1867: Members of the German Reformed Church begin plans to establish a college where "young men could be liberally educated under the benign influence of Christianity." These founders were hoping to establish an alternative to the seminary at Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, a school they believed was increasingly heretical to traditional Reformed faith.
1869: The college is granted a charter by the Legislature of Pennsylvania to begin operations in its current location on the grounds of Todd’s School (founded 1832) and the adjacent Freeland Seminary (founded 1848). Dr. John Henry Augustus Bomberger, for whom the campus' signature Romanesque building is named (see Gallery, below), served as the college’s first president until his death in 1890. Bomberger proposed naming the college after Zacharias Ursinus, a 16th-century German theologian and an important figure in the Protestant Reformation.
1870: Instruction begins at the college in September; on October 4, the Zwinglian Literary Society was founded. For many years the annual opening meetings of "Zwing" and its rival society, Schaff, were the major events of the student year.
1881: Women first admitted, as a direct consequence of the closing of the Pennsylvania Female College in 1880, and a separate literary society for women, The Olevian, is formed. Like Zwingli and Schaff, Olevian Hall on campus is named in honor of its respective historical society.
1896: In 1896, the town of Freeland officially incorporated as the Borough of Collegeville, the name the Pennsylvania Railroad had given the place in 1869—because of the Pennsylvania Female College; and not, as many believe, because of the then brand-new Ursinus. However, in years since, the “college” in Collegeville has come to mean Ursinus.
1897: The Ruby, Ursinus' yearbook is first published by the Class of 1897 as a tribute to Professor Samuel Vernon Ruby, who collapsed as he was entering Bomberger Hall in 1896 and died in its chapel, surrounded by students and teachers who had gathered there for morning prayers.
1921: The first aerial photograph of Ursinus is taken, by future college president D.L. Helfferich, and is published in the 1921 Ruby.
1938: J.D. Salinger enrolls at Ursinus for the fall semester. As quoted from the Ursinus website, "The late 30’s also saw the arrival of someone who was perhaps Ursinus’ most famous student ever: Jerome D. Salinger. Gallant and slim, he swooped in from New York City for a few months in 1938, wrote a zany column for the student newspaper, The Skipped Diploma, dated a few of the coeds, then dropped out at Thanksgiving. He went on to great fame as author ofThe Catcher in the Rye, and short stories appearing inThe New Yorker".
Berman Museum of Art
1942: Ursinus sees its male enrollment drop in half due to the start of World War II, falling from 535 to 350. During the war, Ursinus made a concerted effort to bring in military students from across the country, even acquiring a Naval V-12 unit.
1995: The college appoints Dr. John Strassburger as its 12th president, the first president from outside the Ursinus alumni group. Dr. Strassburger was an American Historian, a graduate of Bates College, Oxford University, and Princeton University. Under President Strassburger, Ursinus initiated the Summer Fellows program in which selected students worked on individualized research projects with faculty advisors. During President Strassburger's tenure as president Ursinus became affiliated with numerous prestigious groups such as the Annapolis Group, the Watson Foundation, the Kemper Scholars group and Project Pericles.
2011: Dr. Bobby Fong, a graduate of Harvard and UCLA and former president of Butler University, began his tenure as the 13th president of Ursinus on July 1, 2011. For the third year in a row Ursinus is designated as a Top Ten Up and Coming College by U.S. News & World Report.
Ursinus College is now independent in character with historical but no longer any operational ties to its church past, and currently operates on a growing $120,000,000 endowment.
Ursinus established its chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in 1992. At the time, only 242 of the nation's 3,500 colleges and universities had gained acceptance into the elite group. While students can choose from 60 courses of study, "biology, business and economics, and English are the three majors with the largest numbers of students."
The Common Intellectual Experience is Ursinus' unique seminar course required of all first-year students and is a requisite for the bachelor's degree. The Common Intellectual Experience (referred to as CIE) is composed of two semester-long seminar courses which seek to investigate three of the central questions of the traditional liberal arts education: How should we live our lives? What does it mean to be human? What is the universe and how do we fit into it? The courses are characterized by students in all CIE classes discussing the course texts at the same time, and studying the works in both the seminar room and through additional avenues of scientific and artistic exploration. The course is taught by faculty in all disciplines and the assigned texts and materials are altered yearly, allowing students and faculty a mutual experience of discovery and critical engagement. CIE, in combination with residential clustering of first-years, is meant to foster a sense of togetherness for incoming students, and to create introspective discussions on the core questions beyond the classroom. To further this environment, there was also an experiment conducted in which the students in one CIE class lived on the same hall together. This was dubbed the Delphi Project and was used to determine how physical proximity might generate more discussion and creativity with ideas. Ursinus also offers additional higher-level CIE classes that go beyond the three original questions, extending the discussion into new domains. Unlike the requisite classes where the questions remain constant, the questions posed by the higher level classes change from semester-to-semester. CIE classes are often paired with a writing fellow, a student trained with background in writing rhetoric. The writing fellow will meet with the CIE freshman to help them with their papers in the course. CIE Fellows also work with freshmen students to further explore and discuss CIE texts and themes.
In September 2012, Ursinus and Columbia University were awarded a joint grant from the Mellon Foundation to work together on the core of their seminar courses - Ursinus College's CIE, and Columbia University's Core Curriculum. The $300,000 grant will allow Ursinus faculty with prior experience teaching CIE classes to work with, and mentor, post-doctoral students at Columbia, will create post-doctoral fellowship program at Ursinus, and will also support campus visits and guest lectures from Columbia faculty who have expertise in the subject matter of CIE.
While the first students enrolled at Ursinus were almost exclusively Pennsylvanians, today the school's 1,650 students come from 35 states and 12 countries. Twenty percent are students of color and two percent are international students. The school has a 12:1 student/faculty ratio.
The Leadership Development and Student Activities Office provides the student body with leadership opportunities through its more than 100 student clubs and organizations. Ursinus College clubs and organizations range from student government to community service, academic honor societies, political clubs and intramural sports. Ursinus is also home to a student-run newspaper, The Grizzly - the name taken from the Latin root of Zacharias Ursinus' surname (ursus translating as 'bear') - as well as The Lantern, one of the oldest, continuously produced student literary journals.
In the immediate years following its founding, there were no organized athletics at Ursinus College. Baseball matches held against neighboring towns, hiking along the Perkiomen Creek and in nearby Valley Forge, and skating, bathing and boating in the Perkiomen were popular pastimes for students. In fact, students used to be able to rent canoes and fishing rods from the same location they can now rent bikes from. Students then organized a tennis club in 1888, and intercollegiate baseball began with play against Swarthmore College, Haverford College, and Muhlenberg College in 1890. The college's first football team was also fielded in 1890. A field house with shower and locker facilities was first built in 1909, and a "field cage" with facilities for indoor basketball practice was built behind the field house in 1910.
The college was well known for many years for its Patterson Field endzone, in which a large sycamore tree grew undisturbed. Ripley's Believe it or Not featured the famous tree for being the only one on an active field of athletic play, and the seclusion "of the tree at night for generations afforded lovers a trysting place. Greek organizations initiated pledges into their mysteries under its branches." A new sycamore, growing since 1984 from a seedling taken from the old tree, stood nearby until a recent turf field project required its removal.
In 1974, the NCAA Award of Valor was presented to the 1973 basketball team. Every member of the team had entered a burning building, with their combined efforts leading to the rescue of 14 persons. In the 2003-2004 season, senior shooting guard Dennis Stanton lead all NCAA Men's Basketball scorers, averaging 32.6 points per game.
Bomberger Memorial Hall, opened in 1892 and renovated in 2006. Bomberger Hall is named for John Henry Augustus Bomberger, the 1st President of Ursinus College. Bomberger Auditorium is home to the Heefner Memorial Organ, a three-manual 62-rank organ dedicated in 1986, the gift of the late Mrs. Lydia V. Heefner in memory of her husband, Russell E. Heefner.
The Phillip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art, dedicated in 1989, located in the original Alumni Memorial Library, built in 1921, expanded in 2010. The museum program is fully accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and houses over 4,000 paintings, prints, drawings, sculpture, decorative, and cultural objects representing a broad array of art historical genres.
The Eger Gate, erected in 1925.
Brodbeck-Wilkinson-Curtis Hall, Brodbeck and Curtis opened in 1927, Wilkinson Hall, named for Joseph C. Wilkinson, opened in 1966 connecting Brodbeck and Curtis.
Pfahler Hall of Science
Curtis Hall, where J.D. Salinger lived on the third floor during his time at Ursinus
Pfahler Hall & the Walter W. Marstellar Memorial Observatory. Pfahler Hall opened in 1932, renovated and expanded in 1998. Named in honorof Dr. George E. Pfahler, famed radiologist, Pfahler Hall is where Professor John Mauchly built key components of ENIAC, considered the world’s first computer, and Nobel LaureateGerald Edelman (Ursinus Class of 1950) attended classes. Pfahler’s well-equipped laboratoriescontain a 300-MHz nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer, three Fourier-transform(FTIR) spectrometers, an isothermal calorimeter, two gas chromatography/mass spectrometers(GC/MS), a voltammetric analyzer, four U-V visible absorbance spectrometers, seven highperformance liquid chromatographs (HPLC), an atomic absorption (AA) spectrometer, a capillary electrophoresis (CE) apparatus, a Mössbauer spectrometer, and a fluorescence spectrometer.
Beardwood-Paisley-Stauffer Hall, opened in 1957, named in honor of Hannah Beardwood and her husband Matthew, a chemistry professor at Ursinus from 1903 until 1940, Dr. Harry Paisley, president of the Ursinus board of directors from 1910 until 1961, and Rev. George A. Stauffer, class of 1894.
Wismer Center, opened in 1964, named for Ralph Fry Wismer, class of 1905.
Reimert Hall, opened in 1966, named for William D. Reimert, class of 1924.
Corson Hall, dedicated in 1970.
Thomas Hall, opened in 1970 and renovated in 1991, it is the home of the Biology and Psychology departments and the following endowed laboratories: Levi Jay Hammond Laboratory of Comparative Anatomy, the W. Wayne Babcock Laboratory of GeneralBiology, the Anna Heinly Schellhammer Laboratory, and the Parlee Laboratory.
Myrin Library, opened in 1971, renovated in 1988, and again in 2004-05. Myrin houses more than 420,000 volumes, 202,000 microforms, 32,000 audiovisual materials, 3,800 e-books, and offers on-site and remote access to approximately 25,900 print, microformand electronic periodical titles.The library is also one of only three U.S. Government depositories in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania and, as such, receives print and electronic federal documents for the collection. Myrin Library is home to the Pennsylvania Folklife Society Collection (an extensive Pennsylvania German archive), the Linda Grace Hoyer Papers, the Grundy Collection on South African history, and the Ursinusiana Collection (college archives).
Olin Hall, opened in 1990, named for the F.W. Olin Foundation. Olin Hall contains a 320-seat lecture hall, a 63-seat tieredclassroom, a 42-seat tiered classroom, a Writing Center, eight traditional classrooms and four seminar rooms.
The Floy Lewis Bakes Field House, dedicated in 2001 upon the expansion and renovation of Helferich Hall, 1972. The Field House encompasses the D.L. Helfferich Hall of Health and Physical Education and the William Elliott Pool. The field house pavilion opened in 2001, while the other buildings were dedicated in 1972 in honor, respectively, of the ninth president of Ursinus College and Dr. William Elliott. Helfferich Hall now includes completely renovated locker and training rooms, and a two-story, glass-enclosed area for fitness and recreation. The physical education complex serves both men and women with three full-size basketball courts; locker rooms and team rooms; wrestling room; weight room; dance studio; classrooms; a regulation collegiate-sized swimming pool; squash and handball courts, and a gymnastics space. (Helfferich
Richter-North Residence Hall, opened in 2002, named for former college President Richard P. Richter.
Kaleidoscope Performing Arts Center, opened in April 2005 with a performance by jazz legend Wynton Marsalis. The performing arts center features The Lenfest Theater (a 380 seat state-of-the-art Proscenium Arch Theater), a flexible seated black box “experimental” studio theater, a box office and concession booth, a rehearsal studio, a scenic workshop, as well as teaching support space and a gallery and work space for art students.
Raymond Dodge, experimental psychologist: Appointed Professor of Philosophy in 1896
John Mauchly, computer pioneer and creator of the ENIAC: While Professor of Physics at Ursinus from 1933 to 1941, developed and tested digital electronic calculating devices at Ursinus's science labs in Pfahler Hall, a building which still stands on campus (see Gallery, below)
Royal Meeker, statistician: Taught at Ursinus from 1906 until his appointment by President Wilson to be Commissioner of Labor Statistics in 1913. He later served (1923–24) as Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor and Industry
Robert Yerkes (Class of 1897): Psychologist, ethologist and primatologist best known for his work in intelligence testing and in the field of comparative psychology; co-developer of the Yerkes-Dodson law relating arousal to performance.