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Through the years Villanova has grown from a tiny suburban college to a great university. Struggle and uncertainty often marked Villanova's first half century (1842-1892). Classes began in the fall of 1843 with only seven young men; fifty years later, when the college celebrated its Golden Jubilee, there were still fewer than 100 students on campus. Shortages of both money and personnel also forced the young institution to close on two occasions for a total of almost nine years. Despite such early difficulties, the college erected several new buildings and enlarged others.

Villanova's second fifty years (1892-1942) brought expansion, economic depression, and two world wars. For several decades thereafter the college grew, propelled by a boom in the nation's economy, the increasing prosperity of local Catholics, and modern academic programs. New buildings arose, intercollegiate athletics became a major element, and student social life glittered with fancy balls and big name bands. As the 1920s came to an end Villanova experienced a ten-fold increase in its student body in little more than three decades; then the Great Depression struck, bringing a large decline in students and forcing the college to postpone numerous building plans. The economy rebounded with World War II; but enrollments sagged when a large percentage of Villanova's all-male student body reported for military service. Only a Navy training program on campus saved the college from great hardship during the war years; but the wartime emergency forced Villanova to curtail its centennial celebrations in 1942-1943.

The next fifty years (1942-1992) however witnessed more uninterrupted growth at Villanova than during any comparable period in its past. Hundreds of veterans flooded the campus following World War II. Postwar prosperity and the baby boom continued to promote student enrollments. Dozens of buildings went up; new academic programs were launched; and in 1953 Villanova officially became, in 1953 a university. By 1960 there were over 7,000 students on campus, one thousand times the number who had entered the first class twelve decades before. The 1960s also saw student protests at Villanova. Some involved inconsequential issues, while others addressed serious questions of gross injustices in American life and university governance. With the 1970s and 1980s came gradually increasing enrollments as well as national recognition for academic excellence. By the time of Villanova's Sesquicentennial (1992-1993) it stood poised for even greater development.

It is hoped that the exhibition will provide visitors, especially those with earlier identification with Villanova, with initial acquaintance or pleasing remembrance of significant aspects of Villanova's history.

We dedicate this account of Villanova's history to the devoted administration, faculty and staff whose faith has created and sustained the University; and to the thousands of students who have been part of the living stream of Villanova's life.