Hunter/Lehman College’s Band of Sisters

Hunter/Lehman College’s Band of Sisters

By D. C. |

What we know as Lehman College today was originally the Bronx campus of Hunter College. Female students would take classes at the Bronx campus for two years and then complete the rest of their education at Hunter College in Manhattan. During the decade before the beginning of World War II, only women were educated at the Bronx college (“Historic Campus”). After the U.S entered World War II, the campus was vacated by the regular students and faculty and became training grounds for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services, better known as WAVES. While there were other campuses that provided basic training besides the Bronx campus, it was by far the largest in the country, and was soon chosen to be the only one for basic training, while other campuses were selected for advanced or specialty training.

According to the book Bands of Sisters: U.S. Women’s Military Bands During World War II, around 86,000 women were trained at Lehman College, where it was deemed the best basic training location due to mass transportation, warm climate, and cosmopolitan location (Sullivan 51). After a time, the Bronx campus became the Navy’s single boot camp. For select women, Lehman College, as we know it today, also served as a place where women could be promoted to the rank of Yeoman, petty officer third class.

Today, Lehman College serves as an urban institution where affordable education and a wide variety of programs of study are available, and where students are prepared for the professional work environment. As a student at Lehman, I have enjoyed many of these benefits and found it to be a life-changing experience. Lehman is a place where, from the time of the WAVES to today, the arts have flourished, as many of the women soldiers participated in extracurricular music activities during their time on campus. As a student, here, I learn about the arts everyday through literature studies. Lehman is like my second home, where a distant family has formed via the English Department and all the various students I see every semester who share my major. Lehman prides itself on its small, interactive classes, evident to all who attend. Moreover, I have personally observed some of the historical reminders left from WAVES, such as the bell that was placed on campus in 1946 from the USS Columbia.

The women who joined WAVEs were responsible for several community projects, such as the construction of Hawkins Park on City Island, which was dedicated to Hawkins and the 104 men from City Island who served in World War I.  The WAVES program was successful enough, with its secretarial and clerical work, in addition to aviation engineers, control tower operators, and intelligence operations, that women were officially integrated into the regular military on June 12, 1948 (Peter Chan). While the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act (Public Law 625) rendered the WAVES program obsolete, it was the undeniable success of WAVES that had made integration an attainable goal.

Once normal collegiate activities resumed in 1947, the college accepted former servicemen, who studied in separate classes from regular students; however, to this day, the college is marked as military friendly by multiple organizations such as and Servicemen and women may receive up to eight credits, depending on length of service when they apply for military benefits. Overall, the College has maintained faith in its military background and recognized the contributions of servicewomen.

Works Cited

Chen, C. Peter. “World War II Database.” WW2DB RSS, Lava Development,

“Historic Campus.” Lehman College, CUNY,

Sullivan, Jill M. Bands of Sisters: U.S. Women’s Military Bands during World War II. Lanham, MD, Scarecrow Press, 2011.

“Is Lehman College – CUNY A Military Friendly School?” Military Friendly,

@CollegeFactual. “CUNY Lehman College Veterans.” College Factual, 10 Dec. 2016,

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