Dr. Wickersham was a founder of the Pennsylvania State Teachers Association, an early president of the National Education Association, the first superintendent of common schools of Lancaster County, and the director of the Lancaster County Teachers’ Institute. The institute was begun in 1853 and moved into the academy building in Millersville in 1855. Under his direction, the institute became the first state normal school in Pennsylvania, and he was also responsible for the development of the curriculum that served as a model for other normal schools in the state. He left Millersville to become State Superintendent of Common Schools and later served as President Arthur’s Envoy to Denmark.
Dr J. P. Wickersham died in May of 1891. As a result of the high respect and esteem those at Millersville State Normal School held for Dr. Wickersham, in November of 1891, a tribute to Dr. Wickersham was delivered at the Lancaster County Teacher’s Institute. In February of 1892, the Normal Journal noted the reception of “a most valuable and singularly appropriate gift from the children of the late Dr. J. P. Wickersham.” This generous gift consisted of the entire pedagogical library of Dr. Wickersham, including “more than 2,000 volumes, many of them rare.”
Wickersham Hall, built in 1938, was named in memory of Dr. Wickersham and served as the first building designed specifically for course instruction at Millersville State Normal School and remained the main building for course instruction for a number of years.