Webster University Centennial. Celebrating 100 years of serving students with unmatched learning experiences. #webster100 1915-2015

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Webster University Centennial. Celebrating 100 years of serving students with unmatched learning experiences. #webster100 1915-2015

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Webster's First 100 Years


  • 1910s
  • 1920s
  • 1930s
  • 1940s
  • 1950s
  • 1960s
  • 1970s
  • 1980s
  • 1990s
  • 2000s
  • 2010s


Webster University History Timeline

It’s amazing what can be accomplished in a century. Webster University’s 100 years of progress has unfolded in our community, from the steps of our home campus to the halls of our international schools abroad. The timeline below highlights the impact Webster has made on thousands of people around the world, showcasing our bold beginnings and counting the years to come.

"Life is divided into three terms - that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present, to live better in the future." - William Wordsworth

The Mission Begins…
1898: the Sisters of Loretto purchased the Benjamin Webster estate on Lockwood Avenue in Webster Groves and opened a boarding school for girls. This set the stage for a university dedicated to outreach and providing access to education. This commitment continues to this day.


Humble Beginning

Loretto College was founded and opened with five students. Today, more than 17,000 students attend Webster. On November 1, the cornerstone was laid for the new Webster Hall. In 2015, we celebrate November 1 as our official 100th anniversary.


First President

Mother M. Dolorine Powers became the College’s first president. She would serve from 1916-1919.


A New Medium

The first student publication – the Lorettine – was founded. In 1920, the first “journalism” course was offered at Webster (discussed in the student newspaper, Dec. 10, 1920). The first student newspaper – Listen – was launched. Today’s student newspaper, The Journal, is an award-winning student publication.


First Commencement

The College’s first graduating class had two students. By the end of its first century, Webster University graduates more than 7,000 students each year.


A New Leader

Mother M. Edith Loughran became the College’s second president and would lead the name change to Webster College in 1925. She would serve from 1919-1925.


Visitors from Abroad

Webster welcomed its first two international students. Both were from France and came to the college as part of a war relief effort project to help children escape WWI. This was an early indication of Webster’s global nature and commitment to human rights.


Extra-Curricular Activity

The first Webster athletics association was founded. Women’s basketball was the sport of choice. Today, student athletes compete in seven men’s and seven women’s sports.


Student Traditions Form

The first May Day celebration was held and would be an annual event for several decades. In this festive event celebrated around the world, a favorite Webster activity was the May Pole Dance and crowning of the annual May Day Queen.


New Name Reflects Growth

Loretto College changed its name to Webster College. This helped distinguish itself from the Loretto Academy, a St. Louis high school for girls also founded by the Sisters of Loretto. 1924 marked the largest incoming freshman class in Webster’s history – 50 women from 12 states.


Maier Becomes President

Mother M. Linus Maier became Webster’s third president. She would serve from 1925-1931.


Growth and Accreditation

10 years after opening with five incoming freshman, Webster’s incoming freshman class had grown to 63 students. Also in 1925, The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools accredited Webster College securing Webster’s place in providing high quality learning experiences.


First Study Abroad Scholarship

Webster created its first scholarship to encourage students to study abroad. Today, this assistance continues with the Webster Worldwide Traveler Program providing round-trip airfare to qualified students.


First Student Government

The first student government was formed. (There is evidence of student government forming as early as 1920.) Today, Student Government Association (SGA) carries on the tradition and leadership role. It includes both undergraduate and graduate students.


Campus Expands with Loretto Hall

Loretto Hall opened as Webster’s second building. Ground was broken on November 1, 1927 and completed in late 1928. The building, which cost $300,000 to build, houses 190 students. An official opening ceremony was held on February 17, 1929.


Giving Back

The Loretto Foundation was established, joining the alumni association which made its debut in 1922. Today, University Advancement engages faculty, staff, students and community members around the world to commit to and connect with Webster’s mission.


First Lay President Serves through WWII

George Donovan became the first lay President (and the first male president) of Webster College. He would serve from 1931 – 1950 and was on leave for the last two years of his presidency.


International Relations, Cultural Exchange

Webster enhanced its international focus and established an International Relations Club. Webster began bringing students from other countries to campus in Webster Groves. During the next 20 years, 200 faculty members and students went abroad or came to Webster.


Broadening Education: First Weekend Offerings

The first “Saturday” courses were offered at Webster College. They were only open to members of the Sisters of Loretto, sisters of other orders of nuns, Webster Groves residents and to business and professional women. Courses offered include psychology, history, mathematics, English, religion, history of English and Spanish literature, musical analysis and orchestration.

March 1934

Parents Welcome

First ever “Parents Day” was held at Webster College. Today, Parents’ Weekend is held during annual Homecoming events.


Access to Education

The first visually impaired student graduated from Webster College. Genevieve Hogan received a bachelor of philosophy in French and English. Today, Webster is recognized for its commitment to diversity and inclusive environment for all students.


A Milestone

Webster College celebrated 25 years of education with a mass, a theatrical production, an alumnae reunion and a college-wide dinner. President Roosevelt recognized the occasion with a personal letter sent to the College.


Academic Realignment

Plans were announced to reorganize Webster College into three academic divisions:

1. “The Division of Letters and Fine Arts” which included English, Art, Classical Language and Literature, Modern Languages, Music, Speech and Drama.
2. “The Division of Social Studies” which included Business Administration, Economics, Education, History, Philosophy, Physical Education, Religion and Sociology – and
3. “The Division of Mathematics and Science” which included Biology, Chemistry, Dietetics, Mathematics and Physics.

The reorganizations would take place in fall 1946.


Access for Military Veterans

Webster announces a new admissions program just for military veterans. It’s expected that more than 20 former Webster students who entered the military during the war will return and other students who entered the military right after high school may now wish to attend Webster. In 1946, a student veterans’ organization formed with 10 members. Webster’s commitment to those who serve remains a priority today.


Community Partnership, Expanding Athletics

In 1945, a capital campaign to fund a new gym began. Ground was broken for the new gym in 1946. A new gym was needed as the previous gym, located on Plymouth Avenue, was incorporated into an expansion of the Webster Groves School. The new gym was built next to Nerinx Hall at Lockwood and Big Bend. Named the “Loretto Gym,” it was opened in March 1948.


Diversity and Inclusion

The first two African-American students were admitted to Webster. Today, Webster is recognized for its diversity.


New President for the ‘50s

Sr. Mariella Collins was appointed interim president 1948-1950. She would go on to serve as the College’s fifth president from 1950-1958.


President Donnovan Serves Post-War Rebuild

President George Donovan took a two-year leave of absence to be the Chief of Education as part of the Civilian Administration to rebuild Germany. He then left his position as President to head educational and cultural affairs programs for the United States in post-war Germany.


Milestone for Diversity and Inclusion

Janet Irene Thomas becomes the first African-American to graduate from Webster. Webster University continues to encourage diversity within our student body. Currently, African-Americans represent 30 percent of the University's graduate student population.


Broadening Access through Summer Programs

The college began its long tradition of offering flexible educational opportunities by establishing summer courses for degree-seeking students in 1954 and then establishing evening courses for working adults in 1955.


Sr. Francetta Named President

Sr. Francetta Barberis became the College’s sixth president. She would serve from 1958-1965.


Maria Hall Adds Resident Capacity

Maria Hall was dedicated as a dormitory and dining hall for approximately 110 students. The 38,000-square-foot facility cost $700,000 to construct, and the name was chosen through a student contest.


Broadening Access for Co-Education

For the first time, male students attended Webster full time. (Previously, they took courses in the Fine Arts program but had to complete their degrees at Saint Louis University.) By 1965, the Board of Trustees approved a plan to make all programs co-educational. Webster officially became completely co-educational in 1968.


The College School Opens

Another chapter in a tradition of pioneering teaching began when Webster founded The College School as an experimental laboratory for teaching and learning. Though now separate from the University, today The College School remains an innovative center of experiential learning.


Revolutionizing Teacher Education

The Master of Arts in Education (MAT) degree was created for evening students, marking Webster’s first graduate program.


Experimenting with General Education

A decade of change and experimental education continues: The Board of Directors, composed entirely of Sisters of Loretto, and faculty voted to eliminate general degree requirements.


A Center for the Arts

The Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts opened with Conrad Hilton donating $1.5 million of the $1.9 million construction cost. The center became the performance home for Webster’s performing arts, the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and the St. Louis Repertory Theatre, which launched that year from the groundwork of theatre by Webster students. Today, the entire region continues to enjoy Webster student performances and professional performances by these long-term Webster partners, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and the St. Louis Repertory Theatre.


A New Frontier: Reaching Beyond St. Louis

After success offering graduate education to teachers in St. Louis, the Master of Teaching program was established in Kansas City. Today, Webster has campus locations at Metropolitan locations across the U.S., expanding educational opportunities for working adults.


Transfer to a Lay Board

Recognizing the potential for sustainable growth and to deliver high-quality education to a broader population of underserved students, Webster became a secular institution and the first Catholic college to transfer administration to a lay board.


Expanding Programs for Military Veterans

Expanding its outreach to military students, Webster established the Veterans Accelerated Urban Learning for Teaching (VAULT) to train Vietnam War veterans to teach or assume other professional roles in inner-city schools.


A Neighborhood Partner

Eden Theological Seminary and Webster University signed an agreement creating the Eden-Webster Library. The agreement also allowed students of either institution to take courses at the other launching a neighborly resource partnership that continues today.


Gerdine Becomes President

Leigh Gerdine joined Webster College as its eighth president. He would serve from 1970-1990. He would lead the College’s transformation to a University in 1983.


The First Metro Campus

Webster University Kansas City opened as Webster’s first Metropolitan location. Webster modeled its Kansas City curriculum after the successful Master of Arts in Teaching program launched in St. Louis. Although it was geared toward those in the management and service-related fields, it kept the intensive nine-week courses taught by practicing professionals.


Undergraduate Academic Realignment

The undergraduate college was divided into five sections:

I. History, Political Science, Sociology and Anthropology
II. Religion, Philosophy and Modern Languages
III. Mathematics, Science and Psychology
IV. Art, Music and English
V. Education


A Military Partnership is Born

The U.S. Department of Defense invited Webster College to become the first to open an extended campus program at Fort Sheridan near Chicago. Military locations also opened at Scott AFB, Illinois and Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. The program provided military personnel access to quality higher education on base. Today, Webster has a presence on approximately 40 military installations across the U.S. and is a recognized leader in military higher education.


Serving St. Louis’ Urban Core

Webster opened the first downtown St. Louis location at Broadway and Locust Street. Today, the Webster University Gateway Campus resides in the Old Post Office with plans to expand to the historic Arcade Building (currently being renovated) in 2016. Other locations in the St. Louis area include Westport and Winghaven.


Military Partnership Expands

Military locations opened at Little Rock AFB, Arkansas; Charleston AFB, South Carolina; Great Lakes Naval Hospital, Illinois.


The Arts Make Webster Home

Webster became home to the Opera Theatre of St. Louis. With the launch of the 2014 season, Opera Theatre has presented 24 world premieres and 23 American premieres – which may be the highest percentage of new work in the repertory of any U.S. company.


Military Expansion to the South

Military locations opened at McConnell AFB, Kansas; Ft. Sam Houston, Texas; Ft. Bliss; Texas; and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. In 1992, the Myrtle Beach location moved off base.


Military Expansion to the West

Military locations opened in Peterson AFB, Colorado; Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.


A New Frontier: Expanding to Europe

The first European campus opened in Geneva, Switzerland, offering both graduate and undergraduate degrees and capitalizing on the global perspective the city would add to a student's education.


A Signature Series is Born

The Webster Film Series was established. Today, it is the Midwest's premiere hosting venue for American and foreign features, documentaries, classic and experimental cinema and national and international artists presenting their work. The Series represents a genuine cinematic alternative in the St. Louis community.


Growth in South Carolina

A Military location opened at Beaufort Naval Hospital, South Carolina.


Expanding to Austria, the Netherlands and the U.K.

Webster’s international growth continued with the opening of the Vienna campus in 1981 followed by campuses in Leiden in 1983 and London in 1986.


Metro and Military Growth

Metro and Military locations opened in Denver, Colorado; Ft. Jackson, South Carolina.


A Gallery for Visiting Artists

The Hunt Gallery opened as a non-commercial alternative venue to enhance the lifelong learning of the St. Louis art community. It continues to bring local, national and international artists to campus for exhibitions, workshops and guest lectures.


Webster College becomes Webster University

Webster College formally changed its name to Webster University, reflecting the institution’s growth from a small liberal arts college to a complex, international university with diverse post-baccalaureate programs.


Birth of the Gorlok

Webster’s mascot was born. Derived from the combination of two streets in the heart of Webster Groves, the "Gorlok" was chosen by a campus committee that considered many suggestions and drawings from the student body.


Metro Expansion

Metro locations opened in Albuquerque, Mew Mexico; Colorado Springs, Colorado.



Webster joined the NCAA as a Division III athletics program providing co-educational sports programs in a setting that supports academic excellence.


Serving Arkansas

Metro location opened in Little Rock, Arkansas.


In the Capital Region

Military location opened in Bolling AFB, District of Columbia.


Expanding Communications and Business Capacity

The Leif J. Sverdrup Business and Technology Complex opened to house business and communications programs, including the new May Gallery for visiting and student photography exhibits.


From Coast to Coast

Metro and Military locations opened in San Diego, California; Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.


Atlantic and the South

Metro and Military locations opened in Orlando, Florida; Lackland AFB, Texas; Tinker AFB, Oklahoma; Jacksonville NAS, Florida.


Perlman Named President

Daniel Perlman joined Webster University as the University’s ninth president. He would serve from 1990-1994.


Staff Governance

The Webster Staff Alliance was established, which formalized staff participation in shared governance.


Meeting Global Needs at the 75th Anniversary

As the University celebrated its 75th anniversary, it reported offering programs in 11 urban education centers and 37 military bases in the United States, Bermuda and Iceland. In 2014, Webster is located on 4 continents, 8 countries and 60 cities. The number of locations fluctuates depending on where higher education is needed the most. Webster remains flexible and responsive to student and community needs.


A New Frontier: Corporate Cohorts

Expanding its educational offerings for working adults, Webster’s first corporate cohort was created as an onsite class for Southwestern Bell (later AT&T) employees. Today, the Office of Corporate Partnerships serves many corporations with cohort-style academic programming.


Military at Home

Military location opened at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.


Enhancing Student Service

Designed to complement the Sverdrup Complex, the $5 million University Center was completed in August, housing a gymnasium, swimming pool, health facility, student union and snack bar.


The Home Campus Expands

Webster purchased the Lockwood Farms properties at the southeast corner of campus, which led to creation of Webster Village student housing and other facilities, including the opening of the Webster Village Apartments in 1998.


Stronger Ties, Coast to Coast

Metropolitan and Military locations opened in Irvine, California; Jacksonville, Florida; Greenville, South Carolina; Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital, North Carolina.


Academic Realignment: Colleges and Schools

The University’s schools and colleges structure was established. Today, Webster’s academic programs are offered through the College of Arts & Sciences (founded in 1995); George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology (founded in 1993); Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Arts (founded in 1994); School of Communications (founded in 1996); and School of Education (founded in 1995).


The 10th President

Richard Meyers joined Webster University as the University’s 10th president. He would serve from 1994-2008.


‘The Space Coast’

Metro and Military locations opened at Merritt Island, Florida; Orlando, Florida; Space Coast, Florida; Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.


A New Tradition

Webster Works Worldwide launched as an annual community service day where students, faculty, staff and alumni volunteer at nonprofits that impact the communities Webster serves at campus locations around the world. To date, more than 28,000 volunteers have given more 121,000 hours of service worldwide.

Video about Webster Works Worldwide


Student Leadership

The Student Leadership Development Program was established. This program would be renamed to WebsterLEADS in 2000. WebsterLEADS is an on-going application of scholarship and practical leadership experience, empowering our diverse student population to develop and excel as global citizens.


Humanitarianism in Academics

The first annual Humanitarian Conference at Webster Geneva was held, creating a significant multi-day gathering of scholars and non-governmental organizational leaders held under the auspices of the Government of the Canton of Geneva.


Entering the Web

The first Webster University website debuted at www.websteruniv.edu. The site moved to www.webster.edu in June 1998. Today, some 5 million people visit the Webster website annually with an average of 56,000 visitors per day.


Faculty Governance

The Faculty Senate was formed, formalizing the faculty role in shared governance.


A New Frontier: Asia

Webster’s international reach expanded to Asia with the establishment of graduate business programs in Shanghai and Chengdu, in conjunction with the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.


Coast to Coast

Metro and Military locations opened in Los Angeles AFB, California; Rolla, Missouri; Ocala Academic Center, Florida.


Athletics Milestone

Women’s softball, in only its second season of play, became the first Webster team to qualify for a NCAA Division III tournament – an Athletics program achievement that is now an annual occurrence.


California Growth

A Military location was opened at Edwards AFB, California.


A New Frontier: Online Programs

Webster launched its first online programs, beginning a steady growth of online offerings that seamlessly integrate on-site offerings while maintaining the same academic quality. Today, Webster’s Online Learning Center is a leader in online education with approximately 9,000 students taking classes online.


Expanding to Southeast Asia

Webster expanded within Asia as it opened a campus in Hua Hin/Cha-Am, Thailand, offering undergraduate and graduate programs.


Growth Meets Demand

Metro and Military locations opened in Fayetteville, Arkansas; Fort Smith, Arkansas; Lakeland, Florida; Fairchild, Washington.


Local and International Expansion

Metro and Military locations opened at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; North Orlando, Florida; Luke AFB, Phoenix, Arizona; Sarasota, Florida.


To Utah

New Metro and Military locations opened in Columbia, South Carolina; Hill AFB, Ogden, Utah.


Expanding for Lifelong Learning in the Arts

The University acquired the St. Louis Symphony Community Music School from the symphony and saved the hallmark institution, now known as the Community Music School of Webster University, from shutting down.


Military Growth

New Military locations opened at Patrick AFB, Florida; Ft. Steward, Georgia; Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia; Memphis NAV, Tennessee; Randolph AFB, Texas. Moody AFB, Georgia; Shaw AFB, South Carolina opened in 2003.


Emerson Library: A Global Hub

Webster University celebrated the opening of Emerson Library, a five-story, 71,500-square-foot, $21-million building. The state-of-the-art space is a favorite gathering spot for students. The Library provides resources for all Webster campus locations around the globe.


Expanding in the Capital Region

A new Military location opened at Andrews AFB, Maryland.


Broadening Access to Study Abroad

The World Traveler Program was launched, in which qualified students throughout the University receive free round-trip airfare to support their study abroad at Webster.



Expanding in the Capital Region

A new Military location opened at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia.


Building Residence Capacity

New buildings were finished in Webster Groves including both East and West residence halls and the Sally S. Levy Opera Center. Additionally, The Old Post Office campus opens for classes in downtown St. Louis.


Growth in Florida

A new Metro location opened in Tampa, Florida.


$10 Million Gift and the Walker School

The University received the largest gift in the University’s history to-date, and following in 2010, the School of Business and Technology was renamed the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology. Today, the College is sometimes referred to as “The Walker School.”

Centennial Look Back: Walker $10 Million Gift Announcement


A New Era: Likes and Tweets

Webster joined two new social networks: Twitter and Facebook. Today, the University has over 10,000 Twitter followers and over 17,000 Facebook likes as it continues to reach new audiences and engage them in Webster’s vision and mission.


An Award-Winning Cultural Center

The prestigious Confucius Institute (and the first Confucius Institute in Missouri) opened at the Old Post Office in downtown St. Louis. The Institute offers an extensive list of outreach activities – ranging from teaching Chinese language and culture classes in St. Louis-area K-12 schools to hosting Chinese immersion trips each summer for local high school students and conducting workshops for employees of St. Louis companies that conduct business in China.


A New President for a New Century

President Elizabeth J. (Beth) Stroble joined Webster as its 11th president, heralding a sweeping transformation of Webster University that would set it on course for its second century.


Developing Leadership from Within

The Global Leadership Academy was created. Launched during the 2011-12 academic year, the GLA is a Webster University employee leadership-development program created as a way to invest in employees and develop internal talent and leadership.


The Largest Campaign Completed

Webster Works comprehensive campaign closed in 2011, raising $56.5 million. This was the largest comprehensive campaign to this date.


All-Steinway School

Webster University achieved designation as the 123rd All-Steinway School in the world; one of just four in Missouri.


Growth as a Center for the Performing Arts

The University partnered with the Muny to share resources and opportunities to develop and train performers and production staff in careers in musical theater.


Strategic Vision

A strategic prism and stretch goals were initiated to help fulfill the University’s strategic plan, Vision 2020. Many initiatives were launched to formalize Webster’s academic and administrative excellence on a global level. Emphasis was placed on: Serving Students; Strengthening Academic Programs; Investing in Human Resources; Investing in Infrastructure, Financial Resources, Fundraising; Enhancing Partnerships – Locally and Globally; and Enhancing Reputation and Strategic Communications.


Focus on Academic and Operational Excellence

A renewed era of engagement and commitment to academic and administrative excellence began. Webster reorganized to formalize its commitment to important issues such as global unity of the University by launching a Global Marketing Communications unit; a global Wide Area Network (WAN) project that helped link all campus locations together; initiated a formal process for academic and administrative program and site review; Comprehensive Master Planning was completed for the Webster Groves campus; Webster participated in an ACE Internationalization Laboratory; Global Citizenship Program; Deans’ Global Initiative. Resources were focused to promote global academic excellence. There were increasing numbers of full-time faculty members and increased funding for faculty research. New academic programs were identified and rolled out. A Sustainability Coalition was formed; and Offices were established for Corporate Partnerships, Diversity and Inclusion and Military Affairs. During this time, Working Groups including faculty, staff and students were established to tackle some of the University’s most pressing issues and lay the groundwork for the next strategic plan. The University experienced a higher level of acclaim ad recognition, including rising national rankings in prestigious rankings such as U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges.


Growth in the National Capital

A new location opened in the District of Columbia metropolitan area at the Southern Maryland Education Center in Maryland.


Opening a LEED Gold Academic Center

Webster University’s East Academic Building – the first new classroom building on the University’s St. Louis campus since 1984 – opened on the home campus. The $29-million, 94,323-square-foot building offers 31 classrooms, 10 large computer labs, 48 offices and two large lobbies. The building was LEED certified GOLD in 2013, demonstrating Webster’s commitment to sustainability.


Chess: An International Draw Arrives

The Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence moved to Webster University and the Webster Chess Team was established. The team became the No. 1 Collegiate Chess team in the U.S. in 2012.


From Texas to Idaho

New Metro and Military locations opened in San Antonio, Texas and Mountain Home AFB, Mountain Home, Idaho.


A New Frontier: Africa

Webster University’s new campus in Accra, Ghana, was approved by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), meaning Webster University graduates in Ghana will hold degrees recognized in both Ghana and the United States. The first students started in spring 2014. Almost one hundred years after its founding, Webster remains committed to taking higher education to the places it is needed most.


Expanding at Home

The new Webster University Gateway Campus was announced in downtown St. Louis. The historic Arcade building is being renovated to accommodate Webster students, faculty and staff and strengthen relationships with the community at large. Plans include offices, classrooms, a café, an art museum and auditorium.


To the Birthplace of Western Civilization

Webster opened its newest campus in Athens, Greece. This offers students, faculty and staff the opportunity to experience extraordinary artistic, intellectual and cultural heritage in Southern Europe.


Planning for the Next 100

A new strategic planning process was launched, paving the way for a new transformational strategic plan. The new plan defines ways in which the University will thrive as it enters its new century.


Webster's Vienna Campus Relocation

Webster’s Vienna campus, first established in 1981-82, relocated to the historic Palais Wenkheim. The move places Webster’s campus just outside Vienna’s “Ringstrasse” – a three-mile-long circular road surrounding the city center – Vienna’s premier district, housing its most important architectural masterpieces.