gird up loins

Dickinson College

Dickinson College is a private, residential liberal arts college in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Originally established as a Grammar School in 1773 , Dickinson was chartered September 9, 1783, five days after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, making it the first college to be founded in the newly-recognized United States. Dickinson was founded by Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence and named in honor of a signer of the Constitution, John Dickinson, the President of Pennsylvania. Dickinson College is America's 16th oldest college.

With over 180 full-time faculty members and an enrollment of nearly 2,400 students, Dickinson is known for its innovative curriculum and outstanding international education programs but for also having an expensive tuition of $45,000 per year. Dickinson sponsors 12 study centers in other countries and its approach to global education has received national recognition from the American Council on Education and NAFSA: Association of International Educators. The college was among six institutions profiled in depth by NAFSA for "Outstanding Campus Internationalization" in 2003 The 42% acceptance rate for the Class of 2011 is Dickinson's lowest ever, and the College's nearly 6,000 applications put it amongst the top liberal arts colleges nationwide. In 2007 Dickinson's endowment topped $300 million, more than double its total from ten years before.

Dickinson College is not to be confused with the Dickinson School of Law, which abuts the campus but has not been associated with the college since the late 19th century. The law school merged with The Pennsylvania State University in 1997, and its students study at both the Carlisle and State College campuses. Dickinson is sometimes mistaken for, yet has no relation to, Fairleigh Dickinson University, a private university in the state of New Jersey.


The Carlisle Grammar School was founded in 1773 as a frontier Latin school for the young men in western Pennsylvania. Within years Carlisle's elite, especially James Wilson and John Montgomery (delegate), were pushing for an expansion of the school into a college. In 1782 Benjamin Rush, a revolutionary leader and the preeminent physician in the new nation, met in Philadelphia with Montgomery on the porch of prominent businessman and politician William Bingham to discuss the founding of a frontier college in the town. It was in this conversation that the idea for the college was formed, and "Bingham's Porch" was long a rallying cry at Dickinson.

Dickinson College was chartered by the Pennsylvania legislature on September 9, 1783, three days after the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1783) ending the American Revolution, making it the first college founded in the newly recognized nation. Rush intended to name the institution after the President of Pennsylvania John Dickinson and his wife, originally calling it "John and Mary's College." The name Dickinson College was chosen instead. At the time of its founding its location west of the Susquehanna River made it the westernmost college in America. For the first meeting of the trustees, held in April 1784, Rush made his first journey to Carlisle. The trustees selected Charles Nisbet, a Scottish minister and scholar, to serve as the College's first president. He arrived and began to serve on July 4, 1785.

Among the 18th century graduates of Dickinson were two U.S. Supreme Court justices, Robert Cooper Grier and Roger Brooke Taney, who served together on the Court together for 18 years.

During the 19th century two famous Dickinson College alumni were important participants in issues which led to the Civil War. These were James Buchanan, the 15th President of the United States, and Roger Brooke Taney, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. It was under Taney's leadership that the Supreme Court issued the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision, which held that Congress could not prohibit slavery in federal territories. Buchanan threw the full prestige of his administration behind congressional approval of the Lecompton Constitution in Kansas.


Dickinson College sits on a quiet campus in the heart of the small town of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Its heavily wooded, limestone-clad campus is just two blocks from the main square in historic Carlisle, the county seat of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. Modern Carlisle sits at the intersection of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Interstate 81 and is home to the nation's second oldest military base, Carlisle Barracks, now the home of the U.S. Army War College.

The grammar school which would become Dickinson College in 1783 was founded in 1773 and housed in a small, two-room brick building on Liberty Avenue, near Bedford Street and Pomfret Street. Upon the College's founding the building was expanded and was Dickinson's first home. In 1799 the Penn family sold on the western edge of Carlisle to the nascent college, on which it has made its home ever since. On June 20 of that year the cornerstone was laid by John Montgomery (delegate), a founding trustee of the college, for a building on the new land. The twelve-room building burned to the ground on February 3, 1803, just five weeks after opening its doors, and the college returned to its previous accommodations.

Within weeks of the fire, a national fundraising campaign was launched, enticing donations from President Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State James Madison, and Chief Justice John Marshall and many others. Benjamin Latrobe, already famous for his work on the Bank of Pennsylvania and Princeton University's Nassau Hall, and soon-to-be Architect of the Capitol, was chosen to design the new structure. Latrobe's design for the building, now known as "West College," or more fondly as "Old West," featured monumental and classical elements within a simple and subdued academic style. The building was to be capped with a classically-inspired cupola, itself graced by a figure of Triton, however the local craftsman instead created a mermaid, which has ever-since been a symbol of the college. Latrobe, who donated his services to the college, visited the building for the first time in 1813. The total cost of West College topped $22,000 and, although classes began in 1805, work was not finished until 1822. More than 200 years after its doors opened for the first time, Old West is today the ceremonial heart of the college, as all students march through the open doors during convocation at the beginning of their freshman year, and march out the same doors to receive their degrees and graduate. Old West also houses the college administration, several classrooms, a computer lab, and the college chapel.

Throughout the 19th century Dickinson expanded across what has now become its main academic quadrangle, known formally as the John Dickinson Campus. Dickinson expanded across College Street to build the Holland Union Building and Waidner-Spahr Library, which along with several dormitories, makes up the Benjamin Rush Campus. Across High Street (U.S. Route 11) lies the Charles Nisbet Campus, home to the largest grouping of dormitories. The Dickinson School of Law, part of Penn State, lies directly to the south of the Nisbet Campus. Together these three grass-covered units compose the vast majority of the College's campus, though several outlying buildings surround these main areas. In addition, the College owns playing fields and a large organic farm, both of which are only a short distance from the main campus.

Buildings of note include:

  • Althouse Hall - A science hall opened in 1958, Althouse houses the chemistry department but will be vacated upon the completion of the New Science Complex. Beginning in the 2009-2010 school year, this building will house the International Business and Management Program as well as the Economics major.
  • Bosler Hall - Competed in 1886, the building was Dickinson's first purpose-built library. Today it houses foreign language classes.
  • East College - Dickinson's second building, which at one time housed the college president and served as a dormitory and place of instruction. East College also served as Confederate hospital during the Battle of Carlisle in July 1863. Today East College houses the departments of religion, English, and other humanities.
  • Denny Hall - Originally completed in 1896 but destroyed by fire in 1904, the current building dates to 1905 and was given in memory of Harmar Denny and his family, several of whom are Dickinson alumni. Denny currently houses the departments of political science, history, anthropology, and archeology, amongst others.
  • Holland Union Building (HUB) - Opened in 1966, the HUB is Dickinson's expansive student union, and hosts the cafeteria, snack bar, an organic cafe, student offices and services, and the bookstore.
  • Kline Athletic Center - Finished in 1979, the Kline Center is a multipurpose facility that houses many of the varsity and intramural sports that Dickinson offers. In addition, the building features a modern fitness center, pool, indoor track, basketball, squash, and raquetball courts, and a climbing wall.
  • New Science Complex - Under construction. Set to open in 2008, the new science complex, crowned by the Rector Science Building, will be joined with Tome Hall to create a completely unified interdisciplinary science campus. The new building will house biology, chemistry, neuroscience, geology, and environmental sciences when fully completed. This building is being constructed on the site of James Hall, which formerly housed geology, psychology, and environmental science and was demolished in 2006.
  • Stern Center for Global Education - Finished in 1885 and originally known as the Tome Scientific Hall, it was one of the nation's first science-only academic buildings. In 2000, a new science building was completed, itself taking the name Tome Hall. The Stern Center was created to house the College's ground global education programs and segments of the international studies,international business&management and East Asian studies majors.
  • Tome Hall - Opened in the year 2000, Tome is the home to physics, astronomy, math, and computer science.
  • Waidner-Spahr Library - Opened as the Spahr Library in 1967, the building was a modern home for Dickinson's rapidly expanding collection. In 1997 the building was reopened as the Waidner-Spahr Library, after a massive expansion and renovation project. The library is home to over 510,000 volumes and 1,600 periodicals, as well as vast amounts of student study space and many computer labs.
  • Weiss Center - Originally the Alumni Gymnasium, the building which opened in 1929 was dramatically renovated in 1981 and now hosts the College's performing and fine arts departments. The building is also the home to the Trout Gallery , Dickinson's collection of fine arts.

Revitalization initiatives

Under the leadership of President William Durden, Dickinson entered the 21st century with renewed energy. Since 2000, Dickinson's acceptance rate has dropped by 20%, SAT scores have risen by 100 points, and the institutional endowment has more than doubled.

In 2000 Dickinson opened a new science building, Tome Hall, a state-of-the-art interdisciplinary facility to host astronomy, computer science, math, and physics. Tome hosts Dickinson's innovative "Workshop Physics" program and was the first step of a new science campus still in development. Set to open in 2008, the Rector Science Building will complete the new section of the campus by bringing biology, chemistry, neuroscience, geology, and environmental science into a unified, interconnected center for science education.

Dickinson is also at the forefront of campus environmental sustainability. The College buys 50% of its energy from wind power, has solar panels on campus., owns and operates an organic garden and farm, and has signed the American Colleges & Universities Presidents Climate Commitment. In 2007, Dickinson was named a "campus sustainability leader" and earned an overall grade of a B+ in the 2008 College Sustainability Report Card.


The Dickinson Red Devils participate in the NCAA Division III Centennial Conference. The Red Devils sport uniforms of red, white, and black.

Dickinson has twenty-three varsity sports teams, including baseball and softball, men's and women's soccer, football, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's track, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's lacrosse, men's and women's swimming, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's riding, women's volleyball, women's field hockey, and ice hockey. The College also has a cheerleading squad and dozens of intramural and club sports.

The current football coach at Dickinson is Darwin Breaux, who has held the position since 1993.

From 1963 to 1994 Dickinson College hosted the summer training camp for Washington Redskins NFL football team .

Student life

Dickinson has a rich and varied student life with a variety of organizations involved in many different causes and interests. Its programs are geared only toward traditional students of typical college age. There are over a hundred organizations representing different facets of the college..

Greek organizations



Honor Societies

Other Greek Letter Societies


For a complete list see List of Dickinson College alumni

School songs

The College’s musical tradition dates back to at least 1858 when the Medal of Honor recipient and author, alumnus Horatio Collins King wrote the Alma Mater, “Noble Dickinsonia.” . In 1937 the College published a book titled Songs of Dickinson, which contains over seventy works from Dickinson’s past. In 1953 the Men's Glee Club recorded an album of college songs. In 2005/2006, The Octals, Dickinson's all-male a cappella group, recorded a similar CD which is currently available for sale.

Alma Mater/Noble Dickinsonia

Words by Horatio Collins King, Class of 1858;Music Lauriger Horatius (O Tannenbaum)

Alma Mater, tried and true, Noble Dickinsonia,/ Oft out hearts shall turn to you, Noble Dickinsonia./ How each ancient classic hall, fondest memories will recall,/ Sacred is each gray old wall, Noble Dickinsonia.

Scion of a hundred years, Noble Dickinsonia,/ Witness of our smiles and tears, Noble Dickinsonia./ Age shall not thine honor dim, Till death comes with visage grim./ We will chant our loving hymn, Noble Dickinsonia.

Men may come and men may go, Noble Dickinsonia,/ Yet in deep and peaceful flow, Noble Dickinsonia./ Shall thy stream of learning wide, Thru the Ages grandly glide,/ Ever to thy sons a pride, Noble Dickinsonia.

Dickinson for Aye!

Words by Horatio Collins King, Class of 1858

Hail the white and crimson roses!/ Loving tho’ts each leaf discloses,/ Mem’ries that each heart encloses,/ Dickinson for aye!/ Shout for all her ancient glory,/ Treasured long in song and story,/ Blessed are her ramparts hoary,/ Dickinson for aye!

Strong and loyal ever,/ Faithless to her never,/ Hand in hand we’ll ever stand,/ And naught our band shall sever,/ Still aloft her banner bearing,/ On our breasts her colors wearing,/ Love and fealty every swearing,/ Dickinson for aye!

Raise we high the banner o’er us,/ Gird our loins for all before us,/ Join we in the loyal chorus,/ Dickinson for aye!/ Soon we’ll hear the din of battle,/ Clash of swords and muskets rattle,/ Summon then we all our mettle,/ Dickinson for aye!

Hold your courage steady./ Firm and ever ready,/ Meet the foe with stalwart blow,/ And faint not but be steady./ Red and white now proudly bearing,/ On our hearts her colors wearing,/ Love and fealty ever swearing,/ Dickinson for aye!

Dickinson Victory Song

Words by J.R. Budding, Class of 1932

Fight, Red and White, For we’re here to win the game,/ Fight, fight, fight, fight, For your Alma Mater’s name,/ Conquer the foe, Let the standard onward go./ Fight, you men of Dickinson for victory.

On, Red and White, Put the ball across the line,/ Fight, fight, fight, fight, There it goes another time,/ Smash through the foe, Lay the opposition low./ Fight you men of Dickinson for victory.

Rankings and financial aid

  • In 2006, the college was ranked the most physically fit school in America by Men's Fitness.
  • In 2006, Dickinson decided to stop publicizing its ranking in "America's Best Colleges" from U.S. News & World Report. In May, 2007, Dickinson President William G. Durden joined with other college presidents in asking schools not to participate in the reputation portion of the magazine's survey.
  • In 2007, Dickinson's administration took a stand against expanding financial aid to students without financial hardship, as Harvard University and other wealthy institutions have done. They argue this will negatively affect lower-income students and their families, while putting tremendous financial strain on colleges and universities without Harvard's wealth.


External links

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