As WCU gets ready for its sesquicentennial, there is a moment to reflect on what changes occurred on campus.
In 2021, West Chester University students breathe a sigh of relief as another year has come, but this year is special as it marks the campus’ sesquicentennial anniversary.
According to the Merriam-Webster website, an anniversary is an “actual occurrence of a date marking a notable event.” Basically, the word “anniversary” indicates a historical event where individuals can pause and reflect on the past in order to interpret the present.
Though the campus and the world are experiencing the current pandemic that has caused WCU to go to remote learning, questions regarding the expected anniversary date are what has changed over the years at the campus. How should students, faculty and visitors celebrate WCU’s sesquicentennial anniversary?
Dr. Anne Krulikowski, an associate professor of history at West Chester University, states that the way to celebrate WCU’s 150th anniversary is to “celebrate [both its] achievements and missteps.” Throughout its history, WCU faced tremendous changes that included having notable figures like Frederick Douglass come to campus, to Wayne Hall becoming a military hospital for the wounded in World War I. “[It’s] an opportunity to look at an institution and think carefully [on where we are],” states Krulikowski.
In order to understand about the sesquicentennial anniversary, the reader should understand about WCU’s history as an institution. Regarding its origins, WCU was not a university in the very beginning, but rather it was a teachers college. Based on West Chester University’s website, it is known that “100 boarding school students and 30 day students” went to West Chester which was at the time a teacher’s college.
As time went by in the late 1800s, there was potential growth within the teachers college. Due to student growth and need for education, Krulikowski points out that physical change was in need for the campus. Particularly, the campus would eventually require additional land to expand their institution, which would later be located in both South and North Campus. Overtime, new changes would emerge to include more buildings for the campus.
Along with significant change in demographics and buildings, this led to the campus to change their status. In the 1960s, there was tremendous change that transpired in the campus both socially and internally. According to the WCU timeline, it is known that in 1960, West Chester Teachers College became West Chester State College; however, by the early 80s, West Chester changed its name again from a state college to a university.
Other than tremendous growth and name changes on the campus, there were also changes to their buildings. One building that witnessed tremendous change during the sixties was Old Main. Krulikowski mentions that the reason why Old Main was not upgraded is due to the lack of interest in Victorian architecture. Consequently, the Old Main building was demolished, and what is now left is an arch to symbolize its historical impact.
WCU in the Present Day
Fast forward to the present date: WCU has dramatically changed from a teachers college to a state college, and eventually to a university, in order to include an expansive list of degrees. Though the campus achieved in providing students better career opportunities in pursuing their degree, there are potential setbacks to the campus, such as the rise of tuition for students and parking issues. Based on the WCU website, the average cost for a full-time student in 2015 was “$3,311.00 per semester.” According to a Quad article written by Brooke Bassett and Alison Roller, tuition cost in 2018 rose from “$7,492 to $7,716.”
Though there are issues facing students along with a current pandemic, WCU still remains to be a shining campus that captivates students and visitors to visit the campus and its parades. Only time will tell as to what future WCU will hold for visitors and academics. For those that want to know more about WCU’s 150th anniversary or participate in its history, look no further than the WCU website. “There is a history timeline on WCU that has images,” says Krulikowski. “Students can contribute to the timeline, and [there is hope] next fall [that] there will be events.” ‘Till the next centennial, here’s to a good anniversary for WCU and many more to come.
Nicholas Bartelmo is a fourth-year History major. NB790429@wcupa.edu