Wheaton was founded in 1834 as a female seminary and chartered as a four-year liberal arts college in 1912. The college became coeducational in 1988, and its Phi Beta Kappa chapter was established in 1932.

Throughout Wheaton College’s history, our reputation for academic excellence is a direct result of pioneering leadership. Today, we share with past generations the rich academic tradition of the liberal arts and sciences. At the same time, we benefit from a host of curricular initiatives begun during the past two decades—new programs that help us explore ideas and concepts across academic disciplines, link academic study with learning outside the classroom, appreciate diversity in all its forms, and see ourselves as active members of a global community.

View a timeline of Wheaton’s history

Official College mission statement


First, don academic robes tricked out with some costume accessories, like a mask, beads or a cape. Then, parade with fellow students, professors and staff to the sound of “The March of Acid-Free Paper.”

Why? It’s the traditional way to deliver your senior honors thesis at Wheaton. It may sound a bit goofy, but it’s a spoof and it’s fun. That’s the point of the celebration.

Traditions form an important part of Wheaton’s campus culture. Many Wheaton traditions are rooted deeply in the college’s almost 190 years of history; others, such as the thesis parade, are of more recent vintage.

The Head of the Peacock regatta began about 20 years ago as a celebration of spring and student ingenuity. The race of homemade boats on Peacock Pond inspires creativity: teams of students everything from empty beer kegs to old bathtubs as they try to fashion a watercraft that will stay afloat—and maybe even claim a prize. Of course, the failures are fun, too.

If you are new to Wheaton, there are a few unwritten “rules” of which you should be aware:

  • Every student MUST swim in Peacock Pond before they graduate.
  • The front door of the chapel is meant for senior use only. If you are an underclassman, you must use the side doors when entering and exiting the chapel.

To learn more about the evolution of Wheaton and its traditions, visit Wheaton’s online archives.