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Heritage Timeline

1909 1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2009


  • Messiah College was founded by the Brethren in Christ Church under the presidency of S.R. Smith.  Its original name was the Messiah Bible School and Missionary Training Home and was located in Harrisburg.  It began as a school offering high school curriculum and a few Bible programs.


  • 12 students were enrolled in the fall semester.
  • Tuition was free.
  • Room and board cost fifty cents per week.
  • Meal plans cost 2.75 per week


  • Messiah found a new home in Grantham.
  • Old Main is built.


  • A train wreck killed 3 people coming to campus for a Bible Conference.  Others were injured by the train smashing their car.
  • S.R. Smith dies.


  • A group of faithful Brethren in Christ leaders and members discuss Messiah’s fate and commit themselves to the continuation of the school.  They raised $4,800 in fifteen minutes.
  • C.N. Hostetter becomes the second president of Messiah.


  • Messiah begins to offer college-level courses.


  • Messiah is named a junior college, the second in Pennsylvania.


  • Messiah was struggling to stay afloat financially. To alleviate some of the stress, teachers donated their services for an entire month.


  • Messiah dropped the last part of its name and became strictly Messiah Bible School.
  • Messiah’s first yearbook, Orthos, is published.
  • Enos Hess becomes Messiah’s third president.


  • Hapantes, Messiah’s first student government, was formed.


  • “Prof” Earl Miller forms the Choral Society.


  • C.N. Hostetter Jr. is named the fourth president of Messiah.


  • The balcony is added to the Alumni Auditorium and Gymnasium.


  • The first films are shown on campus. Trustees give faculty limited permission to show the flicks; they were to be viewed for educational purposes only.


  • In the days before Messiah was winning national titles in Division III athletics - students go against school rules and play a game of pick-up basketball with Carlisle High School students.  (The students were sent home for a week to be punished for their actions.) Fifty-eight years later, Messiah's women's basketball team would become the national championship runner-up in women's basketball.


  • The Board of Trustees approves a new building plan, the Extension Fund Campaign, in preparation of a foreseen increase in student enrollment following World War II.


  • Messiah Bible College gains junior college accreditation from the Pennsylvania State Council of Education.
  • Grantham Oratorio Society is formed.


  • Messiah Bible College is officially renamed Messiah College.


  • Messiah’s nursing degree is approved by the Pennsylvania State Council of Education


  • The new library is completed.


  • Messiah discontinued its secondary education program.
  • Messiah created a Home Economics program. Students, however, had to complete their studies and spend their final year of school at Goshen College in Indiana.


  • Arthur Climenhaga becomes the 5th president of the College.
  • Messiah claims the falcon as their mascot.



  • The chapel is completed and shared with the local Brethren in Christ congregation until 1988.


  • Messiah became a provisionally regionally accredited institution.
  • Students participate in the first non-religious college athletic competition.  The game they played was soccer.


  • D. Ray Hostetter becomes Messiah’s 6th president.


  • Messiah and Upland formerly Beulah) College merge.
  • President Eisenhower makes an appearance on campus!


  • Messiah receives complete regional accreditation.


  • Messiah College students formed what they termed the “committee for the inner city.” The goal was simply to share Christ and His love. These students donated blood to two hemophiliacs for several years, helped build houses for unsheltered people in Kentucky, and worked with ex-convicts at Yokecrest Half-Way House.


  • Messiah partners with Temple University and opens the Philadelphia Campus.  This was the first collaboration between Christian and secular colleges in the United States.


  • September – radio station begins operation
  • Students participate in Vietnam Moratorium with consent of the administration; some students participated in an on-campus peace march; others marched at War College in Carlisle
  • Kline Hall of Science is constructed.
  • Messiah develops and holds its first general education courses.
  • Messiah is approved for its programs in math, biology, chemistry, English, and social studies.


  • Alice French becomes the first female Messiah student to be accepted by a medical school after completing four years of undergraduate work.  She attended the University of Michigan.
  • Jan Conaway reveals herself as the writer of the famous Dr. Pangloss column in the “Ivy Rustles.”
  • Black Culture Festival is held on campus.
  • January Term, more affectionately called “J-Term”, begins for the first time.


  • Draft reinstatement makes the front page of the school newspaper, “Ivy Rustles”
  • Messiah College is one of the ten founding members of the Christian College Consortium under the direction of D. Ray Hostetter.


  • On Feb. 18-20, a busload of skiers from Wootten High School on their way to Ski Roundtop was stranded on Route 15 and sought shelter at Messiah College.  Students housed the stranded guests overnight.


  • Messiah’s enrollment boosts.  Over 1,000 students in attendance


  • Student newspaper considers the appropriateness of showing films on campus in the article, “Movies & Messiah.”
  • Murray Library expands and gains the Learning Resources Center.
  • The Nutrition and Dietetics programs are approved.


  • Jerry Giraffe used by admissions in all its advertising.
  • Men’s soccer wins the national NCCAA championship.


  • Messiah hosts its first Special Olympics competition.


  • The sculpture, “Equilibrium,” is placed in front of the Climenhaga Fine Arts Center for the dedication of the building. Sculpture created by Raymond I. Jacobsen.


  • Dan Van Houwe carries the Olympic torch from New York City to Los Angeles for 1984 LA Olympics.
  • Students in Dr. Stevick’s “Humankind and the Environment” class encourage campus to recycle paper by placing boxes next to the trash receptacles.
  • The student group Earthkeepers is organized when students rally around the cause of campus-wide recycling.
  • Student enrollment exceeds 1,500


  • In a campus-wide competition, the student newspaper is renamed “The Swinging Bridge” by Dave Olsen.  Olsen is quoted as saying the $15 prize would buy him 60 Ms. Pac-Man games.
  • Softball is added as a women’s sport.
  • Messiah athletics joins the MAC conference.
  • Messiah forms an educational partnership with Daystar Institute in Nairobi, Kenya.


  • Messiah College celebrates its 75th anniversary with the ground-breaking of a new fitness center and a new college entrance.
  • Cable television is installed!


  • Old Main is renovated
  • Sollenberger Sports Center opens.
  • First Messiah College Missions Conference


  • Jimmy Carter visits on February 18 as the inaugural speaker for the Religion and Society Lecture series.
  • The Nursing program receives national accreditation.


  • The College hosts the first National Multicultural Student Leadership Conference for Christian colleges.
  • Student population grows.  More than 2,000 are in attendance.
  • The social work program, in collaboration with Temple University gains accreditation.
  • The women’s field hockey team wins its 3rd MAC championship title.


  • The school radio station has its first official broadcast.


  • Campus-wide recycling begins: aluminum cans, tin food containers, corrugated cardboard, and office paper
  • Student Ruth Owen is studying in Germany when the Berlin Wall comes down.
  • Both the men’s and women’s track teams capture the MAC championship.  They are the first in history to win these titles at the same time.
  • The music department gains accreditation.
  • Messiah College joins the Pennsylvania Campus Compact, a service coalition
  • Dining services adopts the food court system


  • The College radio station, WVMM, approved to play mainstream music.
  • The 1.5 mile cross country, fitness trail is completed.
  • Frey Hall is completed.


  • Women’s track and field team wins their 12th consecutive MAC title.
  • General education courses are revised.
  • Sports medicine program is approved by the National Athletic Trainers Association


  • Rodney Sawatsky announced as the next president of Messiah College.
  • The engineering department receives accreditation.


  • Center for Brethren in Christ Studies is launched.


  • Enrollment exceeds 2,500 students.
  • New athletic facilities are constructed including six new tennis courts and an all-weather artificial turf.


  • The Agape Center was founded.
  • Messiah establishes the Ernest L. Boyer Center.
  • Jordan Science Center and Oakes Museum are opened.
  • Joy Wang is named as Messiah's first Rhodes Scholar.


  • The Messiah Falcons win their first of six national championships in Division III men's soccer (2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008)


  • Messiah receives a $2 million grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., creating ongoing student and faculty programming exploring Christian vocation.


  • Boyer Hall was erected.


  • President Rodney Sawatsky retires after ten years of service.
  • Ray Crist ’16, visiting professor of environmental sciences, retires at age 104.
  • Larsen Student Union opens, providing new leisure and dining venues and office space for student programs.
  • Messiah launches the Harrisburg Institute at its original site on North Street.


  • Kim Phipps is inaugurated as Messiah’s eighth president.
  • Messiah successfully completes its largest fundraising campaign, “To Serve & To Lead,” raising $50.5 million for academic initiatives, student financial aid, and new facilities including Boyer Hall and the Larsen Student Union.


  • Messiah’s men’s basketball team wins its first-ever Commonwealth Conference Championship and earns its first appearance in the NCAA tournament.
  • Messiah introduces Fandango, the College’s new falcon mascot.


  • The South Side Café, a student-run snack shop, opens its doors for the first time; proceeds go toward offering scholarships for students.
  • Messiah relocates and dedicates a new location for the Harrisburg Institute, a newly renovated residential and learning facility on Dewberry Street, located in the heart of the city’s new educational corridor.


  • Messiah hosts The Compassion Forum, a nationally televised, unprecedented forum for presidential candidates to discuss pressing moral issues.
  • Messiah launches its first online courses, “Messiah Online,” during its summer term.
  • Construction is completed on Orchard Hill, the College’s new president’s residence and hospitality center.
  • Messiah men’s and women’s soccer team make NCAA history by achieving their second dual national Division III championships (2005 and 2008).


  • Messiah introduces its first graduate program – a master of arts in counseling.
  • Messiah’s women’s softball team wins its first-ever national championship.
  • Messiah College launches the celebration of its Centennial year!


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Centennial Merchandise