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Westminster College celebrates 170th anniversary

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Posted on Friday, January 21, 2022

Westminster College marked the 170th anniversary of its founding on Friday, Jan. 21, celebrating its heritage, strength and commitment to transforming the lives of generations of students.

With speakers, musical performances from the Westminster Jazz Ensemble and Chamber Singers, blue and white balloons, T-shirts and birthday cake for everyone, students and employees celebrated in the McKelvey Campus Center, while alumni were able to join the party virtually via Zoom.

“We pause today to look back in gratitude,” said Westminster College President Dr. Kathy Brittain Richardson. “Founded in 1852 by Presbyterian elders with a distinct vision of inclusion and transformation possible through education, Westminster has moved through the years with faith, gratitude and grace on its mission to education and prepare students for lives of integrity, leadership, meaning and service to others.”

Founded by the Shenango and Ohio Presbyteries in the small village of New Wilmington, Pa., Westminster became the first college in the country at its original founding to welcome all people regardless of race, sex, religion or ethnicity. And in 1857, Westminster marked another historical achievement by becoming the first college in Pennsylvania to bestow the Bachelor of Arts degree on a woman, Sarah McMichael.

“From our earliest days, Westminster set out to make a difference,” said Richardson. “And from that first year, with 20 students in the first class, the college has grown.”

From expanding beyond its original two-story building to the now 300-acre campus to growing the academic offerings, co-curricular and extracurricular activities, athletics and the arts, Westminster has proven that in its 170-year existence, it hasn’t just survived—it has thrived.

“In the midst of challenge and opportunity, Westminster has continued to live out its mission,” said Richardson. “We appreciate the hard work, vision and dedication it has taken to preserve and grow the college over the past 170 years. And we face our future with confidence.”

Student Government Association President Noah Pollio, a senior biology major and Honors Program student from New Castle, Pa., offered remarks on behalf of the student body.

“As a senior I can attest that Westminster’s tradition of pursuing excellence is alive and well. From our first day on campus, we are challenged to passionately pursue our interests, to critically examine our views and to collaboratively work toward ambitious goals,” he said. “As I prepare to walk across Senior Terrace this spring to graduate, I am, and will always be, proud to be a Westminster Titan.”

Alumni and friends of Westminster could also help celebrate this week by making a birthday gift to the “1 Week to 170: A Birthday Campaign” crowdsourcing fundraising effort. Donors could choose to support student emergency funding, student fitness and wellbeing efforts, the new Westminster Apiary, campus beautification   projects or wherever funds are needed most.

To view photos of the 170th celebration, visit our Flickr album.