Our History

Cathedral of Learning

A Legacy of Progress and Innovation in Education

The University of Pittsburgh School of Education opened its doors in the fall of 1910, with Professor Will Grant Chambers as founding dean and an original graduating class of eight men and women.

In the 1920s, the school faced a sharp decline in enrollment during World War I which led to many financial difficulties. It persevered and established a partnership with KDKA Radio, a station that still exists today as NewsRadio 1020 KDKA. A broadcasting studio was developed on campus and provided educational instruction to students via radio.

The School of Education opened The School of Childhood, a place where adult immigrants learned English. This school evolved over the years and is known today as the Falk Laboratory School.

Major advancements took place both in the School of Education and at Pitt during the 1930s. Master of Education and Doctor of Education degree programs were designed and approved for teachers and administrators. The Falk School continued to grow, offering a nursery, kindergarten class, and six grades that focused on each student’s individual development. The School of Education faculty came together toward the end of the Depression to contribute the largest donation of any faculty, $640.50, to the Cathedral of Learning building fund. On its 25th anniversary in 1935, the School of Education celebrated its growth and success with an enrollment of 545 students which, at the time, was one-sixth of all undergraduate students at the University of Pittsburgh.

During the mid-20th century and World War II, the school increased the disciplinary emphasis of its curriculum to meet the changing needs of the country. The school established new goals, which included the promotion of social justice and the improvement of social existence. After the war, the University of Pittsburgh’s student enrollment more than doubled as soldiers returned home.

From 1986-1990, 15 departments and programs within the school realigned and merged to form three academic departments that are still in place today: Administrative and Policy Studies, Instruction and Learning, and Psychology in Education.

Numerous milestones have been reached over the past 10 years. Some of these great achievements include the 50th anniversary of the Higher Education Management Program, one of the first programs in the country to prepare professional administrators for careers in post-secondary institutions. The Applied Developmental Psychology Program also celebrated its 50th anniversary. The Learning Policy Center was established, and Mary Key Stein was appointed as its first director. Louis Gomez was appointed as the first fully endowed Dr. Helen S. Faison Chair in Urban Education. Most recently, the school celebrated its centennial in grand fashion, honoring prominent alumni and hosting a conference on motivation and engagement.

As of 2016, the U.S. News & World Report ranked the University of Pittsburgh School of Education as the 30th “Best Graduate School in Education”. By exploring innovation in education, pioneering new programs, and preparing the region’s educational leaders, the School of Education is well poised to continue a legacy of excellence into its 2nd century.

*Information gathered from School of Education staff, archives, and the following two dissertations:
Herron, J.B. “History of the School of Education University of Pittsburgh, 1953-1972.” PhD diss., University of Pittsburgh, 1974.
Neff, W.B. “History of the School of Education University of Pittsburgh, 1910-1950.” PhD diss., University of Pittsburgh, 1974.