Wilson College
Former names
Wilson Female College (1869–1920)
(Arts, Sciences and Religion)
TypePrivate college
EstablishedMarch 24, 1869; 155 years ago (1869-03-24)
Religious affiliation
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Endowment$43.4 million (2020)[1]
PresidentWesley R. Fugate
Academic staff
45 full-time

39°56′53″N 77°39′11″W / 39.948°N 77.653°W / 39.948; -77.653
CampusNearly 300 acres (121.4 ha)
ColorsSilver and blue
MascotThe Phoenix
Wilson College
Wilson College Harry R. Brooks Complex
Wilson College (Pennsylvania) is located in Pennsylvania
Wilson College (Pennsylvania)
Wilson College (Pennsylvania) is located in the United States
Wilson College (Pennsylvania)
Location1015 Philadelphia Ave., Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
Area55 acres (22.3 ha)
ArchitectLarson, Leslie; Furness, Evans & Co., et al.
Architectural styleSecond Empire, Colonial Revival, Late Gothic Revival
NRHP reference No.95000888[2]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPJuly 21, 1995
Designated PHMCOctober 10, 1952[3]

Wilson College is a private, Presbyterian-related college in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1869 by two Presbyterian ministers, it was named for its first major donor, Sarah Wilson of nearby St. Thomas Township, Pennsylvania, who gave $30,000 toward the purchase of the land and home of Alexander McClure.

For 144 years, Wilson operated as a women's college. In 2013 the college's board of trustees voted to make the college coeducational beginning in the 2013–2014 academic year, with male residential students beginning in fall 2014.



The college was founded as the Wilson Female College by the Rev. Tryon Edwards and the Rev. James W. Wightman,[4] pastors of Presbyterian churches in nearby Hagerstown, Maryland, and Greencastle, Pennsylvania.[5] The original charter was granted by the Pennsylvania Legislature on March 24, 1869.[6][7] The college took its present name, Wilson College, in 1920.[8] Wilson was one of the first colleges in the U.S. to accept only female students. Its 1870 promotional materials stated that the college was a place for women "to be leaders, not followers, in society".[9][10] Instruction began in 1870, with the first academic degree awarded in 1874.[11]

The college was modeled after Vassar College.[12] It was named for Sarah Wilson (1795–1871),[13] whose donations were used to purchase the campus land.[14][15][16]


Anna Jane McKeag was inaugurated as Wilson's first woman president in 1911,[17][18] and served until 1915 when she was succeeded by Ethelbert Dudley Warfield.[19]

In 1967 the Wilson College sailing team won the first Intercollegiate Sailing Association national championship held in a women's event (dinghy).[20]

In the 1970s, two tropical storms, Agnes in 1972 and Eloise in 1975, caused flood damage to low-lying buildings on campus.

Although it nearly closed its doors in 1979, a lawsuit organized by students, faculty, parents and an alumnae association succeeded in allowing the college to remain open, making it one of the few colleges to survive a scheduled closing.[21][22] It subsequently adopted the Phoenix as its mascot, to symbolize the college's survival.

In 1982, Wilson began offering a continuing studies program (now known as the Adult Degree Program) to meet the needs of adults seeking post-secondary education. In 1996, the college was one of the first in the nation to offer an on-campus residential educational experience for single mothers with children.[23][24]


Beginning in summer 2006, Wilson offered its first graduate degree program, a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) for certified elementary school teachers. The college currently offers six graduate degree programs.

The first men to attend Wilson entered at the end of World War II when an influx of male students created shortages at co-educational and men's colleges. These men attended classes for one year before transferring to other colleges. Men later became eligible to earn degrees from Wilson through the Adult Degree Program, although the traditional undergraduate college remained a College For Women. In January 2013, the college's board of trustees voted to extend coeducation across all programs; male commuter students were admitted in fall 2013, with the first male residential students beginning in fall 2014.[25][26]


Main building, 1921

The Wilson College campus is located at the edge of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, on both sides of the Conococheague Creek.[27] The property was originally bought from Alexander McClure, whose home Norland, had been burnt in 1864 by Confederates under the orders of General Jubal Early.[28] The home was rebuilt before being sold to the college.[29]


This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (January 2021)

The college offers 34 undergraduate majors, 40 undergraduate minors, and master's degrees. The most popular majors are in the fields of agriculture and agricultural sciences, animal-assisted therapy, biological sciences, nursing, and veterinary/animal health.[30][31]


Wilson athletic teams are the Phoenix. The college is a member of the Division III level of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), primarily competing in the United East Conference (UEC) since rejoining the conference for the 2023-24 academic year.[31] The Phoenix previously competed in the Colonial States Athletic Conference CSAC from 2017–18 to 2022–23, having been members of the United East Conference prior to that.

Wilson competes in 11 intercollegiate varsity sports: Men's sports include baseball, basketball, golf, soccer and volleyball; while women's sports include basketball, field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball and volleyball. Club sports include archery, equestrian and pep talk. The women's equestrian team competes in numerous IHSA and other events.[32]

Wilson began sponsoring men's sports since the 2014–15 academic year when the college became coeducational; starting with basketball and golf, followed by soccer, volleyball and baseball in the following years.

Basketball and Volleyball teams play in the Gannett Memorial Field House, located on campus. Softball, Lacrosse, and Soccer teams compete at the fields located in Kris' Meadow, adjacent to the campus' own farm land and facilities. Baseball plays at historic Henninger Field nearby in downtown Chambersburg, renovated and reopened in 2019.

Notable alumnae


  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 21, 2021.
  2. ^ "National Register Information System – (#95000888)". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  3. ^ "PHMC Historical Markers". Historical Marker Database. Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission. Retrieved December 20, 2013.
  4. ^ Brown, Alice W.; Ballard, Sandra L. (December 15, 2011). Changing Course: Reinventing Colleges, Avoiding Closure: New Directions for Higher Education, Number 156. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-1-118-27536-8.
  5. ^ "Biographical Annals of Franklin County, Pennsylvania: Containing Genealogical Records of Representative Families, Including Many of the Early Settlers, and Biographical Sketches of Prominent Citizens". 1978.
  6. ^ "The Centennial Memorial of the Presbytery of Carlisle: A Series of Papers, Historical and Biographical, Relating to the Origin and Growth of Presbyterianism in the Central and Eastern Part of Southern Pennsylvania". 1889.
  7. ^ "The Church at Home and Abroad". 1890.
  8. ^ Layton, Elizabeth Nelson (March 26, 1948). "Significant Dates in the Early History of Institutions for the Higher Education of Women in the United States". Federal Security Agency, Office of Education, Division of Higher Education – via Google Books.
  9. ^ O'Connor, Karen (August 18, 2010). Gender and Women's Leadership: A Reference Handbook. SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-1-4833-0541-7 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ Congress, United States (March 26, 1949). "Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the ... Congress". U.S. Government Printing Office – via Google Books.
  11. ^ American Universities and Colleges, 19th Edition [2 Volumes]: Nineteenth Edition. ABC-CLIO. April 16, 2010. ISBN 978-0-313-36608-6 – via Google Books.
  12. ^ Hays, George Price (March 26, 1892). "Presbyterians, a Popular Narrative of Their Origin, Progress, Doctrines, and Achievements". J. A. Hill & Company – via Google Books.
  13. ^ Beyer, George R. (1991). Guide to the State Historical Markers of Pennsylvania. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. ISBN 978-0-89271-040-9.
  14. ^ Wickersham, James Pyle (1886). "A History of Education in Pennsylvania, Private and Public, Elementary and Higher: From the Time the Swedes Settled on the Delaware to the Present Day".
  15. ^ General Assembly, Pennsylvania (1969). "Legislative Record".
  16. ^ Keller, Rosemary Skinner; Ruether, Rosemary Radford; Cantlon, Marie (March 26, 2006). Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-34685-8 – via Google Books.
  17. ^ "Dr. Anna J. McKeag Inaugurated as the New President of Wilson College -- Representatives of Many Universities Attend the Ceremony". The New York Times. May 19, 1912.
  18. ^ "FIRST WOMAN PRESIDENT.; Miss Anna Jane McKeag Now at the Head of Wilson College". The New York Times. April 28, 1912.
  19. ^ "Intellect". March 26, 1933 – via Google Books.
  20. ^ "ICSA Championships". Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved September 1, 2009.
  21. ^ "Alumnae are fighting to stop an imploding college from closing, and one court case could provide a 'legal roadmap' for them to do it". Business Insider.
  22. ^ Brown, Alice W.; Ballard, Sandra L. (December 15, 2011). Changing Course: Reinventing Colleges, Avoiding Closure: New Directions for Higher Education, Number 156. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-1-118-27536-8.
  23. ^ Votruba-Drzal, Elizabeth; Dearing, Eric (April 17, 2017). The Wiley Handbook of Early Childhood Development Programs, Practices, and Policies. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-1-118-93729-7.
  24. ^ Foundation, John Templeton (1999). Colleges That Encourage Character Development: A Resource for Parents, Students, and Educators. Templeton Foundation Press. ISBN 978-1-890151-28-7.
  25. ^ awrence Biemiller (January 13, 2013). "Seeking Enrollment Boost, Wilson College Will Admit Men". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved January 13, 2013.
  26. ^ "Wilson College begins co-ed era". August 26, 2013.
  27. ^ "Annual report of the Commissioner of Health of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 1907". 1908.
  28. ^ "A scary night at Wilson College".
  29. ^ Huntington, Tom (2007). Pennsylvania Civil War Trails: The Guide to Battle Sites, Monuments, Museums and Towns. Stackpole Books. ISBN 978-0-8117-3379-3.
  30. ^ "Wilson College - Profile, Rankings and Data". US News. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  31. ^ a b "Wilson College - Niche". Niche. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  32. ^ "Wilson Adds NCEA Equestrian For Fall 2020". Retrieved May 7, 2022.
  33. ^ "ANDUJAR, ELIZABETH RICHARDS [BETTY] | the Handbook of Texas Online| Texas State Historical Association (TSHA)".
  34. ^ "John Stewart Memorial Library".
  35. ^ "John Stewart Memorial Library".
  36. ^ "John Stewart Memorial Library".
  37. ^ General Assembly, Virginia (1976). "Manual of the Senate and House of Delegates".
  38. ^ Little, Randolph S. (2003). For the birds: The Laboratory of Ornithology and Sapsucker Woods at Cornell University. For the Birds. ISBN 978-0-9746396-0-4.