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About Chapman

» Our Story: Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going

Smiling students covered in flowers

The earliest incarnation of Chapman University was open to all people in the belief that every person should have access to an education. In fact, our first class included women and people of different ethnicities and faiths. Our heritage of diversity and inclusion provides us our strong foundation as we participate in building a more equitable future.

Chapman University has always been a place where potential translates to possibility. Our history is a wealth of unique cultural experiences, connecting us to the past, tuning us to the present and ushering us into our future.

A lot has changed since we first opened our doors in 1861, originally in Woodland, California. However, since day one, we've been proudly dedicated to the education of all people, and we stand committed to creating an inclusive and more equitable world of opportunity.

At Chapman, we have always believed in more: more knowledge, risk-taking, discovery, passion, creativity and exploration. We believe in being exceptional — in unlocking unlimited potential, in creating experiences that last a lifetime and in doing work that changes lives.

We began with inclusivity, a passion for teaching and learning, and forward-looking optimism.  We’ve continued to champion those goals throughout Chapman’s existence -- and we’re still growing. Good things are happening because we make them happen.

  • The Cheverton Award
  • The Four Pillars
  • Pete the Panther
  • a large vase with inscriptionsOne of the oldest awards presented by Chapman, the Cheverton Award was first bestowed upon the university’s top graduate in 1930. The original bronze cup was a gift of the Class of 1929 and remains on permanent exhibit in the Argyros Forum on campus, along with its successor, a silver bowl.

    Upon the trophies are engraved the names of all Cheverton awardees. In addition to academic accomplishments, awardees must demonstrate a “high moral character” and “represent the spirit of Chapman University.” The award is named for Cecil F. Cheverton, Chapman’s sixth president, who served from 1929 to 1941.


  • Fountain with four pillars and water splashAt Chapman, we holistically educate each person through a focus on what we call The Four Pillars: the intellectual, physical, social and spiritual dimensions of life.

    You will see representations of these four pillars around the campus - at the front of Memorial Hall, for example, and at the main entrance to our Leatherby Libraries. The most visual symbolization of the four pillars is the Marion Halfacre Fountain, the dramatic focal point of our Fahmy Attallah Piazza.
  • team mascot hugging childThe earliest incarnation of our beloved mascot "Pete the Panther" got his start in Hollywood.

    Before the 1920s, when we were known as California Christian College in Los Angeles, we had no mascot. We were known to our competing colleges as The Preachers, The Parsons or The Deacons. While respectable, it didn't necessary strike fear into opposing teams.

    Searching for something that was a little grander, we wanted to pinpoint an animal exemplifying power and strength. 

    In the mid-1920s, someone brought a leftover silent film prop to school: it was a paper mache black panther. 

    That panther lived a good life on campus, getting trotted out for sporting events, student activities and just about anything for which as good excuse could be found. That was until New Years Day in 1934, when the Los Angeles flood struck, wrecking our basement dining hall - and panther storage.

    While the physical form panther took a hiatus from Chapman for a long time, its symbol was not forgotten. After seven decades, our mascot came back in his high-spirited and huggable form, named after Chapman Hall of Fame basketball and baseball player alumnus Julian “Pete” Peterson'41.

Chapman: An Experience, A History

Like any good story, there’s a lot to us. Here’s where we came from and how we got here. If you want all the details, take a look in our library archives.

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Chapman at a Glance

  • Location: Orange, Calif.
  • Founded: 1861 as Hesperian College in Woodland, Calif.
  • Mascot: Pete the Panther
  • Chapman Colors: Chapman Red and Panther Black
  • 8,542 students
  • 110 areas of study
  • 14:1 student to faculty ratio

Building with columns and sunshine

A Namesake Story

man and family

Perhaps because Charles C. Chapman couldn't afford college for himself in his youth, he devoted himself to keeping student's dreams alive and our doors open in the toughest of times.

After we renamed in his honor, Chapman wrote to the University that:

“Every time my eyes fall upon the printed words—Chapman College—or my ears hear the announcement over the radio or I hear the name spoken by anyone, I experience a thrill.  At times this honor seems only a dream.”

To learn and read more about Charles C. Chapman, visit our archive in the Leatherby Libraries.


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Quick Rankings

  • 6 in the Western region - U.S. News and World Report 
  • 378 Best Colleges - Princeton Review 
Emmett Ashford

Chapman Greats: Emmett Ashford '41

Alumnus Emmett Ashford '41 was the first black umpire in organized baseball, paving the way for future generations with his impact on the sport. Read more here »
Ship on the water

Semester at Sea

Started at Chapman in 1965 and originally known as University of the Seven Seas and World Campus Afloat, Semester at Sea has taken thousands of students and educators around the globe.