The Centennial of Arnold College

historic photo from the 1958 yearbook

One hundred years ago in 1921, Arnold College was founded in New Haven. Thirty-two years later it would become an integral part of the University of Bridgeport.

Arnold had its non-collegiate origins even farther back, in the Brooklyn School of Gymnastics, which had been founded in 1886 and moved to New Haven in 1892. Changing its name to the New Haven Normal School of Gymnastics, it began to improve its curriculum beyond physical education, and in 1917 moved to a full campus complete with training facilities and five dormitories on the corner of Sherman Avenue and Chapel Street. In 1921, the school was renamed for its director, Dr. E. Herman Arnold, and started a Bachelor of Science program in Hygiene and Physical Education. It became the first co-educational college with that degree in the nation.

By 1929 Arnold boasted a full four-year degree in Physical Education and Health. With just 500 registered students, the school featured competitive athletic teams that often beat huge universities. Students were not allowed miss a single class, and had to adhere to strict standards of personal grooming and appearance. Instructors could send male students back to their dorms if they had not shaved properly. Something about this must have worked, because the school produced an unusually high number of professional sports players, including three NFL Hall of Famers.

In 1939, St. Raphael’s Hospital purchased the New Haven campus, and Arnold College moved to Pond Point in Milford, overlooking the sunny shores of Long Island Sound. However, the school would only last fourteen years in this beautiful location, until 1953, when financial difficulties began to threaten its existence.

By that time, just down the coast on its own gorgeous campus in Seaside Park, the University of Bridgeport had developed from a small junior college with a smaller enrollment than Arnold College, into a successful regional university. Noting their similar commitment to the idea that “every group must be served,” President James Halsey offered to absorb Arnold College. It became part of the growing university’s School of Education, located in what is now the Harvey Hubbell Gymnasium.

Now, at the centennial of Arnold College’s founding, as another institutional transition approaches the University of Bridgeport, let’s take a moment to appreciate what those long-ago visionaries gave us. Here’s to another hundred years of good health and fitness.