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125 Years, 125 Events

When founder Anthony “Tony” J. Drexel agreed to lend his name to the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry in 1891, he was unwilling to lay down any strict rules or impositions regarding the nature of the institution. “I know that the world is going to change,” he wrote, “and, therefore, the Institute must change with it, and I do not want to tie it up.” The Drexel University that stands today has evolved in size, location and curriculum while still remaining true to Tony’s founding vision: a school that admits students regardless of gender, race, religion and economic status and prepares students to enter the work force. This timeline celebrates 125 institutional achievements, long-lasting traditions, special events, notable alumni and other historical aspects that have shaped the Drexel that Tony knew into the Drexel that exists 125 years later.

Construction is completed on Main Building, which would house all of the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry in the beginning and remains a major hive of activity for Drexel even today. Construction began in 1889 after founder Anthony “Tony” J. Drexel announced his intentions for an industrial school in Philadelphia that would be accessible to all regardless of gender, religion and class. Noted Philadelphia practicing engineer-architect Joseph M. Wilson, who designed homes and offices for the Drexel family as well as the Main Building for Philadelphia’s Centennial Exposition of 1876, designed the classic Italian Renaissance-style building.
decication booklet
December 17

The Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry is officially dedicated on Dec. 17, 1891. Over 2,000 people attend the ceremony, including luminaries such as Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison and Tony’s longtime business partner J.P. Morgan. An article in The New York Times declares, “Today will go down in history as marking an epoch in the educational history of Philadelphia and the country.” The institute’s notoriously press-shy founder, still in mourning from his longtime wife’s death just three weeks earlier, excuses himself from the grand opening.


James A. MacAlister serves as the inaugural president of the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry. Formerly the first superintendent of Philadelphia’s public school district, MacAlister is chosen as Drexel’s first president because of his strong advocation of practical training. He expands Drexel during his presidency, with the first graduating class containing 70 students and the last class in his presidency reaching 500. He also builds, donates and maintains Drexel’s “Museum,” now known as the Drexel Collection, and appoints his daughter, Mary T. MacAlister, as the first curator. In 1913, MacAlister resigns in ill health after serving as Drexel president for 22 years, the longest tenure ever. Drexel trustee Horace Churchman serves as president pro term and MacAlister dies six months later. MacAlister Hall is named after him.

main building interior
The first class of students is officially welcomed at the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry in early 1892. Departments are organized under the following academic divisions: Art Department, Scientific Department, Department of Mechanic Arts, Department of Domestic Economy, Technical Department, Business Department, Department of Physical Training, Normal Department for the training of teachers, Department of Lectures and Evening Classes, Museum and Library and Reading Room.
1892 library.

The third school in the country to train librarians opens at Drexel in 1892. Alice B. Kroeger, Drexel’s first library director, was a student of Melvil Dewey, creator of the Dewey Decimal system of classification used by libraries everywhere.   

aj drexel reading

The Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry’s founder Tony Drexel unexpectedly dies of a heart attack on June 30, 1893, just 18 months after the school’s opening. The death of the 67-year-old banker and philanthropist shocks the Drexel community, who had become used to seeing Tony during his daily stops to Drexel on his walks to and from his office in Old City. The world mourns as well: News of Tony’s unexpected passing made the front page of international newspapers and even The New York Times. Tony’s funeral service is held in Drexel’s Main Auditorium on Jan. 20, 1894. Over 2,000 guests attend, including many of the same leaders who had assembled for Drexel’s founding and an elected delegation of 275 students and 70 teachers representing Drexel.

Tony Drexel was painted in this 1894 painting by Jean Joseph Benjamin Constant. He efused to let in hang until after his death. Photo courtesy The Drexel Collection.

This painting of Tony Drexel, started in the last year of his life, is finally allowed to hang on campus in 1894. The painting had been commissioned by Drexel’s board of managers in 1892, though Tony refused to sit for it for another year until his lifelong friend, business partner and fellow Drexel trustee George W. Childs persuaded him and his conditions were met: he would never see it hanging in his lifetime and the $5,000 fee to French painter M. Benjamin Constant would not be paid for by the institute’s funds. After the notoriously private Tony finished sitting, he reportedly got up and gestured for Childs to take his place for his own painting, telling him, “Now you must do as I have done; for as we have been together in life, you shall go down to posterity with me through Monsieur Constant’s genius.” Childs acquiesced and their two paintings are currently hung side-by-side in the Paul Peck Alumni Center.


Noted illustrator and author Howard Pyle begins the School of Illustration at the Drexel Institute, where he taught and headed until 1900. Notable students include Violet Oakley, who became the first American woman to receive a public mural commission; Jessie Willcox Smith and Elizabeth Shippen Green, all of whom paved the way for women illustrators.


Drexel is incorporated under the laws of Pennsylvania in 1895. That year, the first school-wide commencement is held; commencements were previously held at the department level.

drexel crew team

Drexel’s athletic association and alumni association are both formed in 1895.

philly harbor

President MacAlister begins to excuse Drexel students from class in 1895 so they can watch war ships set sail at Cramps Shipyard on the Delaware River. Drexel revived the lost tradition in 2008 with an annual “Bon Voyage” celebration for undergraduate seniors, usually at some venue along the river such as aboard the Moshulu at Penn’s Landing or at Drexel’s boathouse on the Schuylkill River.

drexel basketball team

Just a few years after the game of basketball was invented, Drexel becomes one of the first educational institutions with a formalized basketball team. The men’s team forms in 1895 and the women’s team follows one year later.

book lyrics

The “Drexel Ode” is written and copyrighted in 1899 as the University’s school song. Organist James M. Dickinson writes the music and a library student, Virginia Carter Castleman, class of 1899, writes the lyrics.

1900 frat

Drexel's first fraternity, Lambda Upsilon Delta, is established in 1900, originally at 1221 Arch St. Today, Drexel has 13 sororities and 22 fraternities.

architecture school

In 1901, the Department of Architecture graduates William Pittman, the first African-American Drexel graduate (who came on scholarship from his future father-in-law Booker T. Washington and the Tuskegee Institute) and Pauline Conway, the first woman to complete the program. Conway is located in the center of this photo and Pittman is second from right in the last row.

picture gallery

East Hall is built off of Main Building, notably containing the picture gallery filled with art. Joseph Wilson, the architect behind Main Building, designs East Hall using the same terracotta Beaux Arts architecture. The building was renamed in 1924 as Randell Hall in honor of Lillie Bell Randell and Letitia Randell Garrison, two sisters who were friends with Tony Drexel and donated money to the institute.

drexel statue

The bronze statue of Tony Drexel is created by Moses Ezekiel in 1904 and originally placed in Fairmount Park, since Tony was the first president of the Fairmount Park Art Association (today’s Association for Public Art). Kenneth G. Matheson, Drexel’s president from 1922 through 1931, was reported by his son (later a Drexel dean himself) to have snapped to attention before the statue when passing through Fairmount Park, saluting it as he had seen Alexander Van Rensselaer (Tony’s son-in-law) do before. The statue is relocated to 33rd and Market streets (pictured) for the University’s 75th anniversary in 1966. The statue relocated again in 2003 to its present site overlooking the pedestrian plaza at 32nd and Market streets.

aj drexel bust

Sarah Drexel Van Rensselaer, daughter of founder Tony Drexel, presents a marble bust of her father in 1905 that was created by Moses Ezekiel. It can still be found today on the Great Court stairway in the Main Building.


The first alumni day is held in 1907.

drexel echo
Though Drexel is often stereotyped as a school for engineering and business majors, it has had a literary magazine on its campus for 100 of its 125 years. The first publication with literary content, The Drexel Echo, is published in 1907, just 16 years after Drexel’s founding. It lasts until 1912.

After being commissioned to survey Drexel’s facility as an engineer, Hollis Godfrey accepts the offer to become Drexel’s second president in 1913. Godfrey reforms facilities, remakes curricula, regulates student admissions and eliminates “inefficient” faculty. He also consolidates the institute’s 13 more or less independent departments into four schools. His biggest legacy is the creation of the co-op program in 1919 and having all four schools offer bachelor’s degrees by 1916. Under Godfrey’s presidency, Drexel began to leave its vocational school origins behind. Godfrey resigns in 1921 to become chairman of the Council of Management Education and president of the Engineering-Economics Foundation, later dying in 1936.

1913 Lexerd

Drexel’s yearbook Lexerd (Drexel spelled backwards!) is published for the first time in 1913. Drexel first offered a yearbook in 1911, but the name was changed to accurately portray the purpose of the yearbook.


Drexel, originally a diploma or certification-granting institution, is granted the right to grant bachelor’s degrees in engineering. Drexel would later gradually implement degrees in all fields.


About 26 years after its founding, Drexel offers public seating for the first time when straight-back wooden benches are installed in the A.J. Drexel Picture Gallery. Before then, a 1896 yearbook entry noted that “Students are not to loiter or assemble in the entrance hall, central court, or galleries. During the midday recess students have the privilege of the court and galleries, but loud conversation or noise of any kind is prohibited.”


When World War I enlistments threaten enrollment, Drexel responds in 1918 by creating the Students Army Training Corps, which allowed men to attend college while enlisted in the military. The women are offered the new “War Courses for Women, which are designed to prepare them for government jobs that were mainly secretarial, with a little extra administrative and statistical training. Drexel also launches a new major in dietetics in 1918 that is the first in the nation to be recognized by the Army Medical Corps as preparation for work in military hospitals.


Drexel’s Evening School is founded, bringing together all evening courses, classes and lectures — themselves starting in 1892 — under one entity.


Robert C. Disque starts at Drexel in 1919. During his long and varied Drexel career, he was the dean of faculty, head of the Electrical Engineering Department and dean of the School of Engineering (which admitted women during his reign). He chairs the Board of Trustees’ interim committee of deans created to lead the institute after President Matheson died in 1931 and after his successor President Kolbe dies in 1941. He also serves as acting president after President Rea resigns in August 1944 until President Creese takes office in 1945. Disque retires in 1953, becoming dean emeritus of the College of Engineering, and dies in 1968. Disque Hall is named after him.


Drexel switches from the term system to the quarter system it still offers today.


The four-year co-op program officially begins in 1919 in the College of Engineering. Within 10 years, Drexel had established co-ops with Honeywell, Bell, RCA, Bethlehem Steel, Link Belt, General Electric and Westinghouse. Today, students across 75 disciplines participate in the Drexel Co-op Program. This past year, over 5,800 students — and about 91 percent of Drexel’s undergraduate population — participated in co-op in the United States and in 45 countries.

women's rifle

After collegiate rifle shooting gains popularity after World War I, Drexel starts a rifle team for men in 1919, followed a few years later by a women’s rifle team, one of the first of its kind. The teams, which are managed by the ROTC, often compete against each other, with the loser buying the winning team dinner. From the 1930s to the 1950s, the women’s team regularly places in the top five spots of the National Women’s Rifle Championships, though many of its members had never shot a rifle before joining. After ROTC ceases the program in the late ’60s, the two Drexel teams evolve into a club sport until 2003, when the program is shut down again amid changing political and social norms. At the time, the organization was the nation’s second-oldest collegiate rifle team.


Drexel confers its first degrees to women — Drexel's first bachelor’s degrees in domestic science and arts — in 1919, the year before women receive the right to vote. The first recipients are Elizabeth L. Cowan and Ruth E. Green.


Originally, Drexel’s school colors were orange and silver. In the early 1920s, the Athletic Association adopts blue and gold for Drexel teams, which are later approved University-wide by the University’s trustees as “gold with blue.” Today, Drexel’s official colors are Pantone 294C (blue) and Pantone 7548C (gold).


When Kenneth G. Matheson was named Drexel’s president in 1921, the institution faced financial difficulties, decreasing enrollments, outdated facilities and a generally dissatisfied community. His legacy includes reorganizing the administrative and faculty structure of the institute; increasing student organizations and outreach; expanding the co-op program; tripling the enrollment of the day school in a decade; wiping out Drexel’s current deficit; increasing the institute’s endowment to $1 million and expanding the size and quality campus. He is granted a leave of absence in May 1931 for his ill health, but his devotion to Drexel is so great that he postpone the leave and dies in office of a heart attack on Nov. 29, 1931. Matheson Hall, which was on campus from 1965 until 2011, was named after him.


Less than 10 years after Drexel’s last literary magazine founded, the Drexerd literary magazine is started in 1921. Drexerd lasts for another 20 years until it folds in 1941.


Drexel’s independent student newspaper The Triangle first appears on campus in 1926. Financially and editorially independent from Drexel, The Triangle has been covering news, arts and entertainment, sports and other topics related to Drexel and the Philadelphia area since the beginning. Many alums of the publication have gone on to succeed in and out of the journalism field, including former columnist Chuck Barris ’53, creator of “The Gong Show” and subject of the movie “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind;” and former sports writer Albert Boscov ‘52, the founder of Boscov's Department Stores. The Triangle has been online since the mid-’90s, when it was originally hosted on a staff member’s personal computer.

Read the 1926 Issue


The floor-to-ceiling organ located in Main Building’s auditorium is installed in 1928 as a gift from the local publishing magnate Cyrus H.K. Curtis, a Drexel trustee and publisher of Saturday Evening Post. For decades, a Drexel organist played free weekly recitals enjoyed by the public and Drexel students alike. In the 1980s, the instrument falls into disrepair after a foundation grant for its maintenance was discontinued, though a recent renovation project hopes to change that.


The first instance of the Drexel “dragon” appears in a 1928 story about the football team in The Triangle. There seems to be no special reason for its selection other than its obvious alliterative appeal. Before they became Dragons, the school’s sports teams had been known by a variety of names, including the Blue & Gold, the Engineers and the Drexelites. A physical Drexel Dragon mascot is created in 1929.


Curtis Hall, built off of Randell Hall and Main Building, is opened. The building gets its name from publishing magnate Cyrus H. K. Curtis, who donated $1.25 million for its construction.

drexel lodge

A.J. Drexel Paul, the founder's grandson and longtime member of the board of trustees, gives the Drexel Lodge in Newtown Township to the institute. For many years, the Drexel Lodge is a country retreat for faculty and students as well as a busy destination for dances, club meetings and faculty picnics. By 1995, the Depression-era building is out of code and in need of costly repairs, so Drexel sells it to the township.

1931 van r
Drexel’s first dormitory, the women’s-only Sarah Drexel Van Rensslaer Dormitory, opens in 1931. Named after the founder’s daughter, who advocated to ensure her father’s legacy, the dormitory is now coed and called Van Rensselaer Hall.
practice house

The current home of Sabrina’s Café and Ross Commons on the corner of 34th Street and Powelton Avenue was once known as the Practice House. There, female majors of the Domestic Science and Arts Department learned homemaking skills, such as “top-down” dusting. In 1932, a nursery school opens so students can practice caring for real babies (believed to have come from a nearby orphanage). The Practice House closes from an electrical fire in 1991. It is restored in the 21st century by alumnus and former chairman of the board of trustees George Ross ’55, Hon. ’99, to be used as a dining, study and activity center.

Ryder clock

The Ryder clock in the Great Court, inscribed with the words, “Be on time,” is dedicated in 1932. Legend has it that its namesake, J. Peterson Ryder, used to stand in the court, pocket-watch in hand, spurring on students late to class. Ryder was one of the 11 original department heads when Drexel opened in 1891 (Department of Physical Training) and became the school’s first athletics director in 1919 and the first dean of men during the 1922–23 school year. He dies in 1931 after 40 years of service to the University.


Parke R. Kolbe begins his presidency at Drexel in 1932. Previously, he served as president of the University of Akron from 1913 to 1925 and of the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn from 1925 to 1932. Kolbe decentralized Drexel's administration and developed educational programs to support national defense as the threat of U.S. involvement in World War II loomed. He dies suddenly from heart disease in 1942 at age 60.


Drexel’s men's faculty clubroom is established, with the corresponding Ryder Club (named after J. Peterson Ryder) created for the preexisting club of women of the faculty and administrative staff. Today, the sixth floor of MacAlister Hall serves as a private club — though there isn’t a bar like there used to be.

1936 commencement

The Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry changes its name to the Drexel Institute of Technology in 1936. The decision was made to address the new and broader scope of the school.


Charles A. Knapp graduates in 1936 and becomes the first and only Drexel Dragon to play professionally in both baseball and football for the Philadelphia Phillies and Eagles, respectively. His athleticism was evident when he was a student: He lettered in all four seasons in baseball and football (where he captained both teams) and played three years of basketball, too. He is inducted into Drexel Athletics’ Hall of Fame in 1995.

fight song

Todd Groo ‘41 and Pi Kappa Phi member Gay V. Piercy ‘39 create the Drexel fight song in 1938. Once common at sporting events, the song fades into oblivion after school spirit dropped in the ‘70s with the removal of the football program. The song was lost to time until 2006, when a University archivist discovered the long-lost lyrics in the University’s stacks. The lyrics were then dusted off and updated (“Drexel Tech” became “Drexel U.,” for example), so now the song has once again become a part of Drexel’s athletic culture.


George Peters Rea becomes the president of Drexel in 1942 after working as the first paid president of what is now the American Stock Exchange. At the time, he was said to be one of the youngest American college presidents. His business acumen was desirable, since the institute had been suffering from financial and enrollment hardships as a result of World War II. However, his laid-back style and habit of making decisions without the approval of the faculty senate or Drexel community, like the selling of Drexel’s art and manuscript collection in 1944, are extremely controversial. He resigns in 1944 to return to private business, later serving as the governor of the State Bank of Ethiopia and dying in 1978 at age 84.


During World War II, 137 Drexel students die in service to the country, starting with George Nannos ’39, an ensign in the Naval air force who dies in a plane crash in Hawaii on Feb. 17, 1942. The first Dragon to die in combat is Harvey Dalton Johnson, a member of the Army air force and a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, on Nov. 22, 1942.


Drexel English professors Edward D. McDonald and Edward M. Hinton publish “Drexel Institute of Technology 1891-1941: A Memorial History,” the first historical account of the institute.

women engineering

The first women are accepted into the engineering program. A group of these students establish the Drexel Society of Women Engineers in 1946 and help start a national chapter in 1950 that today has expanded to over 300 college campus and 35,000 alumni and current students.

rue morgue

Facing a financial crisis caused by falling enrollment during World War II, Drexel sells one-of-a-kind art and original manuscripts at a two-day auction. The most prestigious items are autographed manuscripts of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” regarded as the first detective story ever written, and Charles Dickens’ last completed novel, “Our Mutual Friend.” Letters and autographs by notable writers including Mark Twain and Nathaniel Hawthorne and various U.S. presidents are also sold. Though the board of trustees approved the decision of the sale, the news is met with unanimous criticism from the Drexel community. Ultimately, over $90,300 (about $1.23 million today) is raised.

womens club

During World War II, Drexel students, personnel and alums serving their country receive a monthly Drexel newsletter from The Drexel Women's Club, which is made of female faculty and staff as well as the wives of their male counterparts. The organization funds these newsletters with sales from “The Drexel Women’s Club Cook Book,” a collection of 150 wartime recipes featuring tried-and-true family recipes enjoyed by Drexel faculty and staff. Over 3,000 inaugural copies were printed in 1945 and many more were sold over the years as the book was reprinted in the 1950s and updated in 1972. That is the last cookbook created by the club, which began in 1927 and folds in 1985 due to waning interest.


James Creese becomes the president of the Drexel Institute of Technology in 1945 after serving as vice president of the Stevens Institute of Technology. Creese’s two-decade-long reign at Drexel is marked by the hardships of World War II, the post-war increase in students and the expansion of Drexel’s campus and curriculum. During his tenure, Drexel doubles its physical size while tuition as a proportion of revenue falls significantly. In 1963, he resigns in ill health and dies three years later of a heart attack at age 70. The Creese Student Center, opened in 1963, is named for him.


Home economics student Dorcas Reilly graduates. Eight years later, she forever changes American Thanksgiving dinners with the invention of the green bean casserole at the Campbell Soup Co. Reilly’s original (and now-yellowed) green bean casserole recipe card was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2002, where it can be seen alongside other revolutionary and immortal inventions like Kevlar and Thomas Edison's light bulb.


Future barcode inventors Bernard Silver and Norman Joseph Woodland graduate. The idea that would change how people purchase goods starts when Silver, a graduate student, overhears the president of a food chain asking a dean to start a research project to invent a way to read product data automatically at checkout. He mentions it to Woodland, a fellow graduate student and teacher, and together they came up with the concept of a barcode reader. They filed a patent in 1949 and in 1962 sold the invention to industry.


Drexel’s day college and evening school unite, making credits from both of equal value.


Paul Baran, the future “grandfather of the Internet,” graduates in 1949. He comes up with the concept of sending bundles of data through an information network made of independent nodes. He writes about his idea, called “packet switching,” in a series of technical papers in the 1960s, which The New York Times calls “the technical underpinnings” for what becomes the Internet.


Drexel’s library science program gains accreditation from the American Library Association, becoming one of the longest continually accredited library and information science programs in the country.


Though Homecoming dates back to the ’20s at Drexel, the first Homecoming Queen, Jerry Cheuvreux '52, is crowned in 1951, when Drexel’s Homecoming most resembles the standard Homecoming found at other colleges and campuses. The tradition dies out after the football program is disbanded in the 1970s. An attempt at revival occurs in 1996 with “DragonFest,” centered around basketball games, concerts, block parties, picnics and the annual Crystal Ball dance. It isn’t until 2009 that Homecoming finally regains the momentum and involvement of decades prior, thanks to the dedication of students, alumni and the entire campus community.


In 1952, NBA Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain scrimmages the Drexel Dragons, courtesy of an invite from Drexel coach Samuel Cozen, who’d coached the basketball legend in high school.

football team

Drexel has its best football season in history when the team has its first — and only — undefeated season. The Dragons finish 8-0 under team captain Vincent Vidas ’59, the only player in Drexel history to be named to two All-American teams. Today, Vidas is in the Drexel Athletics Hall of Fame and his name brands Drexel’s Vidas Athletic Complex on Powelton Avenue. Trustees cut the football team, which had been at Drexel since 1892, in 1973 to conserve funds for other sports and a new physical education and athletic center.

1956 explosion

A 90-year-old grain elevator at 31st and Market streets explodes on March 28, 1956 with the power of 1,100 pounds of dynamite, causing nearby Drexel students and faculty to believe it’s the dropping of an atomic bomb. One of the four surrounding buildings affected by the blast is Drexel's Student Union Building, which held classes for the Evening College at the time of the explosion. Of the 1,800 students and 78 faculty in the building at the time, at least 25 are injured and hospitalized. Other Drexel buildings face considerable damages as well, including blown-out windows and crumbling classrooms. The glass on the ceiling of Main Building’s Great Court rains down on bystanders and the chandelier is taken down for repairs in the aftermath, though it becomes lost and has never been found since.

soccer team

Drexel earns its greatest athletic achievement in 1958 when the men’s soccer team became the first — and only — Drexel varsity athletic squad to win such a title. The team takes the top spot after an undefeated season in which they outscore their opponents by a combined 76-15. The team is named the best in the country by the Intercollegiate Soccer Football Association, the predecessor to the NCAA for collegiate soccer. The team later becomes the first to be inducted into the Drexel Athletics Hall of Fame, with longtime coach Don Yonker, All-Americans Oswald “Ozzie” Jethon ’60; Stanley “Stosh” Dlugosz ’60 and Bob Muschek ’60 and goal-scorer Igor Lissy ’62 receiving separate admissions.

korman construction

Drexel’s new library (and current Korman Center), which includes space for the library school and an audiovisual center, opens on the Quad.

drexel gargoyle

Drexel’s third literary magazine, Gargoyle, is founded in 1961. In its inaugural issue, then-President James Creese recounted what it was like writing for and editing Princeton University’s Nassau literary magazine as an undergrad alongside F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Gargoyle runs from 1961 to 1966 before transitioning into Maya, Drexel’s current literary magazine.

college bowl

Drexel students win the championship plus $29,000 in prize money in the CBS “College Bowl,” a nationally televised Sunday evening quiz show that pitted college teams against each other. The team captain from that event, Dick Rosen ‘63, begins teaching history at Drexel in 1969 and even advises Drexel’s 1983 “College Bowl” team. During his more than 35 years at Drexel, he also becomes dean of Drexel's College of Arts and Sciences, associate dean of the College of Engineering and University ombudsmen.


President William W. Hagerty is named the seventh president of the Drexel Institute of Technology in 1963 after serving as dean of the University of Texas’ College of Engineering. During his presidency, Hagerty grants twice as many degrees as any of his predecessors dating back to 1891, establishes several new schools and colleges plus a graduate program, expands the campus from 10 to nearly 40 acres, grows the budget tenfold to $80 million, increases the proportion of faculty with PhDs from 24 percent to 94 percent and doubles student enrollment to 14,000. He leads Drexel until his resignation in 1984, dying two years later of cancer at age 70. The W. W. Hagerty Library, opened in 1984, is named for him.


The Student Activities Center, now known as the Creese Student Center in honor of President Creese, opens in 1963. Over the years, the basement is called the “Dragon’s Den” and the “Creese Game Room” and hosts a barber shop, various pizzerias and cafes, an arcade and game room as well as an actual bowling alley.

rush hospital

In 1966, the former Hospital for the Treatment of Consumption and Related Diseases is converted into classrooms and opens as the Graduate School of Library Science. The Rush Building, as it is still called today, was named after Benjamin Rush, a renowned Philadelphia doctor from Philadelphia and signer of the Declaration of Independence. The tuberculosis ward and hospital moved to its location near Drexel’s campus in 1904 and remained operational until 1961, when the building was purchased by Drexel.

Diamond jubilee

A day of respite is enjoyed by all for Drexel’s 75th anniversary. Classes are cancelled from noon on Dec. 6 to noon on Dec. 7 to encourage students to participate in the celebrations, including the Founders’ Day Ball. The break from classes is allegedly given because many students complained that in order for them to come to the dance, they would need half a day to catch up on their studies.

disque construction

Disque Hall and Stratton Hall (originally called the Basic Sciences Building when it was built in 1955) are dedicated in 1967 to two beloved dean emerituses. Disque Hall — which is actually pronounced “Disk-way” — is named after Robert C. Disque, two-time interim president and dean emeritus of the College of Engineering and Science. Stratton Hall is named after Leon D. Stratton, who had recently passed after serving Drexel for 43 years as dean of men, dean of alumni, head of the Chemistry Department, professor and instructor. The grandsons of each Drexel dean unveil the plaque in their grandfathers’ honor.


In 1963, Drexel receives the right to confer PhDs in certain fields in the sciences, engineering and mathematics. Mechanical engineering doctoral student Richard “Dick” Mortimer receives Drexel’s first PhD in 1967 after previously earning two degrees from Drexel (a BS in mechanical engineering in 1962 and a MS in the same field in 1964). He stays on to teach in that same department for more than 20 years as a professor and department head. During that time, he teaches all three of Drexel’s future astronauts; he himself had completed two co-ops at NASA and regularly received NASA funding to research the response of materials to stress and impacts. More than 30 years after he first stepped foot on campus, Mortimer retires in 1993 as the associate vice president for academic affairs. When he passes away in 2013 at age 77, Drexel holds a memorial in his honor.


In 1969, Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco (née Grace Kelly of Philadelphia) donates a coral-encrusted raffia gown designed by Hubert de Givenchy to Drexel, where it is a cherished holding of the University’s historic costume collection. The collection started in 1898 as part of the Drexel Institute’s original museum and has grown into an internationally recognized holding of nearly 14,000 garments, textiles and objects of dress, known since 2014 as the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection and housed in the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design.

1970 name change
February 27

On February 27, 1970, on what is known as University Day, the Drexel Institute changes its name to Drexel University.


Nesbitt Hall is completed in 1970. The building — plus the Nesbitt College of Design, Nutrition, Human Behavior, and Home Economics as well as the Nesbitt College of Design Arts — is named after Albert Nesbitt, president of John J. Nesbitt Inc., the leading manufacturer of heating, ventilating, and air conditioning units for schools. Nesbitt  had studied engineering at Drexel's evening school and received an honorary Doctor of Engineering in 1952. He was a member of Drexel's Board Trustees from 1953-1970, serving as Chairman of the Board from 1966 to 1968. The building currently houses the Dornsife School of Public Health.


Drexel’s current student radio station, WKDU Philadelphia 91.7 FM, starts from WXDT (830 AM), which began in 1963 and replaced Drexel’s carrier current station WMAX, founded in 1958. Throughout its history, WKDU is completely run by students, who do everything from managing the budget to recruiting new DJs to promoting bands and concerts on and off campus. Of all the wide-ranging student shows held throughout its 45-year history, highlights include “Sounds of Jerusalem,” which broadcasted Israeli music and affairs from 1978 to 1994, and “The Black Experience in Music,” which played jazz, funk and disco from 1972 to 1981.


In 1973, the year that American forces completely withdraw from Vietnam, Drexel opens up the ROTC to women through a separate “Women’s Army.” Drexel’s program is one of the first such programs to allow women with the same scholarships and other benefits as men.


The Mandell Theater opens in 1973 and is named after Samuel P. Mandell, a member of Drexel’s board of trustees. The space is used to host Drexel’s performing arts groups as well as outside events. Mandell Theater has hosted Drexel singers, musicians, dancers and actors for performances including “Guys and Dolls” (1986) and Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” among many others; Drexel’s annual fashion show; lectures and talks given by Drexel staff and outside public speakers as varied as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s daughter to Nobel laureates to ex-CIA analysts to bestselling authors.

lancaster ave

Lancaster Avenue (between 32nd and 33rd streets) is converted to a sidewalk from a busy street cutting through campus. The bronze dragon claw plaques that now dot the passageway are installed in 2001 when Drexel’s Student Life present incoming classes with a plaque to encourage new students to make their mark on campus.


The Physical Education Athletic Center (later renamed the Daskalakis Athletic Center in 2000 after alumnus John Daskalakis ‘63) opens on the north side of Market Street between 33rd and 34th streets. The “Running Free” sculpture of three horses is installed.


The “Drexel Jinx” is finally broken after every speaker who addressed Drexel’s Commencement from 1972 to 1975 either lost or resigned from the positions they had held when speaking to the graduates. No one was immune to the so-called “Drexel Jinx” — not even its most notable casualty, Vice President of the United States Spiro Agnew, who resigned in disgrace just a few months after addressing the class of 1973. In 1976, President Hagerty allows seniors to choose their commencement speaker, provided it was related to academia. Prolific science fiction author Isaac Asimov — a full-time writer who retained a tenured assistant professorship at Boston University in name only — breaks the jinx and speaks at Drexel.


Drexel graduates three of its most senior undergraduates ever. Two of the students, Lisa Worden (BS in design) and Joseph Sillitti (BS in political science) graduated at the age of 79 and David Schuck received his BS in electrical engineering that year at the relatively youthful age of 74. Not satisfied at that, he became the most senior Drexel graduate ever when he receives an MS in electrical engineering in 1986 at age 80.

water boy

Superstitious (or desperate!) Drexel students are allegedly temporarily banned from rubbing the well-worn toe of The Water Boy. It’s a tradition used to bring about good luck with exams for decades though no one knows why or since when. Legend has it that the curator of The Drexel Collection refused to let students rub the piece of art, which was created in 1869 by French artist Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, the creator of the Statue of Liberty, and displayed in Philadelphia’s 1876 Centennial International Exhibit. It’s likely that this toe rubbing was not what Tony Drexel had in mind when he purchased the sculpture, officially named The Alsatian Vintner, sometime after it was first displayed.

mac lab

Drexel becomes the first university to require students to have a personal computer in 1983. The following year, Drexel debuts the discounted Macintosh (with a special Drexel “D” engraving) to its student body through a first-of-its-kind partnership with Apple Computer Inc. The program helped drive a three-fold spike in enrollment and created a wave of positive press for Drexel.


University of Delaware dean William S. Gaither becomes the president of Drexel University in 1984. At Drexel, Gaither creates 11 new majors, increased alumni giving and worked on programs to enhance minority student enrollment. After a Drexel employee filed a sexual harassment claim and other allegations follow, Gaither resigns in 1987 and dies in 2009. Alumnus, senior vice president and trustee Harold M. Myers '38, Hon. '83 comes out of retirement to serve as interim president from 1987-88. Myers Hall, built in 1977, was named for him. Myers dies of multiple organ failure ate age 89 in 2004.


Richard Breslin, a former Catholic priest and president of the University of Charleston in West Virginia, becomes Drexel's president in 1988. During his presidency, he increases alumni giving, the strength of Drexel’s basketball program and even Drexel’s campus, since he started the tradition of Drexel logos being installed on lampposts and railroad trestles. After low undergraduate enrollment and budget cuts across the University, Breslin resigns in 1994. Drexel alumnus and trustee C.R. “Chuck” Pennoni ('63, '66, Hon. '92) serves in the interim.

coming out

The Gays and Lesbians at Drexel (GALAD) hosts Philadelphia’s first-annual “Philadelphia’s Coming Out,” a citywide celebration commemorating and educating on gay rights.


After leading Drexel to its first NCAA tournament appearance and becoming all-time leading scorer, Michael Anderson graduates in 1989 and becomes the first Drexel alumnus to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA). He plays for the San Antonio Spurs during the 1989 NBA season after being drafted by the Indiana Pacers in the 1988 NBA Draft.


The LeBow Engineering Center opens for the College of Engineering and is named after Bennett S. LeBow, ’60, Hon. ’98. The LeBow College of Business is named after LeBow, who donated $10 million in 1999 to the then-College of Business and Administration and $45 million in 2013 for the Gerri C. LeBow Hall.


In 1990, Drexel graduates one of the best chefs in Philadelphia (and the country) — as a business student. Marc Vetri received a bachelor’s degree in marketing and finance from the LeBow College of Business and started learning and cooking authentic Italian cuisine afterward. The James Beard Award-winner opens his first restaurant, Vetri, in 1998 and later opens other local favorites Osteria, Alla Spina, Amis Trattoria, Lo Spiedo and Pizzeria Vetri. He teaches culinary classes in the Center for Hospitality and Sport Management in 2014 and 2016. Vetri receives an honorary degree from Drexel in 2013.


With the passage of a resolution by the Faculty Senate, the Honors Program officially launches during the 1991-92 academic year, with 33 students in the program at its inception. In 2003, the program is remade into the Pennoni Honors College named after alumnus and former trustee C.R. "Chuck" Pennoni. In 2015, the college matriculates 345 honors students.

ice cream fight

Drexel celebrates its centennial. One of the more popular celebrations was the creation of the world’s largest ice cream sandwich, a 10-by-30-foot frozen treat featuring 500 gallons of ice cream and a custom-made cookie. Though the record for the world’s largest ice cream sandwich has since been bested, it’s likely that Drexel still holds the record for world’s largest ice cream sandwich food fight. No one knows who threw the first scoop, but many, many students followed suit and hurled handfuls of ice cream in the air.


The Drexel 100 launches in 1992 to recognize the University’s most successful living alumni. New inductions are made every two years.


Constantine “Taki” Papadakis becomes the president at the ailing Drexel University, which was suffering from low enrollment and cash flow. During his tenure, Papadakis doubles the full-time undergraduate enrollment and faculty size, triples freshman applications, quintuples the University's endowment and quintuples research funding. Drexel’s reputation and prominence increase not just in Philadelphia but the world. After battling cancer, Papadakis dies in 2009 and the Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building is named after him in 2011. Chuck Pennoni fills in again as president in the interim.


Drexel becomes one of the first universities in the country to take learning online, at a time when the Internet was still in its infancy (that year, Amazon officially opens and EBay is founded). Drexel offers its first online courses and one year later starts its first fully online program, a master of science in information systems. Today, Drexel University Online offers more than 140 accredited degree and certificate programs. 


The Kaczmarczik Lecture Series is established to honor the late physics professor emeritus Paul Kaczmarczik ’48, starting a tradition that lasts 20 years and counting. Among the 20 high-caliber physicists who have spoken at the public lectures are seven Nobel Laureates and major headliners like Kip Thorne, who last year confirmed the existence of gravitational waves, and planetary scientist and engineer S. Alan Stern, who is leading the New Horizons Mission to study Pluto. The Kaczmarczik family, including a Drexel graduate-turned-adjunct professor and a Drexel graduate-student-turned-Academy-of-Natural-Sciences employee, regularly attend the events.

Mario the dragon

Drexel’s longtime mascot, the Drexel Dragon, is named “Mario the Magnificient” after alumnus Mario Mascioli ’45, who famously never missed a basketball game in 25 years. Mascioli had also serves on the board of governors of the Drexel Alumni Association and on Drexel’s board of trustees. He passes away in 2005 at age 83.


North Residence Hall opens and is designed by noted postmodernist architect Michael Graves. The location is also the site of the original "Drexel Shaft,” the “Flame of Knowledge” fountain moved from the Quad.


Drexel cements its reputation as a technology leader by becoming the first major American university to offer wireless Wi-Fi and the first to offer personal computers and discounted Internet service to faculty and staff. Drexel had already recorded a series of firsts dating back to the ’90s, including creating an online university, webcasting commencement and creating a user-friendly website-development system.


Drexel’s Paul Peck Alumni Center opens in 2001 after a two-year renovation process and is later rededicated and renamed to honor alumnus Paul Peck ’64. The building was originally opened in 1876 as the Centennial Bank designed by famed Philadelphia architect Frank Furness. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and was purchased by Drexel five years later. Currently, the building is used for office space and a home base welcome to all Drexel alums, as well as a gallery holding Tony Drexel’s personal art collection.


Drexel builds the Leonard Pearlstein Business Learning Center in 2001, named after Leonard Pearlstein, a major Drexel benefactor who had died in 1996. In 2003, the Pearlstein family makes a donation in honor of their father to rename the Design Arts Gallery originally held in Nesbitt Hall the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery. When the gallery moves to the URBN Annex at the end of 2011, the Pearlsteins make another donation to further equip the gallery’s expanded space.


After assuming operations for the bankrupt Allegheny University of the Health Sciences, Drexel merges with the institution in 2002 to create the College of Medicine, School of Public Health and College of Nursing & Health Professions. This bold step, undertaken at President Papadakis’s urging, allows Drexel to kept intact a key academic medical resource for Philadelphia. It also preserves the traditions of two of the cities’ most historic institutions: Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (founded in 1850 as the world’s first medical school for women) and Hahnemann Medical College (a pioneer in homeopathic medicine founded in 1848). Drexel builds its Center City campus and later acquires the Queen Lane Medical Campus for its new acquisitions.

plasma institute

The A. J. Drexel Plasma Institute is founded in 2002. It becomes known as the birthplace of plasma medicine, an extremely promising branch of biomedical engineering that uses plasma in wound healing, tissue repair and regeneration, stimulation of cells of the immune system and treatment of cancers, among many applications to human health. In 2016, the name is changed to the C. & J. Nyheim Plasma Institute after John and Christel Nyheim, with John serving on Drexel’s Board of Trustees for nearly 25 years as well as a trustee for the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.


“Mario the Magnificent,” the bronze dragon statue of the school mascot, is installed at 33rd and Market streets in 2002, thus creating the most visible meeting place and photo spot on campus. Mario stands proudly at 10 feet high, 14 feet long and weighs 4,100 pounds.


Originally started as 15 students showing up to Drexel basketball games in the same gold shirt, the DAC Pack (Drexel Athletics’ student fan section) has become one of Drexel’s largest and most prominent student organizations. The DAC Pack can be found at basketball sections seated in their own section (which is usually the loudest near the court) and wearing the same gold t-shirt, which is distributed for free for games and at other events held by the DAC Pack.

sigma sound

Drexel acquires over 6,000 unclaimed tapes from the iconic Sigma Sound Studios, known for producing “The Sound of Philadelphia,” when it is sold in 2003. Drexel then created the Drexel University Audio Archives to store, manage and digitize the reels of artists including Teddy Pendergrass, Patti Labelle, Gladys Knight and even David Bowie, who recorded most of his 1974 album “Young Americans” there.


The A.J. Drexel Nanotechnology Institute is established in 2003 to work in the emerging field of nanotechnology, or the manipulation of matter on scales as small as the atomic, molecular and supramolecular. Its name is changed to the A.J. Drexel Nanomaterials Institute in 2013, after 10 years, to better reflect its strengths and unique capabilities within this important subset of materials (and nanotechnology) research.


The Bossone Research Enterprise Center Scientific Research opens for biomedical engineering courses. Architect I.M. Pei designs the center and its prism by incorporating concepts he developed for the Pyramide du Louvre in Paris. The building is named for Edmund D. Bossone ‘53, who donated $10 million for the project with his wife Kathleen.


Drexel becomes the first major research university to open a new law school in 25 years with the 2006 opening of what is now known as the Thomas R. Kline School of Law. Drexel becomes one of only two universities operating law schools that follow a co-operative model of learning.


Drexel acquires the Philadelphia Armory, or Drexel Armory, on 32nd Street and Lancaster Ave. This longtime University City instiution had been used as an armoy, atheltic space and concert venue since 1916. The artists who have played at this historic venue include Nirvana and the Breeders (1993), the Mighty Mighty Bosstones (1993), Run-DMC, Wu-Tang Clang and the Notorious B.I.G. (1994), M.I.A. (2008). When Drexel holds its Spring Jam and homecoming dance concert in the armory, the list expands to include Ben Folds (2008), Girl Talk and Lupe Fiasco (2009), DJ Jazzy Jeff (2009) and Snoop Dogg (2012). The Armory’s storied past includes hosting the longest continuously serving military unit in the country and was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.


Drexel’s 10th dorm, Millennium Hall, opens in 2009. The building, made primarily of glass, features spectacular views of Center City and incorporates many environmentally sustainable features including a “green” roof. The residential student population votes to choose its name.

john fry

John A. Fry becomes the president of Drexel University after serving as president of Franklin & Marshall College and executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania. His vision for Drexel includes transforming the University into what he has termed the “modern urban university of the future” — an institution that harnesses both its long-established and still-emerging strengths to serve its students, its neighborhood, its city and the nation. Under his leadership, Drexel creates partnerships in Philadelphia, most notably the affiliation with the Academy of Natural Sciences and major neighborhood initiatives, as well as abroad, forging global connections in China, Turkey, Israel, Brazil and Chile.


Vision 2020 launches in the College of Medicine’s Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership in 2010 to advance economic and social equality for women by the year 2020. The organization is scheduled to plan the centennial celebration of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, in Philadelphia in 2020.


Drexel acquires a new historical lineage for itself in 2011 by combining with the Academy of Natural Sciences, which predates Drexel itself by nearly 80 years. The collaboration has been beneficial: Academy researchers regularly teach classes at Drexel’s new department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Sciences, created to bring Academy and Drexel scientists together, and many students have completed co-ops at the Academy. Drexel students, faculty and staff receive free admission to the Academy.


The Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building, or PISB, opens in 2011 as the home to North America’s largest living biowall — 22 feet wide and 80 feet tall — and the only wall of its kind in a U.S. university. The building, named after President Papadakis, contains research and teaching laboratories for biology, chemistry and biomedical engineering.


The Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry, part of Pennoni Honors College, first offers the Custom-Designed Major in 2011. The first class graduates in 2013: Kathryn Gardner, who studies Architectural Conservation and Sustainable Living, and Kevin Matthews, who studies Global Fashion Industry.

fry selfie

The Senior Class Toast starts as the enticing opportunity for graduating seniors to drink champagne with President John A. Fry — but now, five years later, students clamor to snap a selfie with him. During the toast, which is typically held a week prior to Commencement, the graduating seniors assemble for a class photo on the Great Court staircase, enjoy a champagne reception and receive a gold Drexel dragon pin.


The A.J. Drexel Autism Institute is founded in 2012 as the first research organization built around a public health science approach to understanding and addressing the challenges of autism spectrum disorders.


Drexel opens the Dana and David Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, a community center located on a 1.3-acre site at 35th and Spring Garden streets, in 2014. The Dornsife Center offers space for community outreach activities developed and delivered by the University as well as classes taught to Drexel students and neighborhood residents side-by-side. It is named after Dana and David Dornsife, who donated to the project as well as the Dornsife School of Public Health.

jersey the dog

In 2014, Drexel becomes the first university in the country whose recreation center hosts an on-site therapy dog year-round and the first college in the Greater Philadelphia area to retain a therapy dog on campus. Jersey, an adopted Carolina blend and a certified therapy dog, works as an official employee to de-stress students from the fall of 2014 to the winter of 2016. Drexel’s current therapy dog Chai, a purebred Cane Corso and certified therapy dog, starts in the spring of 2016.


Thomas R. Kline, personal injury lawyer and chairman of the law school's board, makes the biggest donation in Drexel history in 2014 by giving $50 million to the School of Law, which was renamed in his honor. Included in the gift is the former Beneficial Saving Fund Society building at 12th and Chestnut Streets, which will become the Kline Institute for Trial Advocacy.


In 2016, Drexel announces a partnership with Brandywine Realty Trust to create Philadelphia’s Schuylkill Yards, a 14-acre master planned community that will be developed over 20 years on a 10-acre site next to Drexel’s main campus and adjacent to Amtrak’s 30th Street Station and Brandywine’s Cira Centre.

AJ Bday

2016 is also the year of Tony’s 190th birthday, which will be celebrated at the Drexel Alumni Association’s Global Night of Networking. Previously, Drexel students celebrated the anniversary of A.J. Drexel’s birthday by donning replicas of his iconic mustache.


2016 marks the 125th anniversary of Drexel University. For the entire 2016-17 academic year, the Drexel community will come together to honor Drexel’s past, present and history with celebrations, events, lectures and memorabilia.