A vision that began to evolve more than 90 years ago has taken full form as today’s Indiana Wesleyan University — one of America’s fastest-growing and most dynamic Christian colleges.
When trustees of the Indiana Conference of The Wesleyan Methodist Church agreed in 1919 to purchase Marion Normal Institute, they were driven by a desire to establish an institution of higher education in Indiana. Marion was well-located for a Wesleyan Methodist Church education center. It was within a few miles of the Indiana Conference headquarters in Fairmount, and there were 25 Wesleyan churches within a 30-mile radius of campus.
Marion College, which became Indiana Wesleyan University in 1988, was officially established in 1920. There were five graduates in the class of 1920-21.
As IWU celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2010, the institution’s vision had grown to extend well beyond the 30-mile Wesleyan radius from campus. Students representing more than 70 denominations now come from all 50 states and 10 foreign countries.
Enrollment in traditional classes on the Marion campus now exceeds 3,100 students, and more than 12,000 adult learners attend classes at regional Education Centers in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, or online. Nearly 50,000 students have graduated from IWU over the years.
Through its constantly expanding programs, locations, and learning modalities, the entire world has become a campus for Indiana Wesleyan University.
As the University reported 25 years of record enrollments from 1985 to 2010, the academic choices also increased. Marion College initially focused its curriculum on the training of teachers and ministers. IWU today offers bachelor’s degrees in about 70 majors.
In addition to undergraduate programs, Indiana Wesleyan University now offers master’s degrees in several fields through the College of Adult and Professional Studies, the School of Nursing, and Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University, which opened in August 2009.
In July 2004, the University began offering its first doctoral program in Organizational Leadership.
As enrollment increased and academic offerings were expanded, the population on IWU’s Marion campus began to shift from commuters to residential students. That fueled a building boom that began in the late 1980s and continues today.
The original campus consisted principally of the “Old Triangle” with an administration building and a women’s dormitory. An additional nine acres were acquired later and eventually became the site of a gymnasium, a college church and a library.
The campus now has expanded to more than 300 acres, is valued in excess of $360 million, and includes more than 25 buildings that have been constructed or expanded in the last two decades. The 3,800-seat Chapel-Auditorium that opened in January 2010 is the largest single building project in University history.
Just as it took bold vision and leadership to establish Marion College, it is successive generations of entrepreneurial administrators who have led Indiana Wesleyan University to become one of America’s most successful and innovative colleges.
Under the administration of President William F. McConn from 1932 to 1960, a college of arts and sciences with five divisions and a divinity school were established.
The “Program of Progress,” initiated by President Woodrow Goodman in 1960, led to curriculum changes, the acquisition of land, and new buildings. In 1966, under his leadership, Marion College was accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.
In June 1987, Dr. James Barnes became president of an institution that was on the brink of bankruptcy. His first priority was to put the University on a solid financial footing. Between 1995 and 2003, two capital campaigns raised $65 million.
In the second year of President Barnes’ administration, Marion College became Indiana Wesleyan University to reflect what had become a wider scope of clientele and increasing numbers of graduate programs.
Dr. Henry Smith, who came to campus in July 2004 as Indiana Wesleyan University’s first executive vice president, became the eighth president on July 1, 2006. The Seminary and Chapel-Auditorium are significant evidence of President Smith’s influence on the University during his first term.
And the story continues….