Founded in 1815, Allegheny College ranks among the oldest 1% of colleges and universities in the United States. Perhaps as many as 100 colleges were established and failed before the Civil War. Allegheny is one of the hardy survivors that testify daily to the determination and vision of those early pioneers of higher education in America.
Allegheny is situated in Meadville, Pa., which was established in 1788 in the French Creek Valley, astride the route traversed by George Washington on his journey to Fort LeBoeuf a generation earlier. In 1815, Meadville was still a raw frontier town of about 400 settlers, of whom an unusually large number had come from Massachusetts and Connecticut. They dreamed of a college that might bring the educational opportunities of New England to the frontier. The Rev. Timothy Alden was recruited to take on the task, and two months after his arrival in April 1815, Allegheny was established-with Alden as its first president.
Within half a dozen years, however, Alden succeeded in attracting sufficient funds to begin building a campus, having traveled throughout the eastern states seeking support for a planned library and classroom building. The need of a building to house a library led to the construction, in the 1820s, of Bentley Hall, today a leading example of early American architecture. Designed by Alden, this handsome structure still crowns the hill on which the campus is located. It is named in honor of Dr. William Bentley, who donated his outstanding private library to the College.
From these early beginnings, the College has grown in size and significance, while maintaining strong community ties. Today, the campus has 33 buildings on a 77-acre central campus; a 182-acre outdoor recreational complex; and a 283-acre nature preserve. Allegheny's 2,000 undergraduates come from 34 states and 31 countries to attend an institution ranked as a "Best Value" among National Liberal Arts Colleges by U.S. News & World Report.
Allegheny's 20th president, Richard J. Cook, took office in August 1996 and under his leadership the College has launched New Century Connections, a set of basic planning principles designed to guide the College's development from 1998 though 2003. New Century Connections affirms Allegheny's commitment to its historical purpose and identity while outlining core strategies and related initiatives that adapt the traditional strengths of a liberal arts curriculum to the changing needs of students and the new world that they will help create.