Russel H. Cowell
Portrait of Russell H. Conwell

Temple University's history begins in 1884, when a young working man asked Russell H. Conwell if he could tutor him at night. A well-known Philadelphia minister of the Grace Baptist Church, Conwell quickly said yes. It wasn't long before he was teaching several dozen students—working people who could only attend class at night but had a strong desire to make something of themselves.
Conwell recruited volunteer faculty to participate in the burgeoning night school started at the church basement, and in 1888 he received a charter of incorporation for “The Temple College.” His founding vision for the school was to provide superior educational opportunities for academically talented and highly motivated students, regardless of their backgrounds or means.

 Learn more about Russel H. Cowell 

“Greatness really consists in doing some great deed with little means.”

 - Russell H. Conwell

Conwell’s quote from “Acres of Diamonds” speech.

Acres of Diamonds

Acres of Diamonds" is Russell Conwell's best-known speech, and the inspiration behind the Temple University mission.

 Read his famous “Acres of Diamonds” speech. 


The fledgling college continued to grow and adding programs and students throughout the following decades. It was renamed to "Temple University" in 1907. In 1965, it was officially accredited by The Commonwealth System of Higher Education as a State-related university in the higher education system of the Commonwealth. Today, Temple's more than 35,000 students continue to follow the university's official motto—Perseverantia Vincit, or “Perseverance Conquers”—with their supreme dedication to excellence in academics, research, athletics, the arts and more.