Post by Frank Britt, CEO of Penn Foster

There are few companies, and even fewer educational institutions in this country, that can boast a 125-year history, and Penn Foster could not be more proud to be one of them.

“I wish that I might dwell just for a moment on the wonderful progress of this institution during the past fifteen years – might speak of what its nine hundred thousand students have done for themselves as well as for the moral and industrial uplift of our country. I should like to enlarge upon the fact that by its unique but efficient methods this great industrial university has made it easy for parents to realize their hopes concerning the education of their boys and girls. It would be interesting and profitable, if time permitted, to describe how the International Correspondence Schools have brought inspiration and hope to so many and have enabled them to rise from menial and obscure places in life to occupations high in remuneration, usefulness and honor.

Great indeed are the possibilities of this nine hundred thousand – this army greater than that of the Civil War, an army whose vast potencies operate along the vocations for peace for a higher intelligence and a brighter future for the country we all love...”

-Opening Remarks from William L Connell, Former Mayor of Scranton, at the Fifteenth Anniversary Exercises and Banquet, October 16th, 1891-1906 - International Correspondence Schools

Fast forward to January 5, 2015. While our name may have changed from International Correspondence Schools to honor our Founder, Thomas J. Foster, and many, many more graduates have joined this great “army”, our messages of hope, inspiration, honor, a better life, and a brighter future through education remain the same.

The story of Penn Foster is rooted in training Americans with the technical skills needed to find jobs where they live. In 1869, in one of the largest mining disasters in the history of Pennsylvania, a massive fire caused the death of 110 workers, due in large part to a lack of training and expertise among the miners. This crippled the coal mines in the area and left people out of work and under-skilled. In response, newspaper editor Thomas Foster founded the International Correspondence School in 1890, to train miners on engineering and safety. Foster pioneered correspondence learning because his students did not have the means to travel every day to sit in a classroom. As the school reached its one millionth enrollment Thomas Edison, who authored one of its courses, remarked that home study was one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. President Theodore Roosevelt agreed. He visited the Scranton campus and extolled the virtues of the school’s study method. Soon Foster’s programs grew and became more sophisticated, and the International Correspondence School became Penn Foster. In the years since, our institution has produced many notable alumni including Chrysler’s former president Walter Chrysler, GM’s former president Charles W. Nash and Dan Kimball, former Secretary of the U.S. Navy.

Since our inception, more than 13 million people – from traditional-age high school students to adult learners – have enrolled in Penn Foster, which encompasses our high school, career school, and college. Today, we enroll approximately 150,000 students annually in programs providing accredited high school diplomas, career programs and certificates, and Bachelor’s and Associate degrees. We have established partnerships with leading youth organizations including Job Corps and YouthBuild, as well as colleges and career schools, high schools and school districts across the county to help us deliver on our mission and provide more students access to affordable, accredited learning opportunities.

As part of the Penn Foster family, we hope you join us in celebrating this important milestone in our history, and encourage you to reach out to us and share your Penn Foster story here. Throughout the year, we will be showcasing stories from our students, graduates, partners, and our employees on our 125th Anniversary microsite, which we’ll launch later this month, so please stay tuned.

In the meantime, we hope you enjoy this short video illustrating the evolution of Penn Foster through the years: