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Westfield State University

Westfield State University is a comprehensive, coeducational, four-year public university in Westfield, Massachusetts.


577 Western Ave


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College History


Westfield State University has a long and distinguished history that reflects the history of education in America. Retired WSU history professor, Robert T. Brown, wrote the first scholarly history of the Westfield Normal School, 1839-1914. "The Rise and Fall of the People�s Colleges" was published in 1988 by the Institute for Massachusetts Studies in Westfield. The following information is adapted from Brown�s work. 19th Century In Colonial America, school children would often spend more time working on their family farms than in the classrooms. When they did go to school, they were taught by very young schoolmasters, who really were not well-educated. Religious leaders argued that nothing could be done to improve schools until a better class of teachers were available and until teaching had become a profession like that of the ministry or medicine. There also had to be a distinct way of training them. Educational inadequacies and concerns for the welfare of young children reached its peak in the early 19th century with reformers noting that before teachers could be improved, training schools and methodology of teaching had to be established. As early as 1784, New York State created a Board of Regents to improve the new country�s schools and by 1795 provided for an annual appropriation of $50,000 to be allocated to school districts. In Vermont in 1823, the first teachers� seminary was opened in Concord, which was later moved to Andover, Massachusetts. The Swiss educator Pestalozzi developed a way for teachers to study children and the learning process. This type of teaching was embraced by France and Prussia where schools for the training of teachers had been established. In France, they were called �normal� schools�for the basic norms of teaching. In 1835, the Massachusetts Legislature adopted this view and created the Common School Fund, whose monies were administered by the Board of Education. Horace Mann Horace Mann, the Secretary of the Board of Higher Education, who from 1837 to 1848 was in charge of most everything to do with education in the Commonwealth, began a statewide public speaking tour to galvanize popular support for �normal schools.� Relaying his vision of how education would enhance economic opportunity, provide stability and create law and order, Mann spoke to the general public, parents, the working class, and the wealthy and preached to the religious leaders. He emphasized how education would be �a social equalizer� and turn unruly masses of children into civilized individuals. In 1838, under Mann�s aggressive leadership, state funds were appropriated to match a $10,000 gift from Edmund Dwight of Boston to establish in Massachusetts the first state-supported institutions in the United States for the training of teachers for the �common schools.� He chose the sites of the schools, hired the staff, and outlined the curriculum. Religious leaders played a strong role in Mann�s mission. Reverend Brooks met with Edmund Dwight, who was born in Springfield and who was one of the leading men of the Boston establishment. A newly appointed member of the Massachusetts Board of Education, Dwight had made his fortune in industry and was committed to many of the evangelical reformist principles. In March 1838, Dwight approached Mann with an offer. He would donate $10,000 to improve the preparation of teachers if the legislature would match the sum. Mann quickly contacted the members of the legislature and won the acceptance and on April 19, 1838, Governor Edward Everett signed the resolve for a three-year experiment in qualifying teachers for the common schools. The Barre Experiment On December 28, 1838, the Board established two schools�an all-female school in Lexington, an institution which eventually became Framingham State University, and another in Barre, which became the first coeducational public training school in the nation and the forerunner of Westfield State University. A third school opened in Bridgewater in 1840, the forerunner to Bridgewater State University. The first class in Barre consisted of 12 women and 8 men, who passed the entrance exams and were admitted. A thriving village of 2,700 people, the town of Barre had a strong industrial base of cotton and woolen mills, a gunpowder mill and its biggest employer, a factory that made palm leaf hats. While Barre was able to live up to their financial agreement to the school, townsfolk were not prepared for the influx of normal school students and complaints were filed with the Board of Education. When the principal of the school�s health broke down, he missed the winter term in November 1841, and died soon after. This led to a failure of the Barre experiment and the school closed its doors in 1841. Westfield Normal School Leading the effort to have the school reopened and relocated was Reverend Emerson Davis, pastor of First Congregational Church in Westfield and William Gelson Bates, a Westfield attorney and a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. In September 1844, Bates was instrumental in turning the tide within the Boston legislative bodies to have the school reopened and moved to Westfield. (Davis Hall is a dormitory named in his honor.) One of the many arguments for the school to move to Westfield was the prosperity of the community. Westfield was a thriving industrial community and the largest settlement between Springfield and Albany. A canal connecting Westfield to New Haven, which was later replaced by a railroad, tied Westfield to Boston. It was also at this time that Westfield flourished as a center for the whip making industry and boasted successful tobacco growing and cigar-rolling businesses, powder mills, brick-yards and even an organ manufacturer. It was the ideal location for a normal school. On September 4, 1844 the Barre school was reopened in Westfield and renamed the Westfield Normal School. In September 1846, a Greek revival building opened at the corner of Washington and School Streets to house the school. Between 1854 and 1856, William Harvey Wells was principal. Wells had already established his reputation in educational reform and was the author of a major text on grammar and a national figure in philology. During his tenure, the Westfield Normal School began to grow and by 1856 there were 20 students in attendance. John W. Dickinson, a four-year faculty member and strong advocate for educational reform, was principal from 1856 to 1877. He believed that teachers had a responsibility to mold students and lead them on a path of perfection, of life and citizenship. An advocate of child health including nutrition and exercise, Wells embraced the individualism of each student and often lectured on the nature of education. During this time, the school was a two-year school that also offered an additional two years of advanced studies. (Dickinson Hall is the dormitory named in his honor.) The Civil War and the post-war financial panic of 1873, which ushered in an agricultural depression until the end of the century, had a tremendous impact on Westfield. The war caused the withdrawal of male students and an influx of black students, and soon it was established that the school could be multi-racial. Booker T. Washington utilized the Massachusetts normal schools as a place of instruction for the most promising pupils at Tuskegee Institute. His chief organizer in the North was Samuel Courtney, who attended Westfield Normal School from 1882 to 1885 and became a practicing physician in Boston and a respected member of the Boston School Committee. (WSU now has a dormitory named in Courtney�s honor.) By 1887 the school building had deteriorated and a request by then principal, James Greenough, for a new building was proposed. This aroused the competitive interests of surrounding towns. Northampton and Springfield proposed relocating the school to their areas in hopes of giving their towns an aura of prestige and the economic benefits. Their efforts failed and a new sandstone three-story building was erected on Court Street in 1892, heralding a new era in the history of normal schools. The new school featured laboratories for scientific teaching. The first floor housed a training school that began with two kindergartens and a primary class. By 1898 it had grown into a school with nine grades and a kindergarten that educated 165 students. It was at this time that money was appropriated for improvements in other normal schools throughout Massachusetts and new schools were built. Increasing the number of schools by two-thirds initially reduced the enrollments of the rest of the schools and by 1874 Westfield�s out-of-county enrollment vanished. Within a few years, the state enacted tough new entrance requirements. These new admission standards and modifications of the curriculum made it difficult for students to gain admission, eventually resulting in declining enrollment, plummeting it to the lowest enrollment since the school moved from Barre. The faculty revolted, resulting in the resignation of Principal Greenough. When Charles S. Chapin arrived at Westfield as principal in 1896, he immediately began rebuilding the school and secured an excellent faculty, including noted marine biologist Charles Branch Wilson, for whom the university�s Wilson Hall is named. By the time Chapin left in 1901, the student body had doubled in size.

College Specialty


Westfield State University fosters intellectual curiosity, encourages critical thinking, inspires civic engagement, and promotes a global perspective. A public teaching institution offering quality programs in the liberal arts and sciences with complementing professional studies curricula, we are grounded in our founding principles of academic excellence and educating all in a diverse and welcoming community. Westfield State develops the knowledge, skills, and character essential for students to reach their full potential and become responsible leaders in society.� We contribute to the economic, social, and cultural vitality of the region.



Alyssa Stockwell (2016) - twerk Joseph Silas Diller (Class of 1873) � curator, Smithsonian Institution Frances and Mary Allen (1876) - pioneering women pictorial photographers, 1885�1920 Samuel Edward Courtney (1882) - physician and first African-American member of the Boston School Committee George B. Cortelyou (1882) - U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of Commerce, 1903�1904 Nettie Stevens (1883) - discoverer of the X and Y chromosomes Flora White (1887) - proponent of progressive education movement Olive Searle (1911) - cancer research chemist Leonard Collamore (1956) - originator and producer of �As Schools Match Wits� Eduardo C. Robreno (1967) - the first Cuban-American federal court judge Michael F. Beauchemin (2002) - Transportation Supervisor with the Department of Homeland Security Marilyn Monahan (1970) � former National Secretary of the National Education Association (NEA) Robert Johnson(1970, 1972) � President and CEO, Special Olympics Massachusetts Terry Craven (1973) - First Justice, Juvenile Court, Suffolk County, MA Jeffrey A. Trask (2002) - Emergency Management Program Administrator at Massachusetts Institute of Technology Joseph Carvalho (1975) - former President, Springfield Museums Association Paula Meara (1975) - first woman metropolitan Chief of Police in New England Thomas J. Foley (1976) - former Colonel/Superintendent of Massachusetts State Police, Massachusetts Governor�s Council Dennis Picard (1976) - Director, Storrowtown Village, an authentic recreation of a 19th-century village located in West Springfield, MA Marsha Bemko (1977) - Executive Producer, Antiques Roadshow (PBS) William J. Sullivan III (1977) - head of the Special Operations Division of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service worldwide John Walsh (Class of 1978) - President and CFO, Elizabeth Grady Cosmetics Gerry Scott (1980) � President, Wall Street Analyst Forum, NYC Michael P. Daly (1983) - President and CEO, Berkshire Bank Paula Long (1983) - a founder and vice president of Equalogic, Inc and MA High Tech 2007 Woman to Watch Donald J. DelNegro (1984) - head athletic trainer for the Boston Bruins James Hagen(1984) - President and CEO, Westfield Bank Peter Laviolette (1986) - Stanley Cup-winning coach of the NHL Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, former head coach of the US Olympic Hockey Team and current head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers Doug Meehan (1987) - TV broadcaster, KPNX Phoenix Marian J. McGovern (1988) - former Colonel/Superintendent of Massachusetts State Police Gina M. Barry (1996) - Massachusetts Super Lawyer Rising Star (2007) Michael Flynn (1997) - Massachusetts State Teacher of the Year (2007) Geraldo Alicea - Former representative for the 6th Worcester District in the Massachusetts House of Representatives Nicole Nalepa (2010) - Traffic Anchor/News Reporter at WFSB Hartford (CBS affiliate) Erin Moran (2012) - Reporter at YNN-Albany