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On May 15, 1891, the General Assembly of the State of Delaware passed “an act to establish and maintain a college for the education of colored students in agriculture and the mechanical arts.”1 Eight thousand dollars was also appropriated for the purchase of land and construction of buildings. A Board of Trustees was appointed and 100 acres of land north of Dover were purchased from Nicholas Loockerman, the largest property owner in Kent County.

During the summer of that year, Wesley P. Webb was elected president of the Delaware State College for Colored Students. When the school was officially opened in February 1892, the five courses of study were Agriculture, Chemistry, Engineering, Scientific and Classical, and last leading to a Bachelor of Arts degree. Initial enrollment was twelve students, increasing to only twenty-eight by 1895. Both the white and black communities had serious reservations about the future of the fledgling school.

In 1895, William C. Jason assumed the presidency and several changes in the curriculum and focus of the college were instituted. The new objective of the school was to prepare students for useful and productive occupations. The school day was evenly divided between academics and training in industrial activities. A program for the instruction of young teachers was also begun. With this new approach, interest grew and the enrollment climbed to 54 in Jason’s first year, and by 1923, was nearly 140.

The name of the school was shortened to Delaware State College in 1947.2 At present, there are over 2300 full and part-time students enrolled at the school, with nineteen major courses of study encompassing the liberal arts, sciences, humanities, and education.

On July 1, 1993 Governor Carper signed the legislation changing the name of the College to Delaware State University.

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1 19 DL, ch. 119.

2 46 DL, ch. 202.

jrf/March 23, 1988