History

Emory’s Graduate School was organized as a distinct division of the university in 1919 and awarded its first PhD to a student in chemistry in 1948. In the years since, graduate education at Emory has made tremendous strides, and in 2009, the graduate school was named after Dr. James T. Laney, president of Emory from 1977 to 1994

The Laney Graduate School now offers PhD and master’s degrees in more than 40 programs across the humanities, the social sciences, biomedical and natural science, public health, nursing, and business. Our diverse body of students is present in nearly every area of research at Emory, working with esteemed faculty and researchers to solve the complex problems of our time and advance the common good.

Pre-1919

  • In the earliest days, the master’s degree was granted to alumni of three years’ standing who had been engaged in “literary occupations.”
  • In 1881 the MA became an earned degree and required a thesis.
  • In 1885 Emory began requiring a course of reading and an examination for the MA, although it was customary to do all the work in absentia.
  • From 1900 until Emory College moved to Atlanta in 1919, usually two or three students were doing postgraduate work on Emory’s original Oxford, Georgia, campus.

1919

  • The Graduate School is established by the Board of Trustees in 1919.
  • In the Graduate School’s first year, 36 students enrolled.
  • During the first year of the Graduate School, the MA and MS were granted for satisfactory completion of a normal residence of one scholastic year, or nine courses, including both a major and a minor subject, an examination on the work taken, and a thesis written on some subject in the area of the student’s major interest.
  • The first degree awarded by the new graduate school was an MA granted in 1919 to Charles F. Starnes, who also earned a bachelor of divinity from Candler School of Theology the same year.
  • The first Graduate School dean was Theodore H. Jack, who served from 1919 to 1929, when he became the first vice president of the university. He would leave Emory in 1933 to become president of Randolph-Macon Woman’s College.

Theodore H. Jack
Dean
1919–1929

1920–1929

  • The first woman to earn a graduate degree from Emory was Cecelia Branham, who received her MA in 1920—coincidentally the same year that Eléonore Raoul, the first woman to enroll for credit at Emory (in 1917), earned her law degree and the first year women could vote in national elections after ratification of the 19th Amendment.
  • Woolford B. Baker, for whom Baker Woodland on the Atlanta campus is named, earned his MS degree in biology in 1920 and went on to a four-decade career teaching at Emory. He then served in retirement as part-time director of the Emory University Museum.

Goodrich C. White
Dean
1929–1942

1940–1949

  • In 1944 University President Goodrich C. White anticipated the addition of the PhD degree: “I believe the time is near when . . . we can offer the advanced degree in a limited number of fields: biology, chemistry, English, history, to begin with.” (Report of the President to the Board of Trustees, 1944).
  • On October 16, 1945, the Board of Trustees authorized offering a program leading to the degree of doctor of philosophy by departments that were adequately staffed and equipped.
  • The first blue and gold doctor’s hood draped handsomely on the shoulders of Thomas P. Johnston 40C 41G when he received the first Emory PhD degree in chemistry at the June 1948 Commencement.
  • In 1949 anatomy, biology, English, and history began to offer doctoral work.

J. Harris Purks

J. Harris Purks

Leroy Loemaker

Leroy Loemaker

J. Harris Purks
Acting dean
1942–1946

Leroy Loemaker
Dean
1946–1952

1950–1959

  • Psychology introduced doctoral work in 1951.
  • Emory established the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts, an interdisciplinary graduate program, in the fall of 1952. Ernest Cadman Colwell 1923C 1927T 1944H, former president of the University of Chicago, returned to Emory as dean of the faculties to launch the institute, which he directed until leaving Emory in 1957 to become president of the Claremont School of Theology. The ILA emphasized liberal learning by focusing chiefly on interdisciplinary study in the humanities and social sciences.
  • In 1953 the PhD program expanded to include the Division of Basic Sciences in the Health Sciences, subsuming the departments of anatomy and biochemistry, which had already begun to offer the PhD.
  • In 1956 the Departments of Philosophy and Political Science offered the PhD.
  • In 1958 the Department of Sociology-Anthropology offered the PhD.
  • In 1958 faculty in Candler School of Theology and the Emory College Department of Religion combined to offer the PhD in religion.
  • Beginning in 1959, fellowship grants were awarded to doctoral students under the National Defense Education Act, Title 4. The intent of the act was to increase the nation’s supply of college-level teachers. Emory received grants for graduate students in Old Testament, philosophy, chemistry, English, history, comparative literature, sociology, political science, and mathematics.
  • Emory conferred its 100th PhD at the June 1959 Commencement.
Charles T. Lester

Charles T. Lester

Howard T. Phillips
Dean
1952–1957

Charles T. Lester
Dean
1957–1980

1960–1970

  • In 1962 Robert W. Steele enrolled as a part-time student in a special program in the Graduate School. He was the first African American to register for credit at Emory.
  • In 1963, with a training grant from the NIH, Emory launched a biometry program.
  • Emory conferred its 200th PhD in 1963.
  • The Department of Mathematics began offering doctoral studies in 1964.
  • By 1965 the Graduate School was offering the MA degree in 23 subjects, the MS degree in 11, the MAT in 8, the master of education, and the master of librarianship.
  • Historian Thomas H. English wrote in 1965 that “the most significant aspect of the University’s development from 1950 on has . . . been the development of the Graduate School.”
  • In 1966 all graduate faculty had responsibilities for both research and classroom teaching.
  • By 1966 the Graduate School was offering the PhD degree in 17 disciplines.
  • Also by 1966, Emory graduate faculty had authored and/or edited 150 books—roughly 10 a year—on a wide range of subjects. A sample: Thomas Jefferson: Scientist, by Edwin T. Martin; Poland, 1914–1962, by Richard F. Staar; The Road to Appomattox, by Bell Irvin Wiley; The Toadstool Millionaires, by James Harvey Young; Comintern and World Revolution, by Kermit E. McKenzie; Leibniz’s Philosophical Papers and Letters, translated by Leroy E. Loemker; Estates General in Renaissance France, by J. Russell Major; The Spiritual Gospel, by Wyatt Aiken Smart; Confederate Music, by Richard Barksdale Harwell; The Administration of the College Library, by Guy R. Lyle; Journeys after St. Paul, by William Ragsdale Cannon; Thomas Wolfe’s Characters, by Floyd C. Watkins.

1980–1989

  • In 1980, Ellen Mickiewicz (PhD,Yale, political science) became the first female Graduate School dean.
George Jones

George Jones

Ellen Mickiewicz
Dean
1980–1989

George Jones
Dean
1989–1995

1990–2000

  • The Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences is established, combining the training resources of the Department of Biology in Emory College of Arts and Sciences and of the basic health science departments in the School of Medicine.
  • The English as a Second Language program was established to provide high-quality language instruction to students whose first language is not English.
  • The Teaching Assistant Training and Teaching Opportunity Program (TATTO) was established, becoming a model for other graduate student teaching programs across higher education.

Donald Stein
Dean
1995–2000

2000–2010

  • In 2007 LGS introduced the innovative Professional Development Support Funds (PDS) program, designated for LGS doctoral students and allocated in the categories of training, research, and conferences.
  • In 2009 the Graduate School was named for James T. Laney, president of Emory University from 1977 to 1993.

Robert A. Paul

Robert A. Paul

Lisa Tedesco

Lisa Tedesco

Robert A. Paul
Dean
2000–2006

Gary Wihl
Acting dean
2001–2003

Lisa Tedesco
Dean
2006–present

2010–present

  • In fall 2011 LGS launched the Program for Scholarly Integrity to provide doctoral students with a foundational, cross-disciplinary introduction to the question of ethics for their research. The program became a formal requirement for doctoral students in 2012. The program was endowed and renamed the Jones Program in Ethics in 2014 in honor of legendary golfer and Emory alumnus Bobby Jones.
  • In 2015 LGS established Laney EDGE (Emory Diversifying Graduate Education), which focuses on programming, fellowship and funding opportunities, and community engagement to enhance and nurture the graduate school’s diversity, inclusion, and community programming.