Home of Sidney Kimmel Medical College

A Brief History of the University

Two Legacies Joined by One Vision

Unifying two renowned legacies of innovation, education, research and professional excellence, Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University) has more than three combined centuries of history. Driven by this newly united and robust past, Jefferson delivers unique and high-impact professional education to our students in the areas of architecture, business, design, engineering, fashion, health, humanities, medicine, science and textiles.

PHILADELPHIA UNIVERSITY

Philadelphia University’s roots trace back to the 1876 Centennial Exposition, when local textile manufacturers noticed that Philadelphia’s textile industry trailed its rivals’ capacity, technology and ability. In 1880, they formed the Philadelphia Association of Manufacturers of Textile Fabrics, with Theodore C. Search as its president. Search joined the board of directors of the Philadelphia Museum and School of Industrial Art (now the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the University of the Arts), thinking it the perfect partner for his plans for a school, and began fundraising in 1882. In early 1884, Search taught the first classes at the Philadelphia Textile School, which officially opened on November 5, 1884.

In 1942, the Philadelphia Textile School was granted the right to award baccalaureate degrees and changed its name to the Philadelphia Textile Institute (PTI). In 1949, PTI moved to its present site in the East Falls section of Philadelphia, and in 1961, changed its name to Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. The College’s student population doubled between 1954 and 1964, and doubled again by 1978, with the addition of programs in the arts, sciences and business administration. In 1976, Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science offered its first graduate degree, the Master of Business Administration, and to better reflect the institution’s breadth and depth, it applied for and was granted university status by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1999. It changed its name to Philadelphia University on July 13, 1999.

 

THOMAS JEFFERSON UNIVERSITY

Founded in 1824 as Jefferson Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University is a story that includes intrigue, innovation and boldness, with the lead played by Dr. George McClellan. A prominent Philadelphia physician, Dr. McClellan believed in teaching medical students by having them observe experienced doctors treating patients and participate in supervised, hands-on care. His belief was the spur that created Jefferson Medical College and reshaped the way medicine would be taught nationally.

In 1877, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital was established and Jefferson Medical College became the second medical school in the country with a separate teaching hospital. Joining Jefferson Medical College in 1891 was the Jefferson Hospital Training College for Nurses, and in 1967 the College of Allied Health Sciences. The University was officially established in 1969, the same year the College of Graduate Studies was opened (now known as the College of Biomedical Sciences). In 1991, the NCI-designated Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center was established, thanks to a groundbreaking gift from the Sidney Kimmel Foundation, and in 2006 the University had renamed and added the Schools of Nursing and Health Professions. Two years later, the Schools of Pharmacy and Population Health were formed. In 2014, the Sidney Kimmel Foundation bestowed a $110 million gift to Jefferson – the largest gift in its history – and Jefferson Medical College became Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University.

The University Today

The new Jefferson was established on July 1, 2017, as a result of the merger of these two renowned universities. Through a shared and unique approach to education, Jefferson is nationally and internationally recognized for many historical “firsts” including the first surgical use of anesthesia in Philadelphia; the blending of quail feathers and wool to create the Army’s ubiquitous olive drab as an alternative to dark blue and light-colored khaki military uniforms; the first successful open-heart operation using a heart-lung machine; and the first bifurcated aortal graft using knit fibers needed for artificial blood vessels.

Today, we are a professional university that defies convention and dedicates itself to collaborative, transdisciplinary and interprofessional approaches to learning that offers a vibrant and expandable platform for education. Through this unique model, we are preparing our students for current and yet-to-be-imagined careers – setting tomorrow’s standards by breaking today’s.