Founded in 1815, Allegheny College ranks among the oldest 1% of colleges and universities and is the 32nd oldest college in the United States. Perhaps as many as 100 colleges were established and failed before the Civil War. Allegheny is one of the hardy survivors that testify daily to the determination and vision of those early pioneers of higher education in America.
Allegheny is situated in Meadville, Pa., which was established in 1788 in the French Creek Valley, astride the route traversed by George Washington on his journey to Fort LeBoeuf a generation earlier. In 1815, Meadville was still a raw frontier town of about 400 settlers, of whom an unusually large number had come from Massachusetts and Connecticut. They dreamed of a college that might bring the educational opportunities of New England to the frontier. The Rev. Timothy Alden was recruited to take on the task, and two months after his arrival in April 1815, Allegheny was established-with Alden as its first president.
Within half a dozen years, Alden succeeded in attracting sufficient funds to begin building a campus, having traveled throughout the eastern states seeking support for a planned library and classroom building. The need of a building to house a library led to the construction, in the 1820s, of Bentley Hall, today a leading example of early American architecture. Designed by Alden, this handsome structure still crowns the hill on which the campus is located. It is named in honor of Dr. William Bentley, who donated his outstanding private library to the College.
Each year, as part of the Commencement ceremony, seniors march through the doors of historic Bentley Hall toward the adventures that await them. In 2015, Allegheny will celebrate its 200-year history and the extraordinary futures of the graduating Bicentennial Class of 2015.
[Contains excerpts from “Through All the Years: A History of Allegheny College”
by Jonathan E. Helmreich, Emeritus Professor of History and College Historian]