Philadelphia University was founded in 1884 as the Philadelphia Textile School in the wake of the 1876 Centennial Exposition. A group of textile manufacturers, led by Theodore Search, noticed a sizeable gap between the quality and variety of American textile products and those displayed by European mills. To address this, the group established the School to educate America’s textile workers and managers.
Several years later, the School affiliated with the Pennsylvania Museum (now the Philadelphia Museum of Art) and School of Industrial Art. By the mid-1890s, the School had settled at Broad and Pine Streets in downtown Philadelphia. It survived the Depression and entered a new period of growth at the outset of World War II. In 1941, the School was granted the right to award baccalaureate degrees and changed its name to the Philadelphia Textile Institute (PTI).
By 1949, PTI, which was no longer affiliated with the museum, began conducting classes at its present site in the East Falls section of Philadelphia. Throughout the 1950s, it continued to grow, and, in 1961, changed its name to Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science.
The student population doubled from 1954 to 1964, and again by 1978. Programs in the arts and sciences and business administration were added. The College purchased an adjoining property in 1972, doubling the size of its campus.
As Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science the institution offered its first graduate degree, the Master of Business Administration, in 1976. With the purchase of properties in 1980 and 1988, the size of the campus nearly doubled again and grew to include additional classrooms, research laboratories, student residences and athletic facilities. In 1992, the 54,000-square-foot Paul J. Gutman Library was built.
The College continued throughout the ’90s to provide its students with the highest-quality education and real-world experience demanded by their chosen professions, adding majors in a wide range of fields. To better reflect the institution’s breadth and depth, the College applied for and was granted university status by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1999. And, in a historic move, the Board of Trustees voted to change the School’s name to Philadelphia University on July 13, 1999.
The University now has three colleges, including the College of Architecture and the Built Environment; the Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce; and the College of Science, Health and the Liberal Arts.
The University Today
Philadelphia University is the model for professional university education. Through our signature approach to teaching and learning — one that is active, collaborative, connected to the real world and infused with the liberal arts — we are educating the next generation of leaders for the 21st-century work world.
For more than 130 years, Philadelphia University has fostered a culture of market-driven innovation. Students at PhilaU learn to integrate knowledge, develop broader decision-making skills and untangle complex problems.
Complementing our curriculum, our three Colleges give students the freedom to learn vital skills outside of their discipline through collaboration. We marry classic disciplines such as sociology and biology with professional specialties like business management, fashion design, communications and architecture. And, from day one on campus, we bring industry leaders to campus to partner with our students. It’s an approach that mirrors industry and makes companies very excited about hiring our graduates.
No other school has our unique intersection of expertise in a transdisciplinary environment at the same scale. Weaving these areas of study, combined with our passionate and dedicated faculty, PhilaU students graduate with a pioneering combination of professional skill, breadth of perspective and synthesized decision-making abilities — all developed while working on real-world challenges.
Our students feed off the entrepreneurial DNA of the campus and graduate with the skills necessary to turn their innovative ideas into commercial successes. It’s one of the reasons that today Philadelphia University’s alumni are global leaders in design, architecture, fashion, business, engineering, health professions, textiles, materials technology, sustainability and science.
Philadelphia University is a private university with 3,700 part- and full-time undergraduate and graduate students from 38 states and 30 countries. The University offers more than 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the College of Architecture and the Built Environment; the Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce; and the College of Science, Health and the Liberal Arts leading to the Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Bachelor of Architecture, Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, master’s degrees and a doctoral degree in Textile Engineering and Science.