A College is Born


George and Mabel Benson both helped to round out the Men’s College faculty early onGeorge teaching American government and administrative organization, and Mabel teaching English.

Recruiting of Founding Faculty

In June 1946, the Board of Fellows of approved a founding budget of $88,000 and authorized George Benson to recruit faculty to the new school. Variously called the Claremont College Undergraduate School for Men, the Claremont Undergraduate School for Men, or the Claremont Men’s School, the new entity had now come into being with less than four months to prepare for the start of its initial academic year. Despite being obligated to teach over the summer of 1946 at Harvard Summer School, George Benson worked by letter and telephone to recruit Claremont Men’s College’s founding faculty. The initial faculty members exhibited a pioneering spirit, and many of them accepted administrative responsibilities in addition to their teaching positions.

Undergraduate School for Men, Annoucement and Catalog

Written by Mabel Benson, this brief, twelve-page catalog was ready for dissemination by the end of June, 1946. It was distributed to Veterans' Administration officials, armed forces separation centers, high schools, and junior colleges across Southern California, and even a naval brig. It proved to be a great resource in announcing the new Men's College.

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Undergraduate School for Men, Annoucement

An official announcement for the newly established Undergraduate School for Men at Claremont College. By late August 1946, fifty students had been admitted with ten more on the verge of accepting admission.


Story House

The three-story former Sarah Bixby Smith mansion was, initially, the Men's College's only permanent building. In the years since the Smiths left Claremont, the Craftsman home served as a faculty club and was leased to the Girls Collegiate School. In 1946, with help from Robert Bernard, the house was transformed into a dormitory for nonveterans with kitchen and dining facilities for the entire student body. The mansion was renamed Story House in honor of the late Russell Story.


Construction of Veterans' Housing Units

Veterans enrolling in the Men’s College would be housed in shipyard dormitory units obtained from the federal housing authority. While the veterans' housing units arrived on schedule in late August 1946, there was a delay in getting the buildings electrically wired and hooked up to plumbing in time for the start of the semester in September.


Coconut Grove, Bridges Auditorium

Due to the unforeseen delay with the housing units, Robert Bernard and Gerald Jordan were forced to improvise to find additional housing accommodations. Temporary housing for the veterans came in the form of barracks-like arrangements set up in two large rooms in the basement of Bridges Auditorium, where classes would also be held. A recreation area with card-tables, chairs, and potted plants was set-up, with students soon referring to the area by its nickname “Coconut Grove.”

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"Education's New Aims"

A September 19, 1946 article by the Los Angeles Times' Ed Ainsworth, praised the new Men's College for its practical focus geared towards returning veterans. The article may have recruited an additional student or two, for by September 22, the day before registration, the student body stood at eighty-sixeleven beyond the identified break-even point of seventy-five. Registration day finally came on September 23, 1946 and after twenty years of planning and efforts, the dream of a men’s college became a reality.

In July, we will begin monthly archival exhibitions celebrating Claremont McKenna College’s history. Our next exhibit will continue CMC’s story with a focus on the Pacesetters and the first decade of the College.