Rindge’s 250th: the founding of FPU

  • An aerial view of Franklin Pierce University. Photo courtesy Franklin Pierce University—

  • An aerialFranklin Pierce University's history. Courtesy photo

  • Photos from throughout Franklin Pierce University's history. Courtesy photo—

  • Photos from throughout Franklin Pierce University's history. Courtesy photo—...

  • Photos from throughout Franklin Pierce University's history. Courtesy photo—

  • Photos from throughout Franklin Pierce University's history. Courtesy photo—

  • Photos from throughout Franklin Pierce University's history. Courtesy photo—

Published: 8/7/2018 10:38:53 AM

Franklin Pierce University was founded in Rindge in 1962, the result of the entrepreneurial vision of Frank S. DiPietro, its founder and first president. DiPietro dreamed of a college where learning is an active and applied process, where faculty guide students to discover for themselves where their interests might lead. The town of Rindge, with its rolling hills, forests and ponds, was the ideal laboratory for his experiment.

Like many young men who came home from the Second World War in 1946, DiPietro, a native of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, used the GI bill to go to college. The surge of applicants following the War years made college acceptance difficult but DiPietro earned his B.S. in Business Administration from Syracuse University, his M.A. in Education from Columbia University and his Ed. D from Boston University.

By the 1960s, the college-age population boom created even more competition, and high school students with average grades could not get into college. DiPietro envisioned a college that offered a chance for these students. In keeping with the educational philosophy he absorbed during his years at the Teacher’s College at Columbia University, DiPietro formed his vision of a rural setting where professors would have personal relationships with students, and students would learn how to learn.

He envisioned a space where students could wonder, reflect, challenge, grow and build relationships. He understood the draw of a city but concluded that rural New Hampshire offered potential opportunity. One day, he spotted a for-sale sign for a house, carriage shed and 4 acres in Rindge Center. DiPietro made his move.

DiPietro knew the early years of the college would be hard but rewarding. He budgeted for 100 students in the first year and set tuition at $2,000 per student. With $200,000 in projected revenue, the college would be in good standing after the first year. However, the 100 students were not as easy to recruit as he thought. He turned to former business associate Peter Laine, who rented a hotel room in New York City to recruit students to Rindge. He netted 97 students for Franklin Pierce College’s inaugural year.

By the second year the student body numbered over 120. The land where the University currently sits was purchased in 1963 and construction of dorms and classrooms overlooking Pearly Pond began immediately. The college held its first graduation ceremony in 1967. By this time, Franklin Pierce College (FPC) was well under way, staying true to its small college mission with small class sizes and personalized attention from faculty.

During the decades that followed, FPC students protested and marched against the Vietnam War, watched Janis Joplin perform in the fieldhouse, hosted Winter Carnivals and created the campus community that thrives in Rindge today.

In 1975 the Honorable Walter R. Peterson, former Governor of New Hampshire and Peterborough businessman, became President of Franklin Pierce College, and served 20 years until his retirement in 1995. At Franklin Pierce, he had a reputation for astute leadership and for knowing every student, employee, and faculty member on a first-name basis. 

The year 2007 marked a milestone in Franklin Pierce history. Under the leadership of President George Hagerty, Franklin Pierce College became Franklin Pierce University. The University grew and entered the NCAA Division II athletic conference, and enrollment soared to over 1,000 undergraduate students. The acclaimed Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communications opened in 2002. Graduate and professional centers opened across the state of NH in Lebanon, Manchester, Portsmouth and in Goodyear, Arizona, offering graduate degrees in health care professions and business administration. The recently launched College of Business now houses all of the business degree programs for students.

Today, President Kim Mooney ’83, the first woman and first alumna to lead the institution, fulfills DiPietro’s vision of a college led by the students educated there. “I first came to Rindge in 1979 as a freshman at Franklin Pierce, and I am privileged as president to have known or worked with each of my predecessors. The community of Rindge and the broader Monadnock region has been and continues to be an integral part of our University, and our students benefit enormously from their connections here.”

Mooney is dedicated to building partnerships within the local community of Rindge and the Monadnock region. Examples include the Franklin Pierce and Rindge Fire Departments, student-teacher placements in the Rindge school system, and local businesses who support university students and athletics throughout the year. For the past eight years, the University has hosted the BEST summer camp, a partnership with the Jaffrey-Rindge Rotary and the Jaffrey-Rindge school district for the benefit of Rindge families.

The history summarized in this story comes from former President Frank DiPietro’s book, “The Founding of Franklin Pierce University.” The article was put together by the university’s communications department.

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