Reflecting and celebrating the University’s 175 years

Juliette Gaggini, News Co-Editor

Feb. 5 marked the 175th anniversary of the University’s founding in 1846, sparking a number of celebratory acknowledgements and reflections. University President John Bravman emailed all students announcing the start of a year-long commemoration of the school’s founding. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the University was unable to host any in-person celebration or gatherings on the anniversary date.

“Over many generations, Bucknellians have persevered through difficult times — including the current pandemic — to ensure our ability to fulfill our mission of delivering an exceptional education to current and future students. We are a university that constantly adjusts to new challenges and prepares for the future, even as we honor our past. I encourage each of you to pause for a moment to consider your part in this extraordinary continuum,” Bravman detailed in his email.

The history of the University is certainly one to be celebrated, especially as Bucknellians come together during such grueling times.

Over the years, the University has seen significant growth and development. Since its founding, it has operated under 17 Presidents and eight acting presidents. The University now offers more than 50 majors and 65 minors across its three colleges, altogether populated by more than 3,600 undergraduate students and 60 graduate students, as well as over 350 full-time tenure line faculty.

The school was originally established as the University at Lewisburg. Stephen W. Taylor wrote the charter for the institution, recommending that $100,000 be raised for an endowment; that money was raised after three years.

On Feb. 5, 1846 the charter for the new University was signed by Pennsylvania’s governor. The “school preparatory to the University” was opened in the basement of the First Baptist Church in Lewisburg in 1846. The Academy building, now known as the Stephen W. Taylor Hall, was the first building constructed on campus. The department moved into the building in 1850.

Howard Malcolm was the University’s first president in 1851. The first graduating class, in 1851, graduated seven men. The University was renamed 35 years later after William Bucknell, a trustee who prevented the school from closing during a financial crisis.

The University now celebrates its diverse and inclusive campus that has developed over the years since its founding. The University’s Female Institute began instruction in 1852, and in 1883 college courses were open to women for the first time. In 1864 the school’s first international student graduated and in 1875 the first African American student graduated.

Here, 175 years after its founding, the school is celebrated for its arts, sciences, business, engineering, athletics and humanities teaching. Thousands of students, faculty, staff and alumni continue to contribute to the University’s history as it is written today.

Bucknellians can learn more about the history of the school through upcoming editions of the University Magazine and on the University website. Beginning on Feb. 9, the Bertrand Library will be hosting a series of exhibitions from the University archives. Future opportunities to learn about the history of the University as well as virtual events will continue to be announced throughout the year.

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