Cornell University

A Brief History of ILR

Original ILR School building with founding facultyThe idea seemed radical at the time: Establish a college where faculty and students could grapple with issues creating conflict in the workplace, including the adversarial relationship between labor and management.

This daring vision, coming on the heels of the Great Depression and then World War II, led to the founding of the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations -- now known more simply as the ILR School -- by the New York State legislature in 1945.

The school was charged with a mission "to improve industrial and labor conditions in the state through the provision of instruction, the conduct of research, and the dissemination of information in all aspects of industrial, labor, and public relations, affecting employers and employees."

Did you know?

ILR is home to Catherwood Library, North America’s premier workplace library with a collection of 232,000 books and journals and access to global electronic resources.

Given a home at Cornell University, ILR embodied both the intellectual rigor of the Ivy League and the democratic spirit of state universities. It created a multidisciplinary social sciences faculty that valued academic achievement and practical expertise. On-campus offerings promised students a liberal education with a professional orientation while off-campus Extension programs brought insights about the workplace to professionals and the wider community.

The ILR School remains committed to its founding mission of improving labor-management relations. ILR’s focus continues to broaden as the world of work and the workplace become increasingly complex and diverse. Today, ILR teaching, research and outreach have expanded to include many areas that shape the working world and contribute to an organization’s success in a global economy.