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While legislative support for an institution of higher learning within the State does not appear until 1818, the forerunner of the University of Delaware, the Academy of Newark, had been incorporated by a Penn charter in 1769. The free school in its early years suffered through periodic closings due to enrollment fluctuations and financial reverses. However, the board of trustees of the Academy remained committed to having an institution for higher learning within the boundaries of the State.1

By 1817, the school was under the leadership of a dynamic headmaster, Andrew Kerr Russell, and seemed destined not only to survive but also, if funds could be found, to expand. That same year, the trustees appointed a committee to approach the legislature for the right to solicit funds through a lottery and “to obtain collegiate powers for the Institution.”2 In 1818, in response to a petition presented by the trustees, an act was passed by the legislature which enabled the trustees of the Academy of Newark to raise a rum for the purpose of establishing a college in Newark. This money, the total of which was not to exceed fifty thousand dollars, was to be procured by lottery.3 Even though permission had been granted for the lottery, the lottery was not held, and anticipated funding did not materialize. In 1821 additional legilsation passed the General Assembly. The law established a location for the college (Newark), changed its name from Newark College to Delaware College, and proposed to fund the college by applying a direct use tax on steamboats and stagecoaches. Additional legislation passed in 1821 mandated that one half of the fees obtained from licensing merchants to sell foreign goods be set aside for the college funding.4

Immediate opposition within the State caused the repeal of much of the funding proposals for the college. In 1833 the earlier legislation was repealed; the legislature then reestablished Newark College, completely abandoning the name “Delaware College.” The college was to provide student instruction in languages and the arts and sciences for the students within the State. This act established the trustees of Newark College and empowered them to confer degrees, to appoint the faculty, to make by-laws for the government of the college, and to conduct all concerns of the institution. The trustees constituted a corporation known as “The Trustees of Newark College” and were vested with the power to take by gift, grant, devise, bequest, contract, or otherwise necessary land; and to hold and transfer those lands, tenements, hereditaments, goods, chattels, rights, and credits. The corporation’s property was not to exceed a yearly value of twenty thousand dollars. The board was composed of thirty-three members and met twice a year.5 Until 1841 when the president of the college was made the ex-officio president of the board, no member of the faculty could serve as a member of the board.6

The 1833 legislation also stipulated that the building funded by earlier lottery funds and under the administration of the trustees of the Academy of Newark was to be placed under the control of the trustees of Newark College.7 In 1835 the legislature empowered the trustees to sell the Academy and lands, if they desired, and invest the monies for the benefit of the trustees of the Academy of Newark. The latter group of trustees was to be officially discontinued as long as Newark College maintained an “academical department.” Failure to do so would result in the reconstitution of the earlier trustees and a reinstatement of the Academy of Newark.8

In 1841 the State assumed much more direct financial control over Newark College. All monies earned from lotteries were to be transferred to the State through receipt by the State Treasurer. The Teasurer kept an account of the funds and ensured they were set aside for the use and benefit of the college.9 By 1843 the college’s name, Newark College, was no longer seen as sufficiently representative of a State-wide institution; the legislature amended the 1833 charter, renaming the school “Delaware College.”10 In 1851 the charter was again renewed; provisions were made for a normal school which would prepare teachers for careers within the State school districts.11

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In 1862 the federal government, through the provisions of the Morrill Land Grant Act, offered a grant of public lands to the States in exchange for the establishment of a college for agricultural and mechanical arts within their borders. The first States, having no public lands that could be granted to them, were offered land warrants, or script, that could be used for funding such an institution. It was not until 1867 that Delaware decided to take advantage of the offer.12 At that time, the legislature adopted Delaware College as the official recipient of land grant funds; authorized the sale of scrip or land warrants, and proceeds of which were to be invested in interest bearing bonds; directed the Treasurer to pay the interest from such investments to the treasurer of the board of trustees; and directed the board of trustees to establish a course of study that would “carry out the intent of the act of Congress.”13

In the early twentieth century, agitation by the Grangers and other disgruntled citizens caused much attention to be focused on the renewal of the college charter. In 1913 the General Assembly granted the Trustees of Delaware College perpetual existence in order to promote continual educational opportunities for the “youth of all classes in the several pursuits and professions of life.” This same session of the General Assembly, responding to the criticisms of the citizens of the State, also authorized and directed the board of trustees to secure a site and to establish and maintain a college for women, affiliated with Delaware College, with funds provided by the legislature.14 The members of the 1913 legislature were committed to improving the standards of education at Delaware College. They allotted monies for the erection, alteration, and repair of buildings on the State farm; committed funding to maintain an agricultural extension agency at Delaware College; established a pathological and bacteriological laboratory; and provided money for the establishment and maintenance of a summer school for the instruction of teachers.15

In 1921 the name of Delaware College was changed to “University of Delaware,” and while the governing body of the school remained the same, its name was changed to the “Trustees of the University of Delaware” and its members could serve no longer than six year terms.16 By the summer of 1944, many of the departments and salary scales seemed inadequate to handle the increasing numbers of students. A proposed restructuring eliminated the separate male/female colleges structure; created the School of Arts and Sciences; appointed a dean to head the upgraded School of Education; and planned three new divisions, home economics, graduate study, and commerce and business.17

The modernization of the University has continued through the 1980’s. In 1988 the University had ten distinct colleges offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees in a variety of major courses of study. These colleges are: Agriculture; Arts and Sciences; Business and Economics; Education; Engineering; Human Resources; Marine Studies; Nursing; Physical Education, Athletics, and Recreation; and Urban Affairs and Public Policy. Fall enrollment for the year 1987 on the Newark campus was 13,936 undergraduate students and 2,149 graduate students. Additionally, 2,982 people enrolled in the University’s Continuing Education and Parallel Programs, making for a grand total of 19,067 students.

For a complete history of the University of Delaware, please see The University of Delaware: A History by John Munroe (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1986).

N.B.: The University maintains its own archives of administrative and student records.

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1 Munroe, John. The University of Delaware: A History. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1986, pp. 9-25.

2 Ibid., p. 42.

3 5 DL, ch. 157.

4 6 Dl, ch. 49; ch. 50.

5 8 DL, ch. 257.

6 9 DL, ch. 183.

7 8 DL, ch. 257.

8 8 DL, ch. 314.

9 9 DL, ch. 339.

10 9 DL, ch. 427.

11 10 DL, ch. 484.

12 13 DL, ch. 136.

13 Ibid.

14 27 DL, ch. 117; ch. 124.

15 27 DL, ch. ch. 119, 120, 121, 122, 123.

16 32 DL, ch. 166.

17 Munroe, ch. 10.

sle; June 14, 1989