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Menlo College History

Origins of the Land and the Founding of Menlo College

Menlo College is located within lands traditionally stewarded by the Puichon tribe, one of more than 50 original Indigenous groups of the San Francisco Bay Area. The land on which Menlo College sits was ceded to the United States Army as a part of Cessation 274, one of the 18 treaties that tribes living in the Southwest were made to sign between 1851 and 1892. The Army forced the tribes to move off the land and onto reservations. Today’s Indigenous descendants in the Bay Area are commonly known as Ohlone or Muwekma Ohlone.

In the years that followed, the 40-acre property that is now Menlo College was occupied by Faxon Dean and Dominga Atherton, and then George and Ellen Fife.  In 1927, Menlo College was founded on the site as a two-year program for young men to complete their lower division coursework before transferring to an upper division college or university.

When Stanford University considered dropping its freshman and sophomore classes, it was imagined that Menlo College might become the junior college division of Stanford University. Menlo’s fate rested with the Stanford Board of Trustees, until 1932, when Stanford decided to remain a four-year undergraduate university with graduate schools.

Introducing the School of Business

In 1949, Menlo introduced its four-year School of Business Administration (SBA), offering a top ranked undergraduate bachelor’s degree in business. It was Menlo’s first and only four-year program.

Dr. George Dowrie, Dr. William E. Kratt, Frank Walker, Dr. J. Pearce Mitchell and James Brainerd were the principal designers of the new school. James Brainerd assumed the directorship, and continued as the head of development. Dr. Dowrie, an emeritus professor of the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, did the major planning of the curriculum, and helped with the selection of the faculty. His was a tremendous contribution to the founding and development of Menlo School of Business Administration, a foundation that has led to our top undergraduate business school ranking today.

National Accreditation

During the decade from 1952 to 1962, under the leadership of Dr. Kratt, Menlo College was admitted to the College Entrance Examination Board, making it the first two-year college ever admitted to board membership. Due to the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. John Bowman, Bowman Library was built. The library was named in memory of their son, Timothy Dillon Bowman, who lost his life in an automobile accident during his freshman year at Menlo in 1956. The School of Business Administration was granted national accreditation, which led to its highly regarded ranking and reputation. From 1955 to 1965, the total enrollment grew from 576 to 846 — an increase of nearly fifty percent!

1954 Menlo College Graduates
1954 Menlo College Graduates

In 1955, John D. “Judge” Russell, became the director of Menlo College and the SBA. The SBA flourished for many decades with Mr. Russell at the helm. A brilliant, caring and indefatigable leader and teacher, he worked with Menlo College’s first six presidents, developing relationships with thousands of students who called him mentor, friend, and most notably, “Judge”. He took a deep interest in developing his students into business leaders, and is considered by many to have epitomized the spirit of Menlo.

In fall 1969, Brawner Hall, the new School of Business Administration building, opened. The building was dedicated to Mrs. Virginia G. Brawner, the mother of A. H. Brawner, Jr., Chairman of the Board, in appreciation for the tremendous help and support of the Brawner family throughout the years. In 1971, Menlo College became co-educational.

A Well-Rounded Education

Throughout the years, a letters and sciences “L&S” program flourished, influenced by Professor Patrick Henry “Pat” Tobin, a much-loved teacher who introduced students to literary, visual and performance arts, attracting diverse cultures that brought a rich community life to the campus. Today, an art committee presents regular exhibitions, and the student government offers extracurricular activities and clubs to provide a well-rounded liberal arts foundation and leadership opportunities for our undergraduate business school students.

A Tradition of Student-Athletes

Menlo’s tradition of notable athletic competition dates back to 1928, the first year Menlo College fielded athletic teams. During the seventies, a new gymnasium was built and named the Haynes-Prim Pavilion, in honor of its three financers, Mrs. Ester R. Haynes and Mr. and Mrs. Wayne L. Prim. In 1986, the Oaks gained NCAA affiliation, and in 2010, they affiliated with NAIA. Student-athletes make up fifty percent of the student body, and participate in 15 varsity teams.

Menlo College Today

Since 1986, Menlo College has been exclusively a four-year institution. Located in Silicon Valley, with enrollment of approximately 735 students from around the world and a faculty devoted to undergraduate teaching and advising, Menlo College offers a unique, relevant and highly personal educational experience. Because class sizes are small, students regularly interact with professors one-on-one through advising and extracurricular activities, leading to our top undergraduate business school ranking. Intercollegiate sports and student-run organizations complement the team-building and networking opportunities that abound in the tight-knit community. From this environment, many alumni have emerged as successful global entrepreneurs, executives and government leaders.

In fall 2011, Menlo College introduced three new majors in Accounting, Finance and Marketing. Starting with the 2011 cohort, students must complete six units of supervised internships before or during their senior year in order to graduate. The undergraduate business school is dedicated to creating a meaningful and marketable connection between classroom knowledge and field experience gained through on-site business placements.

In 2020, Menlo College committed to honoring the heritage of the land and its Indigenous peoples as a part of its renewed commitment to achieving social justice. In partnership with its Indigenous students and alumni, the College continuously seeks ways to honor Indigenous heritage and nurture its Indigenous community members.


Menlo College