Chatham University tradition faces changes

by Marnie Schleicher

Before Chatham achieved university status in 2007, the 39-acre school was called Chatham College and before that, it was the Pennsylvania College For Women.

Reverend William Trimble Beatty chartered the school as the Pennsylvania Female College in 1869, and since then it has gone through many changes. However, it still honors William Pitt, the first Earl of Chatham — the university’s namesake.

Pennsylvania Female College was housed in what was the largest private residence in Allegheny County at the time, the George Berry mansion in Shadyside on Woodland Road off Fifth Avenue, according to Chatham’s website.

Photo credit: Chatham University

Photo credit: Chatham University

Today, the campus is composed of buildings and grounds from once-private mansions, including those of Andrew Mellon, James Rea and Edward Stanton Fickes. Chatham is home to the Woodland Road Arboretum, which features over 115 different species of trees. It even features work by the Olmstead brothers, renowned landscapers, who designed some elements of the landscape for the original Mellon estate.

The College’s first curriculum required students to be proficient in Latin, German or French, mathematics, English, history, natural sciences, Bible history and Anglo-Saxon history. The list of required courses has changed throughout the years, and Chatham now offers over 500 courses.

Chatham is deeply rooted in traditions that bring together the students, faculty and alumnae, like the opening convocation, which marks the opening of the academic year.

The Candlelight, Fickes Eggnog, and the Holiday Ball are a semi-formal events that celebrate the winter holidays, and University Day marks Chatham’s anniversary of becoming a university. University Day includes the Bucket & Blossom event, which brings the entire campus community together to beautify Chatham’s grounds.

Chatham is a university that is strongly invested in sustainability, and in 2008 the school received the Eden Hall Campus from a foundation of the same name. The property was originally a farm and retreat for the H. J. Heinz Company’s working women.

That campus, located north of Shadyside in Richland Township, is the home of Chatham’s Falk School of Sustainability, adding 388 acres to Chatham’s size.

Dr. Sean McGreevey, the Assistant Dean of Students, says that Chatham is ambitious about the cutting edge education at Eden Hall. The campus has been a part of the school for five years now, and has several ways to unite students at Eden Hall with the Shadyside campus.

“We have overnight retreats there, host cross country meets, students, faculty and staff swim in the pool when it’s warm, we have a grow-and-pick open to everyone,” McGreevey says. “It’s already part of who we are.”

He also says that the campus was developed as a place for promoting “wellness and spiritual renewal” to the women working for Heinz, and Chatham hopes to continue that tradition.