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Wheaton College
Former names
Wheaton Female Seminary (1834–1912)
Motto"That They May Have Life and Have it Abundantly"
TypePrivate liberal arts college
Established1834; 190 years ago (1834) as a female seminary, 1912 chartered as a four-year women's college
Academic affiliations
Endowment$256.2 million (2023)[1]
PresidentMichaele Whelan
Academic staff
Students1,669 (fall 2020)[2]

41°58′06″N 71°11′04″W / 41.968313°N 71.184529°W / 41.968313; -71.184529
CampusSuburban, residential, 478 acres
Welcome sign

Wheaton College is a private liberal arts college in Norton, Massachusetts. Wheaton was founded in 1834 as a female seminary. The trustees officially changed the name of the Wheaton Female Seminary to Wheaton College in 1912 after receiving a college charter from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It remained one of the oldest institutions of higher education for women in the United States until men began to be admitted in 1988. It enrolls 1,669 undergraduate students.[3]


In 1834, Eliza Wheaton Strong, the daughter of Judge Laban Wheaton, died at the age of thirty-nine. Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton, the judge's daughter-in-law and a founder of the Trinitarian Congregational Church of Norton, persuaded him to memorialize his daughter by founding a female seminary.[4]

The family called upon noted women's educator Mary Lyon for assistance in establishing the seminary.[5] Lyon created the first curriculum with the goal that it be equal in quality to those of men's colleges. She also provided the first principal, Eunice Caldwell. Wheaton Female Seminary opened in Norton, Massachusetts on 22 April 1835, with 50 students and three teachers.

Lyon and Caldwell left Wheaton to open Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in 1837 (now Mount Holyoke College).[6] After their departure, Wheaton endured a period of fluctuating enrollment and frequent changes in leadership until 1850, when Caroline Cutler Metcalf was recruited as the new principal.[7] Metcalf made the hiring of outstanding faculty her top priority, bringing in educators who encouraged students to discuss ideas rather than to memorize facts. The most notable additions to the faculty were Lucy Larcom, who introduced the study of English Literature and founded the student literary magazine The Rushlight;[8] and Mary Jane Cragin, who used innovative techniques to teach geometry and made mathematics the favorite study of many students.[9]

Metcalf retired in 1876. A. Ellen Stanton, a teacher of French since 1871, served as principal from 1880 to 1897. She led the seminary during a difficult time, when it faced competition from increasing numbers of public high schools and colleges granting bachelor's degrees to women.[10]

Cole Memorial Chapel

In 1897, at the suggestion of Eliza Baylies Wheaton, the trustees hired the Reverend Samuel Valentine Cole as the seminary's first male president. Preparing to seek a charter as a four-year college, Cole began a program of revitalization that included expanding and strengthening the curriculum, increasing the number and quality of the faculty, and adding six new buildings.[11]

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts granted Wheaton a college charter in 1912, and the trustees changed the name of the school to Wheaton College. The Student Government Association was organized to represent the "consensus of opinion of the whole student body", and to encourage individual responsibility, integrity, and self-government. Wheaton received authorization to establish a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in 1932, twenty years after achieving college status.

Cole died unexpectedly in 1925 after a brief illness. During his career as president, Cole oversaw the expansion of the campus from three to 27 buildings, the growth of enrollment from 50 to 414, and the establishment of an endowment. On the campus, Cole Memorial Chapel is named after him. Its approximate geographical coordinates are: 41°58′2.01″N 71°11′3.51″W / 41.9672250°N 71.1843083°W / 41.9672250; -71.1843083.

The Reverend John Edgar Park, who became president in 1926, continued Cole's building program, and saw the college through the Great Depression, the celebration of its centennial in 1935 and World War II.[12] He retired in 1944, and was succeeded by Dartmouth College Professor of History Alexander Howard Meneely. During his tenure, the trustees voted to expand the size of the college from 525 to 800 to 1000 students, and construction of "new campus" began in 1957.[13]

Meneely died in 1961 after a long illness and was succeeded in 1962 by William C.H. Prentice, a psychology professor and administrator at Swarthmore College. In the early 1960s, Wheaton successfully completed its first endowment campaign. The development of new campus continued, and student enrollment grew to 1,200. Wheaton students and faculty joined in nationwide campus protests against United States actions in Indochina in 1970.[14]

In 1975, Wheaton inaugurated its first woman president, Alice Frey Emerson, dean of students at the University of Pennsylvania. During her tenure, Wheaton achieved national recognition as a pioneer in the development of a gender-balanced curriculum.[15] Emerson would go on to receive the Valeria Knapp Award from The College Club of Boston in 1987 for establishing the Global Awareness Program at Wheaton College.[16] Wheaton celebrated its Sesquicentennial in 1984/85 with a year-long series of symposia, concerts, dance performances, art and history exhibits, and an endowment and capital campaign. In 1987, the trustees voted to admit men to Wheaton. The first coeducational class was enrolled in September 1988.

Dale Rogers Marshall, Academic Dean at Wellesley College, was inaugurated as Wheaton's sixth president in 1992. She led the college in "The Campaign for Wheaton", to build endowed and current funds for faculty development, student scholarships, and academic programs and facilities. Enrollment growth encouraged the construction of the first new residence halls since 1964 (Gebbie, Keefe and Beard residence halls), the improvement of classroom buildings and the renovation and expansion of the college's arts' facilities.[17]

Wheaton's Board of Trustees appointed Ronald A. Crutcher as the seventh president of the college on March 23, 2004. Crutcher came to Wheaton from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he served as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and professor of music.[18] During his tenure, he ran the most successful funding campaigns in Wheaton's history, funding the new $37M Mars Science Center, more than $53M in new scholarship endowments, as well as new athletic facilities, faculty-mentored research, and career services.[1]

Wheaton's most recent president, Dennis M. Hanno, was appointed in 2014 and served until 2021. His emphasis was on accentuating Wheaton's emphasis on diversity and a student-centered approach to education.[19] He advocated and implemented programs to apply liberal arts teachings to social entrepreneurship and making the world a better place.[20] One of his initiatives offers a full scholarship to one refugee student each year, with preference for students from countries subject to immigration restrictions proposed by Donald Trump in 2016.[21]

Wheaton's current president is Michele Whelan.


The following is a list of Wheaton College presidents with the years of their presidential tenures.


Wheaton offers a liberal arts education leading to a Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 100 majors and minors. Students are permitted to work with faculty members to design self-declared majors. Wheaton College is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.[23] The most popular majors, based on 2021 graduates, were:[24]

Foundations courses focus on writing, quantitative analysis, foreign language study and non-Western perspectives. In their first semester at Wheaton, all freshmen take a First Year Seminar in which they explore contemporary issues and gain academic skills needed for college-level study. The major concentration and elective courses are also central to the Wheaton Compass Curriculum, which culminates in a senior capstone experience—a thesis, research project, seminar or creative project.[25]

Partnerships with other schools

The course selection is extended further through the college's cross-registration programs with Brown University and nine local colleges involved in SACHEM (Southeastern Association for Cooperation in Higher Education in Massachusetts). Wheaton also offers dual-degree programs, enabling its undergraduates to begin graduate-level study in studio art, communications, engineering, business, theology and optometry.[26]

Among several study abroad opportunities unique to Wheaton is its partnership with Royal Thimphu College in Bhutan.

Interdisciplinary study

Students must take either three linked courses or two sets of two-course connections. These courses are intended to encourage students to explore and think beyond their primary academic interests.[27] For instance, the connection entitled "Communication through Art and Mathematics" links Arts 298 (Graphic Design I) with Math 127 (Advertising Math). Although students may complete one of the numerous pre-designed connections, students are encouraged to consider proposing their own.

In 2014, the college won a $500,000 grant from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation to fund the IMAGINE Network, "an interdisciplinary, campus-wide collaboratory connecting spaces, people, resources and ideas."[28] While much of that grant was used in development of new interdisciplinary facilities, it also supports several interdisciplinary research groups each semester, and supports students and faculty in developing the next generation of liberal arts curriculum.[29]

Hands-on learning

Wheaton's Semester in the City program places students in internships around Boston where they work while taking two related courses for the duration of the semester, to offer a more real-world living-working-learning experience.[30] Wheaton guarantees funding for students pursuing unpaid extracurricular experiences, including internships, research, or any suitable experiential learning opportunity.[31] The Wheaton Institute for the Interdisciplinary Humanities (WIIH) develops and exposes programming exploring liberal arts education's weight in the ever-changing and increasingly complex "real world."[32]

Much of this emphasis was initiated by college president Dennis M. Hanno, who took some inspiration from Babson College, where he was a Senior Vice President and Provost.[33] One of his primary efforts in this area is WIN, short for Wheaton Innovates, which prepares students to launch social enterprises, applying liberal arts skill sets to create social change.[34] That's included a new partnership with MassChallenge to partner students with startups,[35] and led to a $10M commitment by the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation to continue expansion of social entrepreneurship programs starting in 2018.[36]


In 2003, the Evelyn Danzig Haas '39 Visiting Artists Program was initiated; the program brings writers, musicians, actors, directors, dancers and artists to campus for short-term residencies to share their work through lectures, master classes, concerts and exhibitions.[37] Arts in the City complements the visiting artists program by taking students and faculty members on trips to Boston, Providence and elsewhere to explore the arts and cultural offerings of the region.[38]

Wheaton also has an extensive Permanent Collection of artworks which are often implemented in classes and student projects,[39] including in some innovative learning experiences, like a semi-annual student-curated exhibition and student-driven provenance research.[40]

College galleries often exhibit work from the Permanent Collection, but also notable visiting artist. During the 2016–2017 school year, there was a student-curated show, a show of student work, and an installation by Judy Pfaff.[41]

Scholarships and fellowships

Wheaton prioritizes scholarships and fellowships both at the college and for its alumni. In 2016, Wheaton ranked tenth in its number of Fulbright scholars and was recognized as a top producer for 11 consecutive years.[42] Since 2000, Wheaton students have received over 200 external scholarships, including 3 Rhodes Scholarships.[43]

Wheaton itself provides substantial scholarships opportunities for current and prospective students. From 2004 to 2014, Wheaton added $53M in scholarships for students, and guarantees funding for internships and experiential learning opportunities. Support for the most academically curious students extends beyond financial funding to include the cohort-based May Fellows program[44] and the Beard Hall living-learning community.[45]

Wheaton also has a chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society.[46]


Mars Arts & Humanities
Watson Fine Arts Center


Austin House, designed by The Architects Collaborative, sits at the edge of campus and serves as housing for guest speakers, artists, etc. It won Architectural Record's "House of the Year" in 1962, and remains an important example of mid-century modernism.[47]

In 1938, Wheaton sponsored a competition to build a new arts center, cosponsored by Museum of Modern Art and Architectural Forum. They fielded proposals from some of the most famous architects of that era, including Louis Kahn and Walter Gropius, the latter of which took second prize. First prize went to two relatively unknown architects, Caleb Hornbostel and Richard Bennett, and while never actually built, accelerated the college's embrace of modernist architecture.[48] In 1962, Watson Fine Arts was finally built in the Brutalist International Style.[49]

Student living

Meadows East residence hall, built in 1964.

Wheaton students live in a variety of ways. There are 18 traditional residence halls; some, like Meadows and Beard, were built in the 2000s, while others date back to the late 1800s.[50] Most have single and double rooms, with two buildings dedicated to suites of 3-6 people.

There's also a rich history of "Theme Houses," bringing together a number of students with shared interests or purpose. In the 2017–2018 year, there were 17 theme houses on campus. They range from Farm House, which is an active farm, to the United World College Davis House, to the Feminist Perspective House.[51]

Recent facilities developments

Mars Center for Science and Technology

Wheaton's 2014 Sherman Fairchild Foundation grant supported development of a network of interdisciplinary creative spaces around campus, including a Makerspace called Lab 213 (housing 3D printers, Laser cutters, five-axis CNC milling equipment, electronics workspace), the HATCH Lab (digital classroom with virtual reality and eye tracking tools for digital humanities), and a Fiberspace (with digital jacquard loom, sewing machines, and other fibers and textiles tools).[29]

Also included in that network are Arts spaces like the Wheaton Sculpture Studio (wood and metal working, ceramics, molding and casting, etc.), WCCS Student-run recording studio, Machine Shop for precision fabrication, and an experimental theater and dance studio.[29]

In 2011, Wheaton completed its new Mars Science Center, a Gold LEED certified building housing the majority of the schools science classrooms and research (including greenhouses and observatory).[52] It's also connected by underground passages to the old science center and library.

In 2000, Wheaton also expanded its Arts facilities.

The school has been pursuing infrastructure projects outside academics, too. In 2016, Wheaton renovated its dining halls, including Emerson Dining Hall, the Hood Cafe, and the Davis Spencer Cafe. They also rebuilt Chase Dining Hall. The next year, they erected solar panels on the roof of the old science center and in fields nearby.

Left to right: Emerson Hall, Larcom Hall, Park Hall, Mary Lyon Hall, Knapton Hall, Cole Chapel.


Main article: Wheaton Lyons

Wheaton fields 21 varsity NCAA Division III teams, nine for men and 12 for women, in addition to 14 club sports programs and a variety of intramural activities.


In 2018, The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education ranked Wheaton among the Top 40 U.S. Colleges for liberal arts.[53] For 2015, U.S. News & World Report ranked it 69th in Best National Liberal Arts Colleges, and top 50 by high school counselor rankings.[54] Kiplinger notes Wheaton as a "Best Value School",[55] and College Raptor and College Recruiter independently identify Wheaton as a "hidden gem."[56] The Princeton Review also recognizes Wheaton as a standout Northeastern college, one of the 373 best colleges in the United States and among the Top 200 Colleges That Pay You Back.[57] Since 2000, over 250 prestigious scholarships have gone to Wheaton students, including 3 Rhodes Scholarships.[43] In 2011 Newsweek/The Daily Beast placed Wheaton at number 19 of 25 in their "Braniacs" schools ranking.[58]

Niche ranked Wheaton sixth for most liberal colleges in 2018,[59] and the college does generally have a reputation for liberalism. College leadership has spoken out at numerous occasions against the Trump presidency, in favor of remaining signed on to the Paris Climate Accord and establishing a scholarship for refugees adversely affected by Trump's immigration policies. The school is not to be confused with the much more conservative Wheaton College (Illinois), and college leadership has at times publicly denounced the other institution's regressive stances and actions to make that clear.[60]

Publications and media


The following films have been filmed, at least in part, on the Wheaton campus or feature Wheaton students.

Notable people


Main article: List of Wheaton College (Massachusetts) alumni


See also


  1. ^ As of December 18, 2023. "Endowment Investment Report 2022-2023". Wheaton College. December 18, 2023. Retrieved December 18, 2023.
  2. ^ "ENROLLMENT AND PERSISTENCE" (PDF). Retrieved October 20, 2023.
  3. ^ "Common Data Set 2020–2021" (PDF).
  4. ^ Helmreich, P. (2002) Wheaton College, 1834-1957: A Massachusetts Family Affair: New York, Cornwall Books. ISBN 0-8453-4881-7
  5. ^ Toffoli, Tom; Wilga, D.; Shin, S. (1997). "Mary Lyon". Mt. Holyoke College. Archived from the original on August 21, 2007. Retrieved March 19, 2007.
  6. ^ Toffoli, Tom; Wilga, D.; Shin, S. (1997). "Mary Lyon". Mt. Holyoke College. Retrieved March 19, 2007.
  7. ^ Stickney, Zephorene; Bussey, Holley (1999). "Caroline Metcalf: Faces Behind the Facades". Wheaton College. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved March 19, 2007.
  8. ^ Stickney, Zephorene; Bussey, Holley (1999). "Lucy Larcom: Faces Behind the Facades". Wheaton College. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved March 19, 2007.
  9. ^ Stickney, Zephorene; Bussey, Holley (1999). "Mary Jane Cragin: Faces Behind the Facades". Wheaton College. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved March 19, 2007.
  10. ^ Stickney, Zephorene; Bussey, Holley (1999). "A. Ellen Stanton: Faces Behind the Facades". Wheaton College. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved March 19, 2007.
  11. ^ Stickney, Zephorene; Bussey, Holley (1999). "Samuel Valentine Cole: Faces Behind the Facades". Wheaton College. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved March 19, 2007.
  12. ^ Stickney, Zephorene; Bussey, Holley (1999). "J. Edgar Park: Faces Behind the Facades". Wheaton College. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved March 19, 2007.
  13. ^ Stickney, Zephorene; Bussey, Holley (1999). "Alexander Howard Meneely: Faces Behind the Facades". Wheaton College. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved March 19, 2007.
  14. ^ Stickney, Zephorene; Bussey, Holley (1999). "William C.H. Prentice: Faces Behind the Facades". Wheaton College. Archived from the original on May 26, 2020. Retrieved March 19, 2007.
  15. ^ Spanier, Bonnie (1982). "Toward A Balanced Curriculum: The Study of Women at Wheaton College". Change. 14 (3): 31–34. doi:10.1080/00091383.1982.10569864..
  16. ^ "People in Education". Boston Globe. August 2, 1987. p. 48.
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  18. ^ Benoit, Hannah. "How Do You Get to Park Hall". The Wheaton Quarterly. Archived from the original on August 28, 2008. Retrieved February 27, 2009.
  19. ^ "About the President". Wheaton College Massachusetts. Retrieved January 18, 2018.
  20. ^ Network, Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship. "How College Entrepreneurs Are Moving the World to a Better Place". (Press release). Retrieved January 18, 2018.
  21. ^ "Wheaton College offers full scholarship to refugees banned from traveling to U.S." MassLive. Retrieved March 2, 2022.
  22. ^ "About President Whelan". Wheaton College Massachusetts. Retrieved January 3, 2022.
  23. ^ Massachusetts Institutions – NECHE, New England Commission of Higher Education, retrieved May 26, 2021
  24. ^ "Wheaton College (Massachusetts)". U.S. Dept of Education. Retrieved February 21, 2023.
  25. ^ "The Wheaton Curriculum". Wheaton College Massachusetts.
  26. ^ "Cross Registration Options - Wheaton College Massachusetts". Wheaton College Massachusetts.
  27. ^ "Connections - Wheaton College Massachusetts". Wheaton College Massachusetts.
  28. ^ "About". Wheaton College Massachusetts. Archived from the original on February 25, 2019. Retrieved January 18, 2018.
  29. ^ a b c "Facilities and Resources". Wheaton College Massachusetts. Archived from the original on January 19, 2018. Retrieved January 18, 2018.
  30. ^ "Semester in the City". Wheaton College Massachusetts. Retrieved January 18, 2018.
  31. ^ "The Wheaton Edge". Wheaton College Massachusetts. Retrieved January 18, 2018.
  32. ^ "The Wheaton Institute for the Interdisciplinary Humanities (WIIH) - MA". Wheaton College Massachusetts. Retrieved January 18, 2018.
  33. ^ College, Wheaton. "Wheaton College Names Dennis Hanno as New President". PR Newswire (Press release). Retrieved January 18, 2018.
  34. ^ "Social Entrepreneurship". Wheaton College Massachusetts. Retrieved January 18, 2018.
  35. ^ "Accelerating ideas". Wheaton College Massachusetts. Retrieved January 18, 2018.
  36. ^ "$10M gift will transform college program". Wheaton College Massachusetts. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
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  39. ^ "Permanent Collection". Wheaton College Massachusetts. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  40. ^ "Digital Projects and the First Year Seminar: Making Blended Learning Work at a Small Liberal Arts College". The Academic Commons. August 25, 2014. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
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  46. ^ "Phi Beta Kappa". Wheaton College Massachusetts. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
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  57. ^ Hamilton, William (August 3, 2010). "Princeton Review 2011 list of 373 'best' colleges in U.S. includes six local schools". Providence Business News. Archived from the original on August 15, 2010. Retrieved August 22, 2010.
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  60. ^ "My college got caught up in the horrifying rage over Wheaton's Muslim-Christian God debate". The Washington Post.
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  64. ^ "Babe Lincoln vol. 2" (PDF).
  65. ^ "Stefan Sirucek '06, filmmaker, wins Fulbright to teach in Germany – News & Events". Wheaton College Massachusetts. April 27, 2007. Archived from the original on February 5, 2015. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
  66. ^ "An exciting semester for WCCS, Wheaton's student-run radio station". Wheaton Wire. Retrieved January 17, 2018.