From academy to university, WLU celebrates 175th anniversary

WL 175th Anniversary

By Francesca Miller, Staff Writer

Throughout the month of March, West Liberty University will celebrate its 175th anniversary.

The University has much to celebrate since its humble beginnings in 1837 to its rise as a university status.

Its rich history is another aspect of West Liberty of which Hilltoppers should be proud.  The school existed before the actual state of West Virginia was formed, and when West Liberty was chartered, it was nothing more than a schoolroom in a minister’s basement.

Shotwell Hall, one of the oldest buildings on campus, is paying tribute to the history of West Liberty University with a few key portraits in the lobby of the building.  One of which is the portrait of Nathan Shotwell who is credited with founding what is now West Liberty University.

Shotwell was educated at Princeton then later at the Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, Pa.

After completing his education, Shotwell journeyed to the small town of West Liberty where he earned his first job as a pastor at West Liberty Presbyterian Church.

Because of the strong involvement of the church in the West Liberty community, religious officials had talked of starting an educational institution. They requested an educational charter from the state of Virginia, and on March 30, 1837 Virginia granted the charter for the start of a West Liberty Academy.

In 1838, the first class of the West Liberty Academy met in the Shotwell home to begin their education.  The class consisted of sixty-five students including both men and women.

The classes took place in the Shotwell’s basement with Reverend Shotwell educating the men and his wife educating the women. To help with splitting the class, a large curtain dividing the basement separated men and women.

Originally the curriculum was heavily based in religion, and Shotwell had originally intended for West Liberty Academy to be a religious school.

In 1840, a new school was built on land west of the Shotwell House, but it burned down in 1841.

After the fire, the Shotwell’s continued to teach in their home until 1857 when Academy Hall was built. The Shotwell house, later called the Doyle house, was lost in a fire on December 24, 1932.

Since then West Liberty went on to see its fair share of history. What was once farmland became a college campus drawing in students from surrounding states.

From its beginning in Shotwell’s basement, West Liberty has gone on to become a University with numerous accredited undergraduate and graduate programs.

West Liberty has much to be proud of from its academics to athletics, but it also has much to be proud of in term of its vast 175 years of history.

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