On March 30, 1837, the Virginia legislature chartered a private academy at West Liberty, north of Wheeling.
The first 65 students met for classes the following year. In 1857, public-spirited citizens completed the red-brick Academy Hall, which survived until the mid-1970s.
Enrollment at West Liberty fell during the Civil War, and in 1867, debt forced trustees to sell the school to the state of West Virginia. In 1870, the legislature established a high school and a teacher-training school at West Liberty. Enrollment began to increase in the 1920s, when Curtis and McColloch halls were built. These two structures are today part of Main Hall. In 1931, the school was renamed West Liberty State Teachers College.
During the Great Depression, the New Deal provided funding to build a boys’ dorm, a fraternity hall, faculty housing, and the first student union in West Virginia. New programs were added, including a dental hygiene department, which became one of the college’s most widely respected majors. In 1938, a branch campus opened in Wheeling, which in 1972 became West Virginia Northern Community College.
In 2009, West Liberty achieved university status.