Thursday, January 22, 2015

What’s in a Name? A 150 year history of Peirce College Name Changes

For 150 years Peirce has remained committed to its purpose of helping working adults transform their lives through higher education and the attainment of degrees. While this hasn’t changed, the name that Peirce has operated under while serving this purpose has underwent several variations.

Let’s take a look at some of these changes over time.

When the doors first opened in 1865 the college was called Union Business College. It held this name until sometime in the 1870s.

In the 1870s, we first saw the name “Peirce” being associated with the college when it changed to Peirce’s Union Business College. Although we can’t be 100% sure, the reason for this name change was probably twofold. The first was to assert Thomas May Peirce’s control of the school. The partnership that funded the school at its founding had dissolved by the 1870s, with Peirce taking full control. Second, there were several other business schools throughout the US that used the name Union. In fact, there was another in Philadelphia which was later taken over by a Baltimore school that was a predecessor to the for-profit Strayer University. The college held the name Peirce’s Union Business College until 1881. 



Beginning in 1881 Peirce began broadly using the name Peirce College. However, we also began seeing different names used depending on which audience Peirce was looking to engage. Examples of these variations include Peirce College of Business, Peirce College of Business and Penmanship, and Peirce College of Business and Shorthand. During these years penmanship was a vital business skill and both Thomas May Peirce and his son, Thomas May Peirce II, considered themselves to be expert penmen.

Thomas May Peirce wrote to many of the major business schools throughout the country requesting examples of their penmanship and programs, drawing from these to make Peirce’s program an exemplary one. Unbeknownst to him all these years later, the penmanship collection in the archives is the most utilized part of our collection by outside researchers and exhibitors.

Starting in 1893 and lasting for more than a half century until 1964, Peirce operated under the name Peirce School and again included variations that appealed to different audiences such as Peirce School of Business, Peirce School of Business Administration, and Peirce School of Business and Shorthand.



The reasoning behind the name Peirce School is clear, School Director L.M. Moffett believed Peirce needed to emphasis the fact it was a professional school, offering practical business training that was offered not only to students looking for new careers, but also to recent graduates of four-year schools seeking business training. Using the name Peirce School, or Peirce School of Business differentiated the school from other post-secondary institutions.

This was an era when many four-year colleges and universities still considered business training a skill learned after college, though some elite colleges opened post-graduate schools such as Wharton in 1881 and Harvard Business School in 1908.  Peirce was both an alternative to traditional college as well as a way for graduates at other colleges to receive practical business training.

In 1964 Peirce adopted the Name Peirce Junior College when it became a non-profit college seeking Middle States accreditation (achieved in 1971).  With the adoption of the name, the two-year associate’s degree programs were formalized.

In 1997, the name Peirce College reappears when the school began offering four-year Baccalaureate programs. For most of its history, Peirce’s focus has been on business (hence the “Peirce Means Business” slogan), but since the late 1960s the school introduced new programs ranging from court reporting to IT, Legal Studies and others. For a brief time in the late 19th and early 20th Century, the school offered teacher training programs as well.

To learn more about the history of Peirce, visit our 150th anniversary page where you can view an interactive timeline, videos, and a calendar of celebratory events.