Ralph Borsodi was born in 1886. He was interested in self-sufficient living and wrote several books about his homesteading experiences and philosophy. He wrote National Advertising vs. Prosperity: A Study of the Economic Consequences of National Advertising (1923), The Distribution Age: A Study of the Economy of Modern Distribution (1927), This Ugly Civilization (1929), Flight from the City: The Story of a New Way to Family Security (1933), Prosperity and Security: A Study in Realistic Economics (1938), Inflation is Coming (1948), Education and Living Vols. I and II (1948), The Challenge of Asia: A Study of Conflicting Ideas and Ideals (1956), Pan-Humanist Manifesto (1958), The Education of the Whole Man (1963), The Definition of Definition: A New Linguistic Approach to the Integration of Knowledge (1967), and Seventeen Problems of Man and Society (1968).
Borsodi established the School of Living, a non-profit rural educational institute, in 1935 in Suffren, NY. Borsodi also spearheaded Bayad Lane Association, also called the Suffren Housing Project, a small experimental cooperative community on 40 acres of land, which consisted of 14 houses each with about 2 acres of land. The homes were owned individually, the land cooperatively. Borsodi went on to establish a second homesteading community called Van Houten Fields, a 110-acre farm in West Nyack that consisted of 66 home sites. Both projects were done under Borsodi’s business called the Independence Foundation. Suffren and Nyack were the first successful demonstrations of independent co-operative homesteads for the city worker.
Borsodi moved to Melbourne Village, Florida in 1949. In 1953, Borsodi, Virginia Wood, Elizabeth Nutting, and Margaret Hutchison shared a vision of founding a university. Borsodi wanted to model the small graduate school after the School of Living, which closed in 1951, focusing on a universal point of view, and he wanted to have visiting faculty from foreign embassies. A quarterly journal, The Journal of Praxiology, would be published to define the problems of living, provide commentary, and review books. A Board of Regents was created and made up of T. J. Wood, Jane Button, Shirley O’Donnell, Ralph Borsodi, Tom Sweeting, Clare Borsodi, Virginia Wood, Elizabeth Nutting, and Margaret Hutchison. Nutting was elected as dean.
Borsodi was not able to secure land for the university from the City of Melbourne, but in 1954, V. C. Brownlie donated 40 acres to the university, which was located just outside Melbourne’s city limits. On October 6, 1955, the cornerstone of the building was laid. The first seminar, entitled “Man is the Problem?” was held December 27, 1955 to January 1, 1956. Borsodi, Willis Nutting, Paul Tillich, Joseph Wood Krutch, and Philip Wylie were speakers. The second seminar, “The Challenge of Islam: The Problem Created for the Free World,” was held later that January. The third seminar, “The Challenge of Socialism, Communism, and World Revolution,” was held in February of 1956.
The university’s official opening was September 23, 1956. Don Gospil was the only full-time student to attend. Borsodi resigned on July 20, 1957 stating it was due to extreme ill health. William Byl acted as head of the university until the position could be filled, but it was never filled. In 1959, the Board of Regents of the University of Melbourne agreed to lease land and provide use of the administrative building and library to the Brevard Engineering College (BEC).
Material in the collection.
Crepeau, Richard, Melbourne Village: The First Twenty-five Years (1946-1961). Orlando: University Presses of Florida, 1988.
Long, Craig, Bayard Lane: The Borsodi Experiment. N.d. Accessed August 5, 2015. http://www.villageofmontebello.com/history/BayardLane.html
Sharp, Bill, New School of Living: Ralph Borsodi and The School of Living, July 3, 2013. Accessed on August 5, 2015. http://newschoolofliving.blogspot.com/2013/07/ralph-borsodi-and-school-of-living.html