Gettysburg College, established 1832 by Samuel Simon Schmucker, began as an all men’s institution known as Pennsylvania College. Schmucker is often labeled as an abolitionist but it is known that his second wife, Mary Catherine Steenbergen, held slaves in her family home. As an individual, Schmucker was ahead of his time. He believed that it was the responsibility for the Lutheran Church to adapt to religious and political climates, and focus on creating relationships with other churches. Schmucker encouraged the education of women and minorities – he encouraged Daniel Alexander Payne to join the seminary. Payne became the first African American at the Lutheran Theological Seminary.
Over the years, Gettysburg College has gained the reputation of a predominantly white institution. Efforts to increase enrollment and retention of students and faculty of color began after 1960 when the presence of African Americans began to grow. The first African American graduate, [Reverend] Rudolf Featherstone, received his diploma in May 1956 – ten years later President C. A. Hanson introduced the Anti-Discrimination Statement for Greek organizations to sign acknowledging that all students would have an equal opportunity. Between 1960 to the present, several administrators have been hired to focus on diversifying the college. Pete Curry retired in 2017, held the title of Dean of Intercultural Advancement for many years; not only did he focus on student retention, but the safety of students on campus. In 2016, the college held a Climate Study to identify issues and improve campus climate; this study is a result of the Town Hall meeting organized by students of color to openly share their experiences.
The “Before 1950” timeline features limited information on students of color but contains an abundance of woman’s history. The “After 1950” timeline contains more history on students, faculty, and administrators of color, sexualities, and women on campus.
|“We cannot achieve excellence without diversity. A liberal arts education is about learning to bring multiple perspectives to complex problems and issues. Providing a diverse and inclusive learning environment is essential to offering an excellent education and preparation for post-college careers and citizenship.”
Janet Morgan Riggs ’77, President