NEW YORK—Barnard College began in 1889 with a class of 14 young women taking classes at a rented brownstone on Madison Ave.
Today, the college boasts 35,000 alumnae around the world, many of them leaders in their fields.
A few of the many distinguished graduates include the Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri, choreographer Twyla Tharp, and president of the American Museum of Natural History, Ellen Futter.
On Sunday, the college announced the renaming of the corner of 116th St. and Broadway—where its campus now resides—as “Barnard Way,” in celebration of the 125th anniversary since the school’s founding.
At the opening ceremony, the city’s transportation commissioner, Polly Trottenberg, who is an alumna of the school’s class of 1986, read out a proclamation by the mayor, commemorating the day as “Barnard Day.”
In his proclamation, Mayor Bill de Blasio notes that two other Barnard alumnae are part of his administration: Emma Wolfe, who is director of intergovernmental affairs and one of his top advisers, and Stacey Cumberbatch, commissioner of citywide administrative services.
“Barnard has always encouraged its students to take risks, explore their curiosity, and develop their creativity, and its graduates have wholeheartedly embraced this mission, challenging stereotypes and disproving preconceived notions about gender through their incredible success,” the mayor wrote.
Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer was also in attendance, and took credit for starting off Wolfe’s career, when Wolfe was a student in a seminar class that Brewer taught at Columbia University.
Brewer noted the importance of a college that prepares young women to become leaders. “Many institutions are headed by men, but Barnard prepares young women to join those institutions and make change from within,” she said.
Barnard College was named after Frederick A.P. Barnard, the 10th president of Columbia University who had advocated for the school to admit women at a time when women were still not allowed to vote.
Although he was ultimately unsuccessful, a writer and advocate Annie Nathan Meyer later convinced Columbia’s trustees to create an affiliated college at Columbia that would provide higher education to women.
In 1897, Barnard College moved to its present location in Morningside Heights, across the street from Columbia.
Today, the liberal arts college remains independent with its own president, board of trustees, and faculty, but students can take classes at Columbia and graduate with a diploma from the University.
Local city council member Mark Levine and congressional representative Jerrold Nadler also delivered remarks, noting the contributions that Barnard students make to the local community through mentoring girls from the neighborhood and volunteering at local organizations.
The school opened its doors to the public on Sunday for a day-long series of events, including music and dance performances, film screenings, free workshops, and discussion panels by faculty members.
Note: The author, Annie Wu, is a 2013 graduate of Barnard College.