Suffolk University History

Founded on the promise of bettering students' lives through education

From its roots in an evening law class with a handful of students, Suffolk University has evolved into a global institution that blends traditional and experiential learning and taps partner organizations and mentors in Boston and beyond.

Creating Opportunity 

Founder Gleason Archer hailed from rural Maine and worked hard to support his law school aspirations. He was fortunate in meeting a benefactor, George Frost, who paid for Archer’s education and asked only that Archer pass his generosity along to others. Archer took this advice to heart and in 1906 began teaching law in his home in the evenings.

Commitment to Diversity

Celebrating diversity has always been at Suffolk’s core, and the institution was at the forefront in embracing a diverse student population, with African American, Asian, Native American, and women students finding a home here since its earliest days. 

The school now known as the College of Arts & Sciences was founded in 1934. Two years later the predecessor to the Sawyer Business School welcomed its first students. That same year all three schools were incorporated as Suffolk University. In time the University expanded from a night-school format to incorporate a range of full- and part-time programs.

A tradition of public service was firmly established in Suffolk University’s earliest days. Many alumni have been elected to public office at the state, local, and national levels; some began their terms in office while studying at Suffolk. And Suffolk alumni work diligently on behalf of their fellow citizens in nonprofits, the judiciary, and in policy-making positions at every level. 

The University Today

Building on the promise of its founding, Suffolk University continues to anticipate and respond to the needs of a diverse student body. Through carefully designed curriculum, mentoring, networking, and service learning, the University creates opportunities that help students to meet their goals.

Students combine classroom studies with experiential learning opportunities and career-shaping internships at influential institutions, and they forge strong, essential connections with professional mentors. Suffolk students benefit from their close proximity to Boston’s top employers, including the key business, health care, biotechnology, and start-up industries that increasingly define the city. Partnerships with the Museum of African American History, the Boston Public Schools, the judiciary, Habitat for Humanity and many other entities engage faculty and students in groundbreaking scholarship and community participation. Upon graduation, Suffolk students are well prepared for success.

International Education

The University’s reputation for excellence draws students from across the nation and around the world to its urban campus. Students come from a variety of economic and cultural backgrounds to contribute to and engage in a vibrant campus environment with programming that enriches not only the academic, but also the social and personal experiences of all students.

In addition, students gain international exposure as they study at study abroad programs, global travel seminars, and faculty-led study tours. 

Strong Alumni Network

When they graduate, Suffolk students join a proud alumni community of more than 80,000 members who span the globe and are innovators and leaders in their fields. These Suffolk alumni are deeply invested in the success of today’s graduates.

Since 1906, Suffolk University has been transforming lives through its rich learning environment that positions students for professional and personal success. Those who best know the University realize that its success comes from the dedication of its people – the faculty, administrators, staff, alumni, and students who have created an academic environment that is exceptional.  

Explore the Archives

A Pictorial History of Suffolk University