WCSU celebrates 120 years

DANBURY, CT – For 120 years, Western Connecticut State University’s legacy has been important to the greater Danbury area and beyond. The public university has produced thousands of graduates who have mostly stayed in the area and contributed to its economic and social success while pursuing fruitful careers as educators, nurses, scientists, mental health counselors, performers, accountants, law enforcement officials, business managers, government leaders and more.

While WCSU, like other educational institutions, weathers some financial issues due to nationally declining enrollment numbers, its spirit and purpose are still strong and the university looks forward to providing its value as an affordable college option to generations to come, as well as contributing in many ways to surrounding communities. WCSU is developing plans to continue to meet the needs of students and the area and remain a backbone institution of learning in the Greater Danbury, Western Connecticut and lower New York State regions for the next 120 years.

Western Connecticut State University currently provides an impact of hundreds of millions of dollars to the greater Danbury economy, and employs hundreds of faculty and support staff. Just as important to the region is the steady pool of professionals the university feeds into communities each year – professionals who pay taxes, start families, give back to the community and provide valuable services.

“WCSU has grown and improved throughout these years,” said Interim President Dr. Paul B. Beran. “We have become an institution of applied and professional learning, and the most promising and successful degrees we offer are based in the reality of today’s economy. Our students attend this university to get a step up and they do that by earning a degree in a subject they can get a job in. By helping our students, we also help the economy of the region and the state.”

So, in 2023, WCSU has much to celebrate. During this celebration and period of change, the mascot will also celebrate its first birthday as the Wolves howl their support for the future of the university. Students will be able to settle in to their new, beautiful and modern Student Center, a newly built Wellness Center will continue to care for them if they need health care, and a Food Pantry now exists to help those with food insecurity. Additional degree programs are being planned out for the next academic year, and other changes will come to enhance WCSU’s two beautiful and dynamic campuses.

As the university moves into the future, let’s celebrate some key moments of its past:
• WCSU was founded on June 12, 1903, as a training school for teachers, known as The Danbury Normal School. The first classes began on September 5, 1904. Certificates in teaching were awarded, and the first class had 41 graduates.
• Classes for the new school were held on the third floor of the former Danbury High School, now known as White Hall.
• The first new building – basically the entire college – built for the students was Old Main on White Street. It opened in 1905 and held classrooms, labs, the library and the gym. Today the renovated building, one of Danbury’s oldest, houses Admissions, Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, Financial Aid, the Cashier and other offices.
• The first residential dorm, Fairfield Hall, opened in 1927. Females made up the majority of the student base and were the only ones allowed to live in the school’s dorm.
• In 1933, the name was changed to the Danbury Unit of the Teachers College of Connecticut. Academics became a four-year degree program.
• An Associate Degree in General Education and a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education were introduced in the 1940s, followed by degrees in Music, Nursing, Junior Engineering and Laboratory Technology.
• Another name change occurred in 1937, as the Unit became the Danbury State Teachers College. In 1959, the bachelor’s in liberal arts program began and the name was changed to Danbury State College, but in 1967 the college was renamed Western Connecticut State College to reflect the variety of degree programs offered. The college attained university status in 1983 and was christened Western Connecticut State University.
• Major construction and expansion of campus buildings on the Midtown campus took place in the 1950s and 1960s, including Higgins Hall, Memorial Hall, Ruth A. Haas Library, Litchfield Hall and Newbury Hall. Danbury High School became White Hall on White Street.
• The first graduate degree programs were established in 1955 (Master’s in Education) and 1957 (Master of Science).
• Plans for the Westside campus took shape in the 1970s, and with the construction of the Classroom Building in 1981 and Ella Grasso Hall in 1983, WCSU became a two-campus university. More buildings were added to the Westside campus in the 1990s, including the William A. O’Neill Center in 1995 and the A. Searle Pinney Hall in 1999. Meanwhile, on the Midtown campus, buildings were renovated and the Pedestrian Mall was developed.
• Both campuses continued to grow in the 2000s. On Midtown, the Science Building, built in 2004, became the first government building in the state to earn the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver Certification. On Westside, the Campus Center and the Visual and Performing Arts Center were built.
• In 2011, WCSU joined with other state universities and community colleges to become part of the restructured Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System. In 2018, the university adopted its shield logo, and, in 2022, the mascot Colonial Chuck was retired and the Wolves became the new identity.
For more information, contact WCSU Public Relations at pr@wcsu.edu.

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