SRU Founders’ Day recognizes first day of classes 129 years ago


Historic Campus

March 26 is Founders’ Day at Slippery Rock University, celebrating the first day of classes at Old Main 129 years ago, March 26, 1889. Pictured is the chapel that stood from 1899 to 1971.

March 26, 2018

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - March 26 marks Founders' Day at Slippery Rock University, a day the institution recognizes as its birthday each year. It is not a randomly selected day. It is not the day when pen met paper on a charter or even when spade met dirt for a groundbreaking. March 26, 1889, was literally the first day of classes at what was then Slippery Rock State Normal School.

For the first term, which ended June 28, there were 168 students enrolled, including 94 women. More than two-thirds of the students were from Butler County with the rest coming from Mercer, Lawrence, Allegheny, Beaver and Armstrong counties, and one out-of-state student from Mahoning County in Ohio.

Tuition was $14 per term, $32 for room and board and 25 cents for transportation from a train station three and a half miles away.

In the announcement of the first term, the invitation to SRU's first birthday party, if you will, the "special advantages" listed by President James Morrow included "Healthfulness; convenience; noted honesty, hospitality, and religious character of community; new, commodious buildings, thoroughly warmed and ventilated."

There were two dormitories, North Hall and South Hall, with steam heat and natural gas light. Classes, in Old Main, included psychology, geometry, physics, Caesar, general history and methods. Activities included lawn tennis, croquet, baseball and two-hour socials one night each week.

The school was renamed Slippery Rock State Teachers College in 1927 and Slippery Rock State College in 1960, before becoming Slippery Rock University in 1983.

Today, the SRU campus stretches across 660 acres with an enrollment exceeding 8,300 students. The freshman class of 1,635 welcomed last fall was the largest in school history, representing 28 countries and 20 states. Students can choose from more than 150 undergraduate major and minors, 40 master's degree programs and three doctoral degree programs, available on campus and online.

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