Bard College at Simon's Rock: the Early College
  1. Home
  2. Early College
  3. Understanding Early College
  4. Our History
  5. Over 50 Years of Early College Excellence

Over 50 Years of Early College Excellence

In 1966 Elizabeth Blodgett Hall founded Simon’s Rock based on the belief that many bright, motivated young people are ready for serious intellectual work at the age of 16 or 17.

Simon’s Rock (named for a glacial rock formation on the family land that would become the Simon’s Rock campus) opened in the fall of 1966 as a women’s school offering its students a four-year program that combined the last two years of high school and the first two years of college—concluding with an associate of arts (AA) degree. In 1970—the same year Simon’s Rock graduated its inaugural class—the school became a coeducational campus, and by 1974, the high school component was eliminated. Through the support from the National Science Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation, the College developed its bachelor of arts (BA) program. With the introduction of its first BA concentrations, Simon’s Rock became what it has remained ever since: A four-year college of the liberal arts and sciences designed expressly to educate young, bright, motivated scholars.

The evolution of a movement

Like many colleges founded in the 1960s, Simon’s Rock struggled with the pressures of inadequate resources and turned to President Leon Botstein of Bard College, who had a distinct appreciation for early college, having himself entered the University of Chicago at the age of 16. President Botstein fully understood the significance of Simon’s Rock and the importance of the early college mission.

 In 1979, Simon’s Rock became part of Bard College, one of the nation’s most outstanding and innovative liberal arts colleges—located 50 miles from the Simon’s Rock campus in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. While Simon’s Rock has retained its unique identity and singular mission, the partnership brought new academic and financial strength to the College. Since 1979, Bard has added to the texture and depth of the academic experience at Simon’s Rock, shaping many of the intellectual hallmarks of a Simon’s Rock education: Writing and Thinking Workshops, Moderation, the Senior Thesis, as well as the First-Year and Sophomore Seminars.

The partnership with Bard College has deepened the Simon’s Rock mission to provide a transformative liberal arts education at exactly the moment in adolescence when a young person is most ready for it. It has also allowed Simon’s Rock and Bard to drive a nationwide educational movement based on the core beliefs that motivated Elizabeth Blodgett Hall. In 2015, Bard Academy at Simon's Rock opened on the Simon’s Rock campus, welcoming a small class of boarding and day students to an enriched two-year high school experience prior to their enrollment in the regular Simon’s Rock college program. Still at the vanguard, and now a collaborative leader in the early college movement, Simon’s Rock continues to invite young people to participate fully in their education by offering them unparalleled opportunities for serious intellectual work at the moment they are ready for it.


Dr. Ian Bickford, himself a Simon’s Rock alumnus (’95), and the founding dean of Bard Academy at Simon’s Rock, was appointed as provost and vice president of Simon's Rock in 2016. He continues the strong leadership examples set by Elizabeth Blodgett Hall and her successors Baird Whitlock, Bernard F. Rodgers Jr., Mary B. Marcy, and Peter Laipson.

Under the guidance of committed leadership, the College has seen the transformation of the physical campus, growth in enrollment, an increase in the range and breadth of the curriculum and the faculty, greater diversity, improved access to financial aid, the creation of signature programs, the introduction of Bard Academy, and a continued commitment to educational innovation and enhanced resources, allowing students to thrive.