression of the commitment of the entire Lawrence community to the examination of ideas of abiding importance.

With the introduction of a number of overseas programs in the 1960s, Lawrence enhanced its ability to broaden the horizons of its students through direct contact with other societies. The recent appearance in the curriculum of interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary offerings in biomedical ethics, cognitive science, East Asian Studies, Environmental Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Gender Studies, among others, reflects a concern that new knowledge be available to Lawrence students along with the traditional courses in the arts and sciences.

Consolidation with Milwaukee-Downer College

Under the leadership of President Curtis W. Tarr (1963-69), Lawrence once again assumed the name Lawrence University, when it was consolidated in 1964 with Milwaukee-Downer College for Women. Milwaukee-Downer, named in honor of its trustee and benefactor, Jason Downer, was itself the product of a merger in 1895 between Milwaukee Female College and Downer College of Fox Lake. Both schools had pioneered in the education of women, and Milwaukee Female College had benefited early on from the interest of Catharine Beecher, a sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe, who provided the institution with an advanced program of high educational standards.

Lawrence University Today

The present campus of Lawrence University, situated on 84 acres, contains 60 instructional, residential, recreational and administrative facilities. Björklunden vid Sjön, Lawrence’s 425-acre northern campus, is located on Lake Michigan in Door County, Wisconsin.

The student body of approximately 1,500 students, drawn from nearly every state and more than 50 countries, is served by a full-time faculty of 165 men and women.

Lawrence is accredited as a degree-granting institution by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, and the Conservatory of Music is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Music. Lawrence also is a member of the Midwest Conference and National Collegiate Athletic Association, Division III (NCAA III).

Lawrence today is what it has been for much of its history, an undergraduate college of the liberal arts and sciences with a Conservatory of Music. It honors the vision of its founders and builds on the heritage of more than a century and a half of excellence in undergraduate education.

Lawrence University: Mission Statement and Educational Philosophy

According to the school’s well-developed and very useful website, the following represent the mission and education philosophy of Lawrence University.

Mission Statement

“Lawrence University of Wisconsin, through its undergraduate residential college and Conservatory of Music, educates students in the liberal arts and sciences. The university is devoted to excellence and integrity in all of its activities and committed to the development of intellect and talent, the pursuit of knowledge and understanding, the cultivation of sound judgment, and respect for the perspectives of others. Lawrence prepares students for lives of achievement, responsible and meaningful citizenship, lifelong learning, and personal fulfillment. As a learning community of scholars and artists they engage each other in a transformative process that emphasizes individualized learning, supported by an environment of rich educational opportunities in a residential campus setting.”

Educational Philosophy

Students enter Lawrence at a time when they are actively forging their identities and seeking their place in the world. A Lawrence University education is therefore transformative: the school strives to help each student develop as a liberally educated person who can think deeply and creatively about ideas, gather and analyze evidence, communicate effectively, articulate a personal identity that leads to thoughtful life choices, and who is committed to responsible citizenship. This transformation is supported by a learning community that immerses students in the breadth of human experience, engages ideas in a spirit of open discourse, values the uniqueness of the individual, and celebrates accomplishment. The foundation for this learning community is a vibrant, safe, and healthful residential campus that contains talented and diverse groups of students, faculty, administrators, and staff.  Their residential experience is enhanced by opportunities to study abroad and to become involved in the wider community. The University values effective teaching combined with distinguished scholarship and creative activity.

Lawrence University sees in each student the potential to become an informed, independent thinker, and concerned, responsible citizen. Lawrence students can personalize their learning through interactions with peers, professors, and staff in a wide variety of settings, both formal and informal. The process begins with their Freshman Studies program, and continues through the sophomore and junior years, and into their Senior Experience programs.

Lawrence University: Facts and Figures

Below are some facts and figures about Lawrence University as of the 2014 school year:

Total Enrollment: 1,519

Full-Time: 1,473 (97%)

Part-Time: 46 (3%)

Degree-Seeking Students

Men - 676 (46%)

Women - 807 (54%)

Race/Ethnic Composition

African American - 51 (3%)

Asian - 60 (4%)

Hispanic/Latino/Latina of any race - 100 (7%)

Two or more races - 59 (4%)

Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander- 0 (0%)

Native American/Alaskan Native - 8 (.5%)

Non-Resident International - 158 (10%)

Race/Ethnicity Unknown - 9 (0.6%)

White - 1,074 (71%)

Geographic Representation

45 states and the District of Columbia

38 foreign countries




Mark Burstein

Degrees Available

Bachelor of Arts; Bachelor of Music; combined 5-year double degree Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Music


Bachelor of Arts—32; Bachelor of Music—3; Interdisciplinary Areas of Concentration—3

Full-Time Faculty


Student-Faculty Ratio


Academic Calendar

Three 10-week terms (Fall, Winter, Spring)


58 instructional, residential, recreational and administrative facilities; Björklunden vid Sjön, a 425-acre estate on Lake Michigan in Door County, serves as the college’s northern campus.


NCAA Division III; founding member of the Midwest Conference

Athletic Teams

22 varsity teams, 12 for men, 10 for women

Athletic Nickname


Lawrence University in the Community

Lawrence University is part of an intellectual and creative community that includes the Fox Valley, Lawrence's alumni, and the larger global community. The university is committed to providing service to and learning from the larger community. Through such resources as Björklunden and the Academy of Music, Lawrence contributes to the vitality of the surrounding community by: (1) making available programs of cultural enrichment, (2) drawing on the knowledge and experience of members of that community in the exploration of significant issues, (3) providing opportunities for alumni to maintain a lifelong connection with the institution and with each other and encouraging their continuing interest in learning, and (4) providing such educational programs as the certification as public school teachers in the state of Wisconsin.

All Programs Available:
  • Arts, Design and Crafts
    • Fine Arts
    • Theatre
    • Performing Arts
    • Music
  • Computing
    • Information Technology
  • Economics
    • Economics
  • Education
    • Education
  • Humanities
    • Philosophy
    • Humanities
    • History
  • Philology, Languages, Literature
    • Philology and Linguistics
  • Sciences
    • Anthropology
    • Chemistry
    • Psychology
    • Mathematics
    • Geology
    • Physics
    • Political Science
    • Environmental Studies
    • Biology
Language of instruction


Type of school

Private University




P.O. Box 599, Appleton, Wisconsin, The United States, 54912-0599


Accredited as a degree-granting institution by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. The Conservatory of Music is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Music.