Chartered in 1961, Virginia Wesleyan College first opened its doors to students in 1966. The concept for the College actually began two years earlier as an idea of Methodist minister Joseph S. Johnston. It would be a four-year, private college - the first of its kind in South Hampton Roads.
Within two years of planning, the school had a name, a charter, and an expanding body of supporters from the United Methodist Church and the regional business community. The College received full accreditation in its first year of eligibility, enjoyed steady enrollment gains, and attained membership in the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges.
Rooted in the liberal arts tradition as well as its Methodist heritage, Virginia Wesleyan has been focused on providing a broad academic foundation while cultivating productive and engaged citizens. A meaningful liberal arts education includes the search for humane, social and scientific principles which, after thorough examination, provide the basis for understanding oneself, society, and the world. A cross-disciplinary approach allows students to build knowledge and explore their interests in the classroom and beyond.
The 2011-12 academic year marked the official celebration of the College's 50th anniversary. This important milestone was recognized during many campus events and promotions and with a community celebration that brought noted New York Times columnist and author David Brooks to campus to speak. A commemorative book, Wisdom Lights the Way: Virginia Wesleyan College's First Half-Century (Donning Company Publishers) was written by College archivist and former dean of the College, Dr. Stephen Mansfield. The book, which details the College's rich history, is available in the University Store on campus.
Virginia Wesleyan campus has grown rapidly in recent years with new and exciting facilities, including high-tech classrooms, the one-of-a-kind Jane P. Batten Student Center and a variety of new programs. Since its first graduating class in 1970 of approximately 75 pioneering students, the VWU community has grown to include approximately 1,500 students (1,300 full-time) and 10,000 alumni.
With the addition of graduate programs, an online division, the Batten Honors College, two campus based academies, and the state-of-the-art Greer Environmental Sciences Center, Virginia Wesleyan transitioned to University status in 2017.