At Wesleyan, “First for Women” isn’t just a catchphrase. It’s a way of life. Chartered as the Georgia Female College on December 23, 1836, Wesleyan is the world's oldest women's college. The College was founded through the efforts of a group of Macon citizens and the Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, as evidence of their concern for the education of women. The Reverend George Foster Pierce was elected president of the Georgia Female College in 1838, and the College opened its doors on January 7, 1839. Ninety young women were enrolled in our first session.
From the beginning, our curriculum encompassed liberal arts study with an emphasis on the sciences – quite progressive for the 1800s. An early course of study included natural philosophy, mental and moral philosophy, astronomy, botany, chemistry, physiology, geology, history, and ancient and modern languages. Thomas B. Slade of the Clinton Female Institute brought two of his teachers and 30 of his students to the new college. Some entered the junior class, which made it possible to graduate the first class in July of 1840, a year and a half after the College opened. Catherine Elizabeth Brewer (Benson) was the first member of the class to receive the “Testimonial of the Georgia Female College,” which stated in English that “after having passed through a Regular Course of Study ... embracing all the Sciences which are usually taught in the Colleges of the United States, with such as appropriately belong in its most ample range,” she was deemed worthy of the first degree conferred by the institution.
In 1843, the Georgia Conference of the Methodist Church assumed responsibility for the College, and by an act of the state legislature changed its name to Wesleyan Female College. In 1917 the “Female” was eliminated from the title, and the school assumed its present name of Wesleyan College. Today, the College continues its affiliation with the United Methodist Church and, in 1993, Wesleyan was designated a historic landmark by the church.
An interest in former students became apparent by 1858, when Wesleyan’s trustees adopted a resolution that “the Faculty be requested to take into consideration the propriety of having a meeting of the Alumnae at the next commencement.” An organizational meeting of the alumnae took place on July 11, 1859, at Macon’s Mulberry Street Methodist Church. In July 1860, during commencement week, the first annual reunion was held – and thus was established the first alumnae association of a degree-granting college.
Earlier in the decade, Wesleyan had become the birthplace of the first two Greek societies for women, the Adelphean Society in 1851 (now Alpha Delta Pi) and the Philomathean Society in 1852 (now Phi Mu).
In 1894, with the aid of the Board of Education of the Methodist Church, Wesleyan’s curriculum was studied and revised and the college admissions policy redefined. This led to Wesleyan’s admission to full membership in the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools of the Southern States in 1919. The College has been continuously accredited by its successor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), since that time.
In 1928 the Liberal Arts College was moved from its original College Street site to the new Rivoli suburban campus. The historic College Street building continued to house the School of Fine Arts, which consisted of the Conservatory of Music and the departments of art, theatre, and speech. In 1953 the School of Fine Arts, too, was moved to the present Rivoli campus.
Today, Wesleyan continues to be a pioneer in women’s education. In 1976 the Rotary Club of Macon, in conjunction with Wesleyan, initiated the first Rotary International Intern Program. Wesleyan’s Internship Services Program provides students with valuable work experience within their selected fields of study.
The College continues to strengthen its preparation for careers in biological and physical sciences. In 1991, Wesleyan signed a working agreement with Oak Ridge National Laboratories that greatly expands the opportunities available to students. Wesleyan introduced its academic freshman seminar more than a decade ago; in recent years the College introduced the capstone seminar in general education. The College is also taking the lead in interdisciplinary education, designing courses and faculty positions that bridge the various fields of knowledge.
Wesleyan College offers two baccalaureate degree programs – the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
Bachelor of Arts - AB (Artium Baccalaureae)
Wesleyan offers the bachelor of arts degree through a rigorous four-year curriculum in the liberal arts and sciences that is faithful to the origins of the college and that encompasses the best of current thinking about education. The curriculum ensures depth of knowledge through more than thirty majors and optional minors. It ensures breadth of learning through an exciting, learner-centered general education program that grows directly out of the mission of the college.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing - BSN
The Bachelor of Science in Nursing is a four-year traditional degree program that prepares a nurse generalist for practice and leadership in the role of professional nurse in a variety of health care settings and specialties. Graduates are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) for Registered Nurses for entry into practice in any state. This broad-based program is built upon courses in the humanities, fine arts, mathematics, sciences, and social and behavioral studies.
Wesleyan College received approval of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges in May, 2013. The Wesleyan Nursing program began the process for national accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), the accrediting body for both baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs.
1836 Georgia House of Representatives
passed the bill to incorporate the Georgia
1838 College’s first building was completed.
1839 Classes began with 90 students.
Applicants had to pass examinations on
orthography, reading, grammar, geography,
and the four fundamental rules of arithmetic.
1840 The first graduation exercises.