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 Western Maryland College 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 of Western Maryland College 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 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 Western Maryland 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.
In recognition of the College’s 135-year history as Western Maryland College, Alumni Hall was renamed WMC Alumni Hall, and each year, the course “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about McDaniel College/Western Maryland College” is offered during January Term.
Billy Mac, as William R. McDaniel 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 145-year history, the College has had only nine 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), Dr. Joan Develin Coley (2000–2010) and Dr. Roger N. Casey (2010–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 is a diverse student-centered community committed to excellence in the liberal arts & sciences and professional studies. With careful mentoring and attention to the individual, McDaniel changes lives. We challenge students to develop their unique potentials with reason, imagination, and human concern. Through flexible academic programs, collaborative and experiential learning, and global engagement, McDaniel prepares students for successful lives of leadership, service, and social responsibility.
Recognized nationally among 40 Colleges that Change Lives and U.S. News top-tier liberal arts colleges, McDaniel offers more than 70 exceptional undergraduate programs of study, including dual and student-designed majors, plus 25 highly regarded graduate programs, including one of the nation’s top Deaf Education programs.
The college’s hallmark faculty-student collaborations in research, teaching and mentoring plus hundreds of leadership and service opportunities enrich a lively learning experience that is rooted in the McDaniel Plan, a student-centered curriculum delivered in small classes by dynamic faculty who connect flexible learning plans to global opportunities for engagement. Distinctive aspects of the McDaniel Plan include required Sophomore Interdisciplinary Studies seminar and a junior writing experience in the major.
Innovative January courses take students to points all over the world while McDaniel Europe, the college’s degree-granting European campus now in its 18th year, offers international students and American students a unique opportunity for international study at the only American university in Budapest, Hungary. A diverse and close-knit community of 1,600 undergraduates from 33 states and 15 countries plus 1,560 part-time graduate students, McDaniel also boasts a spectacular 160-acre hilltop campus in Westminster, Md., an hour or less from Baltimore, D.C., the Chesapeake Bay, the Amtrak station and BWI international airport.
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 agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Commission on Recognition of Postsecondary Accreditation. In June 2013, the accreditation of McDaniel College was reaffirmed through 2018.
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.