Founded in 1847, the forerunner of today’s City University of New York was governed by the Board of Education of New York City. Members of the Board of Education, chaired by the President of the board, served as ex-officio trustees. For the next four decades, the board members continued to serve as ex-officio trustees of the College of the City of New York and the city’s other municipal college, the Normal College of the City of New York.

In 1900, the New York State Legislature created separate boards of trustees for the College of the City of New York and the Normal College, which became Hunter College in 1914. In 1926, the Legislature established the Board of Higher Education of the City of New York, which assumed supervision of both municipal colleges.

In 1961, the New York State Legislature established the City University of New York, uniting what had become seven municipal colleges at the time: The City College of New York, Hunter College, Brooklyn College, Queens College, Staten Island Community College, Bronx Community College and Queensborough Community College. In 1979, the CUNY Financing and Governance Act was adopted by the State and the Board of Higher Education officially became The City University of New York Board of Trustees.

The Seal of the City University of New York Board of Trustees

The seal of the CUNY Board of Trustees was originally designed in 1926, when the New York State Legislature established the Board of Higher Education of the City of New York to oversee the growing municipal college system. The Board of Higher Education authorized its chairman, Moses J. Strook, to appoint a five-member committee, chaired by Mrs. William H. Good, to devise a seal for the board.

The committee retained Edna Wells Leutz, a Hunter College alumna who would become chair of the college’s art department, to design the seal. The proposed design, submitted as a sketch and unanimously approved by the board, contained the following elements:

The outside ornamental border included the words, “Seal of the Board of Higher Education of the City of New York—1926.”
The center of the seal depicted an altar with the Latin motto of the board, Eruditio populi liberi spes gentium, which can be translated as, “The education of free people is the hope of humanity.”

On the left side of the seal appeared a classically robed symbolic figure with hand outstretched, above which appeared the word “Justice.” On the right side was another symbolic figure reading an open book, above which appeared the word, “Knowledge.” And in the center, above the altar and in the rays of a rising sun, was the word “Wisdom.”

Chairs of the Board
1847Townsend Harris
1848Robert Kelly
1850Erastus C. Benedict
1855William H. Neilson
1856Andrew H. Green
1858William H. Neilson
1859Richard Warren
1860William E. Curtis
1864James M. McLean
1868Richard L. Larremore
1870Bernard Smyth
1873Josiah G. Holland
1874William H. Neilson
1876William Wood
1880Stephen A. Walker
1886J. Edward Simmons
1890John L.N. Hunt
1893Adolph Sanger
1894Charles H. Knox
1895Robert Maclay
1897Charles Bulkley Hubbell
1899J. Edward Swanstrom
Joseph J. Little
1901Miles M. O’Brien
1902Edward Lauterback
Charles C. Burlingham
1903Henry A. Rogers
1904Edward M. Shepard
1905Henry N. Tifft
1906Egerton L. Winthrop, Jr.
1911Theodore F. Miller
1913Frederick P. Bellamy
Thomas Winston Churchill
1914Charles Edward Lydecker
1915Paul Fuller
1916George McAneny
Edward J. McGuire
1919William G. Willcox
1921Thomas Winston Churchill
1923Edward Swann
Edward C. McParlan
1924Harry P. Swift
1926Moses J. Strook
1931Charles H. Tuttle
1932Mark Eisner
1938Ordway Tead
1953Joseph Cavallaro
1957Gustave G. Rosenberg
1966Porter R. Chandler
1971Luis Quero-Chiesa
1974Alfred A. Giardino
1976Harold M. Jacobs
1980James Murphy
1997Ann Paolucci
1999Herman Badillo
2001Benno Schmidt
2016William C. Thompson, Jr.