university was founded in 1899 as Central Mennonite College,
an institution to educate the young people of the Middle
District of the General Conference Mennonite Church. Soon
related groups in the United States and Canada were included
in its constituency. Today Bluffton University is one of
five Mennonite colleges and universities affiliated with
Mennonite Church USA. Although Bluffton is a Mennonite
institution, from the very beginning it has been “open to all
worthy students irrespective of sex, color, nationality or
church affiliation.” Now, as in the past, the university
adheres to this policy and, in fact, the majority of
Bluffton University students represent faiths other than
In the early years the school functioned primarily as an
academy. Courses on a junior college level were introduced and
by 1915 the first baccalaureate degrees were conferred.
Meanwhile, in 1914, Central Mennonite College was reorganized
as Bluffton College. A theological seminary was added as a
corporate part of the college, and from 1921 to 1931, it
functioned on the campus as an independent institution,
Witmarsum Theological Seminary. In 1995, Bluffton began
offering graduate programs. On August 1, 2004, Bluffton
College was renamed Bluffton University, in reflection of its
evolving educational program.
The institution has had nine presidents: Dr. N.C.
Hirschy, 1900-1908; Dr. S.K. Mosiman, 1910-1935; the Rev. Dr.
A.S. Rosenberger, 1935-1938; Dr. L.L. Ramseyer, 1938-1965; Dr.
Robert S. Kreider, 1965-1972; Dr. Benjamin Sprunger,
1972-1977; Dr. Elmer Neufeld, 1978-1996; Dr. Lee F. Snyder,
1996-2006; Dr. James M. Harder, 2006-.
Bluffton's Mennonite heritage
Mennonite people originated in the Anabaptist movement of the
Reformation period. The early leaders, including Conrad Grebel
in Switzerland, 1525, and Menno Simons in the Netherlands,
1536, sought to recover a New Testament view of the church and
the Christian life. The Anabaptists and their Mennonite heirs
have been at one with other Christians in the great
affirmations of the faith: God becoming human, the servant
lordship of Christ, the reconciling power of the Gospel
of Christ, the transforming work of the Holy Spirit,
the ecclesial reliability of the Scriptures.
The Anabaptists made the interpretation and practice of the
Bible central to their lives together. From this flowed
convictions that: 1) the church is a community composed of
believers; 2) the essence of Christian life and faith is
discipleship, apostleship, servanthood; and 3) the ethic of
love should control all relationships. In the Mennonite
heritage, this has led to visible practices of social witness.
The Christian is called to a life of love, reconciliation and
peacemaking. Life is to be lived with material simplicity.
Nature is considered a gift of God and to be cherished with a
sense of gratitude and stewardship. One cannot separate faith
from life. Loving, sacrificial service is the highest
expression of faithfulness to Christ.
These and other convictions have shaped the minds and the
lives of many who serve and have served
Bluffton University as teachers, students and friends.
The convictions of other Christian traditions also are valued
in the university's life and thought. While it is not assumed
that all faculty, staff and students will be of one mind on
all issues of faith and practice, it can be expected that the
Christian church and the affirmations of Christian faith and
life will be addressed seriously, responsibly and with
The most recent systematic expression of faith for
Mennonites is the “Confession of Faith in a Mennonite
Perspective,” adopted in July 1995. For more information on
various Mennonite position statements, see www.mcusa-archives.org/library/resolutions/index.html.
Faith lived out at Bluffton
While Bluffton University aims to help
Mennonite students grow in an appreciative response and
commitment to the fundamental elements of this heritage, it
also believes that the Christian insights in this heritage
have value for people of other backgrounds. It aims,
therefore, to make its program and facilities equally
available to all scholastically qualified students who accept
and respect its objectives and standards.
Bluffton's motto is taken from the words of Christ in the
Gospel of John: The truth makes free. On a daily basis, this
truth finds expression at Bluffton through the four enduring
values of discovery, community, respect and service.
- Discovery embodies the explorative
nature of our academic offerings and cross cultural
requirements, the development of new relationships and
experiences, and the uncovering of personal spirituality and
- Community represents the rich
collaboration among faculty, students and staff, the
residential and intimate nature of our campus, and the
importance of the shared experience for discerning direction
and meaning of life.
- Respect encompasses and symbolizes our
sensitivity to diversity within our community and to our
commitments to peaceful resolution of conflict and to
- Service personifies our heartfelt
community outreach to meet the needs of others and offers a
means for helping to achieve a more fully reconciled,