Widener University is a private, coeducational university located in Chester, Pennsylvania. Its main campus sits on 108 acres (.44 km²), just 14 miles (23 km) southwest of Philadelphia. 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 1846–1853, and then Hyatt's Select School for Boys from 1853-1859. Military instruction was introduced in 1858 and in 1859 the school changed its name to Delaware Military Academy. It moved to Pennsylvania in 1862 and became Pennsylvania 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's, baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral degrees in areas ranging from traditional liberal arts to professional programs. The Carnegie Foundation classifies Widener as a Doctoral/Research University and a Community Engagement Institution. Widener was ranked #181 in the National Universities category by US News & World Report for 2012.[3]


Founded in 1821 as a preparatory school for boys in Wilmington, Delaware, the institution now known as Widener University moved to Pennsylvania in 1862 and was granted collegiate powers and privileges via universal charter by the Pennsylvania legislature in April of the same year.[4] It was known from 1892 to 1972 as Pennsylvania Military College, though it had officially become PMC Colleges in 1966 when a nonmilitary, coeducational component was added. Graduate programs were also introduced in 1966.

In 1972 the name Widener College was adopted after the prominent Widener family of Philadelphia and the Corps of Cadets disbanded (an Army ROTC program still exists). The School of Law was acquired in 1975, which was split in 2015 to become two separate law schools one on the university's Delaware campus and another in Harrisburg. 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.


Old Main

The Old Main and Chemistry Building were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.[5]


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 (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 in Chester, Pennsylvania, plus campuses 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 (shared with the Harrisburg Campus) 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 School of Law (shared with the Delaware Campus) 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 Delaware Law School in Wilmington and Widener Law Commonwealth 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 comprehensive offerings range from liberal arts to professional programs and include over 50 undergraduate majors, 40 minors, and more than 30 graduate programs of study. In particular, programs in engineering, computer science, business, nursing, and hospitality management have generated the most praise from students according to a survey conducted by The Princeton Review.[6] Widener offers a variety of majors and minors. 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, class sizes are kept small with 60% of all classes containing less than 20 students.[7]

All undergraduate students enrolled in Widener University have the opportunity to earn a Leadership Certificate by attending 18 one-hour workshops and writing a brief reflection on the experience. Once these workshops are completed the student must then present their own leadership philosophy based on the ideals they learned through attending these workshops. Each workshop can be attended by up to 25 students and is led by a member of the Oskin Leadership Institute or a student who has obtained their Certificate. The program began in fall 2013, and since then nearly 1,000 students and staff alike have attended at least one workshop. This Oskin Leadership Institute is a way to build student's character, make them better and more involved citizens, and help them create positive change in their community or in the people around them.[8]

Rankings and classifications

In 2010, Washington Monthly magazine ranked Widener 56th out of all national universities in the country.[9] These rankings are based on how well a university benefits the country including such factors as promoting social mobility, scientific and humanistic research, and service, including ROTC and the Peace Corps.

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 2012 Best Colleges list from U. S. News and World Report ranked Widener 181st among national universities.[10] It also ranks Widener's undergraduate engineering program 79th among all programs whose highest engineering degree is a bachelor's or master's.[11] Out of the 262 national universities ranked, Widener is 55th in the category "Highest Proportion of Classes Under 20 Students".[7] The U.S. News and World Report's 2008 Best Graduate Schools ranks several of Widener's graduate programs: clinical psychology → #145,[12] health care management → #49,[13] nursing → #141,[14] physical therapy → #173,[15] and social work → #140.[16]

The Carnegie Foundation classifies Widener as a Doctoral/Research University whose undergraduate population is highly residential and selective.[17] It also one of 76 institutions classified as a Community Engagement Institution; only 2 other schools in the Philadelphia region share this classification, University of Pennsylvania and Bryn Mawr College.[18]


Widener has 20 varsity teams (10 for men and 10 for women) participating in Division III within the MAC Commonwealth of the Middle Atlantic Conferences (MAC). Formally known as the Pioneers, their nickname changed to the Pride in the Fall of 2006 after a student poll.[19] 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,[20] and the ECAC South Atlantic Bowl in 2005.[21] 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.[22] 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.[23] 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.[22] The men's lacrosse team has appeared in the NCAA Tournament 8 times since 2000 and has won 12 MAC titles since 1996.[22] The men's swimming team has won 12 MAC titles since 1994.[22]

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.

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.[24] 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.[25] The acceptance rate for undergraduate applicants in fall 2013 was 65.5%.[26]

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.[27] 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 five sororities.[28] Approximately 12% of all undergraduates are members.[27] 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 also one of only 76 institutions classified as a Community Engagement Institution by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Only two other schools in the Philadelphia region share this classification - University of Pennsylvania and Bryn Mawr College.[18]

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

  • Pennsylvania Small Business Development Center — The school opened the center in 2006 to provide consulting and educational programs to local small businesses and entrepreneurs. It is one of only 18 in the state and one of 3 in the Philadelphia region (with Temple University and University of Pennsylvania).
  • Philadelphia Speakers Series — Since 2004, Widener has sponsored this series which has had such notable speakers as Steve Wozniak, Henry Kissinger, Walter Cronkite and Dave Barry.
  • University Technology Park — A joint project started in 1999 between the university and Crozer-Keystone Health System to foster small business opportunities focusing on health care, science and technology. It currently consists of two buildings (with three more planned) on 20 acres (81,000 m2) and is located directly in between the Main Campus and Crozer-Keystone Medical Center.
  • Widener University Observatory — The observatory has free public telescope viewings throughout the school year hosted by the physics and astronomy department.

Charter school

In 2006, the university established a new charter school near the Main Campus in Chester 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 60 new jobs.[29]

Notable alumni or attendees

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


  1. ^ As of June 30, 2012. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2012 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2011 to FY 2012" (PDF). 2012 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. National Association of College and University Business Officers. 
  2. ^ a b c "Quick Facts". Widener University. Archived from the original on 2011-09-28. Retrieved 2011-11-09. 
  3. ^ "USNews.com: America's Best Colleges 2012: National Universities Rankings". rankingsandreviews.com. Retrieved 3 April 2018. 
  4. ^ Ashmeade, Henry Graham (1884). History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: L.H. Everts & Co. p. 350. Retrieved 6 June 2017. 
  5. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  6. ^ "Widener University: What Widener Students Say About Academics". The Princeton Review. Archived from the original on March 18, 2005. Retrieved 2007-03-10. 
  7. ^ a b "America Best Colleges 2010: National Universities: Highest Proportion of Class Under 20". U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved 2010-09-02. 
  8. ^ Widener University students complete Leadership Certificate program" The Daily Times News, January 9, 2016, retrieved September 22, 2016,
  9. ^ "The Washington Monthly 2010 College Guide". Washington Monthly. Archived from the original on 2011-05-01. Retrieved 2010-08-31. 
  10. ^ "America Best Colleges 2012: National Universities". U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved 2010-09-02. 
  11. ^ "America Best Colleges 2011: Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs". U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved 2010-09-02. 
  12. ^ "America Best Graduate Schools 2008: Health: Clinical Psychology". U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved 2007-03-30. 
  13. ^ "America Best Graduate Schools 2008: Health: Healthcare Management (Master's)". U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved 2007-03-30. 
  14. ^ "America Best Graduate Schools 2008: Health: Nursing (Master's)". U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved 2007-03-30. 
  15. ^ "America Best Graduate Schools 2008: Health: Physical Therapy". U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved 2007-03-30. 
  16. ^ "America Best Graduate Schools 2008: Health: Social Work (Master's)". U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved 2007-03-30. 
  17. ^ "Institutions:Widener University-Main Campus". The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Retrieved 2007-03-31. 
  18. ^ a b "Carnegie Selects Colleges and Universities for New Elective Community Engagement Classification". The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Archived from the original on 2007-02-04. Retrieved 2007-03-10. 
  19. ^ "Widener University Announces New Mascot". Widener University. Archived from the original on 2007-10-01. Retrieved 2007-03-31. 
  20. ^ "Widener Tallies 14-7 Victory for Southwest Championship". Eastern College Athletic Conference. Retrieved 2007-03-10. [dead link]
  21. ^ "Widener Wins ECAC South Atlantic Championship Bowl". Eastern College Athletic Conference. Retrieved 2007-03-10. [dead link]
  22. ^ a b c d "Conference Champs and Postseason Appearances". Widener University. Retrieved 2010-06-13. 
  23. ^ "Season Ends For No. 10 Football With 45-7 Loss to Linfield in the Elite Eight". www.widenerpride.com. Retrieved 2016-09-22. 
  24. ^ "Reel deal for these longtime Iggles fans". Delaware County Daily Times. Archived from the original on 2007-04-28. Retrieved 2007-04-27. 
  25. ^ "Widener University: Student Body". U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved 2012-05-07. 
  26. ^ http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/widener-university-3313
  27. ^ a b "Widener University: Extracurriculars". U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved 2007-04-24. 
  28. ^ "Widener University – Greek Life". Retrieved 2014-10-09. 
  29. ^ "Ground broken on $50M University Crossings project". Delaware County Daily Times. Retrieved 2007-10-13. [dead link]
  30. ^ David Lane Powers, Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Accessed September 9, 2007.

External links

Coordinates: 39°51′39″N 75°21′18″W / 39.860703°N 75.355117°W / 39.860703; -75.355117