Urbana History

A Rich History

In 1850, Urbana University was founded as a seminary by the Rev. James Parke Stuart, Col. John E. James, Milo Williams and other members of the Swedenborgian Church. Since that time, Urbana has evolved into a vibrant liberal arts institution, offering traditional and non-traditional degree programs in a diverse, yet intimate on-campus and online learning community.

We have come a long way since our founding – but we stand firm in our commitments to emphasize student learning through individual attention, provide excellence in instruction, and offer relevant, career-oriented academic programs with strong emphases on ethics and values. Urbana leverages deep wisdom from more than a century of diverse experiences to build a brighter, more sustainable future.

Today, Urbana is home to more than 1,800 students from around the world. Uniquely focused on student success with a tight-knit, supportive community, the University provides a world-class educational experience in a caring and supportive environment. 

In June of 2014, Urbana University was acquired by Franklin University. This alliance enabled Urbana to preserve its historic mission and identity, remain separately accredited, and enjoy immediate improvements to the overall infrastructure of the campus, providing a renewed energy that our students proudly embrace today.

Our newly enhanced infrastructure and operational systems will keep us strong for years to come. We’re excited about the future – and committed to giving back to the Urbana community by strengthening relationships with local businesses. We believe innovating through partnerships will create opportunities for Urbana students to apply their learning to benefit our local community and beyond.

History Timeline


Bailey Hall Completed
The first historic building on the University’s 128-acre campus, Bailey Hall features the first arch at Urbana over massive double doors.


Civil War Closes Campus
Urbana University did not offer classes as students were forced to put their educational pursuits on hold to go to war.


Launched First Adult Degree-Completion Program In Ohio
A pioneer in meeting the needs of adult students, Urbana was the first in Ohio to offer a degree-completion program.


HLC Accreditation Achieved, First Graduate Programs Offered
Urbana was granted full membership in the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and launched graduate programs.


Non-Traditional Programs Offered
Urbana continued its commitment to working, adult students by offering accelerated college classes off campus in the evenings.


Johnny Appleseed Educational Center & Museum Established
The museum holds the largest collection of memorabilia and written information about John “Appleseed” Chapman in the world.


NCAA Division II Status Achieved
Urbana was granted Division II membership in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, reinforcing our commitment to student-athletes.


Urbana Acquired By Franklin University
Urbana University became a division of Franklin University, while maintaining Urbana’s unique tradition and identity.

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