Kirkpatrick Chapel stained glass window

Our Revolutionary Roots

Select Milestones in Rutgers' Impressive History


Rutgers History

Revolutionary for more than 250 years, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is the nation’s eighth oldest institution of higher learning. As one of only nine colonial colleges established before the American Revolution, Rutgers has a centuries-old tradition of rising to the challenges of each new generation.

Founded in 1766, a decade before the American Revolution, Rutgers’ history parallels the history of the nation. Browse highlights of the university's history.

The Original Sunburst Rutgers Seal

Our Revolutionary Founding Roots

1766 Royal Governor signs Queen’s College Charter 

1781 Alumnus Simeon De Witt, Surveyor General of the Continental Army, plays key role in British defeat at Yorktown 

1789 Alumnus James Schureman elected to first U.S. Congress

1825 Queen’s College renamed Rutgers College to honor benefactor and Revolutionary War hero Colonel Henry Rutgers

1864 N.J.’s Land Grant, Rutgers Scientific School, established 

Stained glass window depicting the signing the Queen's College charter

The University Takes Shape

1946 Rutgers University–Newark founded

1950 Rutgers University–Camden founded

1956 Rutgers Law of 1956 affirms Rutgers as the State University; Board of Governors created

1966 Unprecedented construction starts universitywide


1966 Newark cityscape

Inclusion and Access

1867 Kusakabe Taro is first Japanese student to enroll in a U.S. college

1892 James Dickson Carr is first African American to graduate from Rutgers

1918 Founding of New Jersey College for Women, which would become Douglass Residential College

1919  Paul Robeson gives the valedictory speech to fellow graduates in the Class of 1919. Robeson, an accomplished student and athlete at Rutgers, would go on to become a world-renowned actor, singer, and global human rights advocate

1969 Black students advocate for diversity in Conklin Hall takeover, sparking inclusion across the university

1972 Rutgers College admits its first full class of women students

1997 Rutgers University–Newark ranks as nation’s most diverse university by U.S. News & World Report, beginning a 22-year run in the top spot

2017 Rutgers renames landmarks to honor African Americans in Rutgers history

2021 Rutgers announces historical plaques will be installed at four New Brunswick locations: Hardenbergh Hall, Frelinghuysen Hall, Wood Lawn Mansion, and Livingston Campus. The plaques will acknowledge Rutgers' connections to early benefactors whose families made their fortunes through the slave economy. 

Taro Kusukabe

Becoming an Academic Powerhouse

1989 Rutgers University–New Brunswick is invited to join Association of American Universities

2012 The N.J. Medical and Health Sciences Education Restructuring Act integrates most units of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey into Rutgers

2013 Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences established as a leading academic health center in New Jersey as a result of the N.J. Medical and Health Sciences Education Restructuring Act.

2014 Rutgers–New Brunswick joins the Big Ten Conference and Academic Alliance

2015 Rutgers’ Newark and Camden law schools merge forming Rutgers Law School

2015 Rutgers University–Newark School of Public Affairs and Administration becomes the first U.S. school to earn full international accreditation from the International Commission on Accreditation of Public Administration Education and Training Programs

2018 Rutgers University–Camden is reclassified as a Doctoral University: High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education—an elevated status reflecting high-impact research and graduate education. The university now appears in rankings of America’s top national universities.

2018 Rutgers and RWJBarnabas Health launch health care partnership


Newspaper article about Rutgers joining the AAU

Firsts at Rutgers

1783 The nation’s first college newspaper begins publishing

1869 Birthplace of college football: Rutgers defeats Princeton in first intercollegiate football game

1961 Rutgers selected as first Peace Corps training site

1971 First performance by New Jersey native son Bruce Springsteen at Rutgers occurs on December 17, 1971; tickets are $1
1972 First intercollegiate ultimate frisbee game: Rutgers defeats Princeton, exactly 103 years after Rutgers defeated Princeton in first football game
1972 Women’s Rights Law Reporter, the first legal periodical of its kind in the U.S., is established at Rutgers; its first faculty adviser is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then a Rutgers law professor

1976 Rutgers hires the nation’s first full-time women’s head basketball coach

2007 Nation’s first PhD program in childhood studies debuts

2020 First SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus test allowing people to collect their own saliva at home and send to a lab for results developed by Rutgers lab and collaborators, and approved for use by the FDA.

Painting of the first football game

Inventions and Discoveries

1819 Alumnus invents first Transatlantic steamship engine

1934 Rutgers Tomato dominates market through much of 20th century

1943 Streptomycin, first effective treatment for tuberculosis, discovered 

1964 Surgeon General’s first report of dangers of smoking relies on research of Oscar Auerbach 

1979 Fred Grassle leads first expedition to explore undersea hydrothermal vents

1981 Alumnus Michael Gottlieb is first to report what would come to be known as AIDS

1984 Steroid treatment for multiple sclerosis discovered 

1987 Rutgers plastics sorting invention gets America recycling 

2009 First Transatlantic undersea robotic glider crossing likened to Lindbergh aircraft crossing



Selman Waksman in his lab
The Original Sunburst Rutgers Seal
Stained glass window depicting the signing the Queen's College charter
1966 Newark cityscape
Taro Kusukabe
Newspaper article about Rutgers joining the AAU
Painting of the first football game
Selman Waksman in his lab

University Archives

It’s a treasure trove. The University Archives document the history of the university and provide source material for administrative use and for researchers interested in studying the university’s impact on the history of American social, cultural, and intellectual development.



A sampling of artifacts belonging to Henry Rutgers

Rutgers Commemorates 250 Years

Rutgers celebrated its 250th anniversary with a yearlong celebration featuring hundreds of events across New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden—including then President Barack Obama delivering the 250th anniversary commencement address.

Barack Obama delivering the 250th anniversary commencement

The Rutgers Shield

Introduced in 2015 in celebration of Rutgers’ 250th anniversary in 2016, the Rutgers shield honors our roots and affirms our values as an institution. Learn about the symbolism in the shield and why it was used as a fundamental expression of the university’s identity for this milestone occasion.


Rutgers shield

The Rutgers Shield: A Symbol of Our Past and Our Present

The shield’s elements convey where we have been and who we are now. The shield is divided into thirds, representing Rutgers’ deep connections to New Jersey’s three regions—north, central, and south—and denoting the university’s tripartite mission—teaching, research, and service. Five symbolic elements both acknowledge our past and promise for the future.

The Original Sunburst Rutgers Seal


The sunburst conveys illumination—light as metaphor for knowledge—and it is the motif of our seal and the heart of our motto, “Sun of righteousness, shine upon the West also.” Our centuries-old seal and motto are both variants on those of Utrecht University, the Netherlands; its motto reads, “Sun of righteousness, enlighten us.”

Detail of the crown from Rutgers’ 1766 flag

The Crown

The crown represents our founding in 1766 as Queen’s College, named in honor of Queen Charlotte, wife of Great Britain’s King George III who reigned over the American colonies when our charter was signed. Queen Charlotte is an apt early namesake: current scholarship finds she cared deeply for education, and, against convention, ensured that her six daughters were educated as well as her nine sons.

Academic building and cornerstone


Rutgers was founded in 1766 and is one of America’s nine original colonial colleges. A decade later, as the American Revolution erupted, the college gave itself over to the cause of freedom, as all “who were able to bear arms immediately marched to oppose the enemy.” Rutgers people today continue to passionately champion just causes.


New Jersey map with Rutgers locations


The three stars represent the State of New Jersey, the third state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Rutgers is devoted to serving our home state as New Jersey’s land-grant school and is proud to be The State University of New Jersey.


Students in the library


The book is a timeless symbol of our enduring commitment to teaching, learning, academic inquiry, and scholarship. Across generations and disciplines, at our core, we create, share, and apply knowledge for the enrichment of individuals and the betterment of the broader society.


Past University Presidents

From its roots as a colonial college to its emergence as one of the nation’s leading public research universities, Rutgers has been molded by its leaders. Learn about Rutgers’ past presidents and their roles in shaping Rutgers.

Rutgers past presidents

Rutgers Traditional Songs

From the alma mater, “On the Banks of the Old Raritan,” to the educational song “The Rutgers History Lesson,”  the Rutgers spirit is strong in song. Read the lyrics and hear the Rutgers Glee Club sing the catalog of traditional Rutgers songs.

Glee Club