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.

A History of Leadership

Tracing the School’s progress alongside business history, from Wharton’s founding in 1881 to the opening of Jon M. Huntsman Hall in 2002. More »

A Century of Innovation

Commemorating Wharton’s centennial anniversary and chronicling innovations in different industries and sectors throughout its first hundred years. More »

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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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
2010 Knowledge@Wharton reaches 1.8 million subscribers worldwide.