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West Virginia Wesleyan College

West Virginia Wesleyan College
Latin: Wesleyanum Collegium Virginiae Occidentalis
Established 1890
Type Private liberal arts college
Religious affiliation
United Methodist Church
Endowment $42.4 million
President Dr. Pamela Balch
Academic staff
Students 1,452
Location Buckhannon, West Virginia, USA
Campus Rural
Colors Orange and Black         
Athletics NCAA Division II - MEC
Nickname Bobcats / Lady Bobcats
Mascot Bobcat
Affiliations CIC

West Virginia Wesleyan College is a regionally accredited private, coeducational, liberal arts college in Buckhannon, West Virginia, United States. It has an enrollment of about 1,400 students from 35 U.S. states and 26 countries. The school was founded in 1890 by the West Virginia Conference of the United Methodist church. The college assumed its current name on Tuesday June 5, 1906 (see expanded History).

In 2014, U.S. News & World Report ranked West Virginia Wesleyan College 14th on the list of Best Colleges in the South region.[1][2]It was also listed as one of the "Best Southeastern Colleges" by the Princeton Review in 2011. West Virginia Wesleyan College is accredited by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Wesleyan continues to serve as a residential, liberal arts college. The primary majors are elementary and secondary education, business, and natural sciences.


  • Academics 1
  • Campus 2
  • Student life 3
  • History 4
    • Early History 4.1
    • 1890 to 1930 4.2
    • 1957 to 1972 4.3
    • 1973 to 1976 4.4
    • 1995 to 2006 4.5
    • Recent Years 4.6
  • Wesleyan Traditions 5
    • Athletics 5.1
    • Wesley Chapel 5.2
  • Written Histories 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The College offers over 43 undergraduate majors and 36 minors. Wesleyan also has 3-2 engineering partnerships with Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, and West Virginia University. Undergraduate degrees are awarded in Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and Bachelor of Music Education. Graduate degrees awarded include the Master of Science in Athletic Training, Master of Business Administration, Master's in Education, Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, and Master of Science in Nursing.

  • Approximately 80% of West Virginia Wesleyan's faculty have earned doctorates or comparable terminal degrees within their field.
  • The student-faculty ratio is 14 to 1, with an average class size of 19.


West Virginia Wesleyan College welcome sign on the corner of College Avenue and Meade Street
Statue of John Wesley in front of Wesley Chapel at WV Wesleyan College

The campus boasts 23 major buildings of white oak and spruce trees, dogwoods, laurels, and rhododendrons. Some of the recognizable buildings on campus are the Lynch-Raine Administration building, Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library, Reemsnyder Research Center, and Wesley Chapel, which is the highest capacity chapel in West Virginia.

Student life

Wesleyan has retained its residential character; about 90% of the students live on campus, due to its inclusive campus housing policies.

There are 19 NCAA Division II sports teams, and 70 clubs and organizations.

The college's athletics teams are the Bobcats, which compete in the NCAA Division II Mountain East Conference, of which it was a founding member in 2013. The Bobcats were former members of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC), having been recognized as having the top athletic program in the winning. over 151 conference championships and earning a conference dominance of 18 Commissioner's Cups during the past 20 years and eight Presidents' Cups in 14 years. Each year, Wesleyan is All of Wesleyans's 19 NCAA II teams successfully compete at the regional and national levels. Wesleyan also ranks fifth among all NCAA II schools in the number of Academic Achievement Award winners.

The Alpha Phi Omega, Alpha Psi Omega, Beta Beta Beta, Kappa Phi, Mortar Board, Omicron Delta Kappa, Phi Alpha Theta, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, Sigma Alpha Iota, Sigma Tau Epsilon, Sigma Tau Delta, and Sigma Theta Epsilon.

Wesleyan students are highly active in community engagement projects. Some 87% of students participate in community service through the Center for Community Engagement and Leadership Development (CCE). The CCE has been recognized on both a state and national level over the past several years for its community service endeavors.[3][4] Students in the CCE also organized the first collegiate Jump Rope for Heart events in the United States.[5]


Early History

The mission of West Virginia Wesleyan College is reflected in its name. Its founding in 1890 by the West Virginia Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church climaxed a 16 year effort to establish a center of learning in the then-young state that would reflect the values of the Methodist community, meet the church's need for an educated leadership, and provide an educational resource for the general citizenry of the state and region.

Although the founders were always loyal to these principles, the immediate catalyst for the College's establishment was perhaps less lofty: by 1882, Methodists believed they had lost control of West Virginia University in Morgantown, leading to an exodus from the state university of Methodist students who now sought an educational alternative.

Originally known as the West Virginia Conference Seminary, the new school opened on Wednesday, September 3, 1890, in a new three-story brick building, located on the present site of the Lynch-Raine Administration Building. The original building was destroyed by a fire on Sunday February 5, 1905. It was replaced the following year by the current structure. In keeping with the tradition of seminaries or academies of the day, it offered largely pre-college instruction. Bennett W. Hutchinson, a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and Boston University School of Theology and an ordained minister, came from Massachusetts to accept the presidency. Mr. Roy Reger of Buckhannon was the first of 201 students to enroll that first year.

Agnes Howard Hall, originally designated Ladies Hall, was built in 1895.[6] It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.[7]

Full-fledged college work was initiated in 1900 and gradually expanded until the first baccalaureate degrees were awarded in 1905. After one year as Wesleyan University of West Virginia, the name was officially changed on Tuesday June 5, 1906 to West Virginia Wesleyan College, in honor of Methodism's founder, John Wesley. Pre-college study continued through 1922-1923, after which it was deemed unnecessary due to the growth of high schools in the state.

The early beginnings of the College were modest, and the fledgling school was frequently plagued by debt. The debt became particularly threatening during the Great Depression of the 1930s. But the shortage of fiscal resources never dampened the vision of the college community and its supporters. By 1939, when the three major Methodist bodies united to become the United Methodist Church, leaders of the College dreamed of making Wesleyan the outstanding liberal arts college in the state, a challenging vision for a financially struggling college of fewer than 500 students.

1890 to 1930

Main Hall, 1908

Historians of the College credit Thomas W. Haught, an 1894 graduate of the Seminary, 20 year academic dean (1909–1929), long-time faculty member, and three-time acting president, as one of Wesleyan's most influential champions of academic excellence. In addition to strengthening the faculty and the emphasis on academics, he led efforts to achieve initial accreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools in 1927.

And as early as 1910, the Wesleyan Volunteer Band, followed in 1930 by the Student Volunteer Movement, established a tradition of service among Wesleyan students, concentrating in those early years on foreign missions of the Christian church, but also maintaining strong ties to the local community.

1957 to 1972

The presidency of Dr. Stanley H. Martin (1957–1972) marks the period of the College's most dramatic growth, measured in student enrollments, increased academic stature, and an expanded physical plant. It was largely his vision that gave the campus its present Georgian character. Wesley Chapel, Christopher Hall of Science, the Benedum Campus Center, Jenkins Hall, Doney Hall, Holloway Hall, McCuskey Hall, and the Martin Religious Center express the campus building plan characterized during President Martin's tenure.

1973 to 1976

Following the successful tenure of Martin, John D. Rockefeller IV served as Wesleyan's President from 1973 to 1976. The current gymnasium and athletic center was completed during Rockefeller's tenure. For a period of time, it was referred to on campus as "The New Gym," but was renamed the John D. Rockefeller IV Center after his departure in 1976. Immediately following his tenure at Wesleyan, Rockefeller served as Governor of West Virginia from 1977 to 1985. Rockefeller went on to serve as senator from West Virginia in the United States Senate from 1986 to the present date. He became senior senator from the state upon the passing of West Virginia's long-time senator Robert C. Byrd in June 2010.

In 1976, WV Wesleyan alumnus Rev. Ronald E. Sleeth '42 was inaugurated as president of the institution. Sleeth's wife Natalie Sleeth, a prolific composer of sacred choral music, wrote the song Joy in the Morning to commemorate the event. Joy in the Morning was performed at the inauguration by the WVWC Concert Chorale. The anthem was later published, and remains a favorite of many church choirs. President Sleeth retired from the presidency one year later and returned to the Chicago area in order to return to his first loves of teaching and preaching.

1995 to 2006

In 2006, President William Haden retired after eleven years in office. He was the second longest serving President in the history of the college. During his tenure the College completed the most successful capital campaign in its history with $46.4 million in gifts and pledges. The College also significantly upgraded its information technology network and Wesleyan and four other private colleges formed the College Independent Enterprise (ICE) to share a common administrative computing system. President's Haden tenure also had difficult times. During his time in office, Wesleyan accumulated additional debt while faculty salaries were stagnant. His presidency culminated with two no-confidence votes in his administration and, ultimately, the declaration of a financial emergency, which was accompanied by a temporary revocation of all faculty tenure, contributions by the college to pensions, and announcement of a plan to close a number of academic programs. No tenured faculty members were removed from the College during this short period.

Recent Years

Dr. Pamela Jubin Balch, a 1971 graduate of Wesleyan, became the College's 18th president in July 2006. Dr. Balch is the first woman to serve as president in the college's history. At the outset of her tenure as President, Balch reinstated the college's briefly-discontinued nursing program as well as its 3-2 engineering program. The college has since expanded its academic programs, adding graduate degrees in athletic training, education, English Writing, and nursing.

In 2009 Wesleyan opened the $7.2 million Virginia Thomas Law Center for the Performing Arts followed shortly thereafter by the $8.9 million David E. Reemsnyder Research Center in 2010. A series of residential improvements to the campus were realized in the construction of a new 140-bed residence hall on Camden Avenue as well as a comprehensive renovation and restructuring of Fleming Hall, the college's second oldest permanent residence hall after Agnes Howard Hall. Adding to its already-beautiful and decidedly park-like campus, Wesleyan developed a sprawling green space in front of Wesley Chapel and included a fountain that had long been envisioned for the space since President Stanley Martin's campus master plan of the mid-1960s. Recent academic restructuring has contributed to the academic success of the college, with individual departments now consolidated into seven schools: Arts and Humanities, Athletic Training and Exercise Science, Business, Education, Nursing, Science, and Social Sciences. The College has seen consistent enrollment growth, with the number of students growing from 1,150 in 2006 to around 1,400 at present.

Wesleyan students have also enjoyed national success. During the Balch presidency, nine Wesleyan students have been awarded Fulbright Scholarships and one student became the first student from any West Virginia college or university student to become a Mitchell Scholar. Wesleyan's Students in Free Enterprise team has finished among the top 40 in the nation the past two years and Wesleyan ranks fifth among all NCAA Division II colleges and universities in the number of Academic Achievement Award winners. Wesleyan students have also been named NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship winners each of the last two years. Over 300 science majors have participated in federal and state-funded scientific research projects during the past five years.

Wesleyan Traditions


Many features of modern campus life at Wesleyan have long traditions. The college currently boasts 19 sports, competing in NCAA Division II. The college offers varsity men's sports in baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, swimming, tennis, and track and field. The college offers varsity women's sports in basketball, cross country, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track and field, and volleyball. A 19th varsity sport, women's lacrosse, will formally begin competition in the fall of 2010.

Wesleyan, which is a member of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, has captured the WVIAC Commissioner's Cup 17 of the last 19 years and has won the Presidents' Cup two consecutive years. Wesleyan teams that have advanced to NCAA Division II post season play during the past year include men's and women's tennis, softball, women's soccer, men's swimming, men's and women's cross country, and men's and women's track. The WVIAC will disband after the 2012-13 season and the school will join the new Mountain East Conference.

One of the earliest sporting traditions at Wesleyan was football, which was introduced in the pre-college seminary in 1898. The school colors of orange and black go back to that very first game, when fullback and team captain Frank Thompson wore a turtleneck sweater in Princeton University's orange and black to honor two football greats of that university whom he especially admired. A more comprehensive athletic program was formally organized at the collegiate level in 1902. Early sports included football, baseball, basketball, and gymnastics, all for men only.

Many WVWC alumni have gone on to play professional sports. Among them, two alumni have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame - Earl "Greasy" Neale '15 of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1969 and Cliff Battles '33 of the Washington Redskins in 1968.

Wesley Chapel

An important legacy of the College is Wesley Chapel. With the ability to seat 1,800 people,[8] Wesley Chapel holds the claim of largest worship space in the state of West Virginia. Wesley Chapel annually hosts the West Virginia United Methodist Annual Conference each June. The "Conference Sunday" service, the culmination of the Conference, always fills Wesley Chapel to standing-room-only.

Wesley Chapel also provides a fantastic venue for the Arts. Several campus musical groups perform in the Chapel each semester, as well as artists who visit WVWC as a part of its annual "Arts Alive" Program. Many world-renowned artists have performed in Wesley Chapel over the years including a memorable performance by Maynard Ferguson, who famously performed a trumpet solo from the pulpit.

Written Histories

  • Haught, Thomas W., West Virginia Wesleyan College 1890-1940, Buckhannon, WV: West Virginia Wesleyan College Press, 1940.
  • McCuskey, Roy, All Things Work Together for Good to them that Love God, Buckhannon, WV: West Virginia Wesleyan College Press, ca. 1950.
  • Plummer, Kenneth M., A History of West Virginia Wesleyan College, 1890-1965, Buckhannon, WV: West Virginia Wesleyan College Press, 1965.


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  8. ^ West Virginia Wesleyan College Archives

External links

  • West Virginia Wesleyan College website
  • West Virginia Wesleyan College athletics website
  • Pages In Time
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