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Johnson State College

Coordinates: 44°38′30″N 72°40′16″W / 44.64167°N 72.67111°W / 44.64167; -72.67111
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Johnson State College
MottoDocendo discimus
"by teaching, we learn"
TypePublic liberal arts college
Active1828; 196 years ago (1828) –
2018; 6 years ago (2018)
PresidentElaine C. Collins
Location, ,
United States
CampusRural village, 350 acres (1.4 km2) (main campus)
1,000 acres (4.0 km2) (nature preserve)
Merged intoVermont State University
ColorsGreen, Navy, White
Sporting affiliations

Johnson State College was a public liberal arts college in Johnson, Vermont. Founded in 1828 by John Chesamore, in 2018 Johnson State College was merged with the former Lyndon State College to create Northern Vermont University. In July 2023, Castleton University, Northern Vermont University-Johnson, Northern Vermont University-Lyndon, and Vermont Technical College merged to become Vermont State University.

History and governance[edit]

William Samuel Johnson (1727-1819), American jurist, statesman and educator. Both the college and the town are named for him. Painted by Gilbert Stuart.

The town of Johnson, and a part of neighboring Cambridge, Vermont together once made up the King's College Tract, a land grant chartered by King George III in 1774 for the eventual expansion of King's College in New York, today's Columbia University.

Following the Declaration of Independence, and the emergence of the Vermont Republic, the town of was instead granted to William Samuel Johnson (1727-1819) by Vermont's Council of Censors in 1782. Johnson represented Connecticut in the Continental Congress, and argued for Vermont's admission to the federal Union. (Coincidentally, Johnson would serve as the third President of Columbia University, but this was unrelated to the King's College Tract.)

John Chesamore founded Johnson State College as Johnson Academy, a grammar school instructing students in Greek, Latin, algebra, and geometry. In 1867, the school became a Vermont state "normal school", a term based on the French école normale – a school to educate teachers. Early on Johnson embraced the ideas of learning from experience, and the role of the student in directing some part of their curriculum. The college was among the first Vermont universities to introduce electives. Through the early to mid-twentieth century, Johnson emerged as a college of the liberal arts and natural sciences.

A commitment to educating the whole student in an interdisciplinary manner, begun in the 1920s and 1930s, set in place a history of bringing visiting poets, playwrights, politicians, and artists to the college. That tradition continues, bringing filmmakers, political and spiritual leaders, and artists. Recent visitors to the campus include Japanese and Cuban drummers, New Orleans jazz musicians, and Buddhist monks who installed an environmental art work at Lower Pond.

The original campus was built in the village of Johnson, and over time, the college expanded; slowly building higher upon what is now called College Hill, finally settling upon a plateau above the village with a view of Sterling Mountain and the Sterling Mountain Range.

On July 1, 2018, Johnson State College and Lyndon State College were merged, creating Northern Vermont University.[1]

In July 2023, Castleton University, Northern Vermont University-Johnson, Northern Vermont University-Lyndon, and Vermont Technical College merged to become Vermont State University. As a part of Vermont State University, the campus remains a part of the Vermont State Colleges.


Johnson State College teams participated as a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division III. The Badgers were a member of the North Atlantic Conference (NAC). Men's sports included basketball, cross country, golf, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, track & field, and volleyball; while women's sports included basketball, cross country, soccer, softball, tennis, track & field, and volleyball. In 2018, women's triathlon was added to the varsity sports roster, representing the only NCAA institution in New England to carry women's triathlon as a varsity sport.

Philosophy and academic programs[edit]

Education by engagement[edit]

Johnson emphasizes the self-development of undergraduate students with what the college terms "education by engagement". The student is engaged not solely on her or his degree program, but as an adult citizen with emphasis on their place in, and contribution to, their society, nation, and world. After a year of interdisciplinary study, students file a Plan of Study during the sophomore year. This becomes a guiding yet flexible road map for completion of students' degree work. Degree programs include the natural sciences, business, fine and performing arts, education, mathematics, literature, health sciences, writing and literature, and hospitality and tourism management.

Flags of students' home countries hang over a dining room in Stearns Hall, the student union building; from left to right: Ukraine, Austria, the U.S., Rwanda, the Netherlands, Canada, Japan, Norway and Sweden.

Faculty and students[edit]

The college has a faculty-student ratio of 1:14. Ninety-one percent of the college's faculty hold a Ph.D. or equivalent doctorate level terminal degree in their area of instruction. Nearly 60% of undergraduate students come from Vermont, with approximately 40% coming from other U.S. states and more than a dozen nations.

Graduate programs at Johnson include an M.F.A. in Studio Arts, a Master of Arts in Education, and Master of Arts in Counseling. Parts of these programs can be completed with a low residency requirement. Portions of the M.F.A. in Studio Arts program includes course work in conjunction with the Vermont Studio Center, located in the village of Johnson.


The Dibden Center for the Arts[edit]

Named for Arthur J. Dibden, president of Johnson State College 1967-69, Dibden oversaw the expansion and development of the fine and performing arts programs. The center is located on the southwest side of the campus and houses the college's Dance, Music, and Theater programs as well as gallery exhibition space for the Fine Arts programs. The striking late modernist building, whose sculptural roofline echoes the contours of the Sterling Mountain Range–its backdrop to the south, is the work of architect Robert Burley. Burley apprenticed in the studio of Eero Saarinen. The large 500-seat Dibden Theater with a 44' proscenium stage is the centerpiece of the performing arts facilities at the center. Excellent acoustics are achieved by a system of hardwood baffles along the walls and ceilings. Practice and instruction rooms wrap around the theater and the Julian Scott Memorial Gallery on the front of the center showcases exhibitions of fine art and design by the college's fine art students as well as travelling exhibitions and the work of visiting artists. The Dibden Center for the Arts houses the faculties of the Department of Music and the Department of Theater, a recording studio, music studios, practice rooms, classrooms, and a piano laboratory. Recitals and concerts, theater and contemporary dance performances, and open rehearsals bring performing arts into the daily life of the college. The Vermont Symphony Orchestra performs regularly at the center. Several performing arts series available to the college community, are also available to the public by subscription. The Dibden Center is an important fine and performing arts venue for all of Vermont. One of the best aspects of Dibden is the fact that it is fully student run, both working Front of House and backstage, so there is always learning and working opportunity for students that seek work opportunities and those who would like to learn more about the theater.

The new Library and Learning Center in the main quadrangle's northwest corner. The LLC building, is home to the Department of Humanities, and the Department of Writing and Literature.

Library and Learning Center[edit]

Johnson's Library and Learning Center (LLC) opened in 1996 and incorporates the collections of the older John Dewey Library with expanded collections and new technology. The print collection includes 130,000+ volumes and over 700 journals and periodicals. The LLC houses the largest collections of fine arts publications in Vermont and is a designated National Archives and Records Administration repository. The contemporary, green design building makes use of passive and active solar heating. Its south-southwest orintetation for reading rooms utilizes natural light. The LLC is built of terra cotta brick, Vermont gray granite, Vermont blue-gray slate, steel, and green-tinted glass. The LLC was designed by the architectural firm of Gossens Bachman Architects and has won numerous awards for its architecture and environmental efficiency. Awards include the 1997 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Vermont "Excellence in Architecture Award". The LLC also houses the faculties of the Department of Humanities, and the Department of Writing and Literature. A skybrige links the LLC with Wilson Bentley Hall. The LLC has become a community centerpiece and serves as a gateway to the northwest side of the quadrangle. An informal outdoor amphitheater facing the quadrangle has become a popular outdoor social area in warmer weather.

John Dewey Hall[edit]

John Dewey Hall on the south side of the quadrangle was built in 1963 in the International Style; to house the college's library. It is named for the philosopher and educator John Dewey. The building is lit by natural light from a panoramic glass clerestory around the perimeter of the building. Today, the building houses the college bookstore, the office of the dean of students, the Student Association, the Registration and Advising Center, TRIO, academic advising, and career & internship offices.

Visual Arts Center[edit]

Johnson's Visual Arts Center (VAC) houses the college's Visual Arts Programs, which was renovated in 2012, with studios for design, drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture, ceramics and woodworking. The Digital Imaging Laboratory (DIL) is also located here with state-of-the-art oversized high-resolution laser CMYK and Inkjet printers. The VAC augments exhibition space at the Julian Scott Memorial Gallery in the Dibden Center with a gallery for exhibiting works in progress and student projects. Exhibitions play a major role in both academic and student life at Johnson. Students have opportunities to show their work beginning in their freshman year. Exhibition programs support and expand the studio curriculum, providing students with frequent opportunities to share their work and receive input; and, by exhibiting faculty and visiting artists' work, providing insights into teachers’ approaches to making art and critique. Exhibitions in many mediums both of work produced within the college, and by work exhibited by visiting artists exposes students to a wide range of contemporary thinking and art-making methods. Fine arts majors in the freshman and sophomore levels most commonly exhibit work in the VAC. Students in their junior and senior years, especially those presenting thesis level work exhibit in the Julian Scott Memorial Gallery at the Dibden Center for the Arts.

Johnson's science building is named for the Vermont scientist-artist Wilson Bentley, who photographed snowflakes using a bellows camera.
Bentley Hall with the Sterling Mountain Range in the background

Wilson Bentley Science Hall[edit]

Named for the scientist-artist, Wilson Bentley (1865–1931) who first photographed snowflakes in the nineteenth century in nearby Jericho, Vermont. Bentley brought an objective scientific eye to the examination of snow and ice crystals via hugely magnified images called photomicrographs. Bentley published a monograph titled Snow Crystals which documented more than 2000 snowflakes and ice crystals. Wilson Bentley Hall, designed by noted architect Robert Burley, houses the faculties of the Department of Mathematics, and the Department of Environmental and Health Sciences. A 200-seat lecture hall with digital projection facilities, an interactive television studio, and laboratories for biology, chemistry, physical sciences, cartography, and geographic information systems. Bentley Hall also houses a state-of-the-art interactive multimedia computer laboratory and is a designated National Science Foundation research facility. The building also houses a meteorological station, and green house.

The Babcock Nature Preserve[edit]

The Babcock Nature Preserve, located ten miles from Johnson in Eden, Vermont is a 1,000 acre (4 km2) tract of forest land owned and maintained by the college for scientific and educational study. A large, environmentally significant bog, and three large ponds dominate the physical landscape. The Babcock Nature Preserve is a natural laboratory for field biology, ornithology and environmental sciences courses. The summer field program at the Babcock Nature Preserve features a number of intensive courses designed to provide field experience in the environmental and natural sciences.

Notable alumni[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Northern Vermont University - Johnson - Johnson State College". www.jsc.edu. Archived from the original on 2018-07-06. Retrieved 2017-09-26.
  2. ^ "In Profile: Sen. Susan Bartlett, the underdog once again — this time in the race for governor". VT Digger. Montpelier, VT. March 21, 2010.
  3. ^ Carleton, Hiram (1903). Genealogical and Family History of the State of Vermont. Vol. 1. New York, NY: Lewis Publishing Company. pp. 461–462. ISBN 9780806347943.
  4. ^ Kwecinski, Chris (September 12, 2014). "DeRose making his mark on the Hilltop". The Bradley Scout. Peoria, IL: Bradley University.
  5. ^ Crockett, Walter Hill (1923). Vermont: The Green Mountain State. Vol. Five. New York, NY: Century History Company. p. After 196 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Arcari, Brandon (March 8, 2019). "New day for Vermont Guard as Knight takes over". Vermont Business. South Burlington, VT.
  7. ^ Love, Gael (June 4, 2013). "New Again: Cyndi Lauper". Interview. New York, NY: Crystal Ball Media.
  8. ^ "Education Faculty". SNHU. Retrieved August 14, 2017.
  9. ^ Neuman, Johanna (November 30, 2011). "The Curious Case of Walter Mosley". Moment. Washington, DC: Center for Creative Change.
  10. ^ Kinsel, Bob (May 18, 2018). "Bill Doyle Retires From JSC, Having Left Lasting Impression On Students — And Vt. Politics". Vermont Public Radio. Colchester, VT.
  11. ^ Legault-Knowles, Lindsay; et al. (2015). "Exploring the Legacy of Julian Scott in Johnson, Vermont" (PDF). Johnsonconnect.net. Johnson, VT: Johnson State College.
  12. ^ "Dr. Woodruff Will Retire". Rutland Daily Herald. 1940-02-15. p. 5. Retrieved 2022-03-02 – via Newspapers.com.
  13. ^ Ryan, Christopher E. (November 12, 2016). "Honoring A St. J. Leader Past: Dr. Caroline S. Woodruff - Christopher Ryan". Caledonian Record. Retrieved 2022-03-01.


  • Bentley, Wilson A. and W. J. Humphreys. Snow Crystals. McGraw Hill Book Company: 1931, Dover reprint edition: 1962. ISBN 0-486-20287-9.
  • Dewey, John. Experience and Education. Free Press, reprint edition: 1997. ISBN 0-684-83828-1.
  • Dewey, John. Democracy and Education. Free Press, reprint edition: 1997. ISBN 0-684-83631-9.
  • Graff, Nancy Price. Visible Layers of Time: A Perspective on the History and Architecture of Johnson, Vermont. The University of Vermont, Historic Preservation Program: 1990.
  • Raymond, Kenneth. The History of Johnson State College: 1828-1984. Johnson State College: 1985.
  • Mantell, Suzanne. Vermont: Art of the State. Henry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers: 1998 ISBN 0-8109-5556-3
  • Swift, Esther Monroe. Vermont Place Names: Footprints of History. The Stephen Greene Press: 1996 ISBN 0-8289-0291-7.
  • Bulletin of Johnson State College, 1974/'05, 1976/'07.
  • Johnson Views. 2003, 2004, 2005.
  • Vermont Life. Fall 1971.

External links[edit]

44°38′30″N 72°40′16″W / 44.64167°N 72.67111°W / 44.64167; -72.67111