Class Acts
Profiles in Education
Education Challenge


Each of the 50 states (and let's not forget US territories and Commonwealths) has a unique educational history. Here is your challenge - Research and share with others who visit this Web site unique "firsts" in your state.

Submit an entry describing an "educational first" in a state or other geographic region. Please include your name so we can give you credit for the submission

For example, did you know . . .

Arkansas. -

  • In 1948, the University of Arkansas became the first traditionally Euro-American University in the South to break the color barrier, when Silas Hunt, an Afro-American, enrolled in the University of Arkansas School of Law.

    -- John O., American University

California. -

  • I went to Sacred Heart Prep in Atherton, CA. It had the largest high school swimming pool in the West and the largest pool in Northern California.

    -- Molly K. American University

Connecticut. -

  1. In 1729, Yale University gave out the very first medical diploma.
  2. Connecticut founded the very first public library.
  3. Connecticut also founded the first school for the deaf.
-- James Perachio and Reaghan Bik

Delaware. -

  • I went to Wilmington Friends School, which is the oldest school in Delaware. It was founded in 1749, and just celebrated its 250th anniversary.

    -- Emily F. American University
  • First "Junior Year Abroad" was instituted by the University of Delaware, Newark, Del. Professor Raymond Watson Kirkbride took 8 students to study at the University of Paris in 1923.


    Kane, Joseph. Famous First Facts. (3ed.). The H.W. Wilson Company. New

Guatemala -

  • Did you know that in 1562, Don Francisco Marroquin, bishop of Guatemala, established the Colegio Universitario de Santo Tomas? It became the first college in Guatemala to offer university studies to low-income students.

    -- Anavela Mijangos

Illinois -

  • Although I went to a 'released time' religion class in my high school in Utah, I discovered that the first Supreme Court legislation regarding released time for religious instruction actually occurred in Illinois. In 1948, Vashti McCollum challenged the right of the Champaign public schools to permit the three-part (Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish) religious instruction program taking place inside the schools to continue. The Supreme Court ruled that released time religious programs of this kind were unconstitutional. This was the most forceful denunciation of the church-school relationship to date. (Released time was ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court four years later, but under very strict conditions.)

    Source: Landmark Supreme Court Decisions on Public School Issues, by Edward C. Bolmeier. The Michie Company, VA: 1973.

    --Jennifer Heywood

Maryland -

  • St. Frances Academy 1828 First dental college in the world - Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, 1839
  • First publicly supported high school for girls - Eastern High School and Western High School, 1844
  • First woman professor at medical school in the United States, Dr. Florence Rina Sabin, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 1901

    -- Carrie I., Kate M., and Dipti M., American University

  • Georgetown Prep in Bethesda, MD was founded in 1789 by the society of Jesuits. It is the oldest (that would make it the first) Catholic secondary school in the U.S.

    -- Tina Clarkson

Massachusetts -

  • I am from Massachusetts and attended the first boarding school in the country. Governor Dummer Academy was founded in 1763 and today is known as America's oldest boarding school.

    -- Susan G.
  • Elizabeth Peabody founded the first American kindergarten in the city of Boston, 1873. Source: Richie-Sharp, Shelly Ann.

    -- Katie Horst, American University
  • Smith College-first women's college endowed by a woman established in 1875 in Massachusetts by Sophia Smith.-- Erin M., Maria R., Laurie L., Courtney G., Leslie D.
  • The oldest (first) College in the United States was Harvard College in Cambridge, MA. It was founded in 1636 as Newtowne College and renamed in 1638 after its first benefactor, John Harvard.

    ---Lauren Jamieson and Stephanie Wu
  • First College student to work his way through college was Zechariah Brigden. The fourteen year old made his way through Harvard College

    Cambridge, Mass. by "ringing the bell and waytinge" to graduate in 1657.


    Kane, Joseph. Famous First Facts. (3ed.). The H.W. Wilson Company. New York: NY. 1964.
  • First college for women was Mount Holyoke Seminary in South Hadley Mass. It was chartered Feb. 11, 1836 and was opened Nov. 8, 1837. The 80 students paid $64 for tuition and board.


    Kane, Joseph. Famous First Facts. (3ed.). The H.W. Wilson Company. New York: NY. 1964.
  • First School to Operate on the one-class-per-room basis was established in Quincy, Mass. in 1846.


    Kane, Joseph. Famous First Facts. (3ed.). The H.W. Wilson Company. New York: NY. 1964.
  • The Mather Elementary School in Massachusetts is America's oldest elementary school, established in 1639.

    -- Anne Dickey. and Charlene Reynolds., American University


Michingan -

  • First school to caption commencement for the hearing impaired. For Spring 2001 commencement, a real time digital display of all the speeches was used to help the hearing impaired enjoy the ceremony as much as everyone else. The U-M is the first university ever to use this LED display in an outdoor setting involving so many people. The entire audience was able to see the 10-inch letters from their seats. In past years, an interpreter signed the commencement comments from the stage.


    Amira Maaty

Minnesota -

  • Minnesota was the first state to enact charter school legislation in 1991. -- Erin M., Maria R., Laurie L., Courtney G., Leslie D.

Missouri -

  • The Missouri School for the Blind, established in 1851 in St. Louis, was the first in the western hemisphere to teach the reading and writing of Braille. The school was established with the idea that all children could learn given the opportunity. This was the belief of Mr. Eli William Whalen, a blind man who had formerly been Superintendent of the Tennessee Institution for the Blind at Nashville.

    -- Michael Murawski


New York -

  • Vassar College-first real college for women established by Matthew Vassar in 1865 in Poughkeepsie, NY. -- Erin M., Maria R., Laurie L., Courtney G., Leslie D.
  • The first music teachers for public schools in the United States graduated from Potsdam Normal School in Potsdam, NY. found at:

    --Megan Toy, American University
  • The first school of Nurse-Midwifery was established in New York in 1931 found at:

    --Megan Toy, American University
  • Winifred Edgerton became the first American women to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics, in 1886. After her second year studying mathematics and astronomy at Columbia University she petitioned to recieve a Ph.D. degree, having fullfilled all of the required credits and writing an original thesis that dealt with geometric interpretations of multiple integrals and translations and relations of various systems of coordinates. Her work in astronomy also included computation of the orbit of a comet of 1883. The board of trustee's first refused her application but after Winifred personally talked to each member, the board unamiously voted to award her a Ph.D in mathematics, which she recieved with highest honors.

    --Angela Fiorille

North Carolina -

  • The University of North Carolina was the first state university in the United States, established in 1793.

    -- Walker, American University
  • North Carolina established the first state supported university in America. Its first state constitution, written in 1776, called for the school citing a need for higher education at a low price. With the Revolutionary War and the hard financial times following, it was not until 1793 that the first cornerstone was laid. The second state to establish a university was Georgia in 1801. If you want to find out more about the history of UNC-Chapel Hill, visit

    --Walker, American University

Ohio -

  • In 1856, Wilberfource University was the first institution of higher education owned and operated by African Americans in the United States.
  • In 1839, Ohio became the first state to adopt a bilingual education law, authorizing German-English instruction at parents' request.

    ---Lauren Jamieson and Stephanie Wu
  • First Coeducational College was Oberlin Collegiate Institute (know as Oberlin College since 1850), Oberlin, Ohio, which opened Dec 3, 1833,

    with 44 students (29 men and 15 women).


    Kane, Joseph. Famous First Facts. (3ed.). The H.W. Wilson Company. New York: NY. 1964.

Pennsylvania -

  • I went to the Wm. Penn Charter School which was founded in 1689 as the first Quaker school in Philly and the nation.

    -- Julia S.
  • Established in 1746, Linden Hall is America's oldest boarding school for girls. It is located in historic Lititz, PA. (For more info, log on to

    -- Tina Clarkson
  • First art school and art museum: the Museum of American Art of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, founded 1805.

    Philadelphia Firsts.
  • -- Adam Nathan
  • First University legally designated as a university was the university of the state of Pennsylvania. The privately endowed institution went from the College of Pennsylvania to the University on Nov. 27, 1779.


    Kane, Joseph. Famous First Facts. (3ed.). The H.W. Wilson Company. New York: NY. 1964.

South Carolina -

  • South Carolina boasts the first municipal college - College of Charleston, opened April 1, 1838. South Carolina also boasts the first textile school established in a college - Clemson, 1899-- Erin M., Maria R., Laurie L., Courtney G., Leslie D.
  • In 1740, in South Carolina, the first law prohibiting slaves the opportunity for education was passed. -- Carrie I., Kate M., and Dipti M., American University

Texas -

  • First air conditioned public elementary school was the Belaire School in San Angelo, TX, which was opened in 1955 with eight air-conditioned



    Kane, Joseph. Famous First Facts. (3ed.). The H.W. Wilson Company. New York: NY. 1964.

Vermont boasts the first

  • Blackboard
  • Teachers' Textbook
  • Teacher Education Program (Normal School)
  • State Constitution that Provides for a State University

  • (and perhaps MOST important)
  • Rubber Eraser
  • 1800 - Middlebury established the first female seminary.
  • 1814 - The first globe was made by James Wilson of Bradford.
  • 1915 - The first junior high school in the country was founded in Cabot.
  • 1777 - Vermont had the first state constitution to provide for a "complete and closely articulated system of education."
  • 1912 - The Carnegie Commission of the Advancement of Teaching conducted "the first comprehension effort on the part of the State of the Union to study its school system as a whole, from the elementary school to the university."

    Julie Alexander, American University
  • Alexander Lucius Twilight was born in 1795, to a free black family in Vermont. He received a bachelor's degree from Middlebury College in 1823, making him the first African American to graduate from college. He was licensed to preach by the Presbyterian church. He became principal of the Orleans County Grammar School in Brownington, Vermont, and in 1836 built a massive three-story granite building, Athenian Hall, which became Brownington Academy. Additionally, in the 1836-1837 term, he served in the Vermont State legislature, the first African American to do so. He died in 1857.

    -- Samuel Hall and Melinda Ford

Virginia -

  • Patrick Henry College will open this fall in Purcellville, Virginia. It is an experiment in higher education because it is the nation's first secondary institution designed for home-school students and a training ground for Christian political advocates. Part of the home-school movement has been fueled over parent's growing discontentment with the secularization of schools. Eighty to ninety percent of the student population is expected to be home-school in an effort to help return American to its biblical and Constitutional roots.

    Source: New York Times. January 9th 2000. Education Life Section 4a
  • The American Roentgen Ray Society, founded in 1900, is the first and oldest radiology society in the United States. It is located in Leesburg, Virginia.

    -- Tonya N. Jefferson
  • The first American leader or politician to actively pursue the creation of a public school system was Thomas Jefferson, in 1779. His plan would guarantee a tax-paid education for Virginia's children for at least three years, and further low-cost education for those who performed well during their studies. The top students would then be offered the chance to attend publicly funded colleges. Though his proposal never gained the support it deserved, it went on to become the groundwork for early 19th century school systems.


Washington D.C.. -

  • 1979 - Oyster Elementary School was the first public elementary school in the District of Columbia to implement a program in bilingual education.

    -- Pablo Moglia, American University
  • 1852 - Emerson Preparatory School is Washington DC (formerly known as Emerson Institute) was the first independent co-education high school in our nation's capitol. According to legend and lore, its proud graduates include John Wilkes Booth, President Ulysses S. Grant's two sons, and John Sirica, the Watergate judge.

    -- Stephen Born, American University
  • Gallaudet University is the world's only university for the deaf and hard of hearing.

    -- Jaime Lazar, Shelby Sandler, Niki Diamond
  • The Option School and the Children's Studio were the first two public charter schools in Washington, DC. While the Option School was actually the first licensed charter school in Washington, having been opened in 1996, the Children's Studio had been operating a community-based school since 1977. It did not become an liscenced charter school until 1997.

    -- Andrew Lemerise


  • Wisconsin was the first state to establish kindergarten in the US.

    --Karen Z, American University
  • Milwaukee became the site of the first publicly financed voucher program in 1990. Wisconsin lawmakers approved a plan for Milwaukee students to receive approximately $3,000 each to attend nonsectarian private schools. -- Erin M., Maria R., Laurie L., Courtney G., Leslie D.

England. -

  • External Exams-- The first External School Examinations (i.e. examinations conducted by an independent examining body) were held on December 23-25, 1850 at Mr. Goodacre's School at Nottingham, England.
  • Sex Education-- The first sex education course offered in a school setting was introduced by Cecil Reddie, Headmaster at Abbotsholme School in England, in 1889. With this course, Mr. Reddie hoped to "prevent mental illusions due to false ideas from within" and to "prevent false teaching from other fellows".

    Source: Robertson, Patrick. The Book of Firsts. London: Rainbird Ref. Books Ltd., 1975.

Germany. -

  • The first Kindergarten was founded in 1837 by Friedrich Froebel

    -- Raquel Salcedo-Fabian and Jonathan Walker

India -

New Zealand. -

  • The Reading Recovery Program was discovered in New Zealand in the mid 1960's. The program was designed to detect children's early reading difficulties. In the 70's it was implemented in New Zealand.

Peru. -

  • UNIVERSIDAD NACIONAL MAYOR DE SAN MARCOS DE LIMA, coeducational state-financed institution of higher learning situated at LIma, the capital of Peru. The university, the oldest in South America, was founded in 1551.

    --Rossana and Mary-Ann, American University.

USA. -

  • The first assistance group for staff development (and largest too) is the National Development Staff Council which was founded in 1969.

    --Sivan Kromelian

Copyright © 2005 McGraw-Hill Higher Education
Any use is subject to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.
McGraw-Hill Higher Education is one of the many fine businesses of The McGraw-Hill Companies.