Through 160 years, William Peace University has evolved to meet the changing needs of the students we serve.

William Peace University was founded in 1857 as Peace Institute, offering education for boys and girls in primary grades and to women from high school to college. Once a two-year college for women, WPU has evolved into a four-year, coeducational university, offering bachelor’s degrees in more than 30 majors, minors, and concentrations.

Our mission is to prepare students for careers in the organizations of tomorrow. Rooted in the liberal arts tradition, our students develop an appreciation for life-long learning, a focus on meaningful careers, and skills for ethical citizenship.

William Peace University Timeline

1857 Founding of the Peace Institute, offering education for boys and girls in primary grades and to women from high school to college. Named in honor of William Peace, a Raleigh businessman and church elder, who pledged $10,000 to the Rev. Joseph M. Atkinson in trust for the First Presbyterian Church.

1872 Opening of Peace Institute after delays due to the Civil War and Reconstruction. The First Presbyterian Church regained ownership of the property and repaired the Main Building.

1878 R. Stanhope Pullen, a local businessman and philanthropist, who owned the eight acres of land the campus is built on, signed over ownership of the property to the Peace Institute.

1940 Peace offered an academic program for young women that encompassed the last two years of high school and the first two years of college.

1943 Official name change from Peace Institute to Peace College.

1960s – early 1970s Peace College saw its greatest growth with the construction of 11 new buildings and many renovations to existing structures.

1996 Peace College awarded its first baccalaureate degree.

2009 Peace began offering coeducational evening courses through the William Peace School of Professional Studies.

2011 Continuing its revitalization efforts, the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to transition Peace to coeducational and to rename the college William Peace University. The move signaled the institution’s commitment to growth in both size and scope.

2012 The first male students matriculated.

2022 WPU announced research into its history.

Exploring the Archives

Explore digitized copies of our yearbook, “The Lotus” – now available online for class years 1902 through 2010, with recent years forthcoming.

Explore the WPU Yearbooks

The Lotus is the official yearbook of the University. Each volume documents people and events throughout the history of the institution. Some of the yearbooks include words and images that are in opposition to the current values of the University. William Peace University is in continuous pursuit of being a place where our diversity is celebrated, inclusion is practiced, and respect is commonplace.