History of Naropa

 History of Naropa

The Summer of ‘74

Heiress Patty Hearst was kidnapped early that year. The world population reached 4 billion. And the country was embroiled in the Watergate Scandal that would bring down President Richard Nixon.

It was in this atmosphere that the Naropa Institute offered its first two summer sessions in an old bus depot in Boulder, Colorado. Faculty included Kobun Chino Roshi, Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, Ram Das, Gary Snyder, Herbert Guenther, Joan Halifax, John Cage, Gregory Bateson, plus other famous writers, performers, and scholars.

More than 1,500 students attended, six times what had been anticipated.

Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, John Cage, and Diane di Prima founded the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute.

"It was a wild night. It was also the night Nixon resigned, and some of the townspeople may have come thinking it was a party to celebrate that. Also, it being a college town and the evening being billed as a 'Concert with John Cage,' some people may have thought they could just all join in and sing along. The energy was insane, people were throwing cushions around."
Anne Waldman         


Second summer session, again with luminary faculty and offerings.


Naropa begins offering an MA degree in Buddhist and Western Psychology, as well as certificates in Dance, Theater, and Poetics. Naropa continues as only a summer Institute.


MA in Buddhist Studies opens in January, beginning the first year-round program running January to August in four academic quarters. Offices were located at 1111 Pearl Street, above a Chinese restaurant on the Pearl Street Mall. Classrooms were rented throughout downtown Boulder.


Naropa moved from its storefront rental space on the Pearl Street Mall into rental of the former Lincoln School building on Arapahoe, sharing it with Shambhala Training. Naropa receives a $1 million anonymous gift to fund its endowment, guaranteeing faculty salaries for the first time. The donor was later revealed to be Martha Bonzi. She also anonymously donated the property west of the School, with its 5-6 small buildings. Naropa imminent demise was averted.


Naropa receives full accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, after eight years of provisional accreditation that enabled students to qualify for student loans. 

Naropa purchases the Lincoln campus from the Boulder Valley School District. The University of Colorado had outbid Naropa two times over, but the Regents did not back their bid, and so the Naropa bid of $750,000 was successful.


Naropa dedicates the new Allen Ginsberg Library.


The Naropa Institute formally adopts the name Naropa University.


Naropa establishes a Center for the Advancement of Contemplative Education to support faculty and provide an international resource for research and collaboration on Contemplative Education. The Center, in its pilot version of three years, was supported by a grant from the Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism.


Charles Lief becomes President of Naropa University.


Naropa reopens the Center for the Advancement of Contemplative Education, continuing its work, fostering contemplative education for our students and becoming a resource for the growing field of contemplative teaching and learning in both higher education and K-12 education.


Naropa acquires the intellectual property and physical assets of the Boulder College of Massage Therapy with the goal of launching a massage therapy school.

The university also opened Naropa Community Counseling, a center offering affordable therapy services to low- and middle-income clients in Boulder County and launched its Authentic Leadership Center, offering mindfulness programs, workshops, and training to leaders worldwide.