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Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Coordinates: 42°16′28″N 71°48′27″W / 42.27444°N 71.80750°W / 42.27444; -71.80750
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Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Former name
Worcester County Free Institute of Industrial Science (1865–1886)
MottoGerman: Lehr und Kunst
Motto in English
"Theory and Practice"[1]
TypePrivate research university
Established1865; 159 years ago (1865)
Academic affiliations
Endowment$589 million (2022)[2]
PresidentGrace Wang
ProvostArthur Heinricher (interim)
Academic staff
Undergraduates5,246 (2022)
Postgraduates2,062 (2022)
Location, ,
United States

42°16′28″N 71°48′27″W / 42.27444°N 71.80750°W / 42.27444; -71.80750
CampusMidsize City, 80 acres (0.32 km2)
NewspaperTech News[3]
Student Gender Distribution63/37 male/female (2022)[4]
Colors  Crimson
Sporting affiliations
MascotGompei the Goat

The Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is a private research university in Worcester, Massachusetts. Founded in 1865, WPI was one of the United States' first engineering and technology universities and now has 14 academic departments with over 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science, engineering, technology, management, the social sciences, and the humanities and arts. WPI awards bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. degrees for the completion of these programs. It is classified among "R2: Doctoral Universities – High research activity".[5]


Worcester Polytechnic Institute was founded by self-made tinware manufacturer, John Boynton, and Ichabod Washburn, owner of the world's largest wire mill. Boynton envisioned science schooling that would elevate the social position of the mechanic and manufacturer, but not necessarily teach the skills needed to become either. Washburn, on the other hand, wanted to teach technical skills through a sophisticated apprenticeship approach. Boynton consulted Seth Sweetser, a pastor, for ways to realize his vision. By chance it happened that Ichabod Washburn had previously consulted Sweetser about the proper way to actualize his own vision.[6]

John Boynton (left) and Ichabod Washburn (right).

Washburn was disappointed to learn of Boynton's offer to create a college, although Washburn claimed, "I prefer to be imposed upon by others rather than by myself in withholding where I ought to give," with the help of Sweetser's diplomacy and wisdom, he agreed to build, furnish, and endow a "Department of Practical Mechanics" at Boynton's school. He specified, however, that every student should blend theory learned in the classroom with practice in the shops.[6]

Sweetser drafted a letter expressing Boynton's and Washburn's wish to other significant men within Worcester County. The document was sent to 30 Worcester businessmen. It told of a "liberal proposal to found a Free School for Industrial Science" in Worcester and called for a meeting later in the month. After that meeting the following notice appeared in the Worcester Palladium: "A Gentleman, who for the present withholds his name from the public, offers a fund of $100,000 for the establishment of a scientific school in Worcester, upon the condition that our citizens shall furnish the necessary land and buildings." Further funding and land grants for the university were given by Stephen Salisbury II, who was an influential merchant and later served as the first president of the institute's board of directors.[7]

In response to this anonymous request, more than 225 Worcester citizens and the workers at 20 of the city's factories and machine shops contributed to the construction of the original building. On May 10, 1865, after House and Senate approval, the secretary of the commonwealth recorded the Institute as a legal corporation, and it came into formal existence.[6]

Boynton Hall, WPI's main administrative building

Both Boynton and Washburn died before the opening of the college on November 11, 1868. On that day, Charles O. Thompson, the first president of the Institute stood before WPI's first two buildings named Boynton Hall and Washburn Shops in honor of their respective donors, with their distinctive towers that even then symbolized the institution's two educational objectives of theory and practice, and inaugurated the Worcester County Free Institute of Industrial Science.[8][9]

Washburn Shops, where WPI's first hands-on classrooms and laboratories were built in the 19th century.

WPI was led in its early years by president and professor of chemistry Charles O. Thompson.[10] Early graduates of WPI went on to become mechanical and civil engineers, as well as artisans, bankers, and enter other prominent occupations. WPI continuously expanded its campus and programs throughout the early twentieth century, eventually including graduate studies and a program in electrical engineering. During World War II, WPI offered defense engineering courses and was selected as one of the colleges to direct the V-12 Navy College Training Program.[11]

During this time, WPI suffered from the lack of a unified library system, well-maintained buildings, and national recognition. This changed under the leadership of president Harry P. Storke from 1962 to 1969. Building on growth under Arthur Bronwell's presidency, Storke brought significant change to the school in what would be known as the WPI Plan. The Plan called for the creation of three projects and drastically redesigned the curriculum to address how a student learns. The Storke administration also launched a capital campaign that resulted in the creation of the George C. Gordon Library, added residence halls, an auditorium, and a modern chemistry building. Furthermore, women were first allowed to enter WPI in February 1968.[12] The WPI Plan is the guiding principle behind undergraduate education at the Institute today, and is arguably the most notable contribution WPI has made towards science and engineering education. In 1992, WPI became one of the founding competitors of Dean Kamen's FIRST Robotics Competition. Based in part on this experience, in 2007 the university launched the United States's first B.S. in Robotics Engineering.[13] In 2016, the National Academy of Engineering awarded their prestigious Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Innovation to WPI, recognizing the institute's groundbreaking approach to engineering education.[14]

In 2021–2022, seven students died within half a year. Five of the deaths were reportedly confirmed or apparent suicides.[15]


Sanford Riley Hall, the first residence hall built on campus (1927)
The Beech Tree stands over 100 feet tall
Earle Bridge

Set in an urban environment in New England's second largest city,[16] WPI's main campus is entirely privately owned, ungated, and uninterrupted by public roads. The campus sits on Boynton Hill, apart from the adjacent neighborhood, which includes restaurants and stores on Highland Street.

Once a laboratory for electromagnetic research, the "Skull Tomb" was built entirely without ferrous metals. Several years after its construction, electrified trolley tracks were built in Worcester, which led to the building falling into disuse. It served for a time as a site for Robert Goddard's rocket fuel research, as the building is relatively isolated from other buildings on campus and Goddard's research had previously led to explosions on campus. Subsequent to the building earning its present nickname, "Skull Tomb", a secret honor society inherited the building. The building was reconditioned in 2004.

The 'Two Towers' shown in old WPI logos show the clock tower of Boynton Hall and the arm and hammer weathervane of the Washburn Shops. The original weathervane was stolen in October 1975 and never recovered. Boynton and Washburn were the university's first buildings, housing the classrooms and laboratories, respectively. The Two Towers symbolize Theory and Practice, which are the foundation of the university and still the approach used today. Boynton was completed in 1868 and Washburn followed shortly after that same year.[17][18]

Higgins House

WPI's school colors, Crimson and Gray, were inspired by the natural pigmentation of a beech tree's bark and foliage that grew near the foot of Boynton Hill. The tree was planted in 1945 and presently stands over 100 feet tall.[19]

Near the edge of WPI's campus is a large Tudor-style mansion built in 1923 by WPI alumnus Aldus Chapin Higgins and later bequeathed to his alma mater. Named appropriately as the Higgins House, the mansion and the surrounding English garden serves as the backdrop for many alumni events and is the headquarters for the Office of Alumni Relations.[20]

WPI had one of 35 civilian research nuclear reactors licensed to operate in the United States. It was built and used in research during the height of the Cold War but the school's nuclear program ended at the turn of the century. The reactor was decommissioned and filled-in early in 2018 due to heightened security around reactors post-9/11 and lack of need.[21]

A large bronze statue of Gompei the Goat stands at the quad side of the Bartlett Center, WPI's admission building. Gompei was an actual goat given as a gift by the class of 1891 and eventually became the school's official mascot. It was named after the first elected goat keeper, Gompei Kuwada, chosen for his initials (G.K.). The original bronze goat head is located in the Skull Tomb, on a shelf with carved rocks and empty liquor bottles.[22]

Foisie Innovation Studio, opened August 2018

The Innovation Studio and Messenger Hall, a $49 million, 78,000-square-foot residential and classroom facility was dedicated in 2018. The Innovation Studio (formerly the Foisie Innovation Studio), designed by Gensler, contains a robotics lab, a makerspace, various student-used manufacturing technology (3-D printers, etc.), and high-tech classrooms. Messenger Hall is a residence hall with 140 beds and tech suites.[23] The Innovation Studio was originally named the Foisie Innovation Studio, after Robert Foisie, WPI's biggest donor ever. Controversy emerged surrounding the man's donations, which totaled $63 million across his lifetime, when his wife and children alleged in public and legal filings that he had participated in various criminal practices, most notably stashing money overseas during his divorce and attempting to hire a hitman to kill his son. Following Robert's death in 2018, WPI began in 2021 to erase his name from the Innovation Studio and Business School (formerly the Foisie Business School). This was conducted in accordance with a settlement with Robert's wife, Janet Foisie.[24][25]


Goddard Hall, named for alum Robert H. Goddard

Project-based learning system[edit]

WPI's curriculum is focused on project-based learning, an emphasis established in 1970 as part of what was called the WPI Plan.[26]

WPI Plan

WPI's undergrad schedule is unusual compared to most universities. Instead of a normal 14-week semester, WPI has 7-week terms, labeled A through D, with optional E Terms (session 1 and session 2) in the summer. Students typically take three courses during each term, which allows students to complete a year's worth of Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, etc. in only one semester. The graduate student calendar follows a mixed schedule of conventional two semester classes and traditional 7-week courses.[27]

WPI's student performance evaluation system uses grades A, B, or C. If a student were to not satisfactorily complete the course or elect to drop the course, they would receive a No Record (NR). Unlike many other universities, WPI does not have required academic prerequisites.[27]

Global Projects Program[edit]

At WPI, the opportunity to complete significant project work off campus is an integral element of an academic program that emphasizes the practical application of knowledge to meaningful technical and societal problems. As of the class of 2022, all first-year students receive a global project scholarship of up to $5,000 for this work. Through the Global Projects Program, over 60% of WPI students complete at least one of their required projects at an off-campus Project Center. Typically, students work under faculty guidance in small teams at Project Centers to address problems posed by external agencies and organizations.

Through the Global Projects Program, WPI sends more engineering students abroad than any US college or university. As of the 2019–2020 academic year, the program included established over 50 Project Centers spanning 6 continents.[28]

Alden Memorial is the main building for the performing arts at WPI, consisting of a performance hall, music rooms, music technology labs, and music robotics labs.[18]
The Fountain at WPI. An anemometer adjusts the height of the water based on the wind velocity.

Interactive Qualifying Project[edit]

The Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) is described as a "project which relates technology and science to society or human needs."[29] This project is very broad in scope, encompassing a wide variety of topics and actions. Generally, IQPs are designed to solve a societal problem using technology. This can range from improving high school science education to redesigning an irrigation system in Thailand. This project is often done off-campus through WPI's Global Projects Program. From an educational perspective, the IQP serves to emphasize team-based work and introduces a real-world responsibility absent from courses. Many IQPs have made a significant impact on the community in which they are done.

Major Qualifying Project[edit]

The Major Qualifying Project (MQP) assesses knowledge in a student's field of study. As mentioned above, this project is similar to a senior thesis, with students doing independent research or design. MQPs are often funded by either WPI or external corporations. Topics of MQPs done in the recent past include the design of the MIR 2 space station life support system module, a study of the effects of stress and nicotine on ADHD, the design of a research rocket, a mathematical viscoelastic cell motility model, experimental research of liquid crystals using atomic force microscopy, and the design of polymers for medicine delivery.[30]

Rankings and reputation[edit]

Academic rankings
U.S. News & World Report[33]82
Washington Monthly[34]99
WSJ/College Pulse[35]120
U.S. News & World Report[39]1358

WPI was ranked tied for 66th among national universities in U.S. News & World Report's 2021 review of "Best Colleges" in the U.S. U.S. News & World Report also rated it tied at 42nd for "Most Innovative", 67th for "Best Value", and 265th for "Top Performers on Social Mobility" among national universities.[40]

In 2013, Businessweek ranked Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) No. 1 in the nation for its part-time Master of Business Administration (MBA) program, and No. 1 in the nation for student satisfaction in the program.[41]

In August 2019, Forbes magazine's annual ranking of "America's Top Colleges" placed WPI at No. 93. "Forbes' college ranking is distinguished by its consumer-centric approach," said Caroline Howard, Director of Editorial Operations, Forbes. "The evaluation of the 650 undergraduate institutions is based exclusively on the quality of the education they provide, the experiences of the students and their post-graduate success and financial well-being."[42]

In 2017, WPI received a gold rating through Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (also known as STARS) for its sustainability efforts.[43][44] Worcester Polytechnic Institute is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.[45]

Campus life[edit]


  • Weekend Movies – Hosted by SocComm's Films committee. Every Saturday and Sunday, a new film is shown on the WPI campus in Fuller Laboratoires weeks prior to its DVD release. The projection of these movies is handled by Lens and Lights, the student event production club on campus. WPI is one of the few universities capable of showing both 35 mm film and 70 mm film in the same hall.[46]
  • Winter Ball – A ballroom dance social hosted by WPI's Ballroom Dance Team during the winter where couples in evening wear can learn and dance ballroom dances such as Waltz, Foxtrot, ChaCha, and Rumba in Alden Memorial.[47]
  • Tuesday Night Trivia – A trivia event hosted every Tuesday night on the Rubin Campus Center food court stage. The event consists of 6 category rounds, 2 picture rounds, and a final question, with teams of 5 or less competing to win prizes. Events and questions are organized and run by student workers.[48]


WPI supports 20 varsity athletic teams that compete in the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference, New England Wrestling Association, and the Eastern College Athletic Conference. WPI athletic teams compete intercollegiately at the NCAA Division III level.

Athletic center[edit]

Sports and Recreation Center

WPI's 145,000-square-foot, LEED-certified building Sports and Recreation Center was dedicated in 2012, and includes racquetball and squash courts, jogging track, and swimming pool.[49]


Gompei the Goat

In the spring of 1891, the class of 1893 stole a goat and used it as a mascot. The goat was tended by a student, Gumpei (Gompei) Kuwada, because he was the only one with the initials G.K. in reference to the job of goat keeper. The mascot of WPI is still a goat and in honor of the first goat keeper the mascot's name is Gompei.

Student newspaper[edit]

In 2018 Tech News, formerly known as The Towers and Newspeak, was the current name of a student-run newspaper founded in 1909, with an online version and physical copies produced.[3]

Wireless Association (W1YK)[edit]

History of the Association[edit]

Charter of affiliation of the Wireless Association with the ARRL (1920).

The WPI Wireless Association is regarded as the first College Amateur Radio Club to be on the air.[50] Founded in 1909 by Oliver B. Jacobs and a group of 40 other men, the club has a historically significant role in the early age of wireless communications both in the United States and the world.[citation needed] The Wireless Association was one of the first 12 stations heard by Paul Godely,[51] an American who went to Scotland to conduct the first Transatlantic Tests, when stations in America and Scotland tried to hear each other across the Atlantic Ocean.

The Current Association[edit]

The current club has members with licenses ranging from Technician to the highest class, Amateur Extra. The club currently and has operated for decades out of the radio shack on the roof of Salisbury Laboratories. The club manages several public repeaters that reach around Worcester such as the Higgins Repeater.[52] W1YK, the official Federal Communications Commission-licensed callsign of the club, and its members participate in the American Radio Relay League Sweepstakes each year, including the November Sweeps. The members of the club participate in marathons, triathlons, and other events that need radio operators.


Lesley Small and Jayne Rossetti in 2022, first women enrolled at WPI (class of 1972)


WPI has employed several professors whose achievements have made them notable across the nation and the world.

  • In 1995, Biology professor David Adams was the first to create a mouse which suffered from Alzheimers.
  • Former history of science and technology professor Michael Sokal is currently serving as the president of the History of Science Society.
  • Kaveh Pahlavan, professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of the Center for Wireless Information Network Studies (CWINS) who, during the 1990s, helped develop the 802.11 wireless protocols.
  • Richard H. Gallagher, former professor of mechanical engineering and vice president of academic affairs, was one of the originators of the Finite Element Method.
  • Umberto Mosco, professor of mathematical sciences and eponym of Mosco convergence.
  • George Phillies, physics professor and 2008 Libertarian presidential candidate.
  • Current professor of practice, James Lyneis, serves as the president of the System Dynamics Society. He is the third WPI faculty member to serve in this post, the other two being Michael J. Radzicki (SDS President 2006), and Khalid Saeed (SDS President 1995).
  • Brian Moriarty, professor of interactive media and game development and former game developer for Infocom and LucasArts.
  • Frederick Bianchi, Director of Music Technology and co-inventor of the Virtual Orchestra.
  • Joseph Mancuso (class of 1963) went on to become WPI's youngest department chairman when he took over the WPI management program after earning an M.B.A. from Harvard. Mancuso went on to become a best-selling author in the business genre, and founded the CEO Clubs International, of which he is president and CEO.
  • Albert Sacco Jr. Astronaut, former professor of chemical engineering and department head. Served as payload specialist on the STS-73 mission in 1995.
  • Mimi Sheller, Dean of the Global School and theorist of mobilities.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "From the President". Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Retrieved June 9, 2021.
  2. ^ As of March 7, 2022. U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2021 Endowment Market Value and Change in Endowment Market Value from FY20 to FY21 (Report). National Association of College and University Business Officers and TIAA. 2022. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  3. ^ a b "About Us". Tech News. Tech News (student organization). Retrieved November 19, 2018.
  4. ^ "Worcester Polytechnic Institute Student Life". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved October 27, 2023.
  5. ^ "Carnegie Classifications Institution Lookup". carnegieclassifications.iu.edu. Center for Postsecondary Education. Archived from the original on December 15, 2021. Retrieved September 13, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c [1] URL accessed on July 8, 2012
  7. ^ WPI's Founding Fathers: Stephen Salisbury II Archived September 1, 2006, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved July 23, 2006
  8. ^ WPI's Founding Fathers: John Boynton Archived September 1, 2006, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved July 23, 2006
  9. ^ WPI's Founding Fathers: Ichabod Washburn Archived September 1, 2006, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved July 23, 2006
  10. ^ Two Towers: The Story of Worcester Tech 1865–1965 Archived September 5, 2006, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved July 23, 2006
  11. ^ Two Towers: The Story of Worcester Tech 1865–1965 Archived September 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved July 23, 2006
  12. ^ The Miracle at Worcester: The Story of the WPI Plan Archived September 8, 2006, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved July 23, 2006
  13. ^ "Celebrate our history". WPI. Retrieved October 27, 2023.
  14. ^ The National Academy of Engineering Recognizes WPI Retrieved October 3, 2018
  15. ^ Gavin, Christopher (January 25, 2022). "WPI student death is 7th in last 6 months". Boston.com. Retrieved January 24, 2024.
  16. ^ STAFF, John J. Monahan TELEGRAM & GAZETTE. "Challenge boosts two cities' populations". telegram.com.
  17. ^ "WPI George C. Gordon Library – The Two Towers Tradition". Archived from the original on February 17, 2005. Retrieved October 24, 2005.
  18. ^ a b "About WPI". WPI.
  19. ^ Worcester Polytechnic Institute Self-Guided Tour [2] Archived January 20, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved on May 3, 2012
  20. ^ WPI Alumni Office [3], Retrieved on June 6, 2012
  21. ^ coldwar-ma [4], Retrieved on December 11, 2012
  22. ^ Goat's Head [5], Retrieved on July 1, 2012
  23. ^ Duffy, Alison (September 14, 2018). "WPI Opens the Foisie Innovation Studio and Messenger Hall". Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Retrieved August 2, 2020.
  24. ^ Hamilton, Katherine (October 29, 2021). "WPI scrubs Foisie's name from campus". Worcester Business Journal. Retrieved December 24, 2022.
  25. ^ "WPI donor controversy gets curiouser and curiouser as charges fly - the Boston Globe". April 2, 2017.
  26. ^ "The WPI Plan". WPI. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  27. ^ a b "10 things to know about the WPI Plan". WPI. Retrieved October 27, 2023.
  28. ^ "Project Center Directory". WPI. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  29. ^ WPI Projects Program Retrieved July 28, 2006
  30. ^ WPI Project Presentation Day 2006, Retrieved July 28, 2006.
  31. ^ "ShanghaiRanking's 2023 Academic Ranking of World Universities". Shanghai Ranking Consultancy. Retrieved February 10, 2024.
  32. ^ "Forbes America's Top Colleges List 2023". Forbes. Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  33. ^ "2023-2024 Best National Universities". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  34. ^ "2023 National University Rankings". Washington Monthly. Retrieved February 10, 2024.
  35. ^ "2024 Best Colleges in the U.S." The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse. Retrieved January 27, 2024.
  36. ^ "ShanghaiRanking's 2023 Academic Ranking of World Universities". Shanghai Ranking Consultancy. Retrieved February 10, 2024.
  37. ^ "QS World University Rankings 2025: Top global universities". Quacquarelli Symonds. Retrieved June 6, 2024.
  38. ^ "World University Rankings 2024". Times Higher Education. Retrieved September 27, 2023.
  39. ^ "2022-23 Best Global Universities Rankings". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved February 25, 2023.
  40. ^ "Worcester Polytechnic Institute Rankings". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved October 5, 2020.
  41. ^ "Bloomberg Businessweek Rates WPI School of Business No. 1 in the Nation for Entrepreneurship". WPI. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  42. ^ Communications, Forbes Corporate. "Forbes Releases Annual Ranking of America's Top Colleges". Forbes.
  43. ^ "Worcester Polytechnic Institute". stars.aashe.org. Retrieved July 22, 2017.
  44. ^ "WPI Earns Gold Star Sustainability Rating". WPI. Retrieved July 22, 2017.
  45. ^ Massachusetts Institutions – NECHE, New England Commission of Higher Education, retrieved May 26, 2021
  46. ^ WPI Lens and Lights: Projection Archived April 18, 2008, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on July 4, 2007
  47. ^ [6] Archived January 21, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved on November 15, 2011
  48. ^ "Tuesday Night Trivia". WPI Calendar. January 10, 2023. Retrieved October 27, 2023.
  49. ^ "WPI Dedicates its Sports and Recreation Center". Worcester Polytechnic Institute. September 5, 2012. Retrieved July 11, 2020.
  50. ^ "WPI Wireless Association | The History". wpiwa.wpi.edu. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  51. ^ "Paul Godley Dies; Pioneer in Radio". The New York Times. October 22, 1973. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  52. ^ "WPI Wireless Association | Repeaters". wpiwa.wpi.edu. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  53. ^ Official Manual of the State of Missouri, 1993–1994[permanent dead link], p. 157
  54. ^ Jaco, Charles (August 19, 2012). "The Jaco Report: August 19, 2012". Fox News. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
  55. ^ "Representative Giovanni Capriglione's Biography". Project Vote Smart. 2013. Retrieved April 2, 2013.
  56. ^ "L. C. Jones, Candidate for Attorney General". Burlington Free Press. Burlington, VT. June 3, 1930. p. 2.
  57. ^ "Everett John Lake". August 14, 2015.
  58. ^ Gentoo Weekly Newsletter: December 22nd, 2003 Archived July 26, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved October 12, 2007
  59. ^ "Alumni". WPI.


External links[edit]