Chartered in 1961, Virginia Wesleyan College first opened its doors to students in 1966. The concept for the College actually began two years earlier when Methodist minister Joseph S. Johnston proposed this 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 enhanced curricular model at Virginia Wesleyan, implemented in 2011, prepares students by providing them with expanded opportunities to learn by doing, to connect theory to practice, and to link the classroom to the world. Through individualized attention and active mentoring, students develop invaluable relationships and support networks and are encouraged to grow into independent thinkers and leaders who are optimally prepared for graduate study and the challenges of rapidly changing workplaces.
Virginia Wesleyan's first 50 years are depicted in a commemorative book, Wisdom Lights the Way: Virginia Wesleyan College's First Half-Century (Donning Company Publishers), 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 Scribner Bookstore on campus.
In it's 56-year history, Virginia Wesleyan has had four presidents: Joseph S. Johnston (1965), Lambuth M. Clarke (1966-1992), William T. (Billy) Greer (1992-2015), and Scott D. Miller (2015-).
In 2016, the institution organized its academic program into three schools-- the Susan S. Goode School of Arts and Humanities, the Joan P. Brock School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences and the Birdsong School of Social Science. The Batten Honors College was also initiated in 2016.
In 2017, Virginia Wesleyan moved to Level III status with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, as SACSCOC approved the addition of masters programs, including an online Master of Business Administration degree, and online undergraduate programs. Virginia Wesleyan College was then authorized by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia to become Virginia Wesleyan University.
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.