A look at how Tulane University and Newcomb College were founded Tulane University has upheld a reputation as one the best and most recognized schools in the country throughout its long and rich history. But the genesis of Tulane’s legacy began under a different name and in a different place, almost two centuries ago.
In 1884, the public University of Louisiana turned private when wealthy businessman Paul Tulane left a $1 million endowment to the school. Born near Princeton, N.J. to a French immigrant, Tulane came to New Orleans and amassed a fortune through retail. Tulane wanted to give the city that had treated him so well a university complete with liberal arts, sciences, law, medicine and graduate courses.
But the school’s precursor had been founded 50 years before Tulane’s generous philanthropy. The Medical College of Louisiana started in 1834 and at the time was only the second medical school in the South. As the school grew, it was reorganized into the University of Louisiana by 1847. The female half of Tulane’s legacy, Newcomb College, was established in 1886. Josephine Louise Newcomb founded the college as a memorial to her daughter, Harriet Sophie.
The college holds the distinction of the first degree-granting women’s coordinate institution in the nation. The model established at Tulane would later serve as a guide for the universities of Pembroke/Brown and Barnard/Columbia. Tulane University, at the time downtown, moved to its present Uptown location in 1894 and a school of engineering was added to the curriculum offerings. Newcomb, originally in the Garden District, joined its brother institution Uptown in 1918.
After moving, Tulane University added a School of Architecture and a College of Commerce and Business, which would later be renamed the A. B. Freeman School of Business.
Tulane University thrives today and shows no signs of slipping. It stands as one of the top 50 national universities in the country and consistently ranks high in U.S. News and World Report rankings. The school boasts an enrollment of 13,214, part of which is some 7,976 undergraduate students. The school also claims to be the largest private employer in the New Orleans metropolitan area, and has a $842 million annual economic impact on the city. •