Chatham University

A brief history of Chatham University…

Chatham University is a 145-year old educational institution in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that today has over 2,100 undergraduate and graduate students in over 60 degree programs studying on campus or online.

Chatham was chartered on December 11, 1869, under the name Pennsylvania Female College. The Reverend William Trimble Beatty, pastor of the Shadyside Presbyterian Church, led a group of Pittsburghers in making the dream to provide women with an education comparable to that which men could receive at the time at "colleges of the first class." The founders were somewhat ahead of their time: 1869 was the year that the National Association of Women's Suffrage was established, and the year John Stuart Mill published The Subjection of Women. Pennsylvania Female College occupied what was then the largest private residence in Allegheny County – the George Berry mansion atop Fifth Avenue in Shadyside. Fifteen faculty and just more than 100 students occupied the 11-acre campus.

In 1890 the name of the institution was changed to Pennsylvania College for Women, and in 1955 the name was changed again to Chatham College in honor of William Pitt, First Earl of Chatham and namesake of the City of Pittsburgh. In 1994, Chatham College expanded around its historic undergraduate women’s college by beginning to offer graduate programs to both men and women with a special emphasis in the health science fields.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania granted Chatham university status in 2007, which was officially announced on May 1, 2007 and marks Chatham's newest tradition, University Day. On May 1, 2008 Chatham received a gift unequaled in its history: the Eden Hall Campus from the Eden Hall Foundation. The University’s Shadyside Campus expanded in June 2008 to include Chatham Eastside near Bakery Square approximately one mile from Woodland Road and home to many of Chatham’s in-demand health science programs. 

In 2010, Chatham launched the Falk School of Sustainability & Environment, and broke ground in 2012 on its new home, Eden Hall Campus–the first campus in the world built from the ground up for the study of sustainability.

On May 1, 2014 Chatham University’s Board of Trustees voted in approval of a resolution that expanded access to a high-quality Chatham undergraduate education to more students, ensured that Chatham can meet the educational needs of its students and the region for the future, and ensured the continuation of Chatham’s 145-year commitment to advancing the causes of women with the founding of the Chatham University Women’s Institute. The resolution, in part, states:

The Board of Trustees hereby approves: (1) the reorganization of Chatham University by academic units within vertically integrated Colleges and Schools; (2) the implementation of coeducation within all Chatham University Colleges and Schools; and (3) alongside the commitment to each student who will attend Chatham University, the creation of structures and programs to preserve Chatham University’s commitment to women’s education and leadership.

In Spring 2014, Chatham opened the first phase of Eden Hall Campus and broke ground on the next phase of construction including development of a residence hall and dining hall.

Chatham Traditions…

Traditions are an integral part of life at Chatham. Familiarity with the traditions is important to fully understand life on Chatham’s campus. Most traditional events involve not only the student, but the faculty, staff, and alumnae as well.

University Colors: Purple and Grey (with green accents)

Opening Convocation (August) marks the traditional opening of the academic and Global Focus year.

New Student Ice Cream Social (September) is a time for new students to connect with alumnae and learn about the many experiences that await them as a student and future alumna.

Mocktails (October) is a chance for student organizations to get creative in organizing a non-alcoholic week. This event is sometimes featured during Harvest Fun Fest or as part of Alcohol Awareness Week.

Halloween Dinner (October) is a chance for students, faculty, staff and their families to enjoy a Halloween themed meal while they compete for prizes in our costume contest.

Battle of the Classes (BOTC) (October/ November) is a week-long event that has each class competing in several events.

Song Contest (November) is a more than 70-year old tradition where classes re-write lyrics to popular songs and perform for their classmates competition style. This is a student favorite that is talked about all year long!

Thanksgiving Dinner (November) is a time for the entire campus to come together in celebration of the Holiday season. This family style dinner allows students, alumni, faculty & staff to connect and celebrate.

Candlelight, Fickes Eggnog, and the Holiday Ball (December) is one of the most festive nights of the year. The candlelight service is hosted by the Chatham Choir with traditional music and songs. Following the service, the entire campus celebrates with a formal gathering over Eggnog and a holiday dance celebration sponsored by Chatham Activities Board (CAB)

Moonlight Breakfast (December & April) is a chance for students to take a break from studying for finals while faculty and staff serve a late night breakfast!

Sledding on Chapel Hill is a tradition based entirely on the snow. Students celebrate the snowy weather by sledding down the steep hill.

House Olympics (February) is a time for the Residence Halls to show…who’s the best! This week-long competition helps build community among residents with a little healthy competition.

Spring Carnival (April) is a picnic-style celebration day with booths, games, egg-hunts and much more, held on the Saturday before Easter.

Spring Formal (April) is a chance to celebrate the end of the spring semester with dinner and a night of dancing. This off campus dance allows students the chance to celebrate the coming end of the semester.

Airband & Senior Skits (April) is a time for the Chatham rock-stars to come out! Students lip-synch and perform choreography or skits to their favorite songs.

Closing Convocation (April): Traditional close to the academic year that features senior celebrations.

University Day & Bucket & Blossoms (April/May) On May 1, 2007, Chatham was granted university status by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This date marks Chatham's newest tradition, University Day. The entire campus community gathers to beautify the University grounds.

Senior Week (May) is a weeklong celebration to honor the graduating seniors. The week includes traditional events like Senior Dinner and Senior Toast, but Seniors also have a chance to vote on other events for the week.

Senior Dinner (April/May) Senior Dinner is a night for the graduating seniors to reminisce with their Chatham sisters, faculty and staff that made their college experience.

Closing Convocation (April / May) is the traditional closing of the academic year when the undergraduate classes celebrate "Moving Up Day."

Undergraduate Class Colors: The tradition of each class adopting a set of class colors began before World War I. The colors are assigned on a permanent rotation. Each class keeps the colors received during their first year until the close of their senior year. During their last Closing Convocation, the graduating seniors give their colors to their fellow class - the sophomores - for safekeeping until the fall when they are presented to the new first year class.