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125 Years of History

Even as the University has grown and evolved, Drexel has remained committed to the core principles on which it was founded. Philadelphia financier, philanthropist and founder, Anthony J. Drexel, launched a tradition of innovation: envisioning an institution of higher learning uniquely suited to the needs of a rapidly growing industrial society and of the young men and women seeking their place in it — core values that continue to guide the University in its modern era.

Explore History and Traditions

The Faces of Drexel

These articles are part of a DrexelNow series honoring Drexel’s history as part of the University-wide celebration of the 125th anniversary of Drexel’s founding in 1891.

  • 2017

    • A Drexel dragon holding a burger at the Dragon's Den in 1979. Photo courtesy University Archives.

      When You Could Eat a Dragon Burger in the Dragon’s Den on Campus

      Back in the day, the basement of today’s Creese Student Center was known as “the Dragon’s Den” and featured an arcade, fast food restaurant, game room and a bowling alley.
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    • The Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry's men's basketball team with dragons on their uniforms in the 1929 Lexerd yearbook. Photo courtesy University Archives.

      Beyond 1928, Here Be Drexel Dragons

      For almost 90 years, the University has been represented by a “Drexel Dragon,” which got a name — Mario the Magnificent! — 20 years ago.
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    • "Portrait of Anthony J. Drexel" (1860) by Josef Bergenthal, as it was hung in Anthony J. Drexel's house in 1893 (L) and in the President's Office in Main Building in 2017 (R).

      Founder Anthony J. Drexel's Art on Campus — and at Home

      Much of the art found on campus today used to hang in founder Anthony J. Drexel’s home, as he bequeathed much of his personal art collection to the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry upon his death.
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    •  The 14 members of the 2017 class of the Drexel 100 pictured with other Dragons at the ceremony. Top row, left to right: Joseph Grimes; Leonid Hrebien; Richard A. Rose, Jr.; Alfred Altomari; and Thomas Matthews. Middle row: Henri Levit; Clifford Hudis; Craig Sabatino; Michael Baum; and Chair of the Board of Trustees Richard A. Greenawalt. Bottom row: Chair of the Drexel 100 David R. Geltzer; Christine McKendry Andrade; Kathleen Chimicles; Rita K. Adeniran; Lisa Anne Forsyth; Libby Fleisher Wilson; and President John Fry.

      The Drexel 100 Celebrates 25 Years

      For the past 25 years, the Drexel 100 has recognized the best of the best when it comes to Drexel University’s alumni.
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    • Harold Myers pictured in 1984 with his family at the official naming ceremony of Myers Hall. Photo courtesy University Archives.

      Remembering the Legacy of Drexel’s Myers Hall — and Harold M. Myers

      Myers Hall, which has been on Drexel’s campus since 1977, was originally planned to be closed and later demolished at the end of this academic year. Now it will remain open — and continue to honor President Emeritus Harold Myers.
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    • Isaac Asimov speaking at the 1976 Drexel University graduation ceremony. Drexel President William Hagerty, left of the podium, looks on. Photo courtesy University Archives.

      ‘The Drexel Jinx’ Broken Only by Isaac Asimov

      During the 1970s, four consecutive speakers who spoke at Drexel University’s commencement were fired or resigned because of “The Drexel Jinx.” Only science fiction writer Isaac Asimov could break it.
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    • Barbara Hornum, PhD, and George King.

      Employee Spotlight: Barbara Hornum and George King

      This year, two Drexel employees are celebrating 50 years of working on campus ­— a campus that they’ve seen drastically change since they started in 1966.
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    • Drexel President Parke R. Kolbe, PhD, and Mrs. Kolbe by the lake at Drexel Lodge in 1935. Photo courtesy University Archives.

      The Drexel Country Getaway You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

      If you were at Drexel from the 1930s to the early 1990s, you could have mingled with students, faculty and staff at the Drexel Lodge, a country estate owned by the University for recreational purposes.
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    • A photo taken in 1885 of Anandibai Joshee, who graduated in 1886; Kei Okami who graduated in 1889; and Sabat Islambooly, who graduated in 1890. Photo courtesy Legacy Center Archives, Drexel College of Medicine.

      Remembering the Pioneering Women From One of Drexel’s Legacy Medical Colleges

      Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, the world’s first medical school for women and one of two predecessor institutions to Drexel’s College of Medicine, graduated the first Native American doctor, the second African-American doctor and the first women with medical degrees in India, Syria, Japan and Canada.
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    • This image from The Triangle's 1987 joke issue was published with the caption "The Main Building gets a facelift. After sitting on a Philadelphia street corner for 96 years it is now being restored. In a valiant effort to improve the image of Drexel University, Dr. Gaither has immortalized the above quote in stone."

      Telling it Like It Isn’t: The History of Drexel’s Joke Issues

      Current Drexel Dragons are familiar with The Triangle’s annual April Fools’ Day joke issue, The Rectangle. What they might not know is that Drexel students have been publishing satirical newspaper issues since the 1940s.
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    • © 2017 National Museum of American Illustration, Newport, RI Photo courtesy American Illustrators Gallery, New York, NY

      Drexel Presents Fine Art Exhibit in Tribute to ‘Father of Illustration’ Howard Pyle

      In continuation of Drexel University’s 125th anniversary celebration, the Pennoni Honors College will co-present with the National Museum of American Illustration, a new exhibition showcasing the influence of former Drexel instructor Howard Pyle and his students, who helped inspire Philadelphia’s historic roots in the applied art field and fueled its publishing boom in 1900s.

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    • This 1876 rosewood piano hidden in the corner of the A. J. Picture Gallery once resided in the house of University founder Anthony J. Drexel.

      Hidden Treasures: Our Founder’s Piano

      In addition to being a great financier and philanthropist, Drexel’s founder was an accomplished musician with an incredible taste in music. After he died, his family donated one of the pianos from his home to the University — and you could even play it today.

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    • Martin Luther King Jr. being treated by Walter P. Lomax Jr. in his Philadelphia hotel room on Feb. 10, 1968.

      The Hahnemann Alumnus Who Championed Philly’s African-American Community — and Also Treated Martin Luther King Jr.

      Walter P. Lomax Jr., MD, who graduated from Hahnemann Medical College (now Drexel’s College of Medicine) in 1957, lived a long life in which he continually treated and supported African-Americans and their community.
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    • Left to right: The original home built at 227 N. 34th Street, photo courtesy of University Archives, and the building today.

      The Chocolate Factory on Campus and Other Past Lives of Drexel’s University City Buildings

      Back in the day, Drexel was just one building surrounded by a tuberculosis ward, a candy factory, a bank and many other buildings that would later become a part of the University.
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    • Main Building was packed for an event celebrating 1965's Homecoming in this photo from the 1966 Lexerd yearbook. Photo courtesy University Archives.

      Drexel Homecoming Through the Years: Queens, Parades and Beard-Growing Contests

      First introduced on campus in the 1920s, Drexel’s Homecoming has changed and yet retained its traditions through nine decades and three revivals.
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    • The three founders of Hahnemann Medical College, started in 1848: Constantine Hering, MD; Jacob Jeanes, MD; and Water Williamson, MD.

      The Forgotten Founders of Drexel Institutions

      Anthony J. Drexel founded Drexel University, of course. But there are other institutions now ingrained in Drexel’s DNA — like the College of Medicine and the Academy of Natural Sciences — that were founded by other innovators in the 19th century.
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  • 2016

    • Drexel celebrated its 75th anniversary with a parade in 1966. Photo courtesy University Archives.

      How Did Drexel Celebrate its Other Anniversaries?

      The entirety of this academic year will be spent celebrating Drexel’s 125th anniversary. What was it like on campus during the University’s other milestone years?
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    • Drexel's Main Building is already decorated for the holidays and the 125th anniversary celebration.

      Celebrating Drexel’s 1891 Founding in Style

      On Dec. 7, the entire Drexel community will come together to honor the University’s illustrious founding and mark the occasion of its full 125 years.
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    • A green bean casserole made with fried onions and sprinkled cheese. Photo courtesy Flickr user Phil King.

      The Drexel History Behind a Beloved Thanksgiving Side Dish

      The green bean casserole is a staple on Thanksgiving tables across the country, thanks to an enterprising Drexel alumna.
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    • Future president Barack Obama shook hands with then-Drexel President Constantine Papadakis when the University hosted a debate for Democratic presidential hopefuls in 2007. Photo courtesy University Archives.

      A Drexel History of U.S. Presidents

      In time for the final moments of the election, DrexelNow looks back at U.S. presidents who have touched Drexel in some way.
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    • A banner announcing the debate hung on Drexel's campus.

      Recalling Drexel’s Ties to the 2008 Presidential Election

       Back in 2008, Drexel hosted an official debate for the Democratic presidential candidates.
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    • Drexel presidents are pictured left to right, top to bottom, in chronological order. Photos courtesy University Archives.

      Remembering Drexel’s Presidents

      As part of Drexel’s 125th anniversary, DrexelNow takes a look at the past presidents who steered Drexel on the path to becoming the University it is today.
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    • Edwin E.L. Gerber, PhD, pictured when he was 17 in 1952 and when he received Drexel's Harold Myers Service Award in 2013. Photos courtesy Edwin E.L. Gerber, PhD.

      Drexel Memories From the Professor Who Has Been Here for Six Decades

      Edwin E.L. Gerber, PhD, professor in the College of Engineering, discusses what it’s been like at Drexel during the 63 years he’s been on campus.
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    • Drexel students study in the library in 1892. Photo courtesy University Archives.

      What Was Drexel Like 125 Years Ago?

      Drexel students, faculty, staff and alumni are celebrating Drexel’s 125th anniversary this year. What would Drexel have been like if they were on campus when it first opened?
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    • Banner for Drexel's 125th anniversary.

      Drexel Throws Itself a Yearlong 125th Anniversary Party

      To honor its 1891 founding, Drexel has planned a year’s worth of events and celebrations for the 2016-17 academic year, including exhibits, a special historical book and even a special Drexel beer.
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    • Drexel Bday

      Happy 190th Birthday, A.J. Drexel

      Drexel University celebrated the 190th birthday of its founder, Anthony “Tony” J. Drexel, with an ice cream party on Sept. 13, 2016.
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    • Tony when he was photographed at about 29 years, painted in his late 30s, snapped in a rare candid and then painted before passing at age 67 in 1893.

      Who Was A.J. Drexel?

      Though his name can be found everywhere on campus, there is still a lot to be learned about Drexel University founder Anthony J. Drexel.
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    • This undated photo of a junior's class in cooking was taken in the early years at Drexel. Cookery classes were always part of Anthony "Tony" J. Drexel's vision for vocational training for women. Photo courtesy University Archives.

      The Drexel Institute That Almost Was

      Before Anthony “Tony” J. Drexel founded the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry, he almost started an all-women’s industrial institute.
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    • James Creese, bottom left, is pictured in a 1919 Princeton "Bric-a-Brac" activities yearbook for his work with Princeton's literary magazine. Photo published with permission of the Princeton University Library.

      The Drexel President Who Edited F. Scott Fitzgerald

      Before F. Scott Fitzgerald became a famous author and James Creese became president of the Drexel Institute of Technology, the two men started out as student writers at Princeton University.
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    • A memorial dedicated to Anthony "Tony" J. Drexel's life and accomplishments can be found in Main Building.

      When One Door Opens, Another One Closes: The Untimely Death of Founder A.J. Drexel

      The opening of the Drexel Institute 125 years ago was the fulfillment of founder A.J. Drexel’s lifelong dream — yet he was only alive for the first 18 months of the school’s existence.
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    • A facsimilie of the original manuscript for Edgar Allan Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue."

      Poe, Dickens and Drexel: The Epic Story of the University’s Former Literary Collection

      During its first 50 years, Drexel owned a treasure trove of autographed manuscripts and letters from important literary and historical figures. This is the story of what became of it.
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    • Take a closer look at the archway on Main Building's Chestnut Street entrance.

      Looking Up to the Geniuses Who Never Left Campus

      There’s a lot to learn from the 12 men etched on the archway to Main Building’s Chestnut Street entrance.
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    • Drexel President Richard D. Breslin was on hand to test the ice cream sandwich. Photo courtesy Drexel University Alumni Association.

      Remembering the Great Drexel Ice Cream Sandwich Food Fight of 1991

      It’s the 25-year anniversary of Drexel’s attempt to create the world’s largest ice cream sandwich. Of course, the event ended with a massive food fight.
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    • This photo of what is believed to be Drexel’s 1925 women’s rifle team has gathered over 2,000,000 views on Imgur and Reddit. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

      Set Your Sights on Drexel’s Women’s Rifle Team

      Back in the day, Drexel had one of the first — and best — women’s rifle teams in the country.
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    • Walt Disney, center, photographed with the cast of “The Happiest Millionaire” on set. Fred MacMurray, who portrayed the titular character and Anthony J. Drexel's grandson, stands behind him.

      When Mickey Met Mario: The Forgotten Disney Movie Tied to Drexel

      The grandson of Drexel University’s founder Anthony J. Drexel led an illustrious life, which was immortalized in the 1967 Disney musical “The Happiest Millionaire.”
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    • An undated photograph from the Drexel University Archives of the Drexel's Women's Club.

      The Club That Fostered a Sense of 'Belonging' for Women at Drexel

      Started about 90 years ago, the Drexel Women’s Club changed what it meant to be a woman tied to Drexel through personal or professional connections.
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    • WMCP Class of 1891, featuring Halle Tanner Dillon Johnson, MD, the first woman resident physician at the Tuskegee Institute. Photo courtesy Legacy Center Archives, Drexel College of Medicine.

      Examining Drexel’s Ties to the First African-American Women Physicians

      Some of the country’s first African-American women physicians graduated from an institution that later grew into Drexel’s College of Medicine.
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    • Drexel's 1900 class of architectural students, including William Sidney Pittman.

      Meet Drexel’s First African-American Male Graduate: William Sidney Pittman

      William Sidney Pittman broke racial barriers at Drexel and across the country as one of the first prominent African American architects in America.
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