Wilkes University

Wilkes University is a private university in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. It has over 2,200 undergraduates and over 2,200 graduate students (both full and part-time).[2] Wilkes was founded in 1933 as a satellite campus of Bucknell University,[3] and became an independent institution in 1947, naming itself Wilkes College, after English radical politician John Wilkes after whom Wilkes-Barre is named.[4] The school was granted university status in January 1990.[5] It is classified among "Doctoral/Professional Universities".[6] Wilkes University is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.[7]

Wilkes University
Wilkes University Seal Blue.png
Former names
Bucknell Junior College
Motto"Unity Amidst Diversity"
Established1933; 88 years ago (1933)
Endowment$54.0 million (2019)[1]
PresidentAlan Gregory Cant
ProvostDavid M. Ward
Academic staff
157 Full Time[2]
Location, ,
United States

41°14′36″N 75°53′27″W / 41.24333°N 75.89083°W / 41.24333; -75.89083Coordinates: 41°14′36″N 75°53′27″W / 41.24333°N 75.89083°W / 41.24333; -75.89083
Campus35 acres; Urban
ColorsBlue and Gold    
AthleticsNCAA Division IIIMAC Freedom Conference
Wilkes University Seal Horizontal Blue.png

The school mascot is a Colonel and the official colors are blue and yellow.[8] The campus symbol is a letter "W" known as the "flying W" by students and alumni.


Wilkes University was first established in 1933 by Bucknell University under the name Bucknell University Junior College (BUJC) in Wilkes-Barre.[9] Frank G. Davis, chair of the Education department at Bucknell, first developed the idea of BUJC and served as an early liaison between BUJC and Bucknell.[10] BUJC attracted many students who were the first members of their families to benefit from higher education as the need for junior colleges arose in urban areas.[4] The college opened in downtown Wilkes-Barre, where the first classes were held on the third floor of the Wilkes-Barre Business College building.[4] By 1934, the business college moved out of the building and BUJC had taken it over and continued to grow over the years, acquiring old mansions for student housing, classrooms, and administration offices along the streets of South River and South Franklin.[4] By 1945, the Board of Trustees formally moved to develop the junior college into a four-year institution.[11]

In 1947, Wilkes College was instituted as an independent, nondenominational four-year college, with programs in the arts, sciences, and a number of professional fields, as well as numerous extracurricular activities.[9] The student body in the postwar period was primarily composed of Luzerne County residents, especially G.I. bill recipients.[10] In the 1950s, increasing numbers of students elected to live on campus, which led to a rapid expansion in on-campus student housing. Increased federal funding for science and engineering in the 1950s led the college to develop academic programs in those areas, build the Stark Learning Center, and increase enrollment.[10]

Wilkes College became Wilkes University in December 1989, and the school officially received university status a month later, in January 1990.[5][11]

Wilkes University opened the School of Pharmacy in 1996,[12] and in 1999, through a donation from Mrs. Geraldine Nesbitt Orr, the Nesbitt School of Pharmacy was established.[11] The Jay S. Sidhu School of Business & Leadership was created in 2004, and the following year, the Henry Student Center was expanded and the university purchased an 80,000-square-foot (7,400 m2) building in downtown Wilkes-Barre.[11] The University Center on Main (Ucom) building houses the Sidhu School of Business and Leadership, an indoor track and field, and ropes course.

By 2014, Wilkes University grew to include eight academic buildings, 20 residence halls, nine administrative buildings, and other facilities such as the Eugene S. Farley Library, the Henry Student Center, and athletic complexes.[13]

Presidents of Wilkes UniversityEdit

  • Eugene S. Farley, 1936–70 →Chief Administrative Officer of Wilkes precursor Bucknell University Junior College[3] and Wilkes University first president.[14] Wilkes' first holder of Chancellor/Honorary President title upon retirement.
  • Francis J. Michelini, 1970–75 →First president to ascend from the academic ranks, after serving as Wilkes biology faculty and then academic dean.[15] Resigned to become President of Pennsylvania Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities.[16]
  • Robert S. Capin '50* H'83; 1975–84 →*First university alumnus to serve in presidential capacity.[17] Wilkes first holder of President Emeritus title upon retirement as president and returning to the business faculty.
  • Christopher N. Breiseth, 1984-2001[18] →Retired to accept position as founding President and CEO of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute.[19]
  • Joseph "Tim" E. Gilmour, 2001-2012 →Currently serves on team of Strategic Initiatives.[20]
  • Patrick F. Leahy, 2012–2019[21] →Resigned effective July 31, 2019 to accept Presidency of Monmouth University in Monmouth, New Jersey.[22]
  • Alan Gregory "Greg" Cant, 2020–[23] →First president, born in Australia, to bring international experience to the position.

Interim Presidents of Wilkes UniversityEdit

  • Robert S. Capin '50* H'83; 1974 →*First university alumnus to serve in presidential capacity.[17] Promoted to President 1975. Wilkes first holder of President Emeritus title upon retirement as president and return to the business faculty.
  • Paul S. Adams '77, '82*; 2019-2020 →*Second university alumnus to serve in presidential capacity and first to ascend from the student affairs division.[24]


Academic buildingsEdit

Most of the academic buildings are located within the same city block, between South River Street, South Franklin Street, South Street, and Northampton Street. The Stark Learning Center (SLC), located on South River Street, is the largest building on campus with 220,000 square feet housing classrooms, laboratories, and office space.[25] The facility consists of nursing, math and engineering offices and classrooms.[25] Stark Learning Center received extensive renovation in 2018.[26][27][28]

Classrooms and offices for humanities and social sciences are located in Breiseth Hall, a three-story building located on South Franklin Street, in the same block as SLC. Kirby Hall, a mansion formerly home to Fred Morgan Kirby, was renovated to house offices and classrooms for English.[29]

The Cohen Science Center, a $35 million project, was established to house the biology and health sciences, chemistry and biochemistry, and environmental engineering and earth sciences departments.[30][31] The facility has been built to LEED silver standards for environmental sustainability and allows for students to monitor energy use, water use, and general building performance to aid sustainability studies.[32] The building also features a rooftop vegetation area for greenhouse purposes and to assist in reducing rain runoff.[32]

Simms Center on Main [formerly University Center on Main]Edit

In 2005, the university acquired the former Wilkes-Barre Call Center building and parking garage on South Main Street.[33] The parking garage is currently being used for student and faculty parking. The Public Safety department has remodeled and relocated to the basement of the garage.[34] The Call Center building was renovated and renamed University Center on Main.[33] The building now houses recreation facilities including tennis and basketball courts, and a rock climbing wall.[35] In summer 2014, the building was renovated to also house the Sidhu School of Business and Leadership. On August 11, 2021 the center was formally named after Ron and Rhea Simms to be known as Simms Center on Main. [36]

Residence hallsEdit

The campus offers seventeen different residence halls and apartment buildings for all levels of students, although some apartments are reserved for upperclassmen.[37] Many residence halls are located in 19th century mansions that were donated to the university, or other houses purchased by the university. Over 11 mansion and house style residence halls are used throughout the campus.[37] Apartment style residences are found in University Towers and Rifkin Hall.[37] Non-apartment residence halls include Catlin Hall, Doane Hall, Evans Hall, Fortinsky Halls, Passan Hall, Ross Hall, Roth Hall, Schiowitz Hall, Sterling Hall, Sturdevant Hall, Sullivan Hall, University Towers, Waller Halls (North and South), and Weiss Hall.[37] First year and second year students are required to live in residence halls (unless he or she is a commuter), and can live off-campus starting their third year.[38]

Traditional dormitory housing is provided at Evans Residence Hall. With four floors and about 200 students, Evans Residence Hall is the largest first-year student residential hall on the Wilkes University campus. Renovated in 2008, Chesapeake and Delaware Residence Halls were re-dedicated as Lawrence W. Roth Residence Hall, a residential hall connecting the previously separate Chesapeake and Delaware Residence Halls. It is a first year student, non-traditional residential hall house with about seventy residents and three RAs. Students living on campus have access to laundry facilities, basic cable, and local phone service.[37]

The university purchased the University Towers apartment complex located at 10 East South Street from a private real estate company for $8.1 million. Approximately 400 students are housed in this building's 130 units.[39] Part of the nearby YMCA building has been renovated into apartment style residences and houses upperclassman.[40][41] The apartments are known as 40 West.[40]

Colonel's Corner University BookstoreEdit

The university partnered with neighboring King's College to operate a joint for-profit bookstore in downtown Wilkes-Barre.[42] The new bookstore opened in October 2006, consolidating two independent bookstores into one new facility.[42][43] The new bookstore, run by Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, is located in the basement and first floor of the Innovation Center on South Main Street.[43] The bookstore includes a full selection of general trade books, a full-service Starbucks cafe, lounges and study areas, and a spirit shop featuring products from both Wilkes and King's College.[43] In 2021 the bookstore returned to the main campus no longer partnered with King's College. [44]

Karambelas Media and Communications CenterEdit

In August 2017, the university dedicated the newly renovated Bartikowsky Jewelers building as the Karambelas Media and Communications Center. It houses WCLH 90.7 FM (the university radio station), the Beacon newspaper, Zebra Communications (a student-run public relations agency)[45] and the Sordoni Art Gallery.[46]

Dorothy Dickson Darte Center for the Performing ArtsEdit

The Darte Center is the home of performing arts at Wilkes University. Built in 1965 to replace the Chase Theater (a converted carriage house),[47] it includes the Darling Theater, which seats 478, a black box theater which seats 48, and a two-story music building.[48] The land on which the Darte Center sits was donated by the Wyoming Valley Society of Arts and Sciences. The building was financed by an anonymous donation of $1 million by Dorothy Dickson Darte and dedicated in her honor after her death.[10][47]

Eugene Shedden Farley LibraryEdit

In 1968, Wilkes College dedicated the newly constructed Eugene Shedden Farley Library and named it after the college's first president.[49] The library initially contained four special collection rooms - dedicated to Admiral Harold Stark, Eleanor C. Farley, Gilbert McClintock, and Wyoming Valley residents of Polish heritage.[50] The Polish room was designed by Stefan Mrozewski in the Zakopane Style, and Stefan Hellersperk carved the furniture.[51][52] The first Norman Mailer Room was dedicated in 2000,[53] and the second Norman Mailer Room and Collection were dedicated in October 2019.[54] The Harold Cox Archives room, which houses the Wilkes University Archives, was dedicated in 2004 and 2013.[55][56] As of 2019, the library contained 200,000 books and bound journals, 75,000 electronic journals, and 430 newspaper and journal subscriptions, as well as circulating technology like ipads and laptops.[57]


Wilkes University has a 14 to one student to faculty ratio and with over 50 percent of classes having fewer than 20 students per class.[58] The university is accredited by the Middle State Association of Colleges and Schools and has also received accreditation from various professional accreditation associations for individual degree plans.[59] The university offers majors in science, education, engineering, business, and liberal arts for undergraduate and graduate students.[60] The academic programs at Wilkes University are divided among seven schools:[61][62]

  • College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
  • College of Science and Engineering
  • Nesbitt School of Pharmacy
  • Passan School of Nursing
  • Jay S. Sidhu School of Business and Leadership
  • The School of Education
  • University College

The College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences includes six departments including behavioral and social sciences and performing arts.[60] One of the largest colleges is the College of Science and Engineering which has seven departments and divisions that encompass a wide range of majors and minors.[60] The College of Science and Engineering program in Electrical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) of the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET).[7] The school's Nesbitt School of Pharmacy is one of seven pharmacy schools in Pennsylvania.[63] The school is fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.[64] The Passan School of Nursing undergraduate baccalaureate program in Nursing is approved by the Pennsylvania State Board of Nurse Examiners and is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.[7] The Jay S. Sidhu School of Business and Leadership has several business degree plans and includes one of the most popular undergraduate majors, management.[65] Select undergraduate programs of the Sidhu School are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.[66]

Graduate studiesEdit

Wilkes University offers over a dozen programs within its graduate school programs.[60] The Wilkes Graduate Teacher Education Program hosts classes online and at classroom sites across Pennsylvania.[67] Some of the Wilkes Graduate Teacher Education programs are hosted entirely online. Other graduate programs such as nursing, creative writing, and bioengineering are also offered at the university.[60] The MBA program within the Jay S. Sidhu School of Business and Leadership was ranked among the top ten MBA programs in the state of Pennsylvania.[68]

Student lifeEdit


Wilkes University students take part in a number of traditions on campus most around new student orientation and during the seven days leading to Spring commencement (a.k.a. Senior Week). Including:

  • Homecoming Dinner/Dance (typically at Genetti's or The Woodlands).
  • Homecoming Week Banner design competition and Residence Hall outdoor decorating.
  • ROTC, Nursing and Pharmacy pinning ceremonies upon commencement.
  • Senior Salute
  • Community Service project during Orientation Week and Senior Week.
  • President's parent/ family reception during Senior Week (typically at Weckesser Hall).
  • President's Commencement Dinner/Dance (typically at Genetti's or The Woodlands).
  • Promenade of graduates through campus led by bagpipers to the commencement site. This includes touching the foot of the John Wilkes statue in the center of campus and proceding through the Wilkes arches, through the gateway Fenner quadrangle and along South Franklin Street.
  • Graduates may receive diploma from parents [upon permission] and if they work at the University during commencement.
  • Senior Class President last in line of the graduating class to walk across stage to receive diploma.
  • Sports Alumni Hall of Fame induction annual ceremony at the Marts Center.

Annual Commencement AwardsEdit


  • Mabel Scott Wandell Award and Sterling Leroy Wandell Award

The Mabel Scott Wandell and the Sterling Leroy Wandell awards are presented to the woman and man in Wilkes University’s graduating class with the highest grade-point averages.

  • Teresa Jordan and Frank Mehm Prize

The Mehm Prize is awarded annually to the undergraduate who most nearly represents the ideal respecting moral courage, unselfishness and noteworthy extracurricular participation significantly advancing the University on and off campus.

  • Alumni Leadership Award

The Alumni Leadership Award is given by the Wilkes University Alumni Association to the member of the graduating class considered to have made the strongest contribution to student life and the student activities program of the University.

Clubs and organizationsEdit

Numerous student-run clubs are recognized and funded by the student government. Many of the clubs are athletically focused, representing sports including crew, lacrosse, running, skiing, volleyball, and ultimate frisbee. Clubs associated with academics and majors represent psychology, sociology, criminology, and pre-pharmacy. Other clubs are formed around common interests such as animal advocacy, vegetarianism, anime, and robotics.[70]

Wilkes has an active student media, including a television station within the Karambelas Media and Communications Center, FM radio station WCLH which celebrated its 45th anniversary in 2017, weekly newspaper The Beacon, a literary magazine Manuscript which celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2017, and yearbook Amnicola which will celebrate its 70th anniversary in 2018. The university's newspaper was originally published as the Bison Stampede in 1934.[71] The publication was later renamed The Beacon, and the paper celebrated its 85th anniversary in 2019.[71]

Wilkes University Programming Board, an entertainment and event planning organization, has hosted events that featured Pennsylvania based bands such as Live and Fuel, and national favorites including Alanis Morissette, Rusted Root, Joan Osborne, Dashboard Confessional, Lifehouse, Busta Rhymes, Hoobastank, Jack's Mannequin, and Billy Joel.[72]

Wilkes University launched the first collegiate marching band in the northeast Pennsylvania region in 2014.[73] The university said that the new marching band will be a welcomed new tradition and it will contribute to a growth in school spirit.[73]

Student GovernmentEdit

The Student Government organization at Wilkes hosts many annual events for undergraduates such as Homecoming and Winter Weekend, an annual themed weekend event in which teams of students participate in various competitive challenges such as team skits and eating contests.[74][75] The Wilkes Student Government also coordinates all the other university organizations and clubs by formulating student activity budgets and reviewing fund requests.[74] The organization is composed of various executive positions and councils including the president, presidents of Commuter Council, Inter-residence Hall Council, representatives, and a president from each class.[74]

ROTC ProgramEdit

Detachment 752 of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps is located at Wilkes University. Established in 1973, AF ROTC Detachment 752 has trained and prepared hundreds of young men and women for future careers as USAF officers.[76] Wilkes also offers Army ROTC, but the classes are held at nearby King's College.[77] When students graduate from Wilkes and complete the ROTC program, they earn a commission as an officer in their respective military branches.[76][77] The detachment serves 12 other crosstown colleges and universities in Northeast Pennsylvania.


The Wilkes University Colonels compete in NCAA Division III athletics.[78] The university is a member of the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC). Wilkes offers numerous intercollegiate sports team organizations at the university. Wilkes men's intercollegiate sports teams include baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, swimming, tennis and wrestling. Wilkes women's intercollegiate sports teams include basketball, cross country, field hockey, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, and volleyball.

Men's conference titlesEdit

In 2007, the Wilkes University baseball team was the MAC Freedom Conference champion.[79] Prior to that, the baseball team had been conference champion in 1994 and 1977.[79]

In the 2007-2008 men's basketball season, the Wilkes men's team went 13-12 overall and finished fourth in the conference. Previously, the men's basketball team was Freedom Conference champion for the 2000-2001 season, 1998-99 season, 1997-98 season, and 1995-96 season.[80]

The Wilkes University football team was the MAC champion for the 2006 season, and previously, the football team had been conference champion in 1993 and 1974.[81] In the mid 1960s the Wilkes College football program had 32 straight wins—the fourth longest streak in college football history at the time.[82] It began in the fourth game of the 1965 season and ended in 1969. From a 34-0 victory over Ursinus to a 13-7 loss to Ithaca. Rollie Schmidt coached the Colonels from 1962-81. His teams went 90-73-1 winning five MAC titles, two Lambert Bowls (best small college team in the East) and one Timmie Award (best small college team in the country).[82]

The men's tennis team was MAC Freedom Conference champion in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.[83]

The Wilkes wrestling team has won a total of 14 Middle Atlantic Conference team championships. In 1974, the team won the NCAA Div. III national championship, afterward, the Colonels moved to the NCAA Div. I ranks for 25 seasons before returning to Div. III ranks in 2000.[84]

Women's conference titlesEdit

The Wilkes University women's field hockey team was MAC champions in 2013 and 1999.[85] In 2008 the women's field hockey team was ranked 18th in the nation by the NCAA.[86]

In 2005, the Wilkes women's soccer team was the MAC Freedom Conference champion.[87] The following year, the Wilkes women's softball team won the MAC region in 2006.[88] Prior to that, the women's softball team was the MAC champion in 1982.[88]

The women's tennis team at Wilkes was the MAC Freedom Conference champion in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.[89] The women's volleyball team was the conference champion in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.[90]

Women's golf and women's swimming, both NCAA Division III intercollegiate sports, were introduced to Wilkes University's sports roster in the 2014-15 season in the Middle Atlantic Conference.[73]


Lecture seriesEdit

The university sponsors and hosts academically focused lectures series for its students and community. The Max Rosenn Lecture Series in Law and Humanities was established in the 1980s, and has brought many speakers to the university including author Norman Mailer, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, and journalist Bob Woodward.[91] The Allan P. Kirby Lecture in Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship has also hosted speakers including journalist and television host John Stossel, and former New York Governor George Pataki.[92] The center hosts two lectures annually.[92] The United Nations lecture series was launched in the 2011-2012 academic year and the program brings U.N. officials to the campus to speak to students throughout the year through a partnership with the Higher Education Alliance of the United Nations.[93]

Annual High School Mathematics ContestEdit

For over 60 years Wilkes University has been the host of the Annual High School Mathematics Contest as sponsored by the Luzerne County Council of Teachers of Mathematics (LCCTM).[94] Every year juniors and seniors from Luzerne County high schools come to Wilkes University to participate in the competition. The first-place winner in both the junior and senior divisions are awarded a full-tuition scholarship to Wilkes University.[94]

ACM Intercollegiate Programming ContestEdit

The Wilkes University Math and Computer Science Department hosts the Eastern Pennsylvania division of the Mid-Atlantic Region of the annual ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest. Wilkes University has been host to the event for the last 5 years. A total of 8 schools host teams in the Mid-Atlantic Region.[95] The competition is sponsored by IBM and the contest challenges the participants knowledge and creativity in solving computer programming problems.[95]

Annual Tom Bigler High School Journalism ConferenceEdit

Annually, hundreds of Pennsylvania high school students attend this annual media oriented event. Each year features a notable keynote speaker, hands-on workshops in the areas of telecommunications, journalism and public relations and panel discussions and presentation from media professionals and personalities. A high school journalism contest and awards ceremony is also a main event.


The Wilkes University Theatre presents a full season of dramas and musicals on the main stage as well as a season of student produced black box productions at the Darte Center.[96] The Division of Performing Arts presents a total of four shows annually at the Darte Center.

Notable alumniEdit


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