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Archives: Worcester State History

Worcester State University Archives and Special Collections

1874 - Today

Founded in 1874 as the Massachusetts State Normal School at Worcester, WSU was one of nine other normal schools in the commonwealth for the training of public school teachers. 

 As public school curriculum evolved over time, Normal School curriculum grew to include liberal arts courses and advanced degrees.In 1931, all Massachusetts Normal Schools, including Worcester State, were renamed State Teachers Colleges.

The post World War II baby boom caused the college-age population to explode in the 1960s and 1970s and much of WSU's current campus reflects that growth period. In 2011, WSU joined all other Massachusetts State Colleges in becoming a University, reflecting its role as both an undergraduate and graduate institution. 

Meet the class of 1936

The short film below shows members of Worcester State's class of 1936 in today's Administration Building. 

WSU at 150

2024 will mark WSU's 150th anniversary. Look back at past anniversary celebrations using the links below. 

The First Faculty Project

The WSU archives is developing biographies of WSU's first faculty (1874-1880) in order to better understand their roles in shaping teaching and learning during Worcester State's early years.  New biographies will be added through Spring 2021. 

Notable Alumni

Tyler Boudreau ('97) author and military veteran. 

Kevin T. Campbell ('73) military commander. 

John Dufresne ('70) author.

Mary Fell ('69) poet. 

Daniel Garvey ('73) academic and administrator. 

Todd J. Leach ('83) academic and administrator. 

Raymond Mariano ('73) politician and former Worcester mayor. 

Brian Skerry ('85) photojournalist. 

Sarah Ella Wilson (1894) educator and club woman. 

Geoffrey Zakarian ('81) chef and television personality. 

The original campus, 1874-1932


WSU's original campus was located at Prospect Street and Normal Avenue east of downtown Worcester on the site of today's City View SchoolThe original stone building contained classrooms, offices and a spacious auditorium. It was expanded in the 1890s with the addition of a turreted gymnasium seen in the image above. By the 1910s, a President's house was added nearby as well as a women's residence hall called Stoddard Terrace. The hilltop site provided dramatic views of Worcester's downtown.

 These handwritten builder's specifications describe the size and general layout of rooms. 

This brochure from about 1920 shows additional images of the original building as well as the campus.

The current campus, 1932

By the 1920s, a growing student body crowded the old Normal Avenue campus spurring administrators to seek a new location. In 1930, the commonwealth purchased "Willow Farm"  (below) a rural property on Chandler Street near Worcester's Tatnuck neighborhood. The buildings indicated on the map below stood near today's Administration Building,  Willow Farm had been the home of William Sever Lincoln, Brigadier General in the Union Army who hosted reunions of his former regiment on this property in the late 19th century. His father was Massachusetts Congressman and Governor, Levi Lincoln

The 1932 Shaughnessy Administration Building (below) served for decades as the sole campus building and originally contained classrooms and offices as well as special purpose rooms including a gymnasium, an auditorium and a large library on the top floor. View the dedication brochure for the new building and campus. 

The campus today

New campus buildings were added beginning in 1957 with the largest construction projects commencing in the mid 1960s. The first residence halls on the Chandler Street campus opened in 1973 and WSU's most recent building  is the Wellness Center, opened in 2016.  

View a map of today's campus. 


Photos: Top, Normal Avenue campus c. 1894 from a glass lantern slide. Middle top: Willow Farm as seen on Worcester City map, c. 1900. Middle bottom: Worcester State Teachers College, c. 1940 from a postcard. Bottom, Alumni gates, 2018.