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Mission & History


Northwest Nazarene University Timeline

Journey through the history of NNU as we trace our milestones and moments that have defined us over the years. From our humble beginnings to our current impact, this timeline reflects our unwavering commitment to excellence, innovation, and growth. Join us in celebrating our remarkable legacy, and stay tuned for what the future holds.


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Classes began September 13, 1913 in the Mennonite church on the corner of 13th Avenue and 8th Street in Nampa, Idaho. It was called the Idaho Holiness School, later to be named Northwest Nazarene College.


The groundbreaking for the first building on what was to become the NNU campus took place in 1915.


H. Orton Wiley became the first president of NNC in 1916. John C. Riley characterized him as “a scholar, a writer, a preacher, a teacher, and an administrator with a touch that both fitted his time and gave the college its character.”


Harvard graduate Olive M. Winchester joined NNC’s Department of Hebrew and Bible Literature in 1917. She was referred to as “one of the foremost critical and exegetical scholars in the holiness movement.”


Thomas Mangum, M.D., and his wife, Emily, took charge of the Medical Missionary Department in 1918. Their course offerings included first aid, nursing, hygiene and surgery.


NNC founder Eugene Emerson was elected mayor of Nampa in 1923. His slogan was “post-election service is better than pre-election promises.”


26-year-old Russell V. DeLong accepted a faculty position at NNC in 1926 to teach philosophy and theology. By the end of the year he became Acting President after President J.G. Morrison resigned to accept a position as Executive Missionary Secretary for the General Church of the Nazarene.


Hattie E. Goodrich, head of the commercial department, led the nation in the Remington speed and accuracy test in 1930. She typed 73 words per minute for 15 minutes without error and was awarded a portable typewriter.


The administration building was restructured in the summer of 1931. A second story and auditorium were added. Some of the work was done by students, including the manufacturing of over 100,000 bricks.


R. Eugene Gilmore was inaugurated as NNC’s 4th president in 1932.


United States senator William E. Borah spoke to an audience in the new NNC auditorium on October 25, 1932. He spoke on economic issues, including his plan to cancel allied war debts in exchange for reduced armaments.


Russel V. Delong returned as NNU’s 5th president in 1935.


The Northwest Association of Secondary and Higher Schools voted full accreditation to NNC as a four-year institution on April 7, 1937.


On the day that the United States declared war on Japan, President DeLong expressed confidence in the leadership of President Roosevelt and reminded the student body that staying in college would prepare them for leadership after the war.


L.T. Corlett was inaugurated as NNC’s 6th president in 1942.


The Civil Aeronautics Authority established a Ground School at NNC in 1942 and offered studies in aviation for noncombat pilots.


Thelma B. Culver became Academic Dean in 1946. She was the first woman to earn a Doctorate in Education from the University of Colorado.


President Corlett taught a course for seniors in 1948 designed to help them make the transition after graduation from college into everyday life.


History professor Francis Sutherland resigned to return to China as requested by the Nazarene Missionary Board in 1949. However, he was forced to postpone the assignment when the Communist movement took over China.


Alumnus Byron Lee, army chaplain, died by enemy fire in the Korean War in 1950. Professor Sutherland wrote: “we cannot know the full story of the comfort and help his presence there may have brought to the boys facing the agonizing situation of the battle line.” The NNC athletic complex was later dedicated in his memory.


John E. Riley became NNC’s 7th president in 1952.


The National Science Foundation granted NNC $37,000 to develop the mass spectrometer in 1961.


Idaho Governor Robert E. Smylie spoke at convocation in 1963. He was quoted as saying “Idaho needs you and your college. Your vision and spirituality help lead us through the labyrinth of problems which often defy logic.”


Kenneth H. Pearsall was inaugurated as NNC’s 8th president in 1973.


150 educators from southwest Idaho surprised Dean Emerita Thelma B. Culver by honoring her for her contribution to education in 1974.


Oxford Hall was renamed Sutherland Hall in 1978 in remembrance of Francis Sutherland.


Senator Frank Church addressed the student body at convocation in 1979. The students applauded his statement that he did not favor extending the draft for military service.


NNC’s social work program received full accreditation by the Council on Social Work in 1979 through the effort of Professor Ben Sherrill, head of the department. NNC was the first liberal arts college in the Northwest to have an accredited program.


Many students who chose to enroll in 1981 cited Bruce Webb, Director of Admissions, as the “deciding factor.” That year he sent out almost 5,000 handwritten letters and postcards.


Jeff Hanway became the first NNC student to receive the honor of academic All-American in 1982. He was a premed student and soccer goalie with a 4.0 GPA.


A. Gordon Wetmore was inaugurated as NNC’s 9th president in 1983.


Rick Hieb (77) became one of 120 chosen for consideration by NASA in 1985. After the elimination process he became one of 13 astronauts to fly in space.


Myron Finkbeiner became Director of Development in 1990 after 12 years as Executive Secretary of the NNC Alumni Association. His major accomplishment as Executive Secretary was the preservation of the Alumni House.


Kurtz Park was annexed in 1992 as the result of a seven-year process. President Gordon Wetmore (1983-1992) said “The planning included building partnership with the city of Nampa, the Nampa school system and Mercy Medical Center. As a result NNC is being recognized as a force for community development.”


Leon Doane became NNC’s 10th president in 1992.


Dr. Gayman Bennett was inducted in to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993. His poem “The Young Southpaw Delivers” is on display next to his photograph in the hall.


Dr. Richard A Hagood was inaugurated as the 11th President of NNC in 1994.


The prayer chapel and garden were constructed in 1996 through the donations of Mr. Ralph Little.


The Lady Crusaders were crowned the NAIA Women’s Division II National Champions in 1997. Coach Roger Schmidt was named national Coach of the Year.


Northwest Nazarene College became Northwest Nazarene University September 1, 1999.


NNU was among the first universities in Idaho to go wireless in 2001.


Ashley Puga swept the Women’s 800 Meter Run and Mile Runs title at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships in February of 2009. In March she took the National NCAA Division II indoor 800 race and later the Outdoor Championship. Ashley was declared All-American five times during her time at NNU.


Dr. David Alexander was inaugurated as NNU’s 12th president in 2009.


The Northwest Nazarene University Centennial Celebration begins in the Fall of 2012 and culminates in the Fall of 2013. NNU starts its second century with the continued mission to instill habits of heart, soul, mind and strength to enable each student to become God’s creative and redemptive agent in the world.


Adding onto the John E. Riley Library, the Leah Peterson Learning Commons construction is completed. The new 57,000-square-foot facility is dedicated to assisting students as they learn and educators as they teach.


Howard and Mary Conrad, long time supporters of NNU, make a transformational gift to the university that exceeds $18 million dollars.


Following a one year term as interim president, Joel Pearsall accepts a four-year term as president in March 2016.


On October 16, 2017, NNU unveiled its new mascot the “Nighthawks,” officially retiring the “Crusader.”


Idaho’s first satellite, MakerSat-0, is scheduled to launch into space aboard a Delta II rocket at 2:47 a.m. MST Tuesday, Nov. 14, from Vandenberg Air Force Base.


A team of engineering students created a lawn care robot designed to navigate and mow autonomously. It became known as the “Roomba for lawns.”


In February, NNU installed a new soccer turf, FieldTurf CORE 2.0, a top of the line surface that is similarly used at Gillette Stadium where the New England Patriots and New England Revolution play.


In June, the women’s basketball team traveled to Cuba to play in a tournament. Their trip occurred shortly after the U.S. lifted travel restrictions making them one of the first U.S. teams to ever play in the country.


Howard and Mary Conrad Student Commons Dedicated. November 8, 2019


Second Satellite Launch days after 50 Anniversary of Apollo 11.


On March 14, the NNU campus was closed and students transitioned to online-learning as the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading in the U.S. Students completed their 2020 spring semester remotely.


In April, the NNU Engineering Department began using its 3D printer to make face shields for healthcare workers. The global pandemic caused a momentary shortage of personal protective equipment.


NNU Implements Campus-Wide Surveillance Screening for Covid 19. September 2020