Our Story

Our story begins with three leaders creating three colleges on the American frontier. Since then, W&J College has emerged as a leading institution with a storied history of doers, dreamers, and achievers: Senators and Congressmen, Hall of Famers, an NFL commissioner, CEOs, chairpersons, space travelers. For over 200 years, W&J College has produced ethical, well-rounded, and informed leaders in all fields and a strong network of alumni to support the next generation.

History of W&J College

Founded in 1781, right after the end of the battles for American independence, W&J College has its origins in three log cabin colleges established by three graduates of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton). Soon after, two of those initial founders joined together as the first trustees for the newly charted Washington Academy, later Washington College. The other founder became headmaster of Canonsburg Academy, later Jefferson College. His students joined him at the new academy. Finally, in 1865, Washington College and Jefferson College unified, establishing Washington & Jefferson College. Since then, Juncta Juvant: Together We Thrive.

W&J College continues to lead, educating individuals who can interpret, analyze, critique, innovate, and communicate the skills employers will always value most. With a practical and liberating arts and sciences curriculum that reflects our history and looks to the future, we're proud to be one of the oldest colleges in the United States.

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Addition of Centers for Ethical Leadership and Professional Pathways

The Center for Ethical Leadership and the Center for Professional Pathways launched during the fall semester.

Renovations to Clark Family Library

A complete interior renovation and exterior upgrades to the Clark Family Library, formerly U. Grant Miller Library, were completed in May. The project was funded by a leading gift from Richard (Class of ’68) and Angela Clark, with contributions from other generous donors to the College.

James David Ross Family Recreation Center

The James David Ross Family Recreation Center opened in April. The 30,000-square foot facility features a walking/running track, multi-sport athletic courts, a new wrestling room, and a general exercise room, plus new offices and recruiting spaces for the athletics department. It is named for the family of lead donor David A. Ross ’78.

Dr. John C. Knapp Joins W&J

Dr. John C. Knapp became the 13th president of Washington & Jefferson College. Dr. Knapp is an internationally known author and speaker with leadership experience spanning the education, non-profit, and business sectors.

Dr. Tori Haring-Smith Retires

Dr. Tori Haring-Smith retired as president.

Janet Swanson Tennis Center

The Janet Swanson Tennis Center opened in September and serves as the home site for the W&J men’s and women’s tennis teams.

John A. Swanson Science Center

John A. Swanson Science Center was opened and dedicated to the physical sciences, including Physics, Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Bioinformatics.

Uncommon Achievements

Tori Haring-Smith became the first woman to serve as president of Washington & Jefferson College. Under Haring-Smith’s leadership, the College initiated the award-winning Magellan Project, built the state-of-the-art Janet Swanson Tennis Center, surpassed the $100M goal laid out by its Uncommon Bond capital campaign, established the English Language Institute…

The Burnett Center

The Burnett Center houses the Departments of Economics and Business, Modern Languages, and Education. It was named after Howard J. Burnett.

Increased Enrollment

Student enrollment grew from 830 in 1970 to 1,100 in 1998.

Growth and Community Engagement

Under Brian C. Mitchell, who served as president from 1998 to 2004, the college experienced a growth in construction and an effort to improve relations with the neighboring communities.

Retirement of President Howard Burnett

Howard Burnett retired as president.

Program Expansion

Howard J. Burnett took office as president and hired the college’s first female faculty members and the first female dean. The college also adopted a new academic calendar to include intersession and expanded its academic programs to include the Entrepreneurial Studies Program, the Freshman Forum, and several cooperative international education programs.

Women Admitted

The Trustees authorized the admission of women as undergraduate students.

Curriculum Revisions and Construction

Boyd Crumrine Patterson assumed the presidency and oversaw curriculum revisions and the construction of a number of buildings, including the Henry Memorial Center, ten Greek housing units in the center of campus, the U. Grant Miller Library, the Student Center, The Commons, and two new dormitories. His fundraising abilities grew the college’s endowment from…

New Dorms Constructed

James Herbert Case, Jr., who was president from 1946 to 1950, constructed several new dormitories to handle the influx of veterans under the G.I. Bill.

Renovations to McMillan Hall

James D. Moffat personally paid for the renovations of McMillan Hall.

W&J Grows

James D. Moffat led a period of growth when the college constructed The Old Gym, Hays Hall, Thompson Memorial Library, and Thistle Physics Building. Also purchased was the land known as the “old fairground.”

Consolidation Upheld

The United States Supreme Court upheld the consolidation, allowing the newly configured college to proceed.

Effort to Overturn Consolidation

Before the merger could be completed, Canonsburg residents and Jefferson College partisans filed a lawsuit known as the Pennsylvania College Cases, which sought to overturn the consolidation plan.

Jonathan Edwards

On April 4th, Jonathan Edwards, a pastor from Baltimore who had been president of Hanover College, was elected the first president of the unified Washington & Jefferson College.

Washington & Jefferson College

Following the Civil War, both colleges were short on students and on funds, causing them to join together as Washington & Jefferson College.

Washington College

Matthew Brown petitioned the Pennsylvania General Assembly to grant Washington Academy a charter, allowing it to be re-christened as Washington College.

Canonsburg Academy

Canonsburg Academy was reconstituted as Jefferson College, with John McMillan serving as the first President of the Board of Trustees.

Whiskey Rebellion

During the Whiskey Rebellion, portions of David Bradford’s militia camped on the hillside that would later become home to the unified Washington & Jefferson College.

Founding of College

The Beginning: Three Log Cabins

Washington & Jefferson College traces its origins to three log cabin colleges established by frontier clergymen John McMillian, Thaddeus Dod, and Joseph Smith.

Academic Excellence


Student/Faculty Ratio

81% Classes with fewer than 20 students

124 Number of FTE faculty

98% Full-time tenure/tenure track faculty with terminal degrees

2021-22 Enrollment

Total Enrollment

566/590 Male/Female Ratio


Minority Students


Pennsylvania Residents


Out-of-State Students


International Students

Accepted Student Profile


Average GPA (unweighted)

1180 Mid 50% SAT (Critical Reading and Math Sections Only)

25-24 Mid 50% ACT (Critical Reading and Math Sections Only)

Most Popular Majors

Our #1 major is Business Administration







Economics, Neuroscience, and Computer & Information Studies

Assistant Professor of History David Kieran, Ph.D.

Financial Aid Information


Amount of scholarships and financial aid awarded annually

100% Students receiving some type of financial aid

84% of financial aid awarded as "gift aid" - meaning no repayment is required

The W&J College On-Time Graduation Guarantee

At W&J College, we guarantee that all students who meet academic expectations will graduate in four years. From the day you arrive on campus, you will experience first-hand how we deliver on our promise. Inside and outside of the classroom, you will receive undivided attention from our dedicated faculty and staff, helping you every step of the way to explore and uncover your passions and academic opportunities.

Mission Statement

The mission of Washington & Jefferson College is to graduate people of uncommon integrity, competence and maturity who are effective lifelong learners and responsible citizens, and who are prepared to contribute substantially to the world in which they live.

To this end, the College promotes the development of skills, knowledge, personal qualities and a worldview that characterizes a well-educated person. All components of the living and learning environment at W&J are designed and intended to support this mission.