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Wilmington University Turns 50

Wilmington College was chartered by the state of Delaware on Dec. 27, 1967, though its classes began in 1968.

Cover Story by Maria Hess  |  Special thanks to Dr. Angela Suchanic and Natalie Ridgeway

Students recruited from New Jersey and New York lived in dorms and attended classes at the newly purchased Tour Inn Motor Court on DuPont Highway in New Castle, Delaware. The governance of Wilmington University rests with its Board of Trustees. Today, Joseph Farnan Jr. leads the dedicated board. Dr. Donald E. Ross was appointed founding president late in 1967 and held the office from 1968 through 1977. Chairman Nicholas Mazarella, who served as acting president from July 1, 1977, through January 30, 1979, succeeded him. Dr. Audrey Doberstein became president on April 6, 1979, then was succeeded by Dr. Jack Varsalona in 2005. He served as president until June 2017. Dr. LaVerne Harmon was appointed president on July 1, 2017, and leads the University today.


Timeline

2010
2010

2018

2018
Wilmington University serves more than 20,000 students, 87 percent of whom work full- or part-time. It offers more than 150 degree and certificate programs and conducts more than 100 fully online programs at the bachelor’s,...
2010

July 1, 2017

July 1, 2017
Dr. LaVerne T. Harmon was unanimously approved by the Board of Trustees to serve as the fourth president of Wilmington University. She is the first African-American woman to be named the president of a university...
2010

2017

2017
Ground was broken in 2017 for Wilmington University Brandywine, a 41.5-acre location that will replace the Concord Plaza location. For more info, visit wilmu.edu/brandywine. Classes begin this January!
2010

2013

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program was launched. (The first cohort graduated in May of 2015.)     WilmU’s College of Online and Experiential Learning was established.     Enrollment of international students...
2010

2011

2011
Ground was broken for the 22,000-square-foot Wilmington University Sports Complex on Route 40 in New Castle. It opened a year later to house a gym, built-in bleachers, locker rooms, training facility, staff offices and concession...
2010

2011

WilmU’s Dual Enrollment Program started, partnering with William Penn High School in New Castle.     Brandywine, a new location at Concord Plaza in North Wilmington, opened to serve the large population of students who...
2000
2000

2009

2009
The University opened its location at the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Air Force Base.
2000

June 1, 2009

Divisions became colleges. The University housed the colleges of Arts and Sciences (formerly General Studies, founded in 1989), Business (1968), Education (1978) Health Professions (formerly Nursing and Allied Health, 1985), Social and Behavioral Sciences (1972),...
2000

Spring, 2008

The Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) program was initiated.
2000

2007

2007
WilmU gained licensure in New Jersey, a huge advance for the University. Expansion of New Jersey licensures took place in 2007, 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2018.
2000

2007

2007
Wilmington College became Wilmington University to better reflect its strong strategic plan and evolving nature. Wilmington College had met many of the criteria to be considered a University, including multiple campuses and programs of study...
2000

2006

The DBA program was introduced.
2000

2005

2005
The Wilson Graduate Center opened in the New Castle Corporate Commons complex.
2000

2005

Reaccreditation followed self-study and a team visit. There were no recommendations.     The University’s Faculty Development area was created. (It became the Center for Teaching Excellence in September of 2016.)
2000

2004

2004
A 58,000-square-foot academic building in northern Dover opened, reflecting projections in the region’s growth.
2000

2005

2005
Dr. Jack P. Varsalona was named the third president of Wilmington College. He had taught courses as an adjunct since 1983 and was hired full-time on April 6, 1987. Under his leadership, enrollment grew from...
2000

2004

The Vision 2010 Strategic Plan was adopted. The college’s sports program became NCAA Division II. Eleven sports were added.
2000

2003

2003
Carving a path for future distance learning opportunities, Wilmington College offered its first hybrid (fusion) courses, blending face-to-face and online interaction with students. This paved the way for its first fully online degree programs that...
2000

2000

The Admissions and Classroom Center opened. (It was renamed the Audrey Kohl Doberstein Admissions Center in the fall of 2007.)
1990
1990

1998

1998
A new academic division, Division of Advanced Communications Technology, was introduced. It later became the College of Technology.
1990

1995

1995
Ground was broken for the 65,000-square-foot Robert C. and Dorothy M. Peoples Library Building on the New Castle location. It housed an extensive library, as well as labs, classrooms and offices.
1990

1991

The Doctor of Education in Innovation and Leadership program began and was offered in both the northern and southern portions of the state.
1980
1980

1989

The dorms were closed, making Wilmington a commuter college.     Enrollment reached 2,000 students.
1980

1986

1986
Ground was broken for the 26,000-square-foot Pratt Student Center at the New Castle location. Dedicated on April 20, 1988, it housed a gym, exercise room, student services, faculty offices, labs and lecture rooms. (The New...
1980

1986

Enrollment reached 1,650 students.
1980

mid-1980’s

The first BSN program was formed to serve working nurses who needed flexible schedules and wanted to advance in the health care industry.  (The MSN was established in 1993.) Police academies were added to the...
1980

1980

Enrollment reached 1,000 students
1980

April 1981

April 1981
The college acquired the U.S. Customs House in Wilmington. Its classrooms and conference rooms accommodated students who lived or worked in the city. (The building was sold in 2007.)
1980

1980

1980
The college opened a second location in Dover at Silver Lake.
1980

1980

1980
The college opened its Georgetown location at Delaware Technical Community College’s southern campus — the genesis of a fruitful partnership.
1980

1980

Men’s and women’s softball and volleyball varsity teams were formed.     The institution moved from a two-semester to a three-semester year and began offering eight-week courses.
1970
1970

1972

Wilmington College established its baseball and basketball teams: the Wilmington College Wildcats. The teams became part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and then the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
1970

1972

1972
The college celebrated its first graduating class of 174 students.
1970

April 1979

April 1979
Dr. Audrey Kohl Doberstein was named president of Wilmington College, which made her the first female to preside over a four-year college in Delaware. Her vision was to transform the college into a thriving institution...
1970

1977

Enrollment reached 725 students.     The college initiated its first graduate program, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.
1970

June 26, 1975

Wilmington College received accreditation from the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States. As President Ross stated upon receipt of the accreditation letter: “We crawled before we walked. Now we’re getting ready to run.”
1970

1974

Wilmington College introduced the Professional Arts majors.
1970

1973

1973
Enrollment hit 650. Evening and weekend classes were scheduled to accommodate the growing numbers of working students. The year also saw the initiation of WCOM, the college’s radio and television stations.
1970

1972

Student demographics shifted significantly. Enrollment consisted of 630 students — 482 men and 148 women; 402 were full-time students while 228 enrolled as part-timers. Two-thirds were local and commuted to classes. The majority of students...
1970

1970

1970
The student population had grown to 310, an increase of 35 percent in one year. Four majors, Behavioral Science, Communication Arts, Criminal Justice and Aviation Management, were added, making it a total of seven degree...
1960
1960

1969

1969
Wilmington College established a location at Dover Air Force Base to accommodate numerous military students as well as those interested in Aviation curriculum.
1960

1968

1968
Under the direction of President Donald E. Ross, Wilmington College opened to 147 students. Eight men and women were hired as full-time professors and several community members and field experts formed the adjunct faculty. In...
1959
1959

This timeline depicts important events of Wilmington University’s history.

Wilmington University serves more than 20,000 students, 87 percent of whom work full- or part-time. It offers more than 150 degree and certificate programs and conducts more than 100 fully online programs at the bachelor’s,...
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