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"Building Drexel: The University and its City, 1891-2016"

Building Drexel book

The first comprehensive history of Drexel University in Philadelphia will be published in conjunction of Drexel’s 125th anniversary. “Building Drexel: The University and Its City, 1891-2016” traces Drexel’s founding in 1891 all the way to today, using illustrations and firsthand accounts to tell the story of Drexel’s 125 years. 

The book is co-edited by two Drexel professors: Richardson Dilworth, PhD, professor in the Department of Politics in the College of Arts and Sciences and director of the Center for Public Policy; and Scott Knowles, PhD, associate professor and interim head of the Department of History in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Topics covered in the book include the architecture of notable buildings on campus, Drexel’s robust student life and activities and the history of different academic departments and schools that Drexel offers today, including schools that were started or acquired by Drexel. The book also looks at how Drexel has influenced Philadelphia’s history, intellectual reputation and civil rights movement.

“My experience in putting this book together taught me that Drexel is uniquely nimble for how large an institution it is,” said Dilworth. “The school has always been very good at recognizing and adapting to new opportunities. This is especially important today, when the role of universities is being fundamentally rethought.”

Dilworth and Knowles have both been at Drexel since the beginning of the century and have witnessed a huge growth in Drexel: The merger with MCP Hahnemann University in 2002 to create the College of Medicine, the Dornsife School of Public Health and the College of Nursing and Health Professions happened when Dilworth started; the creation of the Thomas R. Kline School of Law in 2006, a year after Knowles came to campus; and the affiliation with the Academy of Natural Sciences in 2011 renamed the historical museum and created a new department and collaboration with Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences.

“Drexel is a dynamic place — sometimes it's easy to miss all of the change going on around us,” said Knowles. “As a historian, I'm excited that we can use this anniversary as a moment to launch on ongoing discussion about the past, present, and future of Drexel.”

Knowles and Richardson brought together over 30 experts on Drexel — students, faculty and staff — to tell a comprehensive history of the institution. The professors also worked with two history co-op students, the EXCITE Center, the Alumni Association and the University Archives staff to launch an oral history project that will go live this fall.  

“We hope this will be a way going forward to connect Drexel students, alumni, faculty and staff to the ongoing enterprise of documenting Drexel's life,” said Knowles.

Sections of the book were contributed by Drexel students, faculty and staff, including: Lloyd Ackert, Cordelia Frances Biddle, Paula Marantz Cohen, Donna Marie De Carolis, Roger Dennis, Gloria Donnelly, Kevin D. Egan, Alissa Falcone, David Fenske, John A. Fry, Stephen F. Gambescia, Marla J. Gold, Charles Haas, Kathy Harvatt, Daniel Johnson, Jeannine Keefer, Larry Keiser, Michael Kelley, Jason Ludwig, Jonson Miller, Julie Mostov, Danuta A. Nitecki, Anthony M. Noce, Steven J. Peitzman, David Raizman, Tiago Saraiva, Amy E. Slaton, Nathaniel Stanton, Virginia Theerman, Laura Valenti, James Wolfinger, Eric A. Zillmer and the editors.

Building Drexel: The University and Its City, 1891-2016” will be released later this fall.