Traditions and History of Colgate University Skip Navigation

Past, Present, and Future

A highly successful campaign that ended in 2012 raised $480 million, including $142 million for financial aid. Other examples of campaign impact: the Robert H.N. Ho Science Center, the Case Library and Geyer Center for Information Technology, and Trudy Fitness Center.
A student and an alumnus shake hands across a table at SophoMORE Connections.
These resources assure future steps toward stronger research, more effective use of technology, and greater socioeconomic diversity on campus.

But we never forget our rich history or traditions, like our longtime love affair with the No. 13 that is based on the story of our founding in 1817 when 13 men met in the frontier settlement of Hamilton with "13 dollars, 13 prayers, and 13 articles."

The state granted us a charter in 1819 and one year later the school opened. In 1823, Baptists in New York City - soapmaker William Colgate among them - consolidated their seminary with the Hamilton school to form the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution. The Colgate family connection was thus established.

The oldest building on our current campus, West Hall, was built four years later in 1827. Students and faculty, working together, built the new structure from stone pulled from a quarry on campus.

We changed our name in 1846 to Madison University and became Colgate in 1890, recognizing nearly 70 years of continuous involvement by the Colgate family.

The passion for learning, the desire to create and share new knowledge, and the drive to make a difference in the world continue to permeate today's campus. Now, our students and faculty members are taking advantage of smart classrooms, state-of-the-art laboratories, and the latest technologies to keep that Colgate spirit of learning and sharing alive.

Learn more about Colgate's history by looking back through our timeline on Facebook.

Quick Facts

  • Colgate is the 66th oldest college in the United States.
  • Colgate owns a 75 million-year-old petrified dinosaur egg, the first owned by a college.
  • The Colgate Maroon-News is the oldest college weekly newspaper in America.
  • Colgate's 1932 football team was undefeated, untied, unscored upon, and uninvited (to the Rose Bowl)
  • The stone for several of the first buildings on campus was gathered at a rock quarry located at the top of the hill.

Colgate Songs

Take a listen to some of our most popular songs from throughout the years.