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Wilkes University

Wilkes University
File:Wilkes University seal.png
Former names
Bucknell Junior College
Motto "Unity Amidst Diversity"
Established 1933
Type Private
Endowment $44.6 million[1]
President Patrick F. Leahy, Ed.D
Provost Dr. Anne Skleder
Academic staff
157 Full Time[2]
Undergraduates 2,245
Postgraduates 2,254
Location Wilkes-Barre, PA, USA
Campus 35 acres; Urban
Colors Blue and Gold            
Nickname Template:If empty
Mascot Colonels
File:Wilkes University logo.gif

Wilkes University is a private, non-denominational American university located in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, with branch centers in Mesa, Arizona and Bartonsville, Pennsylvania. It has over 2,200 undergraduates and over 2,200 graduate students (both full and part-time).[2] Wilkes was founded in 1933 as a satellite campus of Bucknell University, and became an independent institution in 1947, naming itself Wilkes College, after English radical politician John Wilkes.[3] The school was granted university status in January 1990.[4]

The school mascot, which was suggested by Wilkes student Joe Pringle (class of 1949), is a Colonel and the official colors are blue and yellow.[5] The campus symbol is a letter "W" known as the "flying W" by students and alumni.


Wilkes University was first established in 1933 by Bucknell University under the name Bucknell University Junior College (BUJC) in Wilkes-Barre.[6] BUJC attracted many students who were the first members of their families to benefit from higher education as the need for junior colleges arose in urban areas.[3] The college opened in downtown Wilkes-Barre where the first classes were held on the third floor of the Wilkes-Barre Business College building.[3] By 1934, the business college moved out of the building and BUJC had taken it over and continued to grow over the years acquiring old mansions for student housing, classrooms, and administration offices along the streets of South River and South Franklin.[3] By 1945, the Board of Trustees formally moved to develop the junior college into a four-year institution.[7]

In 1947, Wilkes College was instituted as an independent, nondenominational four-year college, with programs in the arts, sciences, and a number of professional fields as well as numerous extracurricular activities.[6] The college further expanded through the years as it continued to obtain more buildings for classrooms, student residences, dining halls, and offices. Wilkes College became Wilkes University in December 1989 and the school officially received university status a month later in January 1990.[4][7]

Wilkes University opened the School of Pharmacy in 1996,[8] and in 1999, through a donation from Mrs. Geraldine Nesbitt Orr, the Nesbitt School of Pharmacy was established.[7] The Jay S. Sidhu School of Business & Leadership was created in 2004, and the following year, the Henry Student Center was expanded and the university purchased an 80,000-square-foot (7,400 m2) building in downtown Wilkes-Barre.[7] The building houses the Sidhu School of Business and Leadership, an indoor track and field, and ropes course.

By 2014, Wilkes University grew to include eight academic buildings, 20 residence halls, nine administrative buildings, and other facilities such as the Eugene S. Farley Library, the Henry Student Center, and athletic complexes.[9]

Presidents of Wilkes University

  • Eugene S. Farley, 1936–70
  • Francis J. Michelini, 1970–75
  • Robert S. Capin, 1975–84
  • Christopher N. Breiseth, 1984-2001
  • Tim Gilmour, 2001-2012
  • Patrick F. Leahy, 2012–Present


Academic buildings

Most of the academic buildings are located within the same city block, between South River Street, South Franklin Street, South Street, and Northampton Street. The Stark Learning Center (SLC), located on South River Street, is the largest building on campus with 220,000 square feet housing classrooms, laboratories, and office space.[10] The facility consists of nursing, math and engineering offices and classrooms.[10] The first floor contains the Sordoni Art Gallery, which hosts four exhibitions each year, and maintains a permanent collection with several hundred pieces.[11]

Classrooms and offices for humanities and social sciences are located in Breiseth Hall, a three-story building located on South Franklin Street, in the same block as SLC. Kirby Hall, a mansion formerly home to Fred Morgan Kirby, was renovated to house offices and classrooms for English.[12]

The Cohen Science Center, a $35 million project, was established to house the biology and health sciences, chemistry and biochemistry, and environmental engineering and earth sciences departments.[13][14] The facility has been built to LEED silver standards for environmental sustainability and allows for students to monitor energy use, water use, and general building performance to aid sustainability studies.[15] The building also features a rooftop vegetation area for greenhouse purposes and to assist in reducing rain runoff.[15]

University Center on Main

In 2005, the university acquired the former Wilkes-Barre Call Center building and parking garage on South Main Street.[16] The parking garage is currently being used for student and faculty parking. The Public Safety department has remodeled and relocated to the basement of the garage.[17] The Call Center building was renovated and renamed University Center on Main.[16] The building now houses recreation facilities including tennis and basketball courts, and a rock climbing wall.[18] In summer 2014, the building was renovated to also house the Sidhu School of Business and Leadership.

Residence halls

The campus offers seventeen different residence halls and apartment buildings for all levels of students, although some apartments are reserved for upperclassmen.[19] Many residence halls are located in 19th century mansions that were donated to the university, or other houses purchased by the university. Over 11 mansion and house style residence halls are used throughout the campus.[19] Apartment style residences are found in University Towers and Rifkin Hall.[19] Non-apartment residence halls include Catlin Hall, Doane Hall, Evans Hall, Fortinsky Halls, Passan Hall, Ross Hall, Roth Hall, Schiowitz Hall, Sterling Hall, Sturdevant Hall, Sullivan Hall, University Towers, Waller Halls (North and South), and Weiss Hall.[19] First year and second year students are required to live in residence halls (unless he or she is a commuter), and can live off-campus starting their third year.[20]

Traditional dormitory housing is provided at Evans Residence Hall. With four floors and about 200 students, Evans Residence Hall is the largest first-year student residential hall on the Wilkes University campus. Renovated in 2008, Chesapeake and Delaware Residence Halls were re-dedicated as Lawrence W. Roth Residence Hall, a residential hall connecting the previously separate Chesapeake and Delaware Residence Halls. It is a first year student, non-traditional residential hall house with about seventy residents and three RAs. Students living on campus have access to laundry facilities, basic cable, and local phone service.[19]

The university purchased the University Towers apartment complex located at 10 East South Street from a private real estate company for $8.1 million. Approximately 400 students are housed in this building's 130 units.[21] Part of the nearby YMCA building has been renovated into apartment style residences and houses upperclassman.[22][23] The apartments are known as 40 West.[22]


The university partnered with neighboring King's College to operate a joint for-profit bookstore in downtown Wilkes-Barre.[24] The new bookstore opened in October 2006, consolidating two independent bookstores into one new facility.[24][25] The new bookstore, run by Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, is located in the basement and first floor of the Innovation Center on South Main Street.[25] The bookstore includes a full selection of general trade books, a full-service Starbucks cafe, lounges and study areas, and a spirit shop featuring products from both Wilkes and King's College.[25]


Wilkes University has a 14 to one student to faculty ratio and with over 50 percent of classes having less than 20 students per class.[26] The university is accredited by the Middle State Association of Colleges and Schools and has also received accreditation from various professional accreditation associations for individual degree plans.[27] The university offers majors in science, education, engineering, business, and liberal arts for undergraduate and graduate students.[28] The academic programs at Wilkes University are divided among seven schools:[29][30]

  • College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
  • College of Science and Engineering
  • Nesbitt School of Pharmacy
  • School of Nursing
  • Jay S. Sidhu School of Business and Leadership
  • The School of Education
  • University College

The College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences includes six departments including behavioral and social sciences and performing arts.[28] One of the largest colleges is the College of Science and Engineering which has seven departments and divisions that encompass a wide range of majors and minors.[28] The school's Nesbitt School of Pharmacy is one of seven pharmacy schools in Pennsylvania.[31] The school is fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.[32] The Jay S. Sidhu School of Business and Leadership has several business degree plans and includes one of the most popular undergraduate majors, management.[33]

Graduate studies

Wilkes University offers over a dozen programs within its graduate school programs.[28] The Wilkes Graduate Teacher Education Program hosts classes online and at classroom sites across Pennsylvania.[34] Some of the Wilkes Graduate Teacher Education programs are hosted entirely online. Other graduate programs such as nursing, creative writing, and bioengineering are also offered at the university.[28] The MBA program within the Jay S. Sidhu School of Business and Leadership was ranked among the top ten MBA programs in the state of Pennsylvania.[35]

Student life

Clubs and organizations

Numerous student-run clubs are recognized and funded by the student government. Many of the clubs are athletically focused, representing sports including crew, lacrosse, running, skiing, volleyball, and ultimate frisbee. Clubs associated with academics and majors represent psychology, sociology, criminology, and pre-pharmacy. Other clubs are formed around common interests such as animal advocacy, vegetarianism, anime, and robotics.[36]

Wilkes has an active student media, including a television station within the Shelburne Telecommunication Center, FM radio station WCLH, weekly newspaper The Beacon, and yearbook Amnicola. The university's newspaper was originally published as the Bison Stampede in 1934.[37] The publication was later renamed The Beacon, and the paper celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2014.[37]

Wilkes University Programming Board, an entertainment and event planning organization, has hosted events that featured Pennsylvania based bands such as Live and Fuel, and national favorites including Alanis Morissette, Rusted Root, Joan Osborne, Dashboard Confessional, Lifehouse, Busta Rhymes, Hoobastank, Jack's Mannequin and Billy Joel.[38]

Wilkes University launched the first collegiate marching band in the northeast Pennsylvania region in 2014.[39] The university said that the new marching band will be a welcomed new tradition and it will contribute to a growth in school spirit.[39]

Student Government

The Student Government organization at Wilkes hosts many annual events for undergraduates such as Homecoming and Winter Weekend, an annual themed weekend event in which teams of students participate in various competitive challenges such as team skits and eating contests.[40][41] The Wilkes Student Government also coordinates all the other university organizations and clubs by formulating student activity budgets and reviewing fund requests.[40] The organization is composed of various executive positions and councils including the president, presidents of Commuter Council, Inter-residence Hall Council, representatives, and a president from each class.[40]

ROTC Program

Detachment 752 of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps is located at Wilkes University. Established in 1973, AF ROTC Detachment 752 has trained and prepared hundreds of young men and women for future careers as USAF officers.[42] Wilkes also offers Army ROTC, but the classes are held at nearby King's College.[43] When students graduate from Wilkes and complete the ROTC program, they earn a commission as an officer in their respective military branches.[42][43] The detachment serves 12 other crosstown colleges and universities in Northeast Pennsylvania.


The Wilkes University Colonels compete in NCAA Division III athletics.[44] The university is a member of the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) in all sports except wrestling. In wrestling, the Colonels compete in the Metropolitan Wrestling Conference. Wilkes offers numerous intercollegiate sports team organizations at the university. Wilkes men's intercollegiate sports teams include baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, swimming, tennis and wrestling. Wilkes women's intercollegiate sports teams include basketball, cross country, field hockey, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis and volleyball.

Men's conference titles

In 2007, the Wilkes University baseball team was the MAC Freedom Conference champion.[45] Prior to that, the baseball team had been conference champion in 1994 and 1977.[45]

In the 2007-2008 men's basketball season, the Wilkes men's team went 13-12 overall and finished fourth in the conference. Previously, the men's basketball team was Freedom Conference champion for the 2000-2001 season, 1998-99 season, 1997-98 season, and 1995-96 season.[46]

The Wilkes University football team was the MAC champion for the 2006 season, and previously, the football team had been conference champion in 1993 and 1974.[47] In the mid 1960s the Wilkes College football program had 32 straight wins—the fourth longest streak in college football history at the time.[48] It began in the fourth game of the 1965 season and ended in 1969. From a 34-0 victory over Ursinus to a 13-7 loss to Ithaca. Rollie Schmidt coached the Colonels from 1962-81. His teams went 90-73-1 winning five MAC titles, two Lambert Bowls (best small college team in the East) and one Timmie Award (best small college team in the country).[48]

The men's tennis team was MAC Freedom Conference champion in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.[49]

The Wilkes wrestling team has won a total of 14 Middle Atlantic Conference team championships. In 1974, the team won the NCAA Div. III national championship, afterward, the Colonels moved to the NCAA Div. I ranks for 25 seasons before returning to Div. III ranks in 2000.[50]

Women's conference titles

The Wilkes University women's field hockey team was MAC champions in 2013 and 1999.[51] In 2008 the women's field hockey team was ranked 18th in the nation by the NCAA.[52]

In 2005, the Wilkes women's soccer team was the MAC Freedom Conference champion.[53] The following year, the Wilkes women's softball team won the MAC region in 2006.[54] Prior to that, the women's softball team was the MAC champion in 1982.[54]

The women's tennis team at Wilkes was the MAC Freedom Conference champion in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.[55] The women's volleyball team was the conference champion in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.[56]

Women's golf and women's swimming, both NCAA Division III intercollegiate sports, were introduced to Wilkes University's sports roster in the 2014-15 season in the Middle Atlantic Conference.[39]


Lecture series

The university sponsors and hosts academically focused lectures series for its students and community. The Max Rosenn Lecture Series in Law and Humanities was established in the 1980s, and has brought many speakers to the university including author Norman Mailer, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, and journalist Bob Woodward.[57] The Allan P. Kirby Lecture in Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship has also hosted speakers including journalist and television host John Stossel, and former New York Governor George Pataki.[58] The center hosts two lectures annually.[58] The United Nations lecture series was launched in the 2011-2012 academic year and the program brings U.N. officials to the campus to speak to students throughout the year through a partnership with the Higher Education Alliance of the United Nations.[59]

Annual High School Mathematics Contest

For over 60 years Wilkes University has been the host of the Annual High School Mathematics Contest as sponsored by the Luzerne County Council of Teachers of Mathematics (LCCTM).[60] Every year juniors and seniors from Luzerne County high schools come to Wilkes University to participate in the competition. The first place winner in both the junior and senior divisions are awarded a full-tuition scholarship to Wilkes University.[60]

ACM Intercollegiate Programming Contest

The Wilkes University Math and Computer Science Department hosts the Eastern Pennsylvania division of the Mid-Atlantic Region of the annual ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest. Wilkes University has been host to the event for the last 5 years. A total of 8 schools host teams in the Mid-Atlantic Region.[61] The competition is sponsored by IBM and the contest challenges the participants knowledge and creativity in solving computer programming problems.[61]

Annual Tom Bigler High School Journalism Conference

Annually, hundreds of Pennsylvania high school students attend this annual media oriented event. Each year features a notable keynote speaker, hands-on workshops in the areas of telecommunications, journalism and public relations and panel discussions and presentation from media professionals and personalities. A high school journalism contest and awards ceremony is also a main event.


The Wilkes University Theatre presents a full season of dramas and musicals on the main stage as well as a season of student produced black box productions at the Darte Center.[62] The Division of Performing Arts presents a total of four shows annually at the Darte Center.

Notable alumni


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External links