Freshman Studies was established in 1945, largely due to the efforts of President Nathan Pusey. The original version of Freshman Studies was strikingly different from the "great books" courses being adopted on other campuses. In addition to classic works by Plato, Machiavelli, and Thoreau, the reading list included a film, The Ox-Bow Incident, starring Henry Fonda. The original version of the course also featured a laboratory component, requiring active participation in music, art, or creative writing.
Since then, Freshman Studies has gone through an almost circular process of change. The course was scaled back in the late 1960s and abolished in 1975, only to be reinstated just a few years later. It was restored to something like its original scope in 1986 and reviewed and extensively revised in 1997. At that time, the faculty re-affirmed its commitment to Freshman Studies and re-emphasized its central purposes of introducing students to the liberal arts tradition and building skills in reading, writing, and speaking.
Recent years have been among the most vital in the program's history. In those years, students studying Shakespeare in Freshman Studies have had a chance to see live professional productions of plays like Hamlet, Macbeth, and The Tempest. They've also heard their fellow students give stirring performances of musical works like Beethoven's fifth symphony and Mozart's Marriage of Figaro. The vitality of the course was most obviously confirmed in the winter of 2001, when Lawrence received a $500,000 challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. With the help of many generous donations from alumni and friends, the college was able to create a $2.5 million endowment for Freshman Studies, which it named in honor of President Pusey.
The links below provide a more detailed look at the history of the course, moving from the mid-forties to the present.