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Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, also known as W & J College or W&J, is a private liberal arts college in Washington, Pennsylvania, in the United States, which is 30 miles south of Pittsburgh.


60 S Lincoln St
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Black Red

College History


Washington & Jefferson College traces its origin to three log cabin colleges established by three frontier clergymen in the 1780s: John McMillan, Thaddeus Dod, and Joseph Smith. The three men, all graduates from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), came to present-day Washington County to plant churches and spread Presbyterianism to what was then the American frontier beyond the Appalachian Mountains. John McMillan, the most prominent of the three founders because of his strong personality and longevity, came to the area in 1775 and built his log cabin college in 1780 near his church in Chartiers. Thaddeus Dod, known as a keen scholar, built his log cabin college in Lower Ten Mile in 1781. Joseph Smith taught classical studies in his college, called "The Study," at Buffalo. Washington Academy's sole building (now called McMillan Hall), showing the original central portion and the two wings added in 1818. Washington Academy was chartered by the Pennsylvania General Assembly on September 24, 1787. The first members of the board of trustees included Reverends Dod and Smith. After a difficult search for a headmaster, in which the trustees consulted Benjamin Franklin, the trustees unanimously selected Thaddeus Dod, considered to be the best scholar in western Pennsylvania. Amid financial difficulties and unrest from the Whiskey Rebellion, the Academy held no classes from 1791 to 1796. In 1792, the Academy secured four lots at Wheeling and Lincoln street from William Hoge and began construction on the stone Academy Building. During the Whiskey Rebellion, portions of David Bradford's militia camped on a hillside that would later become home to the unified Washington & Jefferson College. Jefferson College campus in 1830, with West College on the left and Providence Hall on the right In October 1792, after a year's delay from its official incorporation resulting from "trouble with Indians," McMillan was chosen as the headmaster and Canonsburg was chosen as the location for the "Canonsburg Academy." At a subsequent unknown date, McMillan transferred his students from the log cabin to Canonsburg Academy. Canonsburg Academy was chartered by the General Assembly on March 11, 1794, thus placing it firmly ahead of it sister school, Washington Academy, which was without a faculty, students, or facilities. On January 15, 1802, with McMillan as president of the board, the General Assembly finally granted a charter for "a college at Canonsburgh." Jefferson College and Washington College In 1802, Canonsburg Academy was reconstituted as Jefferson College, with John McMillan serving as the first President of the Board of Trustees. In 1806, Matthew Brown petitioned the Pennsylvania General Assembly to grant Washington Academy a charter, allowing it to be re-christened as Washington College. At various times over the next 60 years, the various parties within the two colleges pursued unification with each other, but the question of where the unified college would be located thwarted those efforts. In 1817, a disagreement over a perceived agreement for unification erupted into "The College War" and threatened the existence of both colleges. In the ensuing years, both colleges began to undertake risky financial moves, especially over-selling scholarships. Thanks to the leadership of Matthew Brown, Jefferson College was in a stronger position to weather the financial storm for a longer period. Desperate for funds, Washington College accepted an offer from the Synod of Wheeling to take control of the college, a move that was supposed to stabilize the finances for a period of time. However, Washington College then undertook another series of risky financial moves that crippled its finances. Unification of the colleges The two identical towers on Old Main symbolize the 1865 union of Jefferson College and Washington College to form Washington & Jefferson College. Following the Civil War, both colleges were short on students and on funds, causing them to join together as Washington & Jefferson College in 1865. The charter provided for the college to operate at both Canonsburg and Washington, a position that caused significant difficulty for the administration trying to rescue the college amid ill feelings over the unification. Jonathan Edwards, a pastor from Baltimore who had been president of Hanover College, was elected the first president of the unified Washington & Jefferson College on April 4, 1866. Edwards immediately encountered significant challenges, including the difficulties of administering a college across two campuses, as well as old prejudices and hard feelings among those still loyal to either Jefferson College or Washington College. Edwards resigned in 1869, as the two-campus arrangement was declared a failure and all operations were consolidated in Washington. Before the merger could be completed, Canonsburg residents and Jefferson College partisans filed a lawsuit, known as the Pennsylvania College Cases, sought to overturn the consolidation plan. Leadership of the college during this time fell to Samuel J. Wilson, a local pastor, and James I. Brownson, who had earlier been interim president of Washington College. By 1871, the United States Supreme Court upheld the consolidation, allowing the newly configured college to proceed. Washington & Jefferson College Hays Hall, named after George P. Hays, was built in 1903 and demolished in 1994. George P. Hays, who had assumed the presidency amid the court battle and the unification controversy, led the newly unified college until 1881. His successor, James D. Moffat, led the college through a period of growth where the college constructed the Old Gym, Hays Hall, Thompson Memorial Library, and Thistle Physics Building, as well as purchasing the land known as the "old fair ground," now used for Cameron Stadium. Towards the end of his term, Moffat personally paid for the 1912 renovations of McMillan Hall. In 1914, Frederick W. Hinitt was elected president. His tenure was dominated by the United States' entry into World War I, with an enrollment drop of 50%. William E. Slemmons, a college trustee and adjunct professor, succeeded Hinitt and served as interim president from May 1918 to June 1919. After the war ended in 1919, Samuel Charles Black took over and helped to stabilize the enrollment. While on a honeymoon tour of national parks, Black became ill and died. His successor, Simon Strousse Baker, was well liked by the college's trustees and by "many a townsman", but the student body felt that Baker was "autocratic" and held an "unfriendly attitude toward the student body as individuals." Baker defended himself, saying that the perceived ill-will towards students was unintentional and a misunderstanding. Nonetheless, the student body held a strike and general walkout in 1931, prompting Baker to resign. Named after Howard J. Burnett, the Burnett Center was constructed in 1998. Baker's successor, Ralph Cooper Hutchison, was much more popular with the student body. In an effort to strengthen the college's science department, Hutchison extended and expanded the southern portion of the campus, adding the Lazear Chemistry Hall and purchasing McIlvane Hall. When World War II broke out, the campus was opened to the Army Administration School, where hundreds of soldiers received their "training in classifications." Hutchison resigned in 1945 to take the presidency of his alma mater, Lafayette College. James Herbert Case, Jr., who was president from 1946 to 1950, constructed several new dormitories to handle the influx of veterans under the G.I. Bill. In 1950, Boyd Crumrine Patterson assumed the presidency and oversaw curriculum revisions and the construction of a number of buildings, including the Henry Memorial Center, 10 Greek housing units in the center of campus, the U. Grant Miller Library, the Student Center, the Commons, and two new dormitories. His fundrasing abilities grew the college's endowment expanded from $2.3 million to nearly $11 million. Patterson retired in 1970, the same year that the trustees authorized the admission of women as undergraduate students. Howard J. Burnett took office as president that year and hired the college's first female faculty members and the first female dean. The college also adopted a new academic calendar to include intersession and expanded its academic programs to include the Entrepreneurial Studies Program, the Freshman Forum, and several cooperative international education programs. Student enrollment grew from 830 in 1970 to 1,100 in 1998. Burnett retired as president in 1998. Under Burnett's successor, Brian C. Mitchell, who served as president from 1998 to 2004, the college experienced a growth in construction and an effort to improve relations with the neighboring communities. In 2004, Tori Haring-Smith became the first woman to serve as president of Washington & Jefferson, undertaking an effort to improve the science curriculum and to construct the Swanson Science Center.

College Specialty


The College's mission is to graduate men and women of uncommon integrity, competence, and maturity who are effective lifelong learners and responsible citizens, and who are prepared to contribute substantially to the world in which they live. To this end, the College promotes the development of skills, knowledge, personal qualities, and a worldview that characterize a well-educated person. All components of the living and learning environment at W&J are designed and intended to support this mission. This catalog and the Student Handbook describe the expectations of W&J students and resources available to support their development.



As of 2009, Washington & Jefferson College had about 12,000 living alumni.1 Before the union of the two colleges, Washington College graduated 872 men and Jefferson College graduated 1,936 men.11 These alumni include James G. Blaine, who served in Congress as Speaker of the House, U.S. Senator from Maine, two-time United States Secretary of State and the Republican nominee for the 1884 presidential election.1 Other graduates have held high federal positions, including United States Secretary of the Treasury Benjamin Bristow and United States Attorney General Henry Stanbery, who successfully defended Andrew Johnson during his impeachment trial.11 As a U.S. Congressman, Clarence Long was a key figure in directing funds to Operation Cyclone, the CIA's effort to arm the mujahideen in the Soviet war in Afghanistan.1 James A. Beaver served as Governor of Pennsylvania and as acting president of the Pennsylvania State University; he is the namesake of Beaver Stadium.11 William Holmes McGuffey authored the McGuffey Readers, which are among the most popular and influential books in history.1 Thaddeus Dod's student, Jacob Lindley, was the first president of Ohio University.2 Astronaut and test pilot Joseph A. Walker became the first person to enter space twice.2 Other graduates have gone on to success in professional athletics, including Buddy Jeannette, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, and Pete Henry, a member of both the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame.222 Roger Goodell has served as the Commissioner of the NFL since 2006.2 Among graduates who entered the medical field, Jonathan Letterman is recognized as the "Father of Battlefield Medicine."1 William Passavant is recognized as a saint within the Lutheran Church.1 James McGready, who studied with Joseph Smith and John McMillan was a leading revivalist in the Second Great Awakening.2 Successful graduates in the business realm include Richard Clark, President and CEO of Merck, and John S. Reed, the former chairman of Citigroup and the New York Stock Exchange.



Small town 60 acres (24 ha)