In 1896, Joseph Krauskopf, an activist rabbi who was a tireless advocate for social justice, purchased a 100-acre farm in Doylestown, Pa., arranged for the construction of a small classroom building, employed a faculty of two and enrolled six students. With this modest start, the National Farm School (now Delaware Valley College) came into being and provided a three-year program combining academics and work experience.
The impetus for the National Farm School’s founding came from Russia. Two years earlier, Krauskopf traveled there in hopes of a personal appeal to the Czar to allow Jews the right to own land and the opportunity to pursue agriculture, the calling of their ancestors. The Czar would not see him; instead Krauskopf spent time with Leo Tolstoy who advised him to return to America and “lead the tens of thousands from your congested cities to your idle, fertile lands…”
Although the school was founded primarily with the needs of young Jewish men in mind, Krauskopf insisted the school be open to boys of all faiths and backgrounds. Academics were combined with work experience, and the students helped run the farm and grow their own food. Krauskopf’s motto was “science with practice.” This marriage of the theoretical and the practical survives today at DelVal in the form of internships, study abroad, and other experiential learning opportunities.
In 1945, the school was reorganized to strengthen its academic programs. It went through a series of name changes as it grew in stature and sophistication. Beginning in the post-war years, Dr. James Work ’13, guided the school and added new programs, including food industry, biology, chemistry, and business administration. In 1948, after approval from the State Council of Education, the college name was changed to the National Agricultural College; and in 1960, to reflect the additions of new programs it became Delaware Valley College of Science and Agriculture. In 1969, it became co-ed.
DelVal has continued to enhance its program offerings, with additions including a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English, and the Bachelor of Science degrees in criminal justice administration and secondary education. In 1989, the Board of Trustees approved an abbreviation of its name to Delaware Valley College.
In 1992, the College added a second campus location after the generous gift of Mrs. Edythe Roth. The Roth Living Farm Museum is dedicated to providing historical information on the farming practices in the United States to school children, organized groups and the general public, emphasizing 19th and 20th century agricultural studies.
In 1998, the College embarked on graduate education with its first Master of Science Degree in educational leadership, later followed by a Master of Business Administration in general business and a Master of Business Administration in food and agribusiness.
Today, Delaware Valley College sits on more than 1,100 acres across three locations, and is a four-year, multi-disciplinary college with more than 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students. It offers rich programs in the sciences, as well as a variety of programs in business and the humanities, offering more than 25 undergraduate majors, six master’s programs, a doctoral program, and a variety of complementary adult education courses.
Classes are small, averaging 15 students, and DelVal offers $20 million in scholarships and financial aid each year. In 2010, DelVal secured a $30 million gift from the Warwick Foundation. The gift was the largest in college history and included cash and 398 acres of land in Jamison, Pa. That land, about 15 minutes from the main campus, was once the home of the Gemmill family, who started and administered the Warwick Foundation.
Under the leadership of Dr. Joseph Brosnan, who became president in 2007, DelVal is involved in the implementation of an ambitious strategic plan. The plan is expected to transform the institution and prepare it for the future. As part of that plan, DelVal will increase its academic offerings and seek university status.