With a mission to open "an institution of higher learning within its bounds," leaders from the Pennsylvania Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church founded Waynesburg College in 1849. The institution received its official charter from the Pennsylvania State Legislature on March 25, 1850, establishing "a college or public school for the education of youth in the English and other languages, literature, and the useful arts and sciences." The Reverend Joshua Loughran was appointed as the institution’s first president in 1850, serving in the position for the following five years.

Initially the institution operated as two separate entities—the men’s college and the Female Seminary. The Female Seminary, led by a principal, had a separate seal, met at a separate location, conducted separate commencement exercises and offered diplomas rather than degrees. The course of study for the women was also shorter than the men’s. Thus the first class to graduate from Waynesburg College, the class of 1852, consisted only of females. A few years later the full collegiate course of study was made available to women who chose to pursue it, and in 1857 Waynesburg College became the first school in Pennsylvania and one of the first in the nation to confer degrees upon women.

In 1853 the second class of females and the first class of males graduated, though in separate ceremonies. The college’s class president, A.B. Miller, gave the commencement address and went on to be an institutional legacy. His connection to Waynesburg was never broken, as he immediately became a professor at the institution and then its third president, serving from 1859-1899.

Commemorations of Waynesburg’s founding have been occurring throughout its existence. In the 1937 issue of Waynesburg’s "Mad Anthony" yearbook, an annual Founder’s Day Chapel service was covered. In addition, a 14-page article was published in the Washington Observer Reporter on June 11, 1949, to commemorate Waynesburg College’s centennial. During the same year, the college published a centennial series entitled "A Christian College Comes of Age: 1849-1949."

One woman played an instrumental role in establishing the institution’s modern Charter Day Convocation. Janet Brown worked at Waynesburg from 1985-1991. During her time at Waynesburg, Brown worked as Director of College and Church Relations and Director of Development. In March of 1987, Waynesburg’s first official Charter Day celebration, as we know it today, took place.

The 1987 Charter Day celebration was held at the First Presbyterian Church of Waynesburg. During this time, the institution was under the reign of its thirteenth president, Dr. J. Thomas Mills, Jr., who held office from 1983-1988.

At the Waynesburg College first annual Charter Day celebration, the seniors marched as a single unit from Miller Hall to the First Presbyterian Church of Waynesburg. As they gathered in the church to celebrate this historic day, keynote speaker Louis E. Waller took the stage. After the 1987 ceremony, the students, faculty and staff started what would become a Waynesburg tradition; gathering in front of Miller Hall for a Charter Day photo. According to the 1987 issue of Waynesburg’s "Mad Anthony" yearbook, Charter Day was held to "celebrate the long life of the college and to salute the senior class."

Louis E. Waller, the distinguished speaker at Waynesburg College’s first official Charter Day celebration, advocated for equal rights for African Americans during the civil rights movement. He participated in the March on Washington during August of 1963, and served at the NAACP both on a local and state level. Waller was honored with the Washington NAACP’s Human Rights Award in 1965. He was also the author of a series published in the Observer-Reporter, entitled, "The American Negro." This series of publications led to him to receive the Renaissance Publications 1993 Black Trailblazer Award.

Waller was also a strong advocate for education. He served on the Board of Trustees of Waynesburg College, receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 1983. In addition, Waller served for multiple years as chairman of the ABDCE Fund, awarding scholarships to African American students pursuing higher education. Waller returned to Waynesburg in 2006 to act as the college’s honorary speaker on Martin Luther King Day.

Today, Waynesburg University continues the tradition of honoring its founding through an annual Charter Day celebration. Though the names of the different commemorations and the activities associated with them have changed over the years, what has always remained is a dedication to keeping the founding spirit of 1849 alive through faith, learning and serving.