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Webster University 100 Years Essay

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The history of Webster University goes back to 1915 when it was founded by the Sisters of Loretto on November 1, 1915 in Webster Groves, Missouri. The school was originally named Loretto College after the Catholic religious organization which was founded in 1812. It was one of the first Catholic women colleges west of the Mississippi River. The organization wanted to give opportunity to the more unfortunate women to attend a school during a time when higher education wasn’t readily available to them.

The first graduating class of 1919 had two graduates. Five years later in 1924, the school changed its name to Webster College when the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools accredited the school. They changed the name so it wouldn’t be mistaken for the Loretto Academy in the Loretto Community on Lafayette Avenue in St. Louis. The college didn’t see much growth until the 1940’s and 50’s. One major change for the college that made an impact on what the school is today was the enrollment of males in 1962. As the student enrollment continued to climb they eventually opened their doors to accept males in the all girl college with only a limited list of courses availability for the males. There were only two males who enrolled that year. It took six years to incorporate a full coeducational institute with no course restrictions for the male population.

Webster University was involved in a controversy dealing with racial integration battles taking place in St. Louis during the early 1940’s. The segregationist policies were challenged in the Catholic colleges and parochial schools by the priests. In 1943, the bishop assigned the first black female student, Mary Aloyse Foster, to enroll into Webster College. Webster was St. Louis’ first Catholic college to integrate. However, the enrollment was blocked by Archbishop John Glennon after conversations between the Archbishop and the Superior General of the Sisters of Loretto. The controversial Archbishop started getting negative publicity through articles in national newspapers. It took three years for Webster College to give in and enabled their first Catholic African American women, Irene Thomas, to enroll. This was a stepping stone for Webster. 47 years later down the path the University was recognized in 1992 by the Black Issues in Higher Education for graduating more African Americans with master’s degrees than any other school in the United States. They endure the title of being the top not-for-profit institution in having master’s degrees awarded to African American students. This set precedence for the type of diverse school Webster University is today with the variety of ethnic backgrounds and international campus locations.

In 1967, Webster College entered into new ownership by having the Sisters of Loretto transferring it to a lay board of directors. The Sisters of Loretto saw this as being the best interest for the school as they had financial difficulties funding it through internal resources. As of today, the school is still operated by the lay board of directors. Webster is operated as a private, nonprofit, non-denominational university. Today in 2013, Webster University has five types of colleges - the School of Business and Technology; the Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Arts; the School of Education; the School of Communications; and the College of Arts and Sciences.

Webster University has a list of awards, recognitions, and articles to back up their standings as being an excellent school for graduate and undergraduate degrees domestically and internationally. The Black Issues in Higher Education recognized them as being the top not-for-profit institution in having master’s degrees awarded to African American students. They were also mentioned in publications by Money Magazine and U.S. News & World Report. In 1995, Money Magazine recognized them as being one of the nation’s top 20 commuter schools. The U.S. News & World Report listed them as one of the top 31 in the country and as “Best Value” among Midwest Regional Schools. This magazine also recognized their Study Abroad Program as a “Program to Look For” and ranked it in the top 2 percent nationally. The University was also placed in their first tier of Midwest Schools for Best Universities for a masters degree in their annual rankings by America’s Best Colleges. In 2002, Webster University was recognized for their contributions to military education. Lastly, they have an impressive reputation of being ranked as having one of the highest graduate business enrollments in the United States by AACSB (The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) International.

Webster College received a grant in 1963 allowing them to offer a Masters program to full-time professionals. It was Webster’s first consideration to offer evening classes to accommodate the full-time professionals who worked during the day. The evening hour program was overwhelmingly popular in St. Louis. So Webster College decided to extend the offer of the different options to students throughout the state. In 1966, Webster expanded by opening a location in Kansas City, MO. This popular program was an interest to the U.S. Government who invited Webster to be the first college to open a location at Fort Sheridan near Chicago, IL. This created an open door for Webster’s future. The school was renamed to Webster University in 1983 to reflect its innovative and diverse institute. The college grew at magnificent rates and now offers higher education to the military service personnel at many military bases, along with having international locations. Today, they have close to 100 locations throughout the United States and abroad, including 32 metropolitan campuses, 21 corporate sites and 42 military installations. In the 1970’s international campuses opened which consist of being located in Geneva, Switzerland; Vienna, Austria; and in The Netherlands and England. There are also several located in Asia, as in Thailand, Shanghai, and China. Webster is also in the process of opening its first campus in Africa. With having campuses worldwide this gives students a once in a lifetime opportunity to study abroad.

Even though Webster University is known more for their academics, their athletic department has improved. They are now part of the NCAA Division III system and have won the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference All-Sports Award in 2000 for the first time in the University’s history and continued the streak for the next six out of seven years.

Webster University’s mission is “worldwide institution, ensures high quality learning experiences that transform students for global citizenship and individual excellence.”


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