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Lebanon Valley was founded on February 23, 1866, with classes beginning May 7 of that year and its first class graduating in 1870. Expenses at this time for a full year were $206.50 (equal to approximately $4,180 in 2019) and remained relatively unchanged for the next 50 years.
The campus began as a single building, the empty Annville Academy building, which was purchased for $4,500 (equal to $80,000 in 2019) by five Annville citizens. They presented the building as a gift to the East Pennsylvania Conference of the United Brethren Church to settle the argument over where to establish the college. In a little more than two months from its founding, 12 trustees were appointed, President Thomas R. Vickroy was elected, the building repaired and redecorated, a curriculum devised, faculty recruited, and classes begun. The College was entirely contained in that one building (class rooms, student residence, president's residence, and "dining hall") until 1868 when "North College" was opened at a cost of $31,500, equal to $610,000 in 2019. The Annville Academy building became known as "South Hall" or "Ladies Hall" as the North College building was now the home to the men's dormitories.
A note worth mentioning: The college charter, granted in 1867, specifically stated that Lebanon Valley College was established for the education of both sexes. Indeed, Lebanon Valley College can claim that it has been coeducational longer than any other college east of the Allegheny Mountains. However, the curricula were different for men and women, a condition created from a compromise after an uproar in the founding church over the equal treatment of men and women. The "Ladies Course" included modern languages, painting, drawing, wax flower and fruit making, and music. By 1878, the college catalog began announcing that experience showed that there was no difference between men and women in their ability to master college courses, an unpopular idea at its time.
This was also the time of the founding literary societies: Philokosmian, Clionian, and Kalozetean, which bear no resemblance to their present fraternity and sorority selves. They met regularly to debate topics and discuss essays. Other activities included mixed socials, parades, the annual Chestnut Picnic, and other special events throughout the years.
The College steadily grew during its first 35 years, and by 1904, the campus had expanded to include Engle Hall, home of the music department, and a partially completed library funded by Andrew Carnegie. On Christmas Eve 1904, North College (not to be confused with the residence hall with the same name), which stood in the current footprint of the Administration/Humanities building, burned down. The next year, the college raised funds to rebuild and also began expanding the campus further, building not only a new Administration Building (the current Humanities Building), but also North Hall (a women's dorm, currently the site of Miller Chapel), Kreider Hall (a men's residence hall where the current Neidig-Garber Science Center is located), the central heating plant (still in existence), a science building, and a gymnasium. However, funding ran out, debt rose, and building halted on the gym and science buildings. President Hervin U. Roop resigned in disgrace on New Year's Day, 1906. It was not until President Lawrence W. Keister took office on June 12, 1907 that the debt situation was solved. Thanks to his fundraising efforts, the debt was eliminated by 1911. The College landscape remained relatively unchanged for the next four decades, though the cultural changes paralleled that of the rest of the country as it moved through World War I, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, and the New Deal.
Mid-century and modern day (1948-present)
World War II nearly proved to be the end of Lebanon Valley College. In the Fall of 1942, LVC's first wartime registration showed only 357 students enrolled. As the second semester began in 1943, there were only 282 students: 145 women and 137 men, the first time that women outnumbered men. 1943 Fall enrollment dropped again to only 199 students, 62 of which were on limited deferment, waiting to be called to active duty. This prompted one of the first capital campaigns to help the ailing College. The campaign to raise $550,000 received 91% support from current students. The money was to go toward an endowment and a real gymnasium, which bore the name of the president who initiated the campaign--Clyde A. Lynch Memorial Hall. Right before the war ended, LVC enrollment hit bottom at 192 students. In 1946, however, enrollment ballooned to 683 students, more than 300 of which were ex-servicemen.
Enrollment steadily grew and by 1948, thanks to the G.I. Bill, it had reached 817 full-time students, far beyond the college's capacity. Eventually additional facilities and residences were added to the college. Clyde A. Lynch Memorial Hall--which included the school's first proper gymnasium--was opened in 1953. In 1957, Science Hall (now the Derickson A apartments) was created out of the old Kreider Factory building on White Oak St., and Gossard Library also opened that year. In 1966, Frederic K. Miller Chapel was completed. The 1950s also saw the college expand north of Sheridan Avenue, with the Dining Hall (now Lehr and Phillips Dining Hall) built in 1958. Other current traditional residence halls were built between the 1950s and 1970s as well--Mary Green (1956) and Vickroy (1960) in the 1950s-60s, Hammond and Keister Hall in 1965, and Funkhouser and Silver in the 1970s. Marquette and Dellinger were added in 1999 and 2002, respectively, and Stanson was added in 2009.
Enrollment also grew, although it had stagnated by the 1980s. A turnaround began under the presidency of Arthur L. Peterson, whose tenure in office was cut short due to health issues. Soon thereafter, a highly energetic president, John Synodinos, ushered in a period of growth and change with the bold introduction of merit scholarships and the renovation and beautification of a substantial portion of the campus that included the addition of the Edward H. Arnold Sports Center and the Suzanne H. Arnold Art Gallery and Zimmerman Recital hall. With the assistance of Dr. William J. McGill, senior vice president and the dean of the faculty, academic excellence continued to be emphasized, linkages were established with other institutions and schools, an international initiative undertaken, and collaborative learning experiences developed. A new technologically advanced library, the Vernon and Doris Bishop Library, opened in January 1996.
Beginning in 1996 and building on the work of his predecessor, Dr. G. David Pollick's eight-year presidency ushered in a period of continued growth. There was a 40 percent increase in undergraduate enrollment with applications more than doubling. New undergraduate and graduate degree programs were added and there was a large increase in the number of first-year students who studied abroad. A major public relations focus to enhance the college's standing among peer institutions was followed by a major rebuilding and renovation effort on campus and the start of a $50 million campaign, Great Expectations. Pollick oversaw a growth plan that added athletic teams, more than a dozen new campus buildings and athletic facilities, and the college's signature Fasick Bridge. These additions almost tripled the usable space of the college, including five new facilities: the Marquette and Dellinger Residence Halls, the Allan W. Mund College Center, Sorrentino Gymnasium, and the Heilman Center. A revitalization of Clyde A. Lynch Memorial Hall and the Neidig-Garber Science Center also were begun during this period.
An aerial view of LVC's Peace Garden, taken by Blue Fuego. The Peace Garden is in the middle of the college's Residential Quad and is a popular place to study, relax, or take milestone photographs, especially weddings.
Today, the campus consists of 40 buildings, including the recently renovated Clyde A. Lynch Memorial Hall, the Vernon and Doris Bishop Library (revitalized in 2016), the Heilman Center for communication sciences & disorders/speech-language pathology, and $20 million Jeanne and Edward H. Arnold Health Professions Pavilion (opened August 2018) for athletic training, exercise science, and physical therapy. Students received career advice from experts in the Edward and Lynn Breen Center for Graduate Success (launched programming in 2018) and study under the college's new general education curriculum, Constellation LVC (started in fall 2016). Students reside in one of 25 residence halls that include traditional single-sex and co-educational dormitories and apartment-style residences. Students may also reside in special interest houses upon proposal and approval of LVC administration. A small number of upperclassmen are allowed to live off-campus, and a significant portion of the student body are commuter students as well. Undergraduate enrollment is now over 1,638 students.
The endowment of the college is sixty-five million dollars.
Many college traditions have disappeared and been forgotten, much to the chagrin of most alumni. At most colleges and universities, there seems to be a compulsion to make fools of the freshman students. Lebanon Valley College was no different in this regard, as most of the traditions existed for this very reason.
A festive tradition, this pageant was begun in 1912. Each year, a May Queen would be elected and would watch over the festival with her court. Typical May Day activities took place, including the expected May pole. This tradition seems to have persisted for 55 years until the late 1960s.
Until October, 1931, dancing on the LVC campus was forbidden. One evening after a football game, President Gossard had decided to change the policy and allowed the students to dance with his blessing. From then on, the literary societies began holding annual dinner dances. Formal proms were organized and any opportunity for dancing was not overlooked.
In February 1985 the college opened a nighttime dance club called the Underground (or "UG" as it is referred to by most students). The UG is a place where students can go to have fun with their classmates and friends on most Saturday nights. The UG plays popular hits from today's music and is open to non-LVC students at a small price.
March to the President's House
In a tradition that dates to the presidency of Clyde A. Lynch '18 [1932-1950] students march to the president's home, Kreiderheim since 1976, to request the day off before Thanksgiving when the football team defeats Albright College. LVC defeated Albright in double overtime in 2018 and President Thayne granted the students' wish.
Lebanon Valley College is a member of NCAADivision III, competing in the MAC Commonwealth. LVC offers 26 intercollegiate sports, including Pennsylvania's first varsity eSports program, which competes in the National Association of Collegiate Esports. The athletic program began in 1893 with baseball and then football in 1897. Men's and women's basketball were introduced in 1904. LVC's teams are called the Flying Dutchmen, and its mascot is the Dutchman.
Compete in Counter Strike, Fighting Games, Hearth Stone, League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket League, and Smite
Lebanon Valley College has several buildings in which students reside. These buildings include Mary Green, Keister, Hammond, Funkhouser, Silver, Stanson, and Vickroy. In addition to those seven traditional dorms, Marquette, Dellinger, Stanson, and Derickson A/B provide apartment style living for upperclassman students on campus. All dorms include co-ed living among the floors. Residential Assistants are assigned to each building to enforce rules and organize activities for the students.
Elizabeth Miller Bains (Class of 1964)--Former NASA scientist who helped create the software for the computer simulators used to train astronauts and who helped train Sally Ride to use the Canadian-made robotic arm used on the STS-7, NASA's seventh space shuttle mission.
Charlie Gelbert (Class of 1928)--Former Major League Baseball player who played primarily at shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, Washington Senators, and Boston Red Sox.
Rev. Carolyn Gillette (Class of 1982)--Renowned composer whose hymns have been sung by congregations nationally and internationally; her hymns cover national tragedies such a 9/11 and have been performed nationally on PBS-TV and internationally on BBC-TV.
Bishop Peggy A. Johnson (Class of 1975)--Since 2008, Bishop has served as the episcopal leader of the Philadelphia Area of the United Methodist Church, and, in 2014, wrote "The Church and Disabilities."
Brittany Ryan (Class of 2011)--One of the first female college varsity football players and first female in Middle Atlantic Conference and Lebanon Valley College to participate in a varsity football game; current scoring leader among women in the NCAA and second all-time for career PATS made and attempted at LVC.
Dr. Charles F. Schmidt, M.D., (Class of 1914)--Scientist and University of Pennsylvania Medical School chair who, along with K.K. Chen of China, re-discovered ephedrine and introduced it to the Western world; considered by many to be a father of pharmacology who also studied morphine; researched aviation and space medicine working with U.S. astronauts John Glenn and Neil Armstrong as research director of the Naval Air Development Center.