The alma mater of "Silent Spring" author Rachel Carson has become the latest college in Western Pennsylvania to seek and achieve university status.
The oldest women's college west of the Alleghenies became Chatham University last month. It delayed the announcement of the change to coincide with the university's May Day celebration. Established in 1869 as a school for women who faced discrimination at every level of American society, Chatham has long been an intellectual oasis for the truly motivated.
Times change, however, and Chatham has understood the imperative of adapting its mission to a changing demographic. Though young women remain the heart of its educational mission, the school also embraces the value of a co-educational environment.
To accommodate the changing character of its student body, Chatham has split into three distinct colleges within the university system. Chatham College for Women, the undergraduate school, will retain its women's-only identity. This has been an important point for alumni and current students who selected Chatham over other schools for this reason. The College for Graduate Studies and the College for Continuing and Professional Studies will continue admitting qualified students of both genders into its four doctoral and 23 master's programs.
Chatham University has a student population of 1,700 that is growing by an estimated 15 percent a year. Students come from 28 states and 17 nations. In recent years, new buildings have popped up on the leafy 35-acre campus in Shadyside, while old buildings have undergone dramatic rehabilitation. Gender diversity has added to the university's character without compromising its original mission.
Chatham College as it once was will always live in the hearts and minds of women from an earlier generation. Chatham University, with its changing demographics, will build on that tradition far into the 21st century.