Shortly after the Civil War, Fayette R. Buell, a Westminster teacher, embarked on his dream of founding a small private college. He purchased a tract of land—a hill overlooking the town—and issued a prospectus in search of support for his dream. Although financing was slow to materialize, he did receive generous support from two of the community leaders: the Reverend J.T. Ward of the Methodist Protestant Church, who would become the College’s first president, and John Smith, president of the thriving Western Maryland Railroad and a resident of nearby Wakefield Valley.
Mr. Smith, who became the first president of the College’s Board of Trustees, suggested that the College be named after the railroad, which maintained an important terminal in Westminster. On the day in 1866 that the cornerstone was laid for the College’s first building, free rail passage was granted to everyone who attended the ceremonies. Eventually, the Western Maryland Railroad merged with another company. But the College that bore its name continued to grow.
The first building on the Hill was completed in September 1867; 37 men and women were enrolled in eight areas of study. Already, the new college was in many ways ahead of its time. In the original Charter, the founders and the first Board of Trustees clearly reflected their intentions that the College be an innovative and independent institution.
The College was founded “upon a most liberal plan for the benefit of students without regard to race, religion, color, sex, national or ethnic origin, which students shall be eligible for admission to equal privileges and advantages of education and to all social activities and organizations of the college, without requiring or enforcing any sectarian, racial, or civil test, and without discrimination on the basis of sex, national or ethnic origin, nor shall any prejudice be made in the choice of any officer, teacher, or other employee in the said college on account of these factors.”
The College was one of the first coeducational colleges in the nation. Since its inception, it has been an independent liberal arts college with an autonomous Board of Trustees. A voluntary fraternal affiliation with the United Methodist Church existed from 1868 to 1974; today there are no ties to any denominational body. Control and ownership are fully vested by the Charter in the trustees, under Maryland state law.
On January 11, 2002, the trustees announced their unanimous decision to change the name of the College after discussion and surveys confirmed confusion over where and what the College was. Under a new name, the College would be better recognized as a private college of the liberal arts and sciences within an hour’s drive of Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
Alumni, students, parents, faculty, and emeriti faculty, administrators, and trustees participated in the process to select a name which embodied the essence of the College. On July 1, 2002, McDaniel College renewed its educational mission in honor of William R. McDaniel, a man who meant as much to the College as the College meant to him.
Billy Mac, as he was affectionately known, arrived on campus in 1877 as a 16-year-old sophomore from the Eastern Shore. He was salutatorian among the six men and four women in the Class of 1880. He taught for 36 years and also served as an innovative administrator and trustee. Presidents called him indispensable. Colleagues respected his dedication to teaching and the hand he extended to faculty newcomers. His students spoke of his attention to detail and demanding yet patient way of guiding them through algebra, geometry, and astronomy. McDaniel’s dedication to the College spanned 65 years and ended only with his death in 1942.
In its 138-year history, the College has had only eight presidents: Dr. Ward, Dr. Thomas Hamilton Lewis (1886–1920), Dr. Albert Norman Ward (1920–1935), Bishop Fred G. Holloway (1935–1947), Dr. Lowell S. Ensor (1947–1972), Dr. Ralph C. John (1972–1984), Dr. Robert H. Chambers (1984–2000), and Dr. Joan Develin Coley (2000–present). Under their guidance, the College has assumed a place in the nation among the quality colleges of the liberal arts and sciences, developing programs and material and physical assets that fulfill the vision of its founders.
Thirty miles northwest of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and 56 miles north of Washington, D.C., the campus overlooks historic Westminster, Md., Carroll County’s largest town and county seat. Within walking distance are gift boutiques, book and music stores, art galleries, and restaurants which line one of America’s longest main streets. Both nearby metropolitan cities offer students opportunities for learning and leisure—art and history museums, internships on Capitol Hill, Baltimore Orioles and Ravens games, and bayside seafood and nightlife.
McDaniel College provides an ideal location for learning which brings together students from 31 states and 11 countries. Its picturesque campus is situated on a hilltop in historic Westminster, a short drive from two major metropolitan centers, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. One of the first coeducational colleges in the nation, it has been both innovative and independent since its founding in 1867.
The tradition of liberal arts studies rests comfortably here. Exemplary teaching is its central mission, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The faculty is engaged in research and professional writing; they are involved at the highest levels of their respective professions; they are sought after as consultants in many spheres, but their primary mission is teaching. Enrollment of 1700 undergraduates enables the College to provide individual guidance to its students and to be responsive to their needs. Graduates leave enriched not just because of their classwork, but because of their meaningful interactions with one another.
A flexible liberal arts curriculum stresses the ability to think critically and creatively, to act humanely and responsibly, and to be expressive. Accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, it is listed as one of the selective national Liberal Arts Colleges by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. McDaniel is also one of 40 liberal arts colleges in Loren Pope’s Colleges That Change Lives. Known nationally for its unique January Term program, McDaniel College is internationally recognized for its undergraduate branch campus in Hungary, McDaniel College Budapest, and for its graduate program in training teachers for the deaf.
McDaniel College is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, 3624 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA. The Commission on Higher Education is an institutional accrediting agenccy recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Commission on Recognition of Postsecondary Accreditation. In July 2003, the accreditation of McDaniel College was reaffirmed through 2013. The next periodic review will be due in June 2008.
McDaniel College received accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) October 26, 2004. The joint NCATE/Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) Board of Examiners visited the College April 24-28, 2004.
Philosophy and Objectives
Chartered in 1866 as a private, liberal arts college, McDaniel College has over a century of tradition as an institution of higher learning. Dedicated to the liberal arts as a vital part of our culture, McDaniel College views the graduate programs as a logical extension of its educational mission. The development of responsible and creative graduates clearly entails commitment to an environment open to the pursuit of truth and the growth of professional attitudes, ethical values, and critical judgement. Graduate study at McDaniel College seeks to provide depth and breadth of educational experience as individuals prepare themselves for the challenges of the future in the workplace and in their professional lives.