Freshman football player King David Bey got a preview of what he will be doing next year as members of the soccer and football teams helped with move-in day last week at Williamson College of the Trades in Middletown.
Bey was one of 104 newbies who carried footlockers, underbed storage containers and backpacks into the dorms along Cottage Row. The Frank Furness-designed buildings and surrounding 220-acre campus will be their home for the next four years.
“A couple of my coaches were familiar with the school,” said Bey, of Sicklerville, New Jersey. “I’m majoring in masonry and going here will make it easier to find a job when I graduate.”
Established in 1888 by Philadelphia merchant and philanthropist Isaiah Williamson, the school was founded to provide financially-disadvantaged young men with the opportunity to become productive and respected members of society. His mission has continued for more than 125 years, as all students attend the college on full scholarships covering tuition, room, board and textbooks and live and learn in an atmosphere that prepares them for life after graduation.
The three-year education offers associate degrees in horticulture and construction, machine, tool, plant and coatings and power plant technologies and craftsman diplomas in carpentry and masonry.
“We teach our students to give back,” said Director of Public Relations Carl Vairo. “We want them to become good husbands, fathers, employees and members of the community.”
To prepare students for full-time employment, Williamson maintains a structured daily schedule beginning with line-up and breakfast at 6:45 a.m., followed by a nondenominational religious service in the chapel. Classes are held 8 a.m.-4:50 p.m., with dinner, extracurricular/flex time and study hall before lights out at 10:30 p.m. A four-day freshman orientation held prior to the start of classes acquaints students with the college and its procedures.
Although 40 members of the class of 2020 are from Delaware County and another 34 from the four surrounding counties, Williamson’s reach extends beyond the Philadelphia area. Family vehicles displayed license plates from Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York.
Joseph Galbraith, of Somers, Connecticut, who learned of the school from his aunt, will be majoring in machine shop. He is the fourth of his five siblings to attend college and his father, Bill, was quite familiar with the routine.
“I’ve done this before,” he said. “I understand all the feelings that go along with it.”
Each floor has a lounge with a television, refrigerator and microwave, as students are not permitted to have those particular creature comforts in their rooms. Freshmen are required to be on campus from 10 p.m. Sunday through 4:15 p.m. Friday.
If the campus cafeteria isn’t quite the same as home cooking, the schedule offers the opportunity for students like Justin Rodgers, of Drexel Hill, to enjoy Sunday dinner with his family. His uncle graduated from Williamson and he noted he has considered attending since he was a middle schooler.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind,” he said. “It is the best option and I applied and got in.”
Like his mother, Cathie, Rodgers is the middle child and the first in his family to live on campus. As such, she favors the 20-minute distance and the chance to see family and friends on a regular basis and is equally pleased her son will be surrounded by like-minded young men.
“I know he will do well here,” she said. “They teach them from the ground up in the Williamson way.”