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Webster's Centennial Timeline

It’s amazing what can be accomplished in a century. Webster University’s 100 years of progress has unfolded in our community, from the steps of our home campus to the halls of our international schools abroad. The timeline below highlights the impact Webster has made on thousands of people around the world, showcasing our bold beginnings and counting the years to come.

This year, Webster University celebrates its Centennial, a wonderful milestone in the life of what began as a small Catholic college for women and has developed over the years into a major university with global reach and worldwide influence.

From their Mother House in Kentucky in 1915, the Sisters of Loretto acted on their vision of providing a college education for women living west of the Mississippi River. This was a bold idea that grew out of the Sisters’ recognition that education held the key to a fulfilling future for women, and for all people who are part of any underserved segment of society. So, on November 1, 1915, the cornerstone was laid for what was named that very day All Saints Chapel. Loretto College was launched!

November of 1915 was not a favorable time to launch such a bold venture.

The United States was merely 50 years removed from the Civil War, scarcely a decade past the Spanish- American War, and again feeling threatened as the clouds of World War I raging in Europe increasingly darkened America’s skies. Social discontent in America was mounting. Women actively sought to exercise their constitutional rights and take their place as full participants in American society and the African American community had begun to solidify its own agenda and to press for equal opportunity and fair treatment under the law.

Yes, the times in 1915 were uncertain and unsettled, perhaps making it the best time for the Sisters of Loretto to expand their educational mission. By September 1916, classes were underway on the Webster Groves campus with just five students. In 1919, the college welcomed its first international students – two young women from France. Growth in both student numbers and financial resources was uneven in ensuing years. However, the vision of providing educational opportunity for those who previously had not enjoyed it remained foremost and continued to expand to meet the challenges posed by rapid societal change.

This dedication to educational access led the college in 1962 to become co-educational and to the Sisters of Loretto relinquishing control of the college to a lay Board of Trustees in 1967. Earlier, in 1924, the name change from Loretto College to Webster College was intended, at least in part, to symbolize the strengthening engagement between town and gown. The change in designation from “college” to “university” in 1983 represented a further step in growing Webster’s outreach and expanding its mission of service.

In the 100 years since the laying of the cornerstone, amidst enormous changes in America and the world, the college so heroically envisioned and fearlessly founded by the Sisters of Loretto has adopted innovative methods of implementing its mission while remaining true to the founding vision of the Sisters. Just as in the early years of Loretto College, when young women were being educated for life in the world that was emerging, so today Webster University continues to provide an education for many first-generation college students to prepare them for the world that awaits them — a world that is truly multicultural in America and interconnected globally.

As it celebrates its Centennial, Webster University remains fully committed to that mission of broadening educational opportunity — in St. Louis, across America and around the world — then, now and always!

Webster’s Centennial is an opportunity to pause and remember the forward-thinking nature of those who have come before us at Webster. It is an opportunity to celebrate how far we have come and the kind of institution we have grown into. It’s also a time to think of how our future will be defined and imagined as we move with intent into our second century focusing on:

  • Global innovation through inclusive leadership
  • Global, student-centered experiences
  • A network of academic and operational excellence
  • Strategic and sustainable development

The Centennial year will culminate in November 2015 with a closing public celebration and a private gala event.

We invite you to explore Webster’s unique history in this story, from the laying of the first cornerstone for the University’s first building on Nov. 1, 1915, through the establishment of a campus in Ghana. You can also check out our interactive timeline about the first 100 years, and follow events and comments on social media using #Webster100.

Webster University: A Century of Defining Moments

The story of Webster University is the story of the human spirit, a spirit constantly dreaming of a better tomorrow, persevering through unending challenges, embracing new frontiers, and believing anything is possible with a combination of faith, intellect, hard work and a helping hand. Since 1915, Webster’s mission has been to open doors — doors to a college education first for Catholic women, and later for people with disabilities, minorities, international students, men, disadvantaged youth, veterans and active duty military, working adults, teachers, and many others who found a home at Webster. In turn, countless faculty, staff, students and alumni through the years have reached out to their communities and the university in a variety of ways to provide support, whether it be through financial gifts, volunteering their time and expertise, advocating for justice, or conserving the environment for the next generation. Today, countless people from Webster are making a difference in the lives of communities throughout the world.

Webster University: A Century of Defining Moments celebrates the University’s centennial, focusing on how the University’s mission and values have profoundly impacted students, and through them, society.  Through a series of key moments, the book tells the story of Webster’s accomplishments and anticipates its bright future.  This coffee table-style book is visually appealing, rich with photos and images, and suitable for graduation gifts and alumni purchases.

To reserve a copy of Webster University: A Century of Defining Moments, use this online form. And keep up with all Centennial events and news at

Centennial Celebration Events

Dancing Through the Decades

Calling all Webster alumni! Find your dancing shoes and save the date for Dancing Through the Decades, the public Grand Finale of Webster’s yearlong Centennial celebration.

If your schedule allows, join us on Friday, November 13 for a daylong celebration of Webster’s 100th anniversary through the language of dance. From the Lindy Hop and the Cha Cha Slide to Ballet and Classical Thai Dance, your “dance card” will be filled with opportunities to learn about dance trends and the music that inspired them - decade by decade.

Or, stop by after work from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. for our Happy Hour of Dancing Through the Decades, featuring music that provides the soundtrack of Webster’s remarkable story.

This event is free and open to the public. More details will be coming soon.

Centennial Gala

The Gala tops off a yearlong celebration of Webster University’s Centennial. This will be an evening of surprises and special guests – filled with distinctively Webster superstars!

Join us as we celebrate our Daniel Webster Society (DWS) visionary award winners, pay tribute to our Centennial year and look toward the future where we will create global impact for the next century – starting right here in St. Louis. Proceeds benefit the Webster University Next Century Leaders Scholarship Fund.