Lawrence Cremin begins his presidency, serving until 1984. He was known as one of the foremost historians of American education, chiefly as a result of his three-volume study, American EducationIn it, he proposed a broad understanding of education that includes not only the work of schools and colleges, but also the efforts of families, churches and synagogues, libraries and museums, and the media to convey knowledge and advance certain values. Cremin was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1981 for The National Experience.

Cremin came to Teachers College in 1949 and became the Frederick A. P. Barnard Professor of Education, teaching for more than 30 years. During his presidency, he maintained his teaching course load and oversaw the establishment of the Esther A. and Joseph Klingenstein Center for Independent School Education; the Institute of Research and Service in Nursing Education; the Hollingworth Center for the Study of the Gifted; the AEGIS Program in adult education; and the Center for Infants and Parents. TC also renovated the Milbank Memorial Library, created six endowed professorships, and quadrupled its fundraising.

At various points in his career, Cremin also served as President of the Spencer Foundation, the National Academy of Education, the History of Education Society, and the National Society of College Teachers of Education.