History of Urbana University

Urbana University was founded in 1850 by the Reverend James Parke Stuart, Col. John E. James, Milo Williams and other members of the Swedenborgian Church, followers of the Swedish philosopher and scientist Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772).  Classes began in the fall of 1850 in a rented room in a building on the southwest corner of the town square. Classes were held under the name Urbana Seminary and were offered only to elementary and secondary students. The first building on the current 128-acre campus, Bailey Hall, was completed in 1853. Urbana University was the second university in Ohio to admit women. College-level classes began in the fall of 1854.  The school did not hold classes during the Civil War, closing in 1861 and reopening in 1866. In 1907 the college curriculum was shortened to two years. The primary school was closed in 1911, leaving a secondary school and a junior college. In 1928 the secondary school was closed. A four-year college was reestablished in 1968. In 1975 Urbana was granted full membership in the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. The institution operated as Urbana College until 1985 when the use of the chartered name “Urbana University” was reestablished. John Chapman, better known as “Johnny Appleseed,” had dreamed for a number of years of establishing an institution of higher learning in Ohio, and the founding of Urbana University made that dream a reality. The campus houses The Johnny Appleseed Museum. To this day, Urbana University maintains an informal relationship with the Swedenborgian General Convention of the Church of the New Jerusalem in the United States of America. The University is an independent, liberal arts institution.

In June of 2014, Urbana University was acquired by Franklin University of Columbus, Ohio, a private, nonprofit institution of higher education. Built on collaborative and on-going relationships, the acquisition allows Franklin’s competency in teaching effectiveness and technology-enhanced programs to be combined with Urbana’s own strengths to create improved growth strategies and deliver quality programs. The alignment of the two universities leverages the synergies of career-oriented and student focused approaches to create a foundation that positions Urbana to continue their mission to educate aspiring students. In the end, Urbana University can better serve its students, alumni, faculty, and staff by preserving the Urbana University brand and reputation.

Improvements to the overall infrastructure of the campus were noticed immediately.  In August of 2014, the University began the 2014-2015 academic year exceeding projected enrollment goals.  Franklin University committed to protect the historic brand identity of Urbana University.

Urbana University currently serves more than 1800 students from around the world. Known for innovative academic programs that feature personal attention from faculty, the University offers more than 30 undergraduate programs and several graduate degrees, delivering course work in class, online, or a combination of both. Blue Knights athletics includes 15 NCAA Division II sports along with intercollegiate bowling, cheerleading, dance, and shooting sports. 

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