History of William Paterson University

William Paterson University of New Jersey: An Evolution

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From its beginnings as a normal school in the city of Paterson to its current achievements as a comprehensive university, William Paterson University has been dedicated to providing outstanding educational opportunities and service to the community.

The institution was founded in 1855 as the Paterson City Normal School in response to the growing demand for professional preparation of teachers-in-service in the emerging free public schools of Paterson. By 1875, the normal school had added a one-year teacher training curriculum for high school graduates seeking to become teachers, which was later increased to two years. In 1910, the school, which had changed location several times, was moved to the brand-new School No. 24 on 19th Avenue and East 22nd Street in Paterson, where it remained for 40 years.

Rapid Period of Growth
With a growing realization that the responsibility for teacher preparation should rest with the state, local educators urged the state to take over the Paterson City Normal School. In 1923 the State Legislature passed an act to establish the New Jersey State Normal School at Paterson. Its sole aim, as later described in the 1929-30 catalog, was “to develop a well-trained teacher for service in the schools of the State.”

Beginning in 1936, the school began offering general college courses to students not planning a teaching career, as well as a four-year general elementary curriculum. In April 1937, the name of the school was changed to the New Jersey State Teacher’s College at Paterson and a degree-granting curriculum was established.

The college entered a period of growth, adding an adult school (1938), a nursing program (1939), a business education curriculum (1943), a kindergarten/primary curriculum (1943), and a reading clinic (1944). The country’s involvement in World War II resulted in the establishment of a child care center and a college unit of the Red Cross.

With enrollment growing as veterans took advantage of the G.I. Bill, the college sought a new campus with room for expansion. In 1948, the state purchased for $200,000 the Wayne estate of the family of Garret Hobart, the vice president of the United States under William McKinley. The site, featuring 250 hilltop acres and a turn-of-the-century manor house, became the new home of the college in 1951.

From 1954 until 1966, the college experienced rapid expansion of the physical plant, curricula, special services for the student body, and administrative offices. The first graduate program in education was instituted in 1955. In April 1958, the institution became Paterson State College as the State Board of Education eliminated the word “teachers” from the name of each of the six state colleges, although the mission of preparing teachers continued to be the focus. Also in 1958, for the first time the college was accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

A Multipurpose Liberal Arts Institution
With the opening of the first student residence hall in 1962, the college for the first time could enroll students living beyond commuting distance. During 1966, degree-granting programs in fields other than education were added. By then, the faculty had grown from 35 in 1954 to 212. In 1967, the college, by state mandate, was transformed into a multipurpose liberal arts institution. In 1971, the institution became The William Paterson College of New Jersey, in honor of the New Jersey patriot and statesman.

The college continued to evolve during the 1970s and 1980s, expanding its programs and facilities. In 1980, in celebration of its 125th anniversary, the college established the Distinguished Lecturer Series, a forum for speakers with national and international prominence.

Designated as a University
As the college continued to evolve its offerings, particularly on the graduate level, the college petitioned the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education for university status, which was granted on June 27, 1997, and the institution became The William Paterson University of New Jersey.

In 2001, Christos M. Cotsakos ’73 and Tami Cotsakos ’71, donated $10.5 million to the University—the largest gift in University history—to support the University’s College of Business, since renamed after its benefactor, and to endow the Cotsakos Family Scholarship in music. In 2000, the University purchased the former headquarters of Union Camp Corporation, set on 50 acres at 1600 Valley Road in Wayne. The building, which opened in 2002 following an extensive renovation, increased the university’s academic facilities by 25 percent. The University celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2005.

The University has continued to evolve. Today, William Paterson University enrolls nearly 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students, including 2,600 residential students. The University’s five colleges— Arts and Communication, Cotsakos College of Business, Education, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Science and Health—support 53 bachelor’s degree programs and 24 master’s degree programs. The institution also has expanded to include doctoral programs: the doctor of nursing practice, added in 2011, and the doctorate in clinical psychology, established in 2015. An Honors College provides academically gifted students with a rigorous curriculum.

The University’s many accreditations include the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, Commission on the Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, National Association of Schools of Art and Design, National Association of Schools of Music, and National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, among others.

The institution’s 410 full-time faculty, who are widely respected for their teaching, research and scholarship, include 41 Fulbright scholars, two Guggenheim Fellows, and recipients of numerous other awards, grants, and fellowships. The University generated more than $7.5 million in federal, state, and local government grants and contracts in support of academic research and educational initiatives during the 2015-16 academic year.

University President Kathleen Waldron joined the institution in 2010 following the retirement of President Arnold Speert, who served as president for 25 years. Under her leadership, the University has increased the number of full-time faculty, improved retention and graduation rates, revitalized student support, completed a Strategic Plan 2012-2022 and developed several zone master facility plans to renovate and construct new facilities. While keeping education affordable with historically low increases in tuition, she has led strategic investment in student/faculty research, increased alumni relations and philanthropy, renovated facilities and enhanced outside support for the institution.

William Paterson provides learning opportunities in its classrooms, laboratories, and studios, and throughout the campus, as well as at various off-campus locations, including the adjacent High Mountain Park Preserve. It continues to expand its state-of-the-art facilities, including an expanded and renovated Science Complex, dedicated in 2012, and a new 80,000-square-foot $40 million academic building, University Hall, which opened in 2016 and was funded in part by $30 million from New Jersey’s “Building Our Future” Bond Act. An initiative to modernize the academic core of the campus continues with renovation of two academic buildings, Preakness Hall, formerly Hunziker Wing, scheduled for completion in 1017, and Hunziker Hall, scheduled for completion in 2018.

Noteworthy for Diversity and Civic Engagement
William Paterson is the third most diverse public university in New Jersey and nearly 30 percent of its students are the first in their families to attend college. In 2015, the University was designated as a Hispanic-serving institution with more than 25 percent of its students claiming Hispanic heritage.

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In 2011, the University became the first and only public New Jersey college or university to require new undergraduates to take a course on civic engagement. During the 2015-16 academic year, more than 2,300 students enrolled in 40 different courses in a variety of disciplines and students contributed more than 7,200 hours to community service projects.

The University is committed to sustainability, and is a charter signatory of the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment. Its solar panel installation, dedicated in 2010, ranks among the 10 largest university installations in the United States.