Northwestern University

Excellence has been Northwestern University’s goal since its nine founders met in 1850 in a room above a hardware store in Chicago, Illinois. That group — a physician, three attorneys, two businessmen, and three clergymen — aimed to establish a university “of the highest order of excellence” to serve the people of an area known then as the Northwest Territory.

That vision quickly came to fruition, and today Northwestern enjoys a position as one of the country’s leading universities, with 11 academic divisions located on two lakefront campuses in Evanston and Chicago, and our campus in Qatar. The University has approximately 2,500 full-time faculty, 16,000 full-time students and an annual budget of almost $1.25 billion.

Northwestern’s vision of excellence now extends far beyond the old Northwest Territory through the accomplishments of its alumni and by virtue of a distinguished faculty and highly-selective student body drawn from across the nation and around the world.

Northwestern University timeline:

  • January 28, 1851 – Illinois legislature passes Northwestern’s act of incorporation.
  • 1853 – The founders purchase 379 acres of farmland 12 miles north of Chicago along Lake Michigan. 
  • 1855 – Classes begin with two faculty members and 10 male students. 
  • 1869 – The University enrolls its first female students, becoming a pioneer in the higher education of women.
  • 1878 – School of Communication is established.
  • 1900 – The University is composed of a College of Liberal Arts and six professional schools with a total of 2,700 students.
  • 1910 – The University establishes a Graduate School, and begins providing graduate as well as undergraduate instruction and stressing research along with teaching.
  • 1921 – Northwestern School of Journalism is established.