Founded: 1853, in St. Louis

Original name: Eliot Seminary

First Chair of Board of Trustees: William Greenleaf Eliot, grandfather of the Nobel Prize laureate poet T. S. Eliot

Current Chair of Board of Trustees:  Andrew M. Bursky

First Chancellor: Joseph Gibson Hoyt

Current Chancellor: Andrew D. Martin

Official motto: Per Veritatem Vis (“Strength through Truth”)

Colors: Red and green; adopted in the mid 1890s

Mascot: Bear; emerged around 1925

Insignia: The shield is derived from three sources: the coat of arms of President George Washington, the official seal of the university and the emblem of King Louis IX of France, after whom the city of St. Louis is named.

Alma mater: In 1907, Arthur Lieber, director of the WUSTL Glee Club, suggested to his students that they write an Alma Mater based on “How Can I Leave Thee,” a traditional German song. Two glee club members in the Class of 1908, Milton Rosenheim and George Logan, wrote verses. The song was quickly accepted as Washington University’s Alma Mater after the lyrics were printed in Student Life.

“Dear Alma Mater,
Thy name is sweet to me.
Our hearts are all for thee
Fair Washington.
Thy halls shall honored be
Throughout this great country
For all eternity, Our Washington.
Those days of youth which
All of us spent with thee
Form a dear history,
Fair Washington.
Could they renewed be,
We’d live our days with thee
For all eternity, Our Washington.”

Some WashU firsts:

  • WashU became the first chartered law school in America to admit women when it admitted Lemma Barkeloo and Phoebe Couzins to its law department. 
  • In 1947, WashU Professor Gerty Cori, with her husband, became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and the first American woman to win a Nobel Prize in science 
  • The first American Olympics were hosted in 1904 at WashU’s Francis Field and Gymnasium. Francis Field remains the University’s track, and the Gymnasium was replaced with a modern Athletic Complex in 2016.
  • WashU became the first university in the nation to ban the sale of plastic single-use water bottles in 2009. As of 2016, sales of bottled beverages plummeted 39%. 
  • In 1879, WashU launched the first professional, university-affiliated art school in the U.S. and in 1881 founded the first art museum west of the Mississippi, called the St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts.