History of Wilkes

We’re excited about our future, with promising students like you joining dedicated faculty and staff to write the next pages in the Wilkes University story. We’re also proud of our history, building on the past to encourage continued success.

Through the Years

  1. 1933

    Bucknell University opens the doors to its junior college in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

  2. 1936

    First issue of The Beacon is published.

  3. 1947

    Bucknell University Junior College becomes Wilkes College, an independent, nondenominational, four-year college. Eugene S. Farley serves as the first president.

    The college adopts “Colonels” as its athletic nickname.

  4. 1957

    Stark Hall opens then expands in 1964 and again in 1975.

  5. 1965

    Wilkes dedicates the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center for the Performing Arts.

    Ralston Field hosts its first athletic contest.

  6. 1968

    The Farley Library, named in honor of President Eugene S. Farley, opens its doors.

  7. 1970

    Francis Michelini becomes the second president.

  8. 1972

    Colonels pull together to help the college and the community weather the Agnes Flood.

  9. 1973

    Wilkes establishes the Sordoni Art Gallery.

  10. 1975

    Robert Capin ’50 becomes the third president.

  11. 1980

    Max Rosenn Lecture Series in Law and Humanities is established.

  12. 1982

    Students begin moving into the new Evans Hall.

  13. 1984

    Christopher Breiseth becomes the fourth president.

  14. 1987

    Burns Bell Tower is dedicated.

  15. 1989

    Arnaud C. Marts Center welcomes its first athletes.

  16. 1990

    Wilkes College gains academic prominence and transforms into Wilkes University.

  17. 1993

    The University opens the Allan P. Kirby Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, serving campus and the community.

  18. 1995

    The John Wilkes statue begins its watch over campus, and Breiseth Hall, then known as the Classroom Office Building (COB), opens its doors.

  19. 1996

    The University establishes the School of Pharmacy, which became the Nesbitt School of Pharmacy three years late.

  20. 1999

    A new student center, later named for Frank and Dorothea Henry, opens.

  21. 2001

    Joseph “Tim” Gilmour becomes the fifth president.

  22. 2004

    Wilkes launches the Jay S. Sidhu School of Business and Leadership.

  23. 2005

    The first students begin the low-residency creative writing master’s program.

  24. 2007

    Wilkes begins the Doctor of Education program.

  25. 2010

    Wilkes launches the online Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

  26. 2012

    Patrick F. Leahy becomes the sixth president.

  27. 2013

    The state-of-the-art Lawrence and Sally Cohen Science Center opens.

  28. 2014

    The University celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Sidhu School of Business and Leadership with the dedication of its new home at the University Center on Main.

  29. 2015

    Wilkes creates the Passan School of Nursing.

    The University dedicates the Karambelas East Campus Gateway, complemented by the South Campus Gateway three years later.

  30. 2017

    Wilkes dedicates the Maslow Family Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

    Wilkes dedicates the new Karambelas Media and Communication Center.

    The Sordoni Art Gallery unveils its new, more accessible space on South Main Street with an exhibit of works by Andy Warhol.

    Passan School of Nursing launches the University’s first Ph.D. program.

  31. 2018

    The cutting-edge Mark Engineering Center opens to provide high-tech equipment and laboratory space.

  32. 2019

    The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education categorizes Wilkes as a doctoral university, reflecting an increased focus on research and scholarship.

    Paul S. Adams ’77 serves the University as interim president.

    The University dedicates Bruggeworth Field at the Ralston Athletic Complex.

  33. 2020

    The University goes virtual, hybrid, masked and socially distant as Colonels combat COVID.

    Greg Cant becomes the seventh president.