History of William Paterson

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William Paterson University
of New Jersey: An Evolution

Paterson State Normal School Circa 1928

From its beginnings as a normal school in the city of Paterson to its current designation as a comprehensive university, The William Paterson University of New Jersey has been dedicated to providing 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 #24 on 19th Avenue and East 22nd Street in Paterson, where it remained for 40 years.

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 hill-top 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 main focus. Also in 1958, for the first time the college was accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

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. In 1978, a portion of William Paterson's personal papers were purchased by the Alumni Association and donated to the college. The collection, which constitutes a quarter of Paterson's papers, rivals that of the Library of Congress. Other milestones include the establishment of the Distinguished Lecturer Series, a forum for speakers with national and international prominence, in 1980; the authorization and implementation of a master's degree in business administration in 1981; and the institution of a 60-credit general education requirement in 1982. A $4.3 million Governor's Challenge Grant, awarded in 1987, provided the college with money to enhance the science and communication programs. In 1994, the college initiated a Comprehensive Analysis of all academic programs and administrative functions to lay the groundwork for planning as the institution approaches the year 2000. Based upon the quality and breadth of our faculty and our academic, cultural and community service programs, on June 27, 1997, the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education accepted the college's petition to become The William Paterson University of New Jersey. The University celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2005.

Today, The William Paterson University of New Jersey enrolls more than 11,200 undergraduate and graduate students. It supports 43 undergraduate and 21 graduate degree programs in five colleges: Arts and Communication, Christos M. Cotsakos College of Business, Education, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Science and Health. The institution's 370 full-time faculty, who are widely respected for their teaching, research and scholarship, include 26 Fulbright scholars.

The 370-acre campus features 31 major facilities, including the Atrium, an academic building housing student computer labs, a state-of-the-art language lab and a humanities media center; the expanded and renovated David and Lorraine Cheng Library with more than 350,000 bound volumes; the Financial Learning Center, a technologically advanced academic facility featuring live data feeds; Hobart Hall, a state-of-the-art communication complex; a science complex; performing and fine arts centers, multipurpose recreation and student centers and resident housing for nearly 2,300 students. The university is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.