If you've been in the Middletown area, you've probably heard of Wesleyan University. (If you haven't, click here for a virtual tour.) What you may not know is that the institution, the buildings it occupies, and the people that taught there have an incredible history.
Wesleyan was founded in 1831 with forty-eight students on land previously occupied by the Norwich Military Academy (now Norwich University). The University originally had strong ties to the Methodist Church and maintain those ties through the 1930s. However, unlike many religiously associated institutions, Wesleyan never offered a theology degree.The campus has expanded significantly since the University's start, but the historic buildings are still used.
Wesleyan is remembered for one famous - and controversial - faculty member. Woodrow Wilson, the U.S. president remembered for segregation, taught at Wesleyan between 1888 and 1890. Wilson is memorialized in the name of a local middle school, but Middletown has never been entirely comfortable with his legacy. In 2004, residents sought to have the name changed.
What truly set the faculty of Wesleyan apart was the institution's willingness to offer degrees to women. From 1872 to 1912, Wesleyan was one of the few colleges in the country to educate men and women together. Sadly, pressure from alumni brought that era to an end. Did one of your ancestors work or go to school at Wesleyan during these years?
"History of Wesleyan," Wesleyan University (http://www.wesleyan.edu/about/uhistory.html: accessed 24 February 2012).
"University History: Norwich University," Norwich University (http://www.norwich.edu/about/history.html: accessed 24 February 2012).
"Wesleyan Facts and Trivia," Wesleyan University (http://www.wesleyan.edu/about/trivia.html: accessed 24 February 2012).