In 1891, Reverend Chandler A. Oakes, pastor of the East Stroudsburg Presbyterian Church, formed a bond with Mr. Seely Rosenkrans, a local businessman, and the two community leaders began working toward the establishment of a State Normal School to be located in East Stroudsburg. After a great amount of effort, the two leaders received the backing of 110 people in the community and were able to raise enough money to invest in a stock company formed to found the college. In addition to the money invested by local businessmen, a tract of 11 acres of land for the campus was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Albert Knapp.
In 1892 a building for the Normal School was begun, and on March 22 of the following year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania accepted and approved the construction of the original Stroud Hall at a cost of $135,000. This original building was the only one on campus for three years and included a training school, a chapel or assembly room, several classrooms, a library, student quarters, and faculty quarters. It was demolished in 1967 to make way for a newer and more modern classroom facility.
On May 26, 1893, George Bible, former principal of the Indiana State Normal School, was selected to serve as principal. His first job was to review the numerous applications for faculty positions at the institution and a month later, the faculty was chosen. Among the faculty was Elwood Kemp, who was later to succeed Bible as principal of the Normal School.
East Stroudsburg Normal School opened its doors on September 4, 1893, with a total of 320 students and 15 faculty members. The curriculum consisted mainly of psychology, history of education, methods of teaching, school management, ancient, medieval and modern history, literature, plane and solid geometry, physics and botany. Courses of study offered were a two-year elementary and science program and a one-year post graduate program. The first graduating class from the Normal School in 1894 consisted of 74 students.
In January of 1909 the college faced a crisis when state aid allowances were stopped because the funds set aside by the Commonwealth for this purpose were exhausted. The curtailment of funds meant that students would have to pay tuition for the first time in the school’s history. The initial tuition levied was set at $1.50 per week; even this small charge was too much for a few students who left the campus. Later in the year, a $75,000 appropriation bill was passed in the legislature to cover the deficiency in funding.
For 27 years the College was governed by a board of trustees which equally represented the stockholders and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Like other Normal Schools similarly established, East Stroudsburg was transferred to the Commonwealth control by June of 1920 when the title was removed from private management. At this time the name was changed to East Stroudsburg State Normal School.
In 1927, the right to confer the degrees of Bachelor of Science in Education and Bachelor of Science in Health Education was granted, and the school’s name then became the State Teachers College at East Stroudsburg.
In 1950, East Stroudsburg State Teachers College first received accreditation from the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
In 1960, the College’s name was changed to East Stroudsburg State College, and in 1962, the College received the right to confer three graduate degrees including the Master of Education in Health and Physical Education, the Master of Education in Biological Science, and the Master of Education in General Science. A Liberal Arts program leading to the Bachelor of Arts degree in the Humanities, the Natural Sciences, and the Social Sciences was initiated in 1963. The Master of Education degrees in History, Political Science, Elementary Education, and Reading were added. In the summer of 1969 the first Master of Arts degrees in History and Political Science were approved. During this era of rapid growth many new academic facilities and residence halls were built.
In November 1982, the State System of Higher Education was authorized by Senate Bill 506. The College officially became East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania on July 1, 1983.
Today, ESU is a comprehensive university offering 58 undergraduate programs, 21 master's programs, and 2 doctoral programs.