History

Winter Park Institute


Rollins College is the oldest institution of higher learning in Florida and has long been a force for innovative education and intellectual leadership. In addition to fulfilling its mission of educating students in the classroom, the College has generated a number of special programs over the years, further enhancing its heritage of educational inquiry.

One of the earliest of these ventures was introduced in 1926 by the College’s eighth president, Hamilton Holt. Drawing on his experience as former editor of the Independent, a national weekly, Holt created an annual series of mini-lectures by luminaries of the day. The Animated Magazine, as it was called, hosted as many as 8,000 spectators who came to hear speeches on the College lawn by such distinguished leaders as Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Nobel Peace Prize winner Jane Addams, Time and Life magazine editor Henry R. Luce, Admiral Richard E. Byrd, Dale Carnegie, New York Times publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger, poet Carl Sandburg, Justice William O. Douglas, General Jonathan M. Wainwright, broadcast journalist Edward R. Morrow, and Archduke Otto of Austria and Hungary.

In 1931, Rollins hosted a national conference chaired by legendary philosopher John Dewey. The goal of that prestigious colloquy was an examination of practices in liberal arts education. The student-centered curriculum that emerged was first implemented on the Rollins campus and has become the norm for most U.S. institutions of higher learning. 

Building on Dewey’s concept, Rollins’ 13th president, Rita Bornstein, gathered 200 leading educators from 50 national colleges and universities for a second colloquy—Toward a Pragmatic Liberal Education: The Curriculum of the 21st Century. The conversations from that 1997 event and the resulting publication, Education and Democracy: Re-imagining Liberal Learning in America, continued to affirm Rollins as a leader in the national conversation about the role of liberal education.

In March 2007, Rollins sponsored a third high-level discussion of the changing goals of higher education. The Colloquy on Liberal Education and Social Responsibility in a Global Community had as its objective ushering in a new century of student-centered curriculum emphasizing active citizenship. To help in this investigation, Rollins brought to campus distinguished intellectuals from various disciplines to share their insights and stimulate the College community’s own thinking. Participants were Duane Ackerman, Maya Angelou, Carol Christ, Francis Fukuyama, Jaron Lanier, Steven Pinker, Sally Ride, Salman Rushdie, Anna Deavere Smith, and E. O. Wilson.

Following the 2007 Colloquy, Rollins’ 14th president, Lewis Duncan, initiated the Winter Park Institute (WPI) to create a forum for continuation of these advanced conversations. Fostered by the College and supported by the Charles Hosmer Morse and Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundations through a grant and generous use of the  historic Osceola Lodge and Knowles Cottage, the Institute begins its inaugural year by bringing together leaders from all disciplines who will engage the academy in substantive dialog on current educational, social, cultural, political, and economic themes.

Our purpose and plans for the Winter Park Institute are admittedly ambitious, as befits our heritage, and we follow President Duncan’s charge to “invest some essential time exploring the fundamental concerns facing the world today and giving thought to the great issues challenging the human condition.” Our resident scholars will do just that in public conversations with each other, faculty, students, and the community at large.