Vision & History

Army ROTC Highlight


Dauntless Battalion

The Dauntless Battalion (headquartered at Widener) traces its roots back through the Freedom and Pioneer Battalions and the Pennsylvania Military College. Seven cadets were commissioned in 2013.

Achievement Highlight

decade of achievement

A Decade of Achievement

A visual presentation of how Widener's Main Campus has evolved over the the past ten years.

As a preeminent metropolitan university, Widener aspires to be a dynamic, inclusive academic community, transforming students into scholars, leaders, and globally engaged citizens.

Our History

Our vision is inspired by a legacy of leadership, public service, and career preparation started by John Bullock, who established the Bullock School for Boys in 1821 to prepare young men for “entry to college.” In 1846, the name changed to the Alsop School for Boys when Samuel Alsop became headmaster.

Delaware Military Academy: An Honorable Legacy

Another name change took place in 1853 when the school became Hyatt’s Select School for Boys under the direction of Theodore Hyatt, who purchased the school from Alsop. In 1858, Hyatt introduced a military discipline to “develop the muscles, expand the chest, and impart an erect gentlemanly carriage …” when, according to legend, he found his pupils performing drills with broomsticks in the gym. In 1859, the school was incorporated under the charter of the Wilmington Literary Institute as the Delaware Military Academy (DMA).

Henry C. Robinett, a DMA graduate, distinguished himself in the Civil War by leading a Union artillery battery that successfully defended a strategic position at the Battle of Corinth in Mississippi. The current Widener ROTC “Battery Robinett,” which fires a cannon after each touchdown at Widener home football games, was named in Robinett’s honor. Robinett was one of many who would come to serve honorably as part of Widener’s military school legacy.

In 1862, the academy moved to West Chester, Pennsylvania, an abolitionist-friendly state, and the school’s name changed to the Pennsylvania Military Academy (PMA). At that time, Colonel George Patten, a South Carolinian who fought in the Civil War on the Union side, established a civil engineering curriculum, part of a legacy that still continues as Widener celebrates 150 years of engineering in 2012. Now the Widener School of Engineering includes electrical, civil, chemical, biomedical, and mechanical engineering disciplines.

In 1866, after the Civil War, there was another brief move to Upland, Pennsylvania, before the Academy eventually moved to its present location in Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1868.

Pennsylvania Military College: The West Point of the Keystone State

In 1892, now under the direction of General Charles Hyatt, the son of Theodore Hyatt, the Academy applied for and received collegiate status, becoming the Pennsylvania Military College (PMC). An all-male cadet college, modeled after the legendary U.S. Army Military Academy at West Point, the PMC cadets came to think of themselves as being from the “West Point of the Keystone State.”

In 1930, Colonel Frank Hyatt, a member of the third generation of the Hyatt family became president of PMC. During the next several decades, PMC cadets became well-known and acknowledged for their leadership, scholarship, and military service to their country. For example, Lieutenant William John Wolfgram earned the Bronze Star and died in battle in World War II. Widener’s Wolfgram Memorial Library is named after him.

The first civilians to attend PMC came as veterans in 1946; they did not live on campus. The program expanded in 1958 to include non-veteran students enrolled in a newly instituted civilian program. They also did not live on campus. The Corps of Cadets were still the only students residing on campus.

In 1966, as a result of the lack of support for the Vietnam War and the need to increase enrollment, PMC Colleges was formed. It consisted of two parallel schools: Pennsylvania Military College and Penn Morton College. Penn Morton College, in 1966, enrolled civilian male resident students for the first time.

Although some women had been attending PMC’s Evening Division, which started in 1954, in 1966 a group of 17 female nursing students arrived on campus as day students. They were part of the College of Nursing of the Crozer Foundation. One year later, women joined civilian male resident students at Penn Morton College and became the first female resident students on campus. With the co-educational component growing into a significant portion of the student body during the latter 1960’s Widener College was formed in 1972.

PMC Colleges Becomes Widener University: Not for Followers

By 1972, the PMC Corps of Cadets (about 277 members at the time) was disbanded, and PMC Colleges became Widener College, named after the prominent Widener family of Philadelphia. In 1975, Widener College expanded to acquire the Delaware Law School (now known as Widener University Delaware Law School), and one year later incorporated the Wilmington, Delaware campus of Brandywine College.

In 1979, Widener College became Widener University.

During the next two decades, Widener University continued to grow with the groundbreaking addition of the Harrisburg campus in 1988 (now known as the Widener University Commonwealth Law School) and the Exton campus in 2004, which serves Continuing Studies (formerly University College) students and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. In 2006, Metropolitan Hall (a new state-of-the-art student residence) and the Wellness Center were added to the main campus facilities in Chester. In 2011, Widener added Founders Hall, which is now home to the School of Nursing and the Oskin Leadership Institute. In 2013, Widener opened Freedom Hall, a new academic building housing communication studies, computer science, and digital media informatics. Another new residence hall, named in honor of President James T. Harris III, will open for the fall 2015 semester, housing 200 students and including space for a living-learning community.

Today, after nearly 200 years, our core values stand as respectful legacy to our past in preparing young men and women to become citizens of character who can become effective leaders in a global society.