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Our History

A History of Service

Widener University’s history of public service and career preparation dates back to our founding father, John Bullock, who established Widener as the Bullock School for Boys in 1821. Bullock aimed to prepare young men for entry into college and, therefore, for a life of success.

Over the years, the name of Bullock’s institution changed several times, but the mission to develop true, innovative leaders remained the same.

Alsop School for Boys

In 1846, Samuel Alsop became headmaster and changed the school’s name to reflect the new leadership.

Delaware Military Academy

In 1853, Theodore Hyatt purchased the school from Alsop and temporarily changed the name to Hyatt’s Select School for Boys before introducing a military discipline in 1858 and renaming the institution as the Delaware Military Academy (DMA).

The Delaware Military Academy was incorporated under the charter of the Wilmington Literary Institute in 1859 and graduated a legacy of honorable military leaders including Henry C. Robinett, a Civil War soldier who led the artillery battery that successfully defended a strategic position at the Battle of Corinth in Mississippi.

Pennsylvania Military Academy

Upon moving to West Chester, Pennsylvania, an abolitionist-friendly state, in 1862, the academy changed its name to the Pennsylvania Military Academy (PMA). A civil engineering curriculum was established courtesy of Colonel George Patten, a Civil War veteran who served on the Union side and saw the value an engineering education would bring to the futures of young students and the nation as a whole.

Today, 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 moved to its present location in Chester in 1868.

Pennsylvania Military College

Under the direction of General Charles Hyatt, the son of Theodore Hyatt, the Academy applied for and received collegiate status in 1892, becoming the Pennsylvania Military College (PMC). The PMC was 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 students of the “West Point of Pennsylvania.”

In 1930, Colonel Frank Hyatt, a member of the third generation of the Hyatt family, took over as president of PMC. It was during the next several decades that PMC cadets grew a reputation for their leadership, scholarship, and military service to their country.

While many of our military men fought in Vietnam in the 1960s, PMC started Penn Morton College as a parallel, coeducational counterpart and began admitting women and civilians. The two institutions eventually combined to become PMC Colleges.

Widener University

Finally, in 1972, the PMC Colleges took the Widener name. Widener College was named for the prominent Widener family of Philadelphia, and the still service-minded institution began to expand and extend its mission across the community.

In 1975, Widener College expanded to acquire the Delaware Law School, now the Widener School of Law, and one year later incorporated the Wilmington, Delaware campus of Brandywine College.

In 1979, Widener College became Widener University and continued to grow. We broke ground for the Harrisburg campus in 1988, another School of Law campus, and the Exton campus in 2004, which serves our Continuing Studies students and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. In the coming years, Widener added new buildings to the main campus: a state-of-the-art student residence, the Wellness Center, and Founders Hall, now home to our School of Nursing and the Oskin Leadership Institute.

Widener Today

After nearly 200 years, our core values stand as a respectful legacy to our past in preparing young men and women to become citizens of character, and we proudly continue to develop skilled and effective leaders in a global society.

To learn more about Widener University’s legacy of inspirational leadership, call a Program Manager at 1-844-386-7321 or request more information.