About Olivet Nazarene University
"Education With a Christian Purpose." Since 1907, Olivet Nazarene University has made this more than a motto, but a mission. At Olivet, considered one of the nation's premier Christian colleges, faith is at the heart of superior academics, athletics, social atmosphere and ministry opportunities.
Here, students not only learn how to make a living; they learn how to live. Since Olivet's founding, more than 20,000 degrees have been granted to graduating students. Whether their chosen fields are in medicine, business, education, ministry or a myriad of other professions, Olivetians make a difference in the world for Christ and His kingdom.
At Olivet, ambitious dreams meet uncommon opportunity.
Olivet Nazarene University's origins can be traced to the first decade of the 20th century and to the resolve of several families in east central Illinois who were committed to providing a Christian education for their children. In 1907, classes began in a Georgetown, Ill. home. A year later, the founders acquired several acres of land in a nearby village named Olivet. There, they constructed a modest building and added the secondary level of instruction. A liberal arts college followed in 1909, along with the first name for the fledgling, but ambitious, institution: “Illinois Holiness University.”
By 1912, the founders and trustees were aware of the school’s need for a wider constituency and offered to give their educational work to the Church of the Nazarene. The young denomination accepted the school with a pledge to support and promote its ministry of Christian higher education. That early commitment is still being perpetuated by the more than 800 Nazarene congregations throughout Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.
The school grew slowly during the next decade. There were several acting and short-term presidents; the 19-acre campus contained only a few small buildings; the first yearbook, the Aurora, was published in 1914; and a new school name followed in 1915: "Olivet University." The name changed again in 1923 to "Olivet College."
As was the case with many small church colleges in the 1920s, Olivet’s financial base eroded significantly, forcing the trustees to declare bankruptcy in 1926. Then-college treasurer Dr. T. W. Willingham bought the school back at a public auction, outlined a new plan for solvency, and was elected president.
A devastating fire destroyed the main campus building in November 1939, prompting the newly elected president, A.L. Parrott, and the trustees to consider locating a new campus as an alternative to rebuilding at their rural site. They found and purchased the present campus in Bourbonnais in 1939 and moved the college in the summer of 1940. "Nazarene" was added to the college’s name that same year.
At the time of the college’s move to Bourbonnais, the campus consisted of 42 acres that had been the site of St. Viator’s College from 1868 until it closed in 1938. Four of the buildings purchased then are still in use today.