PennWest California: A brief history

For more than 160 years, California has been known for its commitment to academic excellence, student achievement and success, and service to the community.

Fireworks above Old Main.

Through the Years

Founded in 1852 as the California Academy, the school soon was chartered as a normal school to prepare men and women to teach in Pennsylvania's public classrooms. It was re-named the South Western Normal College in 1875 and California State Normal School in 1914.

The school achieved collegiate status in 1928 and became California State Teachers College. It granted four-year degrees in elementary and secondary education and was known for its strengths in industrial arts and special education.

With the introduction of liberal arts programs in 1959, the school's name was changed to California State College. A graduate program was introduced at Cal State in 1962, and in 1974 the college developed a special mission in science and technology.

In 1983, the college became part of the commonwealth's State System of Higher Education and changed its name to PennWest California. In the same year, PennWest California's College of Science and Technology became fully operational; it was renamed the Eberly College of Science and Technology in 1996.

Changing Campus

PennWest California has undergone many changes since its earliest days, when the building now known as Old Main housed the entire academy. Historic buildings, including Dixon and South halls, have been extensively renovated over the years, and many new buildings have been added to campus.

Some highlights:

  • 2004-2007: Six new residence halls were constructed to replace all previous student housing on the main campus.
  • 2007: A new academic building, Duda Hall, was dedicated to replace an older building with the same name. (A remnant of the old Duda Hall stands across from Manderino Library, where it supports the Ascent of Humanity sculpture.)
  • 2009: Herron Hall reopened after a major renovation and expansion to accommodate a multi-level fitness and recreation center.
  • 2010: The Student Association Inc. purchased the 98-acre SAI Farm, on PennWest California's upper campus, and play began at our state-of-the-art Phillipsburg soccer facility.
  • 2011: The PennWest California Convocation Center opened as the home of Vulcan volleyball and basketball, and as a regional venue for corporate, entertainment and scholastic events. PennWest California activities, including graduation ceremonies, are held in the Convocation Center.
  • 2015: The Natali Student Center was rededicated after a top-to-bottom renovation based on input from PennWest California students.

Our Future

Our PennWest California campus continues to evolve in response to University needs.

  • Renovation is under way at Coover Hall, which houses classrooms, labs and offices, primarily for engineering technology programs.
  • A new science building is scheduled for construction starting in 2020-2021; its multipurpose classrooms and labs will replace New Science and Frich halls. A renovation and expansion of Keystone Hall, our most-used academic building, also is part of the master plan.