Purdue University College of Liberal Arts College of Liberal Arts logo

THiNK Magazine logo

Story's Main Image

Celebrating 50 Years of Humanities, Social Science, and Education at Purdue

Spring 2013 | By Barbara Dixon.

One thing that hasn’t changed: CLA faculty work closely with students. On the left, an English professor directs a student’s writing in this undated photo from the Karnes Archives and Special Collections; on the right, Ian Lindsay, assistant professor of anthropology, examines pottery fragments with Nick Davis, a senior studying history and anthropology. Photos: (L) Purdue Colleges and Departments, Courtesy of Purdue University Libraries, Karnes Archives & Special Collections and (R) Mark Simons

In 1963 the Beatles released their first album, beehive hairdos were all the rage, and Michael Jordan had just been born. But more significantly for the College of Liberal Arts, 1963 marks the birth of the School of Humanities, Social Science, and Education (HSSE), the College’s forerunner. HSSE (still the name of the library in Stewart Center and fondly pronounced “hissy”) enabled Purdue to be more competitive with other major public universities, and supported then President Frederick Hovde in his goal of emphasizing educating “the whole person.”

This historic split marked the moment that liberal arts began in earnest to carve out its future as Purdue’s center for excellence in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. By the next year, three new departments had been formed: History, Political Science, and Philosophy. The dean at that time, Marbury B. Ogle Jr., saw this reorganization as a way to expand and nurture areas that were growing quickly—students in the three new departments had increased from 30 to 245 in just ten years. The development of interdisciplinary programs such as American Studies and Women’s Studies became possible with the greater autonomy that HSSE allowed. When the School of Education was organized as its own unit in 1989, the School of Liberal Arts (now the College of Liberal Arts) coalesced in its current form.

Now comprised of six departments, three schools, and 15 interdisciplinary programs, CLA is home to approximately 3,750 undergraduate students and 775 graduate students who can choose from more than 50 majors and more than 40 minors. Furthermore, virtually every Purdue undergraduate, regardless of major, takes at least one course from the College, which significantly shapes the experience of all students.

In 1963, Dean Ogle recognized that the newly formed HSSE offered a path to meet the needs of the modern industrial society. In 2013 the knowledge and skills that CLA students master help them meet the needs of a global and technological society—and prepare them to solve problems not yet imagined and hold jobs not yet envisioned. CLA continues the educational mission it began 50 years ago, but recognizes that the next 50 are even more crucial— and we have set our sights high. We seek to educate every individual to live more responsibly and humanely with the flexibility and knowledge to adapt to the challenges of our changing world.

Then and Now

Dwight Culver and his class
In this undated photo from the Karnes Archives and Special Collections, sociology professor Dwight Culver and his class study minority group problems using a tape-recorded interview. Photo: Purdue Colleges and Departments, Courtesy of Purdue University Libraries, Karnes Archives & Special Collections

The 1963 Annual Report of the President announced that the University was entering a new period. President Hovde went on to explain that the newly formed School of Humanities, Social Science, and Education would have courses that study human beings, their culture, and their heritage—still the hallmark of the College of Liberal Arts.

The departments in 1963 were:

  • Art and Design
  • Audiology and Speech Sciences
  • Child Development and Family Life
  • Education
  • English
  • History, Government, and Philosophy
  • Modern Languages
  • Physical Education for Men
  • Physical Education for Women
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Speech

Departments and schools in CLA in 2013:

  • Anthropology
  • Brian Lamb School of Communication
  • English
  • History
  • School of Languages and Cultures
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • Sociology
  • Patti and Rusty Rueff School of Visual and Performing Arts


Thanks for the short article on 50 years (HSSE to CLA) at Purdue. It brought back memories. As you note, the dean of HSSE was M.B. Ogle, Jr. (He seldom used his first name, Marbury, but seemed proud of the "Jr.") Political scientist Ogle was one of my professors as I pursued a Ph.D. in communication (then "speech"). He served on my doctoral committee, chaired by professor Ron Reid, and was a perceptive mentor on public opinion, (his specialty) as I pursued my Ph.D. While serving as dean, Ogle actually taught a course, which I was fortunate to take. In January and February of 1963, before assassinations, terrorist attacks, etc., I had ready access to the White House to do my research. I simply showed my drivers license, sans photo, at the Pennsylvania Avenue gate and walked myself up to the West Wing as if I belonged there. There I interviewed dozens of staff and reporters for my dissertation on John Kennedy's press conference. I was admitted to the press conferences held while I was in Washington. The Kennedy assassination in November of 1963 slowed me down, but the dissertation was finally finished and formed the basis for two scholarly articles I subsequently published.

Harry Sharp, Jr., professor and dean (liberal arts) emeritus, Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo

Share via E-mail


Comments will be added to the story after review by a moderator. Name and e-mail address are optional, but if you would like an email response to your comment, please indicate this and provide your contact details.