Close

Colgate at 200

Join the celebration as Colgate honors its 200-year history, recognizes its present success, and looks forward to a bright future.

Your

Tell your Colgate stories and share your vision for the university’s future. Then, take a moment to reflect on thoughts shared by other members of the Colgate community.

Your Stories

More ways to be part of the celebration

All-Class Reunion

May 30–June 2, 2019

Join us May 30–June 2, 2019 for an All-Class Reunion. This year, we invite all alumni to join us for a Bicentennial Reunion celebration, renewing the tradition of welcoming back all alumni to campus, as we did in 1919 for our Centennial and in 1969 for our Sesquicentennial.

Learn more about reunion

Proud TraditionBold Ambition

Colgate’s present distinction is born from a rich history, full of energy, ambition, and optimism. Atop our hill, we have engaged with the world. Our sense of place has reinforced our love of possibility.

1817 to 1868

In September of 1817, 13 Baptist ministers and laymen meet at the home of Deacon Jonathan Olmstead, where they establish the Baptist Education Society of the State of New York. The society, chartered on March 5, 1819, chooses Hamilton, N.Y., as the site of their institution, which opens in 1820. In 1823, New York City Baptists, William Colgate among them, consolidate their seminary with the school in Hamilton to form the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution.

Historical Backdrop

1816

Village of Hamilton, N.Y., incorporated

1832

Hamilton Fire Department formed

1846–1848

Expansion of U.S. territory following Mexican-American War

1865

Civil War ends

13th Amendment ends slavery in the United States

1868

First railroad through Hamilton arrives

1821

The institution’s first student extracurricular organization, the Philomathesian Society, is founded. The group’s interests lie in literature and theology; among its members are the first students, Jonathan Wade and Eugenio Kincaid.

Early student groups
West Hall
1827

West Hall opens

Originally known as the Western Edifice, the oldest building on the current campus is the site for nearly all activities at the institution.

Archival postcard showing East Hall, West Hall, and Alumni Hall
1846

The Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution is renamed Madison University.

1847

Student George Gavin Ritchie, Class of 1849, creates the first student publication on campus, the Hamilton Student. He is soon expelled for publishing an editorial on the religious press and antislavery.

About Ritchie
1853

Henry Livingston Simpson becomes the first African American to graduate from the university.

About Simpson
Archival image of several students juxtaposed with the cover of the Madisonensis
1868

The Madisonensis, the first regular student newspaper in the United States, begins publication. In 1916 it will be renamed the Colgate Maroon.

1869 to 1918

As Madison University’s Jubilee Celebration in 1869 marks the 50th anniversary of the incorporation of the education society from which it evolved, the next era is anticipated with strong optimism. A reorganized curriculum, promising new professors, along with renovated campus buildings and a greatly augmented treasury, provide a solid foundation for further growth. The institution begins evolving in many ways — from expanding its curriculum to meet the need for an educated laity as well as trained clergy, to enhancing the campus and the faculty.

Historical Backdrop

1895

Calamitous fire destroys more than 60 buildings in Hamilton

1903

First flight by the Wright Brothers

1904

First telephone line installed in Hamilton

1917

United States declares war on Germany

Women gain the vote in New York State

1918

Global flu pandemic

Archival image of Hascall Hall
1885

The new Chemistry Laboratory, which will later be renamed Hascall Hall (and informally and fondly recalled as “Old Bio”), transforms the teaching of sciences.

Archival image of students in baseball uniforms
1886

The first intercollegiate sports team — baseball — is founded.

1890

Madison is renamed Colgate University in recognition of the wise counsel and generous support of the Colgate family.

What's in a name?
Archival image of an ivy-covered James B. Colgate Hall
1891

James B. Colgate Library, the institution’s first full-fledged library, opens.

Archival image of Colgate's lower campus, with Willow Path in the foreground, and Taylor Lake in the background.
1905

Taylor Lake and Willow Path are completed.

These picturesque lower-campus landmarks — soon to host many beloved Colgate moments and traditions — are unique aspects of the thoughtful and ambitious crafting of the campus and its landscape.

A look into Memorial Chapel as construction crews assemble the exterior stone, before a roof has been added
1918

Colgate Memorial Chapel is built, given to the university by Mary Colgate, sister of James C. Colgate, who gave it in memory of their father, James B. Colgate.

1919 to 1959

Following the Centennial celebration and first all-class reunion, Colgate ushers in its special liberal arts model, still in practice nearly 100 years later. A growing student body soon necessitates further campus expansion, both in academic and student life facilities.

Historical Backdrop

1929

Stock market crash begins Great Depression

1939

Hamilton native John Vincent Atanasoff creates a prototype of the first digital computer

1941–1945

U.S. involvement in World War II

1954

Brown v. Board of Education ends legal school segregation

New York State Thruway opens

1919

Colgate University Alumni Corporation is founded.

An archival image of the Academic Quad, with Lawrence Hall, Lathrop Hall, and Hascall Hall visible
1923 to1937

A period of significant campus expansion includes construction of Andrews Hall, the Colgate Inn, James C. Colgate Student Union, Huntington Gym, Lawrence Hall, McGregory Hall, and Stillman Hall.

1928

General education is introduced with first ‘survey’ course in philosophy and religion; courses in biological, physical, and social sciences and fine arts soon follow, forming the basis for the Liberal Arts Core Curriculum.

Colgate’s Theological Seminary is moved to Rochester and consolidated with the seminary there to form the Colgate Rochester Divinity School.

1934

Konosioni honor society is formed through the merger of two rival societies.

A class of students stands behind Harry Truman in the Oval Office
1935

Washington Study Group created

On the first study group offered in D.C. by any college or university — and Colgate’s first semester-long, faculty-led off-campus program — students are soon making contact with people who make and interpret history (pictured, with President Harry Truman).

1940

The establishment of the Civilian Pilot Training program begins Colgate’s involvement in World War II activities.

Colgate in WWII

In reducing the chaos of the modern world to order — or, as a first step, to disorder — the college has an increasingly important role to play.”

President Everett Needham Case Inauguration speech, 1942 Colgate in WWII
1951

WCU radio begins broadcasting, then receives the WRCU call sign in 1958.

1960 to present

Entering an unprecedented era of rapid societal and educational change, Colgate continues to respond, adapt, grow, and strengthen through both its curricular and extracurricular pursuits.

Historical Backdrop

1960s

1964 Civil Rights Act ends segregation, bans employment discrimination

1969 American astronauts land on the moon

1972

Title IX prohibits sex discrimination

1989

Fall of Berlin Wall

2001

September 11 al-Qaeda attack on the United States

2007

iPhone release begins smartphone era

Archival image of Dana Arts Center
1966

The opening of the Dana Arts Center ushers in a new era for the arts.

Students with protest signs reading "If you are against racial discrimination, Do Something!"
1968

A 100-hour sit-in over racial discrimination on campus launches a wave of student activism.

1973 to1974

Colgate commits to NCAA Division I athletics and fields the first women’s varsity sports teams, in basketball, field hockey, lacrosse, volleyball, and tennis.

Female students walk across campus in front of a stone academic building
1974

The first four-year class to include women graduates.

Modern image of the ALANA Cultural Center
1989

The ALANA Cultural Center’s new home is dedicated as a space that welcomes students and other members of the community to share their differences and commonalities.

1993

The Saperstein Jewish Center opens, becoming a focal point for Jewish study, worship, and culture on campus.

1994

The Center for Women’s Studies, an academic and social space for discussing feminist topics, opens.

2004

The Center for Freedom and Western Civilization established as a forum for civic debate and scholarly research.

Full color image of the Ho Science Center
2007

The Ho Science Center opening heralds a new era of interdisciplinary study.

2011

Colgate signs the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, pledging a carbon-neutral campus by the Bicentennial in 2019.

Sustainability at Colgate

The pathway forward for Colgate is to be a place of academic rigor, a place that attracts students and faculty of great achievement and potential, and a university that sends its graduates off into the world with promise for the future and with care and affection for their alma mater. Our future will be built on these foundations.”

President Brian W. Casey Vision Statement for Colgate’s third century, 2018 Read the full vision