In a normal year, May and June are months filled with graduation ceremonies for high school and college students across the nation. They are usually times of celebration and exuberance, the rewards of sacrifice and hard work over the course of study.
For one distinguished institution of higher learning, there’s no such thing as a large graduation ceremony.
Deep Springs College, located on an isolated cattle ranch forty miles east of Bishop, California, was founded in 1917 by L.L. Nunn, a successful industrialist. Nunn made his name and fortune building alternating current power plants in the western United States.
He designed the college’s educational program on three pillars: academics, student self-government, and manual labor. Only twelve to fifteen students are admitted each year. The school covers the costs of tuition, room, and board for every student offered admission.
In addition to its size differential with most universities, Deep Springs also is different in the fact that is offers no majors. Most students take two to three classes per semester, choosing from offerings in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and the arts. Many classes are discussion-based, with about eight students in a class.
Along with their academic and self-governance responsibilities, each student at Deep Springs works approximately twenty hours a week. Students do everything from milking cows, to irrigating an alfalfa farm, to cooking meals and cleaning the community’s dishes three times a day.
In exchange for free tuition and board, Nunn expected the students dedicate themselves to lives of service to humanity. Over the years, Deep Springs alumni have pursued careers in many noble fields including science, journalism, academics, agriculture, medicine, law, business, politics, and design. Despite its size, Deep Springs alumni have earned Rhodes and Truman scholarships, two Pulitzer Prizes, one Emmy Award, and many other honors.
Nunn died in 1925 after a long battle with tuberculosis. His commitment to higher education continues on at Deep Springs to this day. He is interred at Forest Lawn in Glendale.