Introduction - Criteria and Conclusions

In the first 200 years at Dickinson College, there was a significant faction of foreign students.  We have compiled a record of their existence, and their contributions to this institution.

During the first 120 years of the College, our research indicates that Dickinson had approximately fifty "foreign born" students up to the end of the Nineteenth Century.  However, the bulk of these foreign born students do not meet the criteria to be a "foreign student" in a way that would be valuable to this study.  Below we give and example of such a student and, from there, define the terms we have used.

  John Boyce 
John Boyce was a student in the first graduating class of Dickinson College in 1787.  He was born in 1757, in Ireland, and came to America with his family in 1764,  settling in South Carolina.
As he was a 1787 graduate, he  entered Dickinson eighteen years after arriving in America.  Therefore, it would not seem reasonable to consider him a foreign student, as he was only seven years old upon his emigration.**


1.  A Letter from Earnest Boyce to Dr. Charles Coleman Sellers, 1968, located in the May Morris Room, Dickinson College Special Collections and Archives under the Drop File for John Boyce, 1787 .
2.  Dickinson College 1905 Alumni Directory

Our working definition for "foreign student"  was determined to be someone who received the bulk of their elementary education in their native country.  This means that the person was approximately ten years old upon arrival in United States.

The formal, present-day College definition, as provided by Brian DeMarco, International Student Admissions Counselor/Associate Director of Admissions reads as follows:

    "Any visa holder, dual citizen or permanent resident was considered an international student.
    By a strict definition however, international students should only be classified as non-resident aliens"
(international students without dual citizenship or permanent residency)


From our research, we found it quite difficult to produce even an arbitrary number of foreign students who attended Dickinson College before 1965.  From the 1905 Dickinson College Alumni Record, a significant number of foreign born students was compiled.  From this document, the Archive's drop files were consulted and researched. A hindrance was that drop files for students were not heavy in informational content; a great number of students did not have drop files at all.  Due to this gap in the College records, it was difficult to approximate an exact number from the fifty foreign born students who attended Dickinson College, could actually be considered international students.  Furthermore, we estimated that a quarter of students listed as foreign born had no recorded date of birth.   For statistical purposes, it can be ascertained that this faction of students contains ten to twenty percent of students who would fit under the provided definitions for "international" students. This loose estimate must be a factor in subjective evaluation of the international history of the College.

Between the years of 1906 and 1927, the majority of foreign students came to Dickinson from the Central and South America. Latin American countries were significantly represented including: Honduras, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico.  Also in attendance was a small number of students from Canada and Hawaii. (Note: Hawaii was not admitted as a state until 1954)  From the years 1931 to 1940 the flow of foreign students swings to Europe.  Students consistently came from from Germany and France, with Germans constituting the majority. This faction of students stops abruptly during the years of World War II.  In 1949, however, Germans began to dominate the foreign student population of Dickinson College.  Also in 1949, other countries such as New Zealand and Singapore entered the Dickinson family, along with a small faction of students from post-war Europe.  By 1959,  foreign nations were well represented by students attending Dickinson.  For example, Hungary sent three students before 1959; the following three years saw four Hungarian students come to Dickinson.  This was a result of Dickinson's offer to pay for the education of some Hungarian refugees.  Most countries sent only one or two students to Dickinson, though the larger European sent significantly greater numbers than their smaller counterparts.  Noticeably absent are students from Italy.  Due to the lack of records, or our inability to locate said records, there were no recorded Italian students attending Dickinson from the years of 1906 to 1965.  This is especially ironic, as Dickinson's Bologna (Italy) program is the College's oldest of its new generation of foreign programs, opening in 1963.

From the records gathered, a total of 142 students from foreign countries attended Dickinson between the years 1906 to 1965. Whether or not these students could be considered "international" students by stated definition was indeterminable for a significant portion of those documented.

As with a great number of American colleges, Dickinson has had foreign students enrolled in its four-year program, during its tenure.  However, what is not clear is to the extent with which Dickinson College tried to attract an international population throughout its history.  There is not sufficient evidence to support a contention that Dickinson has been an institution making significant efforts to create an internationally diverse campus, especially before 1900.  Since Dickinson College was founded as a primarily Presbyterian institution, and then remade as a Methodist one, a majority of early students went on to be members of the clergy.  In more recent years, it seems that Dickinson College's engagement with the world has been with its abroad program, and other connections with other nations in the field of education.

Notes on Method

    Our research was mostly compiled in the May Morris Room, where the Dickinson College Archives are located.  We found that alumni records pre-dating 1965, were concentrated among a select amount of sources.  Sources that were most helpful the Dickinson College 1905 Alumni Directory which has a list of all students, living or dead at the time, who attended or were presently attending Dickinson College, covering the 1787 graduating class to the 1908 freshman, Drop Files on individuals were helpful in getting more specific information on individuals.  Other general reference books in the main research area in the May Morris Room occasionally contained helpful information.

    As we were dealing with people who basically led unremarkable lives, we were very much limited in what sources were available.  Most research was conducted in the Dickinson College archives and special collections. Unless the individual had accomplished something noteworthy in their own country, the only sources of information that could be found were the drop files, college yearbook and the books of Dickinson College's living alumni.  Even these sources, however, had a scarcity of pertinent information.  Also, many of the documents found were sealed for legal purposes.
Note Cards
    Our initial research led us to use note cards which supposedly held the names of all the international Dickinson students until 1976.  After closer examination, some incongruities appeared in the note card index.  Some names of international students were not listed among those on the note cards, but were found in other sources such as the living alumni documents.  Likewise, some names present on the note cards could not be found in any alternate sources. We attribute these mistakes due to the fact that in no way did the author of the note cards cite his sources of information.  These note cards entitled "Dickinson College Foreign Student Program" had the name of a former member of the faculty, listed as an advisor who worked on the project.  We contacted him to ask about the program, but he told us that he had no recollection of the program.  There is no way to easily check this work.  The note cards should be considered essentially worthless, and so should not be used.
    The Note cards caused confusion during the initial stages of our research .  In the course of our concluding inquiries, we located a research paper that is vague in terms of its sources.  To view notes on this paper go to the addendum.
Addendum to 1984 research Paper

Statistical Limitations

    Statistics were difficult to compile due to troubles locating records or statistics of foreign students.  Our best source was the 1905 Dickinson College Alumni Record, which did have many students names, place of birth, and information, but did not contain all the places of birth, or in some instances, any information at all. Several cases, for example, had no mention of the date which the student entered America.  Therefore, if a person was foreign born, we usually could not ascertain whether they fell under our criteria as a foreign student.  If we could not tell if they were foreign from the  1905 Dickinson College Alumni Record, we would normally check the person's drop file, located in the Dickinson College Archives.  However, several of the drop files contained little or no information on the person; in some instances, a photo was all that was provided.
    Students from 1909 to 1965 were more difficult to locate.  There were no alumni records recorded, only lists of living alumni.  The publication dates for living alumni were sporadic  To make things more difficult, the more recent the alumni directory, the less information there was recorded for each student.  The only information that could be gathered was the students' names, class year, major and place of residence.  Any other more detailed information could only be gathered from the sparse records kept in the College's archives.

Daniel Fleischman, Timothy Sidore, and Jared Tullio
December 1999