National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Vol. 17, No. 2 (Fall/Winter 2016).


Copyright © 2016 by the National Collegiate Honors Council.


Precursor to the NCHC, the Inter-University Committee on the Superior Student (ICSS) was active from 1957 to 1965 under the leadership of Joseph Cohen at the University of Colorado. As NCHC culminates fifty years of supporting collegiate honors education, its historical context needs to include the contributions to honors from a unique group of institutions, the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). While scholars of collegiate honors education understand Frank Aydelotte, Swarthmore’s seventh president, to have started “a trend in honors among American colleges and universities” (Rinn 70), the honors literature does not provide evidence of Aydelotte’s engagement with Black higher education in the U.S. In fact, Aydelotte’s 1925 report “Honors Courses in American Colleges and Universities,” identifying institutions operating honors programs, does not list any HBCUs. Further, in their book describing the “adventure” of developing honors education at Swarthmore and across the country, the Swarthmore faculty also made no mention of collaborating with colleagues at HBCUs (Swarthmore College Faculty). During this time, Aydelotte and the Swarthmore faculty were attracting national attention and starting to get major grants from, for instance, the General Education Board (Aydelotte, “Breaking” 34–35), just as later Joseph Cohen and the ICSS attracted funding from the Carnegie Corporation and Ford Foundation, indicating that honors was increasing in national importance (Andrews 18). We are left to question, though, whether HBCUs were providing the same kind of special opportunities for their students in the mid-twentieth century and what particular challenges these unique institutions faced providing honors education within the racialized climate of the United States in the 1960s.