The Five Oldest Colleges in Pennsylvania
Getting a college education has been a goal for students for many, many years. The United States is home to a number of colleges that have been in existence since before the Revolutionary War, and the state of Pennsylvania is where many of the country's oldest institutions--all founded in the 1700s--are located.
1 University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania, the brainchild of Benjamin Franklin, opened its doors in 1751. The trust to start the school was begun in 1740 and Franklin pitched his idea in 1749. At that time, most colonial colleges were founded to train the clergy, but Franklin dreamed of a school where students could learn business and other skills they'd need in life. Over the years, the school has grown and expanded. It became home to the country's first medical college in 1874. "Penn" also has educated many notable leaders, including nine of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the pioneer of motion photography and 15 Nobel Prize winners.
2 Moravian College
Founded in 1742, Moravian College was begun by followers of the Moravian church, who had settled in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Its founder, bishop John Amos Comenius, wanted to create a school that would be available to everyone and use practical training for everyday life. Today, the college still celebrates its Moravian heritage through musical productions and artistic presentations. The Moravian Theological Seminary is also a part of the campus, which bookends the historical main street of Bethlehem, offering students easy access to restaurants and shopping.
3 Dickinson College
Located in Carlisle, Dickinson College began as a grammar school in 1773. In 1783, a Philadelphia physician, Benjamin Rush, began work to charter the school as Dickinson College. It became the first college to be chartered in the U.S. after it became an independent country. Dickinson College used the town of Carlisle to help teach its students, allowing them to watch the judicial system at work in the courthouse and study science in the nearby Appalachian Mountains. Both the Oral History Association and the study-abroad journal, the Frontier, make their home at Dickinson College.
4 Washington and Jefferson College
Thirty miles south of Pittsburgh, Washington and Jefferson College was founded in 1781. It was first established as three separate schools by three different Presbyterian ministers, but in 1789, they combined into one, Washington Academy. Over the years, the college changed locations and names. In 1802, Jefferson College was chartered just 10 miles from Washington Academy, and two schools had a vicious rivalry. In 1865, they combined to form Washington and Jefferson College, but both campuses remained active. In 1869, the Pennsylvania legislature agreed to move the Jefferson campus to Washington.
5 Franklin and Marshall College and University of Pittsburgh
Both Franklin and Marshall College and the University of Pittsburgh were founded in 1787, tying them for the 5th oldest college in Pennsylvania. Franklin and Marshall, located in Lancaster, was founded with a monetary gift from Benjamin Franklin. Franklin College taught in English and German and was the first bilingual and coed college in the U.S. Marshall College was founded in 1836 in Mercersburg. The schools combined in 1853 when Marshall College moved to Lancaster. The University of Pittsburgh began as a small, one-room log cabin in 1787. The college began admitting women in 1898. Some notable graduates of "Pitt" include the noted engineer William Hunter Dammond, the first African American graduate, and Reginald Fessenden, the first to transmit the human voice over radio waves.