• Feature

    Celebrating 100 Years With Exciting Plans for 2021

    As APTA prepares to celebrate its centennial in 2021, we are charting a course that honors the strength of the past 100 years while preparing for an exciting future.

    APTA's upcoming centennial is much more than an anniversary party. We will honor our heritage while ensuring that the event leaves a lasting legacy for future generations.

    A number of exciting events and engagement opportunities are in the works to mark the year, and a centennial website dedicated to the event—centennial.apta.org—has been created to publicize them when details are announced. We encourage members to visit the site often for information and updates on events and activities, and to see how to join in the celebration.

    APTA's story began with a calling: to serve those who sacrificed so much for our country in World War I. Where others saw limitation, reconstruction aides saw potential. Since our founding in 1921, we have moved forward together, with a passion and commitment to transform lives and strengthen our profession.

    Here are 15 milestones from our first century, excerpted from the centennial microsite, which contains a list of 100 milestones of the physical therapy profession and APTA.



    January 15, 1921 | APTA's founders meet at Keens Chophouse in New York City. The participants decide to create an association. They name it the American Women's Physical Therapeutic Association. Dues are established at $2.

    The association's journal, P.T. Review, debuts. The issue is held in production awaiting election results for new officers and the executive committee. Mary McMillan is elected president. Free to members, annual subscriptions to the quarterly publication are available to the public for $1. The journal's name eventually becomes Physical Therapy (PTJ).


    The association's first annual conference is held from September 13 through 16 at the Boston School of Physical Education and is attended by 63 reconstruction aides. The association's name is changed to the American Physiotherapy Association to be more inclusive.


    The first special interest sections meet at the association's annual conference in Palo Alto, California.


    The association moves into its first official headquarters in New York City, where it was founded. Mildred Elson becomes the first executive director of APA.

    The association's House of Delegates is created at the 1944 annual meeting. Margery L. Wagner of California is elected first chair of the body.


    The House of Delegates votes to change the association's name to the American Physical Therapy Association.



    The first 2 classes of physical therapist assistants (PTAs) graduate and enter the workforce. The first PTA education programs had been established earlier at Miami-Dade Community College in Florida and St Mary's Junior College in Minnesota (now St Catherine University).


    APTA relocates its headquarters from New York City to Washington, DC, in order to have a stronger advocacy presence in the nation's capital.


    The first Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) is held in Washington, DC, drawing more than 1,000 attendees. By 2018, CSM would attract more than 17,000 individuals.


    Catherine Worthingham becomes the first recipient of the fellowship program that bears her name. The Catherine Worthingham Fellow of the American Physical Therapy Association designation (FAPTA) is the highest honor among APTA's membership categories.


    APTA purchases and moves from Washington, DC to new buildings at 1111 North Fairfax Street in Alexandria, Virginia. Two neighboring buildings would be purchased in 1993 and 1996. This marks the first time the association owns the buildings that house its headquarters.


    The Student Assembly is formed to enhance the role of student members and lend a voice to the future leaders of the profession.


    Association membership surpasses the 100,000 mark after a collaborative push by APTA, its components, and individual members. To put that accomplishment into perspective, APTA surpassed 25,000 members in 1975 and 50,000 members in 1990.


    To begin the association's 100th year, APTA will open a new headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. It will support APTA's workforce of the future and will be more welcoming to members and the public. APTA Centennial Center will serve as a tribute to APTA's mission, vision, and values.

    Opportunities to Participate in 2021

    What's a celebration without events? Here are the major happenings in the works for APTA's centennial in 2021.

    • Founders Day — January 15. APTA is looking in to a number of ways to mark Founders Day, the day APTA was established a century ago.
    • An Extra-Special Combined Sections Meeting — February. APTA is planning an extraordinary CSM for members in Orlando, Florida.
    • Centennial Gala — September 10. A very special evening of dining and entertainment will be hosted at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC.
    • A Summit to Discuss the Future of Physical Therapy — September. APTA is organizing a summit to bring together leaders and future leaders of the profession. Participants will discuss current trends and what the next 100 years in physical therapy and health care might look like.

    The APTA centennial website—centennial.apta.org—will update you on all of these events as we draw closer to 2021.

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