Franklin & Marshall College is a residential college dedicated to excellence in undergraduate liberal education. Its aims are to inspire in young people of high promise and diverse backgrounds a genuine and enduring love for learning, to teach them to read, write, and think critically, to instill in them the capacity for both independent and collaborative action, and to educate them to explore and understand the natural, social and cultural worlds in which they live. In so doing, the College seeks to foster in its students qualities of intellect, creativity, and character, that they may live fulfilling lives and contribute meaningfully to their occupations, their communities, and their world.
Franklin & Marshall College is one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in the United States.
Its roots go back to Franklin College, founded in 1787 with a generous financial contribution from Benjamin Franklin. The product of a pioneering collaboration between English- and German-speaking communities in the most ethnically diverse region of the new nation, the College was launched by leaders of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches with support from trustees that included four signers of the Declaration of Independence, three future governors of Pennsylvania, two members of the Constitutional Convention, and seven officers of the Revolutionary Army. Their goal was "to preserve our present republican system of government," and "to promote those improvements in the arts and sciences which alone render nations respectable, great and happy."
Classes began on July 16, 1787, with instruction in both English and German, making Franklin College the first bilingual college in the country. It was also the first coeducational institution; its first class was made up of 78 men and 36 women. Among the first-year students was Richea Gratz, the first Jewish female college student in the United States. However, the coed policy was soon abandoned. Coeducation was not revived at the College for another 182 years.
Marshall College, named after the great Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, was founded in 1836 in Mercersburg, Pa., under the sponsorship of the German Reformed Church. It attracted a distinguished faculty that became nationally known as leaders of an intellectual movement known as the Mercersburg Theology.
In 1853 Marshall College moved to Lancaster, Pa., and merged with Franklin College to form Franklin & Marshall College. James Buchanan, 15th President of the United States, was the first President of the Board of Trustees. From the time of its centennial, the College complemented its strengths in the classics and philosophy with a widely respected program in science.
Then, in the 1920s, it added a program in business. The College's transformation continued after World War II with gradual expansion in size and academic scope. Increasingly, students and faculty were drawn from all regions of the nation and the world. Campus facilities expanded and the College became primarily residential. It became coeducational in 1969. The connection to the Reformed Church, later part of the United Church of Christ, was severed and the College became a secular institution. Throughout all of these changes, however, the College remained committed to "liberal learning."
Frederick Rauch, the first president of Marshall College, had proclaimed in 1837,
"The fortune of our lives and our government depends not exclusively on useful knowledge but on our character as citizens, and to form this character by cultivating the whole [person] is the aim of education in the proper sense."
Today, with approximately 2,100 students, Franklin & Marshall College proudly continues its dedication to intellectual freedom and critical learning as fundamental to a democratic society. As its mission statement affirms, this means that it expects students to see connections, to discover community, and to understand the centrality of service to the human endeavor.