CLAC History

A Brief Timeline

The beginning of Consortium of Liberal Arts Colleges (CLAC) can be traced back to 1984, when Frederick Starr, then president of Oberlin College, became interested in raising the profile of liberal arts institutions in Washington, DC. In 1985, President Starr engaged presidents from 50 colleges in meetings about collaboration on lobbying and other efforts.

In 1986, a second, pivotal meeting led to the creation of CLAC. The presidents and senior academic officers of the initial member colleges identified two areas of primary concern: The support and development of undergraduate science education, and the enhancement of academic computing facilities, including library automation. In coming months, members of a steering committee met to name the group (spoiler alert: they decided on CLAC). The steering committee also agreed to a modest $100 fee for each member institution.

In 1993, after several years of annual meetings and work together, the CLAC steering committee and governing board voted to establish CLAC as a permanent, incorporated organization and CLAC was incorporated as a non-profit organization in the State of Oregon. Since then, CLAC has progressed nicely to an important wellspring of information, resources, technical knowledge and advocacy.

CLAC now boasts 77 of today’s top liberal arts colleges and has been supporting collaboration, knowledge sharing, professional growth of its IT members, and advocacy for the liberal arts at the national level  for more three decades.

The organization will celebrate its 30th Annual Conference in 2018.



In 1984, Frederick Starr, then president of Oberlin College, persuaded a large number of his colleagues at other liberal arts I institutions that they needed to raise their visibility in Washington, especially with regard to NSF and other funds. He commissioned a study, performed by David Davis van Atta (the Oberlin institutional researcher) and the Oberlin provost, to show that science Ph.D. production from the top fifty liberal arts colleges was vastly out of proportion to the number of students graduated, i.e., these fifty “research colleges” were producing more future scientists than anyone realized.

President Starr invited the presidents from the 50 colleges to a meeting at Oberlin College in 1985 to talk about collaboration on lobbying and other efforts.


A second meeting of the 50 college presidents was hosted at Oberlin College in June, 1986.  From that meeting the “Computing and Telecommunications Committee” was formed, with committee members Bob Gavin and Ed Meyers (Haverford College), Marty Ringle, Chair (Vassar College), David Todd (Wesleyan University), Joanne Badagliacco (Pomona College), and Charles Staelin (Smith College).

 The Oberlin Library Group was also formed shortly after this.


In June, 1987 a “Status Report on Academic Computing,” written by Marty Ringle, was published. The Computing and Telecommunications Committee committed to revise and distribute this report on an annual basis, maintain a directory of contacts at each institution, and coordinate annual meetings.

The first CLAC Newsletter was produced and shared on the first CLAC listserv hosted by Haverford College.


In June 1989, Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College, and Swarthmore College hosted the first CLAC conference at the historic Arch Street Meeting House in Philadelphia, PA.

A second “Status Report on Academic Computing” was produced by Marty Ringle.

Successful discount and grants programs were negotiated with several different vendors including Apple, DEC, HP – Apollo, Sun, Claris, and others. CLAC helped to raise the visibility of small liberal arts colleges at Educom and other national organizations.


The book Computing Strategies in Liberal Arts Colleges, edited by Marty Ringle with chapter authors from CLAC member institutions, was published by Addison-Wesley in the EDUCOM Strategies Series on Information Technology.


After six years of informal activities, the steering committee and governing board voted to evolve CLAC beyond a pilot project and establish it as a permanent, incorporated organization.

CLAC was incorporated on March 24, 1993 in the State of Oregon.


In 1998,  CAUSE and Educom, two respected professional associations representing more than 60 years of combined service to the higher education information technology community, merged to form EDUCAUSE.

In 2006, CLAC adopted the EDUCAUSE Core Data Survey (CDS) as the annual survey completed by all members, transitioning from the COSTS Project survey led by members then CLAC members, David Smallen and Karen Leach (Hamilton College).


CLAC members voted to raise its membership to 66 institutions and four institutions were added, including Allegheny College, Hobart & William Smith Colleges, Lake Forest College and Luther College.


CLAC members voted to raise its membership to 70 institutions and four institutions were added, including Barnard College, Hampshire College, Claremont McKenna College, and Southwestern University.


The CLAC Mindshare Program was launched to encourage and support collaborative projects between its members. CLAC Mindshares bring together staff from member institutions to engage in 1- to 3-day working groups to tackle projects and activities that benefit from collaboration.


A new CLAC website with a new logo and refreshed branding was published.


CLAC boasts 70 of today’s top liberal arts colleges in its membership and has been supporting collaboration, knowledge sharing, professional growth of its institutional members, and advocacy for the liberal arts at the national level  for more three decades.