History and Traditions

Wilson College was founded in 1869 as a college for women, one of the first in the United States. The founders were the Rev. Tryon Edwards and the Rev. James Wightman. The Pennsylvania Legislature granted the original charter on March 24, 1869.  Sarah Wilson, for whom the College is named, provided the initial gift for the establishment of the College. She was the first living woman in the United States to endow a college for women.

Wilson College Faculty 1890

The purpose of the college was described as an effort to provide for the education of young women in literature, science, and the arts. The Oct. 19, 1870, edition of the Franklin Repository stated that the "effort will not be to cram the minds of pupils with facts, but to spend the time in development of thought so that the pupils will learn to think for themselves, and thus become leaders, instead of followers, in society."

Wilson Traditions

Traditions are an important part of every student’s Wilson experience. From Bigs and Littles to Sophomore Buddies, traditions bring our students together and make them part of a supportive, connected community. 

Blue and Silver Dinner

The dinner is held during the week of fall orientation for all new Wilson students. Hosted by the Office of Student Development, the dinner includes faculty, staff and alumnae/i joining our new students for a meal and sharing stories about the College, their experiences, and new students’ expectations. Started in 2009, the annual event was suggested by students as a way to meet people from the campus community.


Convocation brings the whole college community together to officially open and celebrate a new academic semester. It includes a procession of faculty and seniors in full regalia, as well as speeches by the president, guests and students.


Juniors select incoming freshmen to mentor throughout their years at Wilson, forming lasting friendships.

Candle Club

Candle Club, an organization whose membership is secret, takes responsibility for keeping student morale high on campus. New members are selected by outgoing Candle Club members and are inducted in a secret ceremony. Current members become known at graduation

Class Colors

Each class is assigned a color based on their year of graduation. Students graduating in odd years are ODD and their class colors are black and red. Students graduating in even years are EVEN and their class colors are blue and green. Colors are represented in the dinks (hats) that freshmen receive during Sarah Wilson week, as well as class banners.

Daisy Chain
Wilson College Daisy Chain 1960's

On the eve of graduation, the sophomore class builds a daisy chain to present to the graduating class on commencement morning. The chain is placed into the Conococheague Creek and is carried on the current, symbolizing good wishes for the graduates in their life journey beyond college.

Dean's Day

Traditionally held on the first nice day of spring, Dean’s Day occurs when the dean of the College rings the bell located on the roof of Edgar Hall to cancel classes for the day, allowing students to relax enjoy the day outside after winter’s end.


All new students recite and sign the Honor Principle at opening onvocation. Student experiences, both in and out of the classroom, are influenced by the Wilson Honor Principle, which fosters qualities of personal responsibility and integrity.

Sarah Wilson Week

Sarah Wilson Week occurs at the beginning of the fall semester, when freshmen receive their class colors and are recognized by current students as a Wilson class. The freshmen also receive their Wilson hats (dinks) in the class colors from their Bigs (the junior class), sing at the college president’s house, participate in color wars (Odds vs. Evens), and receive clues that reveal their identity of their sophomore buddies.

Senior Bash

An outdoor picnic to celebrate graduation with food prepared by professors and music provided by a disc jockey.

Sophomore Buddies

Members of the sophomore class work with freshmen to ease the adjustment to college life. They also participate together in activities during Sarah Wilson Week.

Senior Night

At the end of the spring semester, seniors decorate the offices of professors and barricade classroom buildings on campus. The other classes also participate by decorating other areas of campus. Faculty members are willing participants in this yearly event.

Song Wars

A friendly competition between odd and even classes where students sing and shout traditional chants toward one another.

Spring Fling

A semi-formal dinner dance attended by students and guests, as well as faculty and staff. The day includes the presentation of the May Court and student fundraising booths.

Thanksgiving Dinner

The week before Thanksgiving, Wilson hosts a college-wide Thanksgiving dinner. Each table receives and carves its own turkey and traditional side dishes are served family-style.

White Dinner

A formal dinner and dance held in the fall. Traditionally, seniors dress in all white and the dinner menu includes mainly foods and desserts that are white in color. Guests are invited as well.

Wilson College event White Dinner