Dr. Wayne Caldwell, in Reformers and Revivalists (p. 398), has this to say about the importance of educational institutions in a denominational context: “…the educational institutions of a church determine that denomination’s strength of leadership, its theological direction and stability, as well as its lengthened shadow of influence over succeeding generations of people.” Wesleyan schools have, since inception, been offering an alternative to secular education by providing liberal arts degrees, ministerial preparation, and professional programs of study within the context of a Christian world view. Included is a brief historical description of each school and suggestions for further resources.
Houghton is the oldest established Wesleyan college. It was affiliated with the Wesleyan Methodist Connection when it began as a secondary seminary in 1883 in Houghton, New York. By 1899, some college classes were offered and the college department awarded its first diploma in 1901. Between 1937 and 1972, the college grew from approximately 300 students to 1,200. Since that time, Houghton’s programs have expanded to include baccalaureate degrees in 48 fields of study providing excellence in a liberal arts context. Houghton has been ranked in the top four percent of colleges nationwide according to America’s Top Colleges, compiled by Forbes and the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP).
See: A Vine of God’s Own Planting: a history of Houghton College from its beginnings through 1972 bu Richard L. Wing. Wesleyan Publishing House, 2004.
In 1920, Marion College was officially established as a liberal arts college in Marion, Indiana. By the 1960’s, the institution was known as the one producing the most Christian workers for the denomination. With the addition of a successful adult education program in 1985 as well as the offering of graduate degrees in several fields, enrollment has increased dramatically to over 15,000 today. It is the largest private educational institution in the state of Indiana as well as the largest school in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) and just recently (2009) opened a seminary.
See: The Lord, the Landmarks, the Life by Marjorie J. Elder. Indiana Wesleyan University, 1994.
In 1945, the Holiness Bible Institute opened under the auspices of the Reformed Baptist Church in Woodstock, New Brunswick, moving two years later to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. The purpose of its establishment was to provide ministers for churches in Atlantic Canada. Since that time and after another move to Sussex, New Brunswick, the school’s curriculum has expanded to include a variety of ministerial programs. Graduates serve as pastors, missionaries, Christian school teachers, and counselors in many parts of the world. In 2011, the school was renamed Kingswood University. Since that time, a graduate degree in Pastoral Theology has been added to the curriculum.
See: A Brief History of the Reformed Baptist Alliance of Canada: Part 3, “Reformed Baptists—Seventy-eight Years (1888-1966)” p. 29-30, by Laurence Mullen, 2003.
In 1968, after the merger of the Wesleyan Methodist and Pilgrim Holiness Churches, Bartlesville Wesleyan College was established. In 1972, Miltonvale Wesleyan College and Bartlesville were consolidated into one campus in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. At this point, Bartlesville became a 4-year liberal arts institution providing greater educational opportunities for students in the Western part of the US and beyond. Currently, there are 35 undergraduate programs. The school has become a leader in the educational community of the state of Oklahoma.
See: Reflections of History. Reflections Yearbook. Bartlesville Wesleyan College, 1980.
Southern Wesleyan University was established in 1906 under the name Wesleyan Methodist Bible Institute in Central, South Carolina. The southern conferences of the Wesleyan Methodist church had been planning to build a Christian school to serve their population for some time. The school was renamed in 1959 as Central Wesleyan College with a final name change in 1994. Since that time, Southern Wesleyan University’s enrollment has doubled. It now offers over 30 bachelor degree programs, 4 graduate degrees, and an adult education program.
See: How Firm a Foundation by Robert Black. Southern Wesleyan University, 2006.