The Penn State Thespians was founded by Fred Lewis Pattee and John H. Leete in 1897. Now in its 120th anniversary season, Thespians is considered the oldest continuously running student organization at Penn State. Many of its alumni have gone to enjoy successful careers in the theatre community, including actor and dancer Gene Kelly, screenwriter Julius Epstein, actor Edward Binns, and director Mary Lou Belli
At its start, Thespians was an all-male club. During World War I, women began performing because the war draft left the club without some of its male talent. It was not until 1953, when women were allowed membership.