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, twice as many as 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         

1975

Naropa’s first year-round degree program started, a Master of Arts in Psychology, based on Trungpa’s Maitri teachings.

1976

Naropa begins offering B.A. degrees in Buddhist Studies and Visual Art, the M.A. in Psychology, an M.F.A. in Visual Art and Expressive Arts, as well as certificates in Dance, Theater, and Poetics.

1977

Judith Simmer-Brown joins the Buddhist Studies faculty.

"The only faculty member who had an office was Reggie (who was head of the faculty), but the rest of the teachers were pretty much on the streets. I took a booth at the New York Deli, and I was there for four years. [...] I was there three mornings a week in a booth, and that's where I met with students."  
Judith Simmer-Brown

1983 

Naropa receives a $1 million anonymous gift to fund its endowment. The donor was later revealed to be Martha Bonzi. 

1986

Naropa receives its accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. 

1999

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.

2015

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.