Wharton History

In 1881, American entrepreneur and industrialist Joseph Wharton established the world’s first collegiate school of business at the University of Pennsylvania.


Joseph Wharton’s pioneering vision for the School was to produce graduates who would become “pillars of the state, whether in private or in public life.” The Wharton School maintains a long tradition of educating visionary business leaders in academe, business, government, and not-for-profit organizations. Today, Wharton has expanded the scope of this vision to become the most comprehensive source of business knowledge in the world — with 225+ faculty members, 94,000 alumni, 5,000 students in academic programs, and more than 9,000 executive education participants annually.

125 Influential People & Ideas

A special 125th anniversary issue of the Wharton Magazine featuring stories of influential people and ideas. More »

Past Leaders

Short biographical sketches of Wharton’s leaders since our founding more than 125 years ago. More »

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School Leadership »

Wharton Innovations in Business
1881 First business school at a university
1881-1901 School name: Wharton School of Finance and Economy
1902-1971 School name: Wharton School of Finance and Commerce
1881-1910 First business textbooks
1921 First research center at a business school, Industrial Research Unit
1953-present First and longest-running custom executive education program, Securities Industries Institute
1970 First MBA program in health care management
1972-present School name: Wharton School
1973 First center for entrepreneurship
1978 First joint-degree program in management & technology
1983 First joint-degree MBA/MA program in international management, Joseph H. Lauder Institute
1994 First joint-degree undergraduate program in international studies at a business school, Huntsman Program in International Studies & Business
1988 – 1994 First executive advisory boards in Europe, Asia, and Latin America
1999 Knowledge@Wharton, the School’s biweekly online business journal, is launched.
2001 Established West Coast MBA Program for Executives — Wharton | San Francisco
2001 Established an Alliance with INSEAD in the global development and delivery of management education
2003 First doctoral program in ethics and legal studies
2005 Created new undergraduate joint-degree program, the Roy and Diana Vagelos Program in Life Sciences & Management
2010 Introduced Global Modular Courses, intensive for-credit workshops delivered in 13 countries around the world
2011 Launched Wharton Digital Press, offering business intelligence on digital publishing platforms
2012 Rolled out MOOCs, with Wharton Online becoming the top business school on Coursera with 2.7 million students in 18 courses
2013 Opened Penn Wharton Public Policy Center in Philadelphia and Washington, DC
2014 Launched Business Radio Powered by the Wharton School, presenting 40 hours of unique live programming on Sirius XM
2015 Opened Penn Wharton China Center in Beijing, the university’s only center outside the United States