Our History


Since our inception as  the Normal School in North Adams in 1894, MCLA has provided educational accessMurdock Hall and exceptional learning opportunities to generations of students and alumni. Over the years, MCLA has evolved to meet the needs of changing times. In 1932, the Normal School became the State Teachers College of North Adams, reflecting the increased importance of education as an academic discipline. In 1960, we changed our name to North Adams State College and expanded our focus to include professional degrees in business administration and computer science. In 1997, with eyes focused on the horizon of a new century, the College assumed a unique mission (within the state university system) as Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, the public liberal arts college for the Commonwealth. Read our mission statement



Fast facts about the Normal School:


  • Murdock Hall (pictured above) is the oldest building on the MCLA campus, and when it was built in 1897, it was the only building here.
  • The word "normal" meant that the school was teaching the basics to train students to become teachers in the public schools.
  • The normal school opened in 1897 with four teachers and 32 students. Out of those 32 students, only three of them were men.
  • The first graduation ceremony had 53 graduates. The tradition of planting ivy at the base of the school began with the first graduating class.
  • The school's first principal was Frank Fuller Murdock. He was head of the school for 25 years and well respected.
  • In 1967, the building name was changed from College Hall to Murdock Hall in honor of Murdock. Margaret French Cresson, daughter of Daniel Chester French, who sculpted the Lincoln Memorial statue in Washington D.C., made a portrait relief and plaque in honor of Murdock in 1922.


Today, MCLA continues to innovate. We guide students as they develop critical thinking, communication and leadership skills both in class and through a range of high-impact experiences.

Though changing times present new challenges and opportunities, the essential nature of MCLA remains constant: a place that delivers a high-quality, affordable public liberal arts education in an environment that supports the development of intellectual and practical skills, promotes scholarship and inquiry, and challenges students to model personal, social and civic responsibility. Visit us

Click here to learn more about renovations and revitalization on the MCLA campus