Widener University
Former names
The Bullock School for Boys (1821–1846)
The Alsop School for Boys (1846–1853)
Hyatt's Select School for Boys (1853–1859)
Delaware Military Academy (1859–1862)
Pennsylvania Military Academy (1862–1892)
Pennsylvania Military College (1892–1966)
PMC Colleges (1966–1972)
Widener College (1972–1979)
MottoMens Sana In Corpore Sano
(Sound Mind in Sound Body)
Established1821; 203 years ago (1821) (The Bullock School for Boys)
1862 (College)
Academic affiliations
Endowment$90.0 million (2020)[1]
PresidentStacey Robertson
Academic staff
326 full-time
Undergraduates3,204 (2,790 day, 414 evening)
Postgraduates3,260 (1,598 law students)

39°51′39″N 75°21′18″W / 39.8607°N 75.3551°W / 39.8607; -75.3551
CampusUrban, 108 acres (44 ha)
Colors   Widener blue & gold
NicknamePride (introduced in 2006), formerly the Pioneers and the Cadets (when PMC)
Sporting affiliations
Division III (MAC)
MascotsChester & Melrose (Lions)
Widener Logo

Widener University is a private university in Chester, Pennsylvania. The university has three other campuses: two in Pennsylvania (Harrisburg and Exton) and one in Wilmington, Delaware.

Founded as The Bullock School for Boys in 1821, the school was established in Wilmington, Delaware. It became The Alsop School for Boys from 1846 to 1853, and then Hyatt's Select School for Boys from 1853 to 1859. Military instruction was introduced in 1858, and the school changed its name in 1859 to Delaware Military Academy. It moved to Pennsylvania in 1862 and became Chester County Military Academy. It was known as Pennsylvania Military College after 1892 and adopted the Widener name in 1972.

About 3,300 undergraduates and 3,300 graduate students attend Widener in eight degree-granting schools. The university offers associate, baccalaureate, master's, and doctoral degrees in areas ranging from traditional liberal arts to professional programs. It is classified among "Doctoral/Professional Universities" and a "Community Engagement Institution".


19th century

Old Main and Chemistry Building

Widener University was founded in 1821 as the Bullock School for Boys preparatory school in Wilmington, Delaware, by John Bullock. Bullock operated the school until 1846 when it was sold to Samuel Alsop and renamed the Alsop School for Boys. In 1853, the school was sold to Theodore Hyatt and renamed the Hyatt's Select School for Boys,[3] and again in 1859 to the Delaware Military Academy.[4]

In 1862, the school moved to West Chester, Pennsylvania. By act of assembly on April 8, 1862, the Pennsylvania legislature incorporated the school as a university under the name of Chester County Military Academy.[5]

In 1865, the school moved to Chester, Pennsylvania, and occupied the building which would become the Old Main building of the Crozer Theological Seminary. By 1868, the school outgrew the Crozer Old Main building and relocated to its current location.[6]

20th century

From 1892 to 1966, the school was known as Pennsylvania Military College (PMC) and was under the direction of General Charles Hyatt. PMC was once one of the nation's senior military colleges. In 1869, Pennsylvania Military College was the first school to have a U.S. Army detail stationed at the school and to receive federal arms for training. In 1904, the school was recognized on the first list of distinguished institutions published by the U.S. War Department. In 1923, "American March King" John Philip Sousa wrote and dedicated "The Dauntless Battalion" march to PMC's President (Colonel Charles E. Hyatt), the faculty and the cadets of PMC. Sousa had been presented with an honorary doctor of music degree by the college in 1920, and he was impressed by the cadet cavalry horsemen.[3]

In 1966, the school changed its name again to PMC Colleges, which incorporated Pennsylvania Military College as well as Penn Morton College, which had a non-military, co-educational curriculum. The school expanded the Chester campus from 25 acres to 90 acres.[7] Graduate programs were introduced in 1966,[8] and female students were first enrolled in 1967.[9]

In 1972, the institution was renamed Widener College to honor the memory of Eleanor Elkins Widener, the maternal grandmother of Fitz Eugene Dixon Jr., a generous supporter of the organization over four decades and a member of the prominent Widener family of Philadelphia.[10] The Corps of Cadets disbanded, although an Army ROTC program was retained. The Widener University School of Law was acquired in 1975, which was split in 2015 to become two separate law schools: one on the Delaware campus and another in Harrisburg – Widener University Commonwealth Law School. In recognition of its comprehensive offerings, Widener College became Widener University in 1979. Today, Widener is a four-campus university offering more than 80 programs of study.


The Manor House on the campus of Widener University built by Jonathan Edwards Woodbridge in 1888

The Manor House was designed and built by Jonathan Edwards Woodbridge in 1888 at 14th and Potter Street. It was a wedding gift to his wife, Louise Deshong, and was originally named "The Louise". It was modeled after the late 19th-century English country manor style and is unique for its hand-made brick construction.

The house was given to the city of Chester as a home for young women. In 1976, Widener University purchased the home for use as a student residence.[11] It later became home to the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority.[12] The home is currently used by Widener University as a student dormitory.[13]

The Old Main and Chemistry Building were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.[14]


Throughout its long history, the university has undergone several name changes. The following table details the various names Widener has held over the years as well as any significant organizational changes that occurred during each period.

1821–1846 The Bullock School for Boys, founded by John Bullock in Wilmington, Delaware
1846–1853 The Alsop School for Boys
1853–1859 Hyatt's Select School for Boys
  • 1858: military instruction introduced
1859–1862 Delaware Military Academy
1862–1892 Pennsylvania Military Academy
1892–1966 Pennsylvania Military College, also known as PMC
1966–1972 PMC Colleges for Pennsylvania Military College and Penn Morton College, the civilian component
  • 1966: offered nursing program with College of Nursing of Crozer Foundation; first women admitted; first graduate program introduced (engineering)
  • 1970: School of Nursing starts
1972–1979 Widener College
  • 1972: Corps of Cadets disbanded, academic programs organized into 4 schools: Arts & Sciences, Engineering, Nursing, and Management
  • 1975: Acquired Delaware Law School
  • 1976: Delaware Campus opens as part of merger with Brandywine Junior College
1979–present Widener University
  • 1980: University College program, an undergraduate evening school, starts
  • 1981: School of Hotel and Restaurant Management opens, renamed School of Hospitality Management in 1996
  • 1989: Harrisburg Campus opens
  • 1993: School of Human Service Professions begins
  • 2004: Exton Campus opens
  • 2006: Metropolitan Hall and the Wellness Center are added to the main facilities in Chester
  • 2011: Founders Hall is built to house the School of Nursing and the Oskin Leadership Institute
  • 2012: School of Education, Innovation & Continuing Studies created through the merger of the Center for Education and University College
  • 2013: Freedom Hall opens; Informatics, communication studies, and computer information systems have state-of-the-art technology to work with
  • 2015: The School of Hospitality Management and the School of Education, Innovation, and Continuing Studies merge to create the School of Education, Hospitality, and Continuing Studies.
  • 2015: Widener University School of Law – which used to be one school, sitting on two university campuses becomes Widener University Delaware Law School in Wilmington and Widener University Commonwealth Law School in Harrisburg.


Widener consists of four campuses: the Main Campus is in Chester, Pennsylvania, and three additional campuses are in Wilmington, Delaware, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Exton, Pennsylvania.

Founded in 1866 after the school moved to Chester, the 108-acre (0.44 km2) main campus consists of over 100 buildings and serves all undergraduate day students as well as Continuing Studies, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) students, and graduate students. Widener's graduate programs include business, education, engineering, nursing, social work, physical therapy, and clinical psychology.

The School of Law, which opened in 1976 on the Delaware Campus, consists of 16 buildings across 40 acres (160,000 m2) and is 12 miles (19 km) from the Main Campus. It contains the School of Law as well as the Legal Education Institute. Some classes for Continuing Studies students and graduate business students are also held here. The 21-acre (85,000 m2) Harrisburg Campus, opening in 1989, contains the Widener University Commonwealth Law School and has graduate programs in nursing and social work held there. In July 2015, Widener School of Law, which used to be one school sitting on the Delaware and Harrisburg campuses, split to become Widener University Delaware Law School in Wilmington and Widener University Commonwealth Law School in Harrisburg.

Starting in 2004, the Exton Campus was added to Widener's growing institution. It is located in a business park 25 miles (40 km) from the Main Campus. It primarily serves Continuing Studies students and contains Widener's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), which provides continuing education programs for retired adults.


Widener's academic offerings include over 50 undergraduate majors, 40 minors, and more than 30 graduate programs of study. Widener has an undergraduate student to faculty ratio of 12:1 with 90% of the full-time faculty having doctorates or the highest degree in their field.[2] In addition, 60% of all classes contain less than 20 students.[15]

Libraries and museums

The Deshong Art Museum trust was dissolved in 1984 and the art collection was given to Widener University
Child Feeding her Pets (1872) painting by Gaetano Chierici from the Widener University Alfred O. Deshong Collection

The Wolfgram Memorial Library contains 242,000 volumes, 175,000 microfilms, 12,000 audio-visual materials and 1,960 serial subscriptions.[4]

In 1979, Widener University leased and restored the Deshong Art Museum located on Edgemont Avenue in Chester. The Deshong Art Museum was built in 1914 after the death of the art collector and wealthy industrialist Alfred O. Deshong left his trust and land to the city of Chester.[16] Deshong donated over 300 pieces of art to the museum including carved Japanese ivory figures, Chinese carved hard stone vessels and 19th century American and European paintings.[16]

Over the years, the museum fell into disrepair and in July 1984 the trustees that managed the art museum dissolved the trust. The Asian and impressionistic art collection were given to Widener University and are displayed in their permanent collection.[17][18]

The PMC Museum highlights the legacy of the Pennsylvania Military Academy of Cadets with exhibits of sabres, uniforms, scrapbooks, newspapers, and yearbooks.[19]

Rankings and classifications

In 2013, Widener was named a finalist for the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll Presidential award – one of only 14 institutions in the nation to receive that honor. The university has made the honor roll every year since its inception in 2006. The 2018 Best Colleges list from U.S. News & World Report ranked Widener as tied for 192nd among 311 national universities, with a score of 32 out of 100.[20] It also ranked Widener's undergraduate engineering program 103rd among all 200 programs whose highest engineering degree is a bachelor's or master's.[21] Out of the 262 national universities ranked, Widener is 55th in the category "Highest Proportion of Classes Under 20 Students".[15] The 2008 U.S. News & World Report's Best Graduate Schools ranks several of Widener's graduate programs: clinical psychology → #145,[22] health care management → #49,[23] nursing → #141,[24] physical therapy → #173,[25] and social work → #140.[26]


Widener has 22 varsity teams (11 for men and 11 for women) participating in Division III within the MAC Commonwealth of the Middle Atlantic Conferences (MAC). Formerly known as the Pioneers, their nickname changed to the Pride in the Fall of 2006 after a student poll.[27] Widener sports teams include:

Athletic achievements

The football team has had recent success winning the MAC championship in 2012 and an "Elite 8" appearance in the Division III Playoffs, the ECAC Southwest Bowl in 2011,[29] and the ECAC South Atlantic Bowl in 2005.[30] Its greatest success has been winning the NCAA Division III National Championship in 1977 and 1981 under long-time coach Bill Manlove and reaching the semi-finals in 1979, 1980, and 2000. Widener also reached the quarterfinals of the tournament in 2012 before losing to eventual NCAA D-III National Champion, Mount Union, by a lopsided 72–17 score.[31] In 2014, the team again won the MAC championship and eventually lost in the NCAA Division III tournament in the "Elite Eight" to Linfield by a score of 45–7.[32] Additionally, Widener football has won 17 MAC championships, the most of any team in the conference. Billy "White Shoes" Johnson played for Widener in the early 70s. He went on to be an all-pro NFL player and was selected to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team as well as the College Football Hall of Fame.

The men's basketball team has won 15 MAC titles and appeared in the NCAA Division III Tournament 17 times, advancing to the "Sweet 16" in 1987 and 2006, the "Final 4" in 1985, and the championship game in 1978.[31] The men's lacrosse team has appeared in the NCAA Tournament 8 times since 2000 and has won 12 MAC titles since 1996.[31] The men's swimming team has won 12 MAC titles since 1994.[31]

Athletic facilities

The Schwartz Athletic Center is home to basketball, swimming, indoor track, and volleyball. It houses a newly renovated 25-yard (23 m) by 25 meter 10-lane competition swimming pool, squash/racquetball courts, and administrative offices for the athletic department. Schwartz is also home to the new Wellness Center, opened in April 2006 to provide the faculty, staff, and students with additional recreational and fitness opportunities. In addition to exercise equipment, the Wellness Center provides fitness classes and a 24-foot (7.3 m) rock climbing wall.

Opening in 1994, Leslie C. Quick Jr. Stadium seats over 4,000 people and has a turf playing field surrounded by an 8-lane track. The stadium houses the football, soccer, men's lacrosse, and outdoor track & field teams. In addition, Edith R. Dixon Field, opening in 2005, houses the women's field hockey and lacrosse teams. It sports an artificial turf, lighting, and a scoreboard. The field is also used for the intramural teams.

In Fall 2019, the Esports Arena in the basement of University Center opened for the inaugural season of the esports program. The arena includes 26 top-of-the-line gaming PCs and serves as both a practice and competition space for the athletes.[33]

The Philadelphia Eagles held their summer training camp on Widener's campus between 1973 and 1979. The 2006 movie Invincible depicts the campus during the Eagles' 1976 summer training camp.[34] Since 2006, the Philadelphia Soul have held practices at Widener as well.

Student life


Widener enrolls approximately 6,300 total students including 3,600 undergraduate, 1,700 graduate students, and 1,000 law school students. Among full-time undergraduate students, the male/female ratio is about 0.8:1 (44% male, 56% female). 48% of undergraduates choose to live on the Main Campus while the remaining students live off-campus or commute. Approximately 54% of all full-time undergraduates are from Pennsylvania with 45% coming from the rest of the country (predominantly Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia), and 1% of students originating from outside the U.S.[35] The acceptance rate for undergraduate applicants in fall 2013 was 65.5%.[36]

Student clubs and events

The university has over 100 student clubs including honor societies, religious organizations, media groups, and special interest clubs. Greek Week, Spring Carnival, and Homecoming are among the popular events on campus.[37] Graduate students are currently not allowed to participate in club sports activities.

Media is big on Widener's campus. The Blue&Gold: Widener University's Student Media Site was established in spring 2013. This outlet for student reporting has been growing ever since, telling the news and giving students a voice on campus. TV Club is Widener's student-run television program. WDNR is the student-run campus radio station that plays a variety of music including hip-hop, rock, metal, and punk.

Fraternity and sorority life

Widener has six fraternities and six sororities.[38] Approximately 12% of all undergraduates are members.[37] Widener's Greek organizations include:


Widener is one of only 22 colleges that is a member of Project Pericles, an organization promoting social responsibility and addressing civic apathy among students. It is classified as a Community Engagement Institution.[39]

Widener has several initiatives aimed at benefiting the surrounding community. These include:

Charter school

In 2006, the university established a new charter school near the Chester campus to serve local residents from kindergarten to grade 5. Named the Widener Partnership Charter School, the school utilizes the university's programs in education, social work, nursing, and clinical psychology. This collaboration involves the participation of Widener faculty and students to not only provide educational support but also provide additional assistance outside of school through counseling and health services.

Classes in the charter school started in September 2006, enrolling 50 students in both kindergarten and grade 1. The school continued to add a new grade each year until grade 8 had been reached, surpassing the initial expectations of the project.

Chester revitalization project

A $50 million revitalization project was started in 2007. The project, named University Crossings, included the addition of a hotel, bookstore, coffee shop, restaurant, and apartments. The project is expected to have an overall economic impact of $1 million to Chester, as well as creating 100 new jobs.[40]

In 2017, Widener University purchased the Taylor Memorial Arboretum in Nether Providence Township about 1 mile north of the Chester campus. The university purchased the site from BNY Mellon bank and plans to use the nature reserve for research and hands-on learning opportunities for citizen science projects.[41]

Notable alumni

Main article: List of Widener University alumni

As of 2011, there were 59,018 total living alumni.[2]


  1. ^ As of June 30, 2020. U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2020 Endowment Market Value and Change in Endowment Market Value from FY19 to FY20 (Report). National Association of College and University Business Officers and TIAA. February 19, 2021. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
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  25. ^ "America Best Graduate Schools 2008: Health: Physical Therapy". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 2007-03-30.
  26. ^ "America Best Graduate Schools 2008: Health: Social Work (Master's)". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 2007-03-30.
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  32. ^ "Season Ends For No. 10 Football With 45–7 Loss to Linfield in the Elite Eight". www.widenerpride.com. 6 December 2014. Retrieved 2016-09-22.
  33. ^ DeGeorge, Matthew (7 October 2019). "Overwatch final in Philly underscores esports' growth". The Delaware County Daily Times. Retrieved 2020-09-17.
  34. ^ "Reel deal for these longtime Iggles fans". Delaware County Daily Times. Archived from the original on 2007-04-28. Retrieved 2007-04-27.
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  36. ^ "Rankings". colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com. Retrieved 2019-05-15.
  37. ^ a b "Widener University: Extracurriculars". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 2007-04-24.
  38. ^ "Widener University – Greek Life". Retrieved 2014-10-09.
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  40. ^ "Economic Development". www.widener.edu. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  41. ^ Babay, Emily. "Widener University take over Taylor Memorial Arboretum". www.philly.com. Retrieved 29 September 2018.