Birth of a New Idea
Nearly five months after the Civil War ended, Thomas May Peirce founded the Union Business College. This school was established as a basis for a new kind of practical, business education in the post-Civil War years. With armies being disbanded, there were many soldiers who needed special preparation in order to secure positions in mercantile houses. In its first year, Peirce enrolled 550 students.
The idea of practical, career-oriented education for women encountered a great deal of cultural resistance in 19th century America, but Dr. Peirce made sure that his school was at the forefront of providing career-oriented education for women. Peirce today is a leading provider of part-time business education for women in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
A Ladies Department and the Ladies Institute of Art were opened at the Union Business College. Shorthand and "Type-Writing" departments were also added. The novelty of these subjects, as well as a stubbornly prevalent attitude towards employment of young women in business kept attendance low for the first several years. Perseverance paid off with over 300 ladies attending by 1888. Peirce announced the Secretarial course program in 1910, with the tagline "designed particularly to prepare young women for secretarial positions, although it will be open to men."
Peirce continued to expand, was renamed the Peirce College of Business, and moved to larger facilities. A string of gold medals and awards followed for Peirce education exhibits internationally. The Russian Director of Commerce, Antoine Siniavsky, was so impressed with the Peirce methods of teaching that he requested the loan of the Peirce exhibit at the Paris Universal Exhibition in order to introduce these methods in Russian Schools.
The Peirce Commencement Exercises listed speakers such as John Wanamaker, Andrew Carnegie, and several ex-presidents, Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft.