Centennial: a photographic retrospective

1903 - 2003
Our History Through the Lens

Nearly one hundred years have passed since Western Connecticut State University began as Danbury State Normal School, a small institution dedicated to preparing students to teach in the state’s public schools. Its first century has seen the evolution of the school’s outward character from humble but proud small-town educational enterprise to respected university, member of the Connecticut State University System, committed to providing opportunity through education to all who enter its doors.


The Connecticut legislature approved plans for the opening of the Normal School in 1903. In September 1904, thirty-seven students were enrolled at DNS (all were young women, although the school was officially co-educational). Largely the daughters of hatters, factory workers, machinists and other laborers, many were the first in their families to attend an institution of higher learning.


In its first hundred years, the school has transformed itself many times. Reclassified a teachers college in 1937, it prepared women and men to teach in both elementary and high schools. Twenty-two years later, in 1959, it was renamed Danbury State College and was able to offer a variety of degree programs in addition to those in the field of education. In 1967, as Western Connecticut State College, it demonstrated a greatly increased geographic outreach. But the most significant role of all was embraced in 1983 when this college joined with the other former state teaching schools to become a branch member of the Connecticut State University System.

Today, WestConn is a university that encourages its students to pursue individual interests ranging from those in the liberal arts, to nursing, to criminal justice, to business. It is a diverse academic community still dedicated to training teachers, but also to the educating of future business leaders, scientists, nurses, scholars, artists—and more. As it did originally as Danbury Normal School, this proud university remains committed to affording an excellent education to those who have chosen to become part of its ongoing success story.

Please join us in celebrating our past by viewing this pictorial history of Western Connecticut State University.