The Exercise Science and Physical Education Department was first known as the Newark Normal School of Physical Education and Hygiene. Due to the poor physical condition of the World War I recruits, the country began to look at the need for good physical education and health instruction in grades 1 through 12. There were, however, a few teachers who were qualified to possibly teach these subjects, but there wasn't a teacher training institution in the state to prepare these perspective teachers. To meet this need, in 1917 the Newark Normal School of Physical Education and Hygiene was founded by Matthias Machery and Randall D. Warden, Directors of Physical Education for the city of Newark. At the close of the school year in 1920, the founders relinquished their interest in the school in favor of Henry Panzer, the Director of the Normal School at that time. The School moved to East Orange in 1925 where the program changed from being a two year course to a three year course. In 1928, a four year course of study leading to the degree of Bachelor of Physical Education was offered. At this time the name of the institution changed to Panzer College of Physical Education and Hygiene. Following Mr. Panzer's sudden death in 1932, Margaret C. Brown, who had served as teacher, registrar and dean of the College since 1921, was elected by the College Board of Trustees as President and Treasurer. Under her leadership the College made great professional advancements, and its reputation for excellence became nationally and internationally known. Through her efforts, the State authorized the granting of the degree of Bachelor of Science in Education in 1939. The Bachelor of Physical Education degree was abandoned.
Panzer College of Physical Education and Hygiene merged with Montclair State College in 1958, bringing to the union its excellent professional and academic standards, planned professional laboratory experiences, a curriculum of quality, traditions of 41 years, and a supportive and influential alumni. Panzer College was the last of the private, single purpose schools and colleges preparing teachers of physical education and health in the United States. Because Montclair State College was then considering the development of a physical education major, the timing for a merger was perfect.
This historic event was engineered by Dr. E. deAlton Partridge, President of Montclair State College, Dr. Margaret C. Brown, President of Panzer College, and the Panzer College of Trustees, with the approval of the State Board of Education.
Panzer College of Physical Education and Hygiene contributed to the profession in many ways. Primarily it supplied teachers for the public schools. In addition, however, it provided leadership for community groups - gave service to individuals with special physical needs - and presented workshops, conferences, and programs at conventions. The faculty in Panzer served the State, district, and national professional organizations in physical education and health by holding high positions as officers, committee chairs, and as leaders in a variety of groups and activities.
In 1964 the Department started to offer the Master of Arts degree with a major in Physical Education. In 1982, the Adult Fitness concentration was approved by the Montclair State College Board of Trustees. This concentration provides opportunities for Physical Education majors to develop the competencies necessary to assume leadership roles in fitness centers. The program speaks to the expressed need in today's society of providing trained physical educators for a variety of employee opportunities in non-school settings such as corporate, industrial and commercial fitness centers. Many companies have comprehensive physical fitness centers which demand a trained professional physical education staff to provide expertise in exercise science and personal fitness development. In addition, physical educators are needed in fitness programs that specialize in preventive and/or rehabilitative exercise for cardiac patients.
The fitness boom has provided a natural source of employment potential for the trained physical educator. The logistical placement of Montclair State College in the center of a megalopolis with densely populated commercial facilities gives this program a unique advantage.
A Bachelor of Arts in Recreation Professions was approved by the Montclair State College Board of Trustees in 1972. It was approved by the Board of Higher Education on March 16, 1973. This new major initially was housed in the Physical Education Department. In 1974 it formed its own department within the School of Pure and Applied Science. The need for trained recreation professionals and the number of students in the program grew. Curricula changes were made within the program to meet the needs of the profession. To better reflect the changes in the program a change in nomenclature from Recreation Professions to the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies was approved by the MSC Board of Trustees on June 23, 1981. In June 1982, in light of the strong relationship to physical education the department was again joined with the Department of Physical Education to become the Department of Physical Education, Recreation and Leisure Studies. The program continues to grow and meet society's needs for trained recreation specialists.
As of Fall 1988, the Recreation Program was accredited by the following organizations; The National Recreation and Parks Association, The American Association for Leisure and Recreation, and the Council on Post-Secondary Accreditation (COPA). Accreditation was granted for programs in Commercial Recreation and Tourism and Therapeutic Recreation.
In the Fall 1994 semester the Health Professions Department was merged with the Physical Education, Recreation and Leisure Studies Department to establish the Health Professions, Physical Education, Recreation, and Leisure Studies.
In January of 2003 the first Bachelor of Sciences in Athletic Training was approved at MSU. The Athletic Training Education Program, housed in the Department of HPPERLS was granted accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) in October 2003.
In July 2005 the Department was re-organized and became the Department of Exercise Science and Physical Education. The Health Professions program merged with Nutrition Sciences and Recreation Professions and Leisure Studies moved to the School of Business.