Historical Marker - Westminster College
This historical marker commemorates Westminster College which was founded near this location on January 21, 1852. Today, the institution is a liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church and located a few blocks south of this marker.
Current picture of the Old Main building
Westminster's Athletic Field
An all-girls dorm at Westminster College
The women of the first graduating class at Westminster College
Backstory and Context
Westminster College was founded on January 21, 1852 in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. It is a liberal arts college with an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church in the United States. The name “Westminster” was chosen out of respect for the Westminster confession of faith .The confession of faith was drawn up to be the Church of England’s confession. In 1852 the college was one of the first coeducational establishments in the nation. Today Westminster College is a top-tier liberal arts college offering a variety of majors and minors. The college also offers 15 pre-professional programs.
In the 1800s, Westminster College was still establishing itself as an institution. Rev. James Patterson was elected the first president of the college. A couple of years after Westminster college opened there was a fire that destroyed the college’s main building . A year later the college build a new building nicknamed “Old Main.” The college continued expanding by building a new library in 1885. The college got one of its biggest changed when they changed the name from “Westminster Collegiate Institute” to the name it goes by today “Westminster College”. The very first athletic team at Westminster College was baseball in 1884. Less than 10 years later the first football season started at Westminster College. With athletics growing at the college Westminster College decided to create the commission on athletics in 1898. The next year the football team would advance all the way to their first championship.
In the 1900s, Westminster College evolved into the highly established institution it is known for today. In 1915 Westminster College eliminated its art department in order to save money but it was reintroduced to the college and was renamed fine arts. Between 1917 and 1918 student government and majors and minors were introduced to Westminster College. Sadly in 1927, the second fire occurred on campus. In 1952 Westminster College celebrated their 100th birthday. In the 1960s Westminster College started enforcing a core curriculum. The college also reached 2,000 students. With more students, the college felt that dropping the dress code was more ideal for them. In the 1900s sports at Westminster college flourished. This resulted in the athletic council forming in 1922. The council was in charge of making sure the athletes were eligible to play. They looked at the athlete's grades and behavior to assess eligibility.
Since Westminster College was one of the first colleges to be coeducational women make up a large part of the college’s history. The first graduating class at Westminster College included 10 women. Which meant this group of 10 women were some of the first to graduate college in the nation. Sarah McMichael was among these 10 women, she was the first women in the nation to graduate from college with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1857. About 30 years later Westminster College’s population of women would grow enough that they would open the first all-women’s dorm in 1885. In the 1900s the women at Westminster College continued to establish monumental achievements for women. In 1906 the women at Westminster College created their own club which is still established at the college today. The first women’s sport to be recognized at Westminster College was basketball in 1917 and was followed by soccer and tennis. Even though the college allowed women they still placed rules that only women had to follow. In 1950 women were not allowed out of their dorms after supper. Even with these strict rules women continued to seek an education from Westminster. In 1960 the college opened their second women’s dorm. During the two World Wars enrollment of men decreased. This allowed for women to enroll at Westminster College more easily. Today life for women at Westminster College has changed. The college provides coed dorms and a wider variety of women's sports. There are now 10 women sports offered at Westminster College. The enrollment of women at Westminster College even outnumbers the enrollment of men. The current and 15th college president, Kathy Richardson is the first female president of Westminster College.
Today Westminster College is a highly awarded liberal arts college. Who prides themselves on strong academics, outstanding faculty, and individualized attention. This is achieved through the 11:1 ratio of students to faculty. The college offers 22 varsity sports, 18 honor societies and more than 80 clubs. From the year 1852 to the year 2020, almost 200 years later, Westminster College has changed and evolved to fit the times. They have always been ahead of other colleges. They allowed their college to be coeducational when few other institutions in the nation were that socially advanced. Westminster College promoted an inclusive education for everyone.
There is a historical marker located for Westminster College at the intersection of Neshannock Avenue and North Market Street. The marker reads “Founded by the Associate, not United Presbyterian, Church. Chartered 1852. One of the first two colleges in Pennsylvania to grant degrees to women, and the first to grant them the A. B. degree, in 1857.
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2016. New Castle News. 01 23. Accessed 02 14, 2020. https://www.ncnewsonline.com/news/westminster-college-chooses-its-first-female-president/article_6282d62e-c159-11e5-9c10-e339125bea93.html.
n.d. Westminster College. Accessed 02 14, 2020. https://www.westminster.edu/about/history/index.cfm.