Wayland Academy was founded as Wayland University on January 31, 1855. Although the Academy has been a nondenominational boarding school for over seventy years, it was initially chartered as a Baptist university and named for the president of Brown University, prominent educator and Baptist minister Francis Wayland. On July 4, 1855, the cornerstone of the first campus building, College Hall, was laid in place. The building still stands today, but is now known as Wayland Hall. Whereas this building served as the entire school during Wayland's early years (classrooms, chapel, library, dormitory, and administrative offices), today it is one of four dormitories on campus and houses 50 boys and five dorm supervisors.
Six years after Wayland Academy's founding, the American Civil War broke out, but even in the school's infancy, at a time of national crisis, Wayland grew and thrived. Wayland began with a single student in 1855, and nine years later enrollment had grown to 191 students. The school has the distinction of admitting both men and women very early in its history, and today it is the oldest continuously coeducational boarding school in America.
Strong leadership throughout the 19th century helped Wayland continue to evolve and develop into the school it is today. Warren Cottage was built in 1888, and still serves as the largest girl's dormitory on campus. A modern gymnasium was funded by Edmond J. Lindsay, and the Roundy family of Milwaukee contributed a generous sum towards building the school's first music and arts building (which now serves as Wayland's administration building.) Although the interiors of these early campus buildings have been extensively renovated over the last century and a half, they still serve as a reminder of the hard work of Wayland's founders and contribute to the campus' historic character.
Wayland entered the 20th century under the guidance of Edwin Putnam Brown (Class of 1890), a school president whose administration lasted 33 years. During his tenure, the school continued to expand, with a new infirmary and classroom/library building, but perhaps most importantly, with his guidance the school survived the Great Depression even as many other private schools were collapsing.
At the end of the 1930s, while Faith remained, and continues to remain, one of the school's four pillars, Wayland Academy refocused its mission as a nondenominational, first-rate liberal arts preparatory school and ended its affiliation with the Baptist church.
Wayland continued to bloom and adapt through the 20th century. Mid-century, under President Ray Patterson Jr.`40 in particular, the school saw significant campus improvements and economic stability. Two new dormitories, a chapel, an extraordinary Field House, and new athletic fields were all built while Patterson was at the helm, and a number of other buildings were extensively renovated. Just as importantly, Ray Patterson Jr. brought to the campus a vibrance and a mission that stressed three fundamental goals: one, education should have a sense of history; two, students should be encouraged to be creative; three, schools need to instill a solid sense of morality. These are goals that Wayland still embraces today.
Into the 21st century, Wayland continues to evolve and adapt to provide its students with the education and experience they need to succeed in college and in life.