Editorial: Celebrate 150 years with McDaniel College

Numerous now defunct colleges and universities existed in Carroll County during the 19th century; McDaniel College, founded in 1867 as Western Maryland College, is the only one that remains.

While it has been known as McDaniel for only 15 years, the institute of higher learning on the hill in Westminster is celebrating its sesquicentennial in the 2017-18 school year and is inviting the community to join them for a series of events. The first of these is today, when college historian James Lightner will cover the key moments in the former Western Maryland College's history as part of the Historical Society of Carroll County's series of Box Lunch Talks.


Lightner's talk is from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19, at Grace Lutheran Church, 21 Carroll St. in Westminster. The cost is $3 for members and $7 for nonmembers. Lightner told us his talk will range from the impact of World War II on the college, the school's break from the United Methodist Church in 1974 and the controversial name-change in 2002, when Western Maryland became McDaniel.

The private college was the brainchild of Fayette R. Buell, a Westminster teacher who bought a tract of land atop a hill overlooking the city. Early contributors were J.T. Ward, a Methodist minister who would become the first president of the college, and John Smith, who lived in nearby Wakefield Valley and was president of the Western Maryland Railroad, from which the school would take its first name. Western Maryland was the first coeducational college south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and one of the first coeducation colleges in the United States.

While, at times it can seem, McDaniel College exists on its own island — or hill, if you will — separate from the rest of Carroll County, the reality is it has become part of the fabric of our community in those 150 years, serving as a bit of a cultural center.

The college is an incredible resource, hosting countless art exhibitions, film screenings, musical and theater performances, and guest speakers and lecturers — all open to residents of the county. It serves as a venue for important community meetings and large-scale events, including every Carroll County public high school's graduation ceremony, and its athletic facilities are used for camps that many aspiring young athletes from Carroll attend. And during their glory years, the college's sports teams were the pride of many residents.

McDaniel's staff are also members of our community and serve in important roles as part of civic organizations, leaders of nonprofits, on various boards of directors and even as city council members. And many alumni fall in love with Carroll during their time and make it their home after graduation.

Come to think of it, it's hard to imagine what Carroll County and Westminster might be like without McDaniel College here.

Throughout the remainder of the fall semester, McDaniel College will host several events, including a timeline exhibit on display at the Rice Gallery from Oct. 19 to Nov. 10, its 150th Anniversary Birthday Party on Oct. 21, a student art exhibition Nov. 16 to Dec. 8, singing performances by the Masterworks Chorales Nov. 19 and the college choir Dec. 3 at Baker Memorial Chapel, and for the first time, a holiday light show opening Nov. 25 in conjunction with Westminster's Miracle on Main Street holiday parade that is open through Dec. 31.

We encourage you to attend one, a few or all of these events and join us in celebration 150 years of McDaniel College and its contributions to Westminster and the surrounding Carroll County community.