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Commencement with Honorary Degree Ceremony for Evalyn Bates

Commencement with Honorary Degree Ceremony for Evalyn Bates
Sun, 09/30/2012 - 4:00pm
Plainfield, VT

Goddard College bestows the Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters posthumously to Evalyn Bates, the founder of the nation's first Adult Degree Program.

It has been said that adult education as we know it would never have become a reality without Evalyn Bates. On September 30, Goddard College President Barbara Vacarr will present Bates’ niece and surviving colleagues with a posthumous honorary doctorate degree to recognize her unequaled legacy in higher education.

The award ceremony will be part of the Fall 2012 Undergraduate Program Commencement. Join us as we celebrate Evalyn Bates and the 2012 Bachelor of Arts graduating class.

Click Here to RSVP.

Evalyn Bates and the Goddard Model

Evalyn Bates, founder of Goddard’s Adult Degree Program, proposed in her 1957 University of Chicago MA Thesis that the Goddard model of education would:

  1. Evaluate progress and discuss successes and failures;

  2. Provide time to search for meaning;

  3. Provide situations for motivated students to achieve their goals;

  4. Provide opportunity for satisfying personal and social relationships;

  5. Encourage students to become who they truly are, expand their potential, and increase confidence with peers, allowing for continual life growth benefiting the individual and society;

  6. Be based on key situations that are part of daily life;

  7. Be imaginative, creative, and bold in design.


In 1937, Evalyn graduated from Goddard Junior College. When Goddard reincarnated as a four-year college in Plainfield in 1938, she continued her studies and, in 1943, was one of the first two graduates of Goddard College.

In 1957 she earned her master's degree at the University of Chicago. Her thesis, “Development of the Goddard College Adult Education Program,” proposed five possible program designs. In August 1963 she directed the first ADP residency of its kind in the nation, which is the program that survives at Goddard and colleges around the world today.

“Evalyn Bates is a missing name from the history of American higher education,” said Goddard President Barbara Vacarr. “She an integral part of the history of Goddard. Her model has been replicated across the country, and has opened the doors of higher education to countless individuals. With this award, we celebrate her legacy.”


But in 1963, something truly new and successful emerged. Evalyn Bates, director of adult education at Goddard, devised the nation's first low-residency adult-education program—the idea being that students would study at home, with the exception of one week of the semester, which would be spent in intense meetings and seminars on campus. The first class of 20 students, who had to be 26 or older, was mostly women. "The folklore is that the initial recruiting list was the Smith College dropout list"—women who got married and left college early, says Josh Castle, the registrar and associate dean for enrollment.

It had tremendous appeal to people who wanted something more intense than traditional distance education, yet had families or jobs to keep in another part of the country. Within a decade, the low-residency program had 400 students and to this day has influenced similar offerings at some 60 other institutions, including Antioch University, Prescott College, the Union Institute & University, the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and Warren Wilson College. Ms. Vacarr, Goddard's president, who left high school at age 15 and dropped out of college to raise a family, returned to college as an adult through a low-residency program at Lesley University started by faculty who came from Goddard.

"Evalyn Bates is not known by anybody in higher education, but her legacy is profound," Mr. Castle says.