Pilgrim Pathways: Notes for a Diaspora People

Incarnational Discipleship

Baptist-founded Colleges/Universities with Phi Beta Kappa Chapters

The Phi Beta Kappa Society is the oldest collegiate/university honor society in the United States. It was started on the campus of the College of William & Mary in December 1776.  The presence of a Phi Beta Kappa chapter on a college or university is a better clue to academic excellence than rankings in the annual U. S. News and World Report issue on colleges.  A Phi Beta Kappa chapter means that the liberals curriculum is given serious attention.  A school may be excellent without a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, but the honor society (which invites students to become members in their junior year) is a very good indicator. So the presence of a school on this list is a good indicator of excellence, but the absence of a school from this list may not mean as much.  There are other honor societies and other philosophies of education. The following are Baptist-founded schools with Phi Beta Kappa chapters. 

Bates College, 215 Hathorn Hall, Lewiston, ME 04240.  Founded in 1855 by Free Will Baptists who were abolitionists.  The founders believed strongly in freedom, human and civil rights, and the importance of higher education for all who could benefit from it.  The college has always admitted students without regard to race, religious creed, national origin, or sex and was the first coe-educational liberal arts college in New England.  The college is highly selective in admissions, but is very socially inclusive and, for that reason, forbids fraternities and sororities on campus.  No longer related to Free Will Baptists but still values that heritage. Still has a strong religion department and Christian presence.  Values of academic rigor, intellectual curiosity, social egalitarianism, social justice, and freedom. 

Baylor University, 1 Bear Place, Waco, TX 76798-7393.  Charted by the Republic of Texas in 1845, Baylor was founded by and still related to, the Baptist General Convention of Texas.   The undergraduate program includes an honors college based on the Great Books of the Western World.  151 undergraduate degree programs; 76 master’s programs; 30 doctoral programs.  The College of Arts and Sciences; Hankamer School of Business; School of Education; School of Engineering and Computer Science; Graduate School; Honors College; Law School; Music School; Louise Herrington School of Nursing; George W. Truett Theological Seminary; School of Social Work.  Baylor is now the largest university still related to Baptists.  Baylor’s desire is to become the “Baptist Notre Dame,” but the recent hiring of culture warrior Ken Starr as President puts that in jeopardy.

Brown University, Providence, RI 02912.  Founded in 1764 as the Baptist answer to Congregationalist Harvard and Yale (later Harvard “went Unitarian”), Presbyterian Princeton, and Episcopalian Columbia and UPenn.  Just as Roger Williams founded the colony of Rhode Island in 1636 as a colony open to people of all religious persuasion, so Brown was open to students from all religious backgrounds, the only such school in North America at the time.  Brown ceased to be Baptist-connected in the 1930s.  It is a member of the Ivy League.  Has a medical school and graduate school. Students design their own curriculum.  Need blind admission.

Bucknell University, 701 Moore Avenue, Lewisburg, PA 17837.  Founded in 1846.  Origin traced to a group of Baptists who decided that it was “desirable that a Literary Institution should be established in central Pennsylvania, with High school for males , another for females, a College, and also a theological seminary.”  125 years of co-education.  Has an honors program.

Colby College, 4000 Mayflower Hill, Waterville, ME 04901.  Founded in 1813 as the Waterville Literary and Theological Institution when Maine was still part of Massachussetts.  It was re-chartered when ME became a separate state.  It nearly closed during the Civil War because so many students enlisted. Donations from an industrialist named Colby kept it open.  Highly selective. Rigorous. No longer associated with Baptists.  Two-thirds of students study abroad. 

Colgate University, 13 Oak Drive, Hamilton, NY 13346.  Founded in 1817 by “13 men with 13 dollars and 13 prayers,” 13 is still considered a lucky number at Colgate.  Connection to William Colgate began in 1823. 1839 was the first year that students were admitted who “did not have the ministry in view.”  Colgate Theological Seminary, which grew out of the religion department, moved to Rochester, NY and merged with Rochester Theological Seminary in 1928.  Colgate ceased to become a Baptist institution in 1928. Has a peace and conflict studies program.  Philosophy and religion department.   

Denison University, 100 West College Street, P.O. Box 810, Granville, OH 43023-0810.  Founded as the “Baptist Literary and Theological Institution” in 1831. One of the first colleges to be established in the old “Northwest Territory” west of the Alleghenies and north of the Ohio river.  Initially looked to graduates of Brown university for faculties.  Briefly offered a few graduate programs, but by the 20th C. decided to concentrate on undergraduate liberal arts education, with the term “university” retained for purely historical reasons.  177 years. Entirely residential because learning happens best in community.  Code of academic integrity.  Service learning is a major component of the university.

Furman University, 3300 Poinsett Highway, Greenville, SC 29613.  Founded in 1826 by Baptists.  The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was initially on the campus at Furman University before moving after the Civil War to Louisville, KY. 

Kalamazoo College, 1200 West Academy Street, Kalamazoo, MI 49006-3295.  Founded in 1843 by Thomas Merill, a Baptist minister.  Famous for its “K-plan curriculum.”  Has the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership. In the 1840s, the college was a hotbed of abolitionist and early progressive activity.  Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Bronson Alcott, and Sojourner Truth were all frequent guests on campus.  Rufus Lewis Perry, class of 1861, was the first known student of African descent to attend. Catherine V. Eldred, first female graduate, earned her degree in the class of 1870.  In 1948, after 25 years on faculty, Frances Diebeld became the first woman promoted to full professor.  This is one of the best liberal arts colleges in the Midwest.  Still affiliated with the American Baptist Churches, USA.

Morehouse College, 830 Westview Drive, SW Atlanta, GA 30314.  This is a college dedicated to the education of African-American men, although open to all races.  Founded in 1867, just two years after the 1865, as the Augusta Institute in the basement of Springfield Baptist Church, Augusta.  In 1879 it moved to Atlanta and became Atlanta Baptist Seminary.  In 1906, Dr. John Hope became the first African American Baptist.  In 1913, the school was renamed in honor of Dr. Samuel L. Morehouse, head of the National Baptist Home Mission Society.  The Morehouse School of Religion is now part of the Interdenominational Theological Centre (ITC) in Atlanta.  Although the college concentrates on the liberal arts, there is a dual-science and engineering degree program with the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and a School of Medicine.  Famous Morehouse alumni include Howard Thurman, Martin Luther King, Jr., filmmaker Spike Lee, Actor Samuel L. Jackson, U.S. Congressional Representatives Sanford Bishop, Jr., Earl Hillard, Jr., Samuel Dubois Cook, former president of Dillard University, Mordecai Johnson, former president of Howard University. 

Spelman College, 350 Spelman Avenue SW, Atlanta, GA 30314-4399.  Founded in 1881 as the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary.  This is a private, elite liberal arts college dedicated to the education of African-American women, though all races and ethnic groups are welcome.  Part of the Atlanta University Consortium.  Famous alumnae include Bernice Johnson Reagan (member of the SNCC Singers and founder of Sweet Honey in the Rock, former administrator of the Smithsonian Institutes); Keisha Knight-Pulliam, Actor; Marion Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund; Rev. Bernice King; Heather McTeer-Hudson, first female mayor and first African-American mayor of Greenville, SC–elected in ’03 at age of 28.

Stetson University, 421 North Woodland Blvd., DeLand, FL 32723.  Florida’s first private university, Stetson was founded in 1883 by New York philanthropist Henry A. DeLand as Deland Academy.  It was chartered by the Florida state legislature as DeLand University in 1887 and the name was changed to Stetson University in 1889 to honor John B. Stetson, a nationally-known hat manufacturer who donated generously to the school.  Until the mid-1990s, the school was closely related to the Florida Baptist Convention, but the trustee board voted to sever formal ties in order to prevent a fundamentalist takeover.  Stetson is a co-ed, private, restricted admission university with a College of Arts and Sciences, a School of Music, School of Business Administration, and a College of Law.

Temple University1801 North Broad Street , Philadelphia, PA 19122.  Founded in 1884 by Baptist minister, Dr. Russell Conwell. A seminary attached to the university moved outside of Boston, MA and merged with Gordon Divinity College to become Gordon-Conwell Divinity School.  Temple became a public university, but it still has a strong religion department.  There is also a nationally recognized honors program.

University of Chicago, 5801 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637.  After an earlier attempt that failed, the current University of Chicago was founded in 1890 by the American Baptist Education Society, with major funding by millionaire Baptist John D. Rockefeller, and the genius vision of first president William Rainey Harper.  Designed to be a research university modelled after the University of Berlin.  From the beginning, the U. of Chicago was open to students of all races, both genders, and any religious conviction.  The Divinity School was Baptist affiliated until the 1950s.  The “Great Books” curriculum was founded at the University of Chicago in the undergraduate program, and it still forms the core of the curriculum.  The university has produced 85 Nobel Prize laureates.  Civic involvement and international study form an essential part of the curriculum.  In addition to the undergraduate college, the university has a Biological Sciences Division, the Booth School of Business, Graham School of General Studies, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, Law School, Divinity School, Humanities Division, Physical Sciences Division, Pritzker School of Medicine, and Social Sciences Division.  The Baptist Theological Institution is still the fundraising and runs the endowment of the Divinity School. 

University of the Redlands, 1200 East Colton Ave., P.O. Box # 3080, Redlands, CA 92373.  Founded in 1907 on land donated by Baptist layman Karl G. Wells, by individuals associated with the American Baptist Churches.  Formal relations with the American Baptists were severed in 1972, but there are still warm unofficial ties.  In addition to the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, and the School of Education. 

University of Richmond,  28 Westhampton Way, University of Richmond, VA 23173.  Founded by Baptists in 1830.  Private, highly selective university with 5 schools:  School of Arts and Sciences, Robin School of Business, Jepson School of Leadership Studies, Richmond School of Law, School of Continuing Studies. 

Wake Forest University  1834 Wake Forest Road, Winston-Salem, NC 27109-7305.  Founded by North Carolina Baptists in 1834 just outside the capital of Raleigh, NC.  In 1941 the medical school moved to Winston-Salem and the rest of the university followed in 1956, selling the old campus to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.  The university contains Wake Forest College (an undergraduate college of arts and sciences), Calloway of Business & Accountancy, Wake Forest Law School, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Babcock Graduate School of Management, Wake Forest Divinity School, and Wake Forest Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.  There is an attached WFU Baptist Medical Center.  Thanks in large part to the influence of Pres. William L. “Dr. Billy” Poteat, a biologist and Christian layman, NC did not follow other Southern states in passing anti-evolution laws in the 1920s.  In 1942, the college became co-educational.  No longer directly controlled by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, WFU still has warm ties with Baptists, especially the Alliance of Baptists and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.


March 12, 2010 - Posted by | Baptists, church history, education


  1. About the Hamilton College entry: I know that Samuel Kirkland was most definitely not a Baptist. I believe he was Presbyterian. Hamilton does have a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa I think you should remove this reference to Hamilton College from your website.

    Comment by PW Dana | March 12, 2010 | Reply

    • I’ll check this out and, if you are correct, certainly remove it. Thanks.

      Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | March 12, 2010 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s