Bluffton University

Bluffton University
Motto The Truth Makes Free
Type Private, Mennonite University
Established 1899
Affiliation Mennonite Church USA
Endowment $23,521,163
President Dr. James Harder
Academic staff
55 (45 Part time)
Students 1,094
Undergraduates 895
Postgraduates 0
Location Bluffton, Ohio, United States
40°53′46″N 83°53′53″W / 40.896°N 83.898°W / 40.896; -83.898Coordinates: 40°53′46″N 83°53′53″W / 40.896°N 83.898°W / 40.896; -83.898
Campus 234 acres (Rural)
Colors Bluffton purple and white [1]
Nickname Beavers
Mascot J. Denny and Jenny Beaver

Bluffton University is a Christian liberal arts college affiliated with the Mennonite Church USA located in Bluffton, Ohio. It was founded in 1899 as Central Mennonite College and became Bluffton College in 1913. The name Bluffton University was adopted in 2004. Bluffton "seeks to prepare students of all backgrounds for life as well as vocation, for responsible citizenship, for service to all peoples and ultimately for the purposes of God’s universal kingdom." [2]


Bluffton offers academic study in 85 majors, minors and interdisciplinary programs; adult bachelor's degree-completion program in organizational management, health care management and social work; and master's degrees in organizational management, business administration with available concentrations in health care management, sport management, accounting and financial management, production and operations management, and leadership. An Online MBA is also offered in collaboration with Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College. Graduate courses in education are offered leading to licensure and endorsements.[3]

Bluffton University holds a certificate of authorization from the Ohio Board of Regents to confer the degrees of bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, master of arts in education, master of arts in organizational management, and master of business administration. Bluffton University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, a member of the North Central Association, and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.

Students at Bluffton are not proctored during exams. Instead, students are on their honor not to cheat and to report any students who do to the instructor. Students are expected to write the honor pledge (“I am unaware of any inappropriate aid having been given or received during this exam") on their exams and sign their names.[4]

The honor system was created in 1918 by chemistry professor H.W. Berky, who borrowed the idea from his undergraduate education at Princeton University.[5]

The spirit of the honor system is supposed to pervade every area of campus life.


Can be completed in three years*


  • Art *
  • Art with teaching licensure
  • Art & writing
  • Graphic design

Business studies

  • Accounting
  • Business administration *
  • Economics *
  • Information technology *
  • Marketing *

Communication & theatre

  • Communication
  • Broadcasting and journalism

Criminal justice


  • Adolescent / young adult licensure
    Integrated language arts (English)
    Integrated mathematics
    Integrated social studies (history)
  • Child development *
  • Early childhood education
  • Intervention specialist
  • Middle childhood education
  • Multi-age licensure
    Music education
    Visual arts


  • English *
  • Writing *
  • Spanish *
  • Teaching licensure
  • Art & writing

Food and nutrition

  • Food and nutrition
  • Dietetics

Health, fitness and sport science

  • Sport management
  • Recreation management


  • History *
  • Social studies
  • Teaching licensure

Individually designed major

Information technology


  • Teaching licensure


  • Music *
  • Teaching licensure


Public Health


  • Religion/Biblical Studies
  • Youth ministries *


  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Food and nutrition
  • Physics
  • Pre-medicine

Social Work


Admissions and tuition

Entering first-year student average GPA is a 3.2. Entering first-year student average ACT is a 22. Students in top 10% of high school class is 14%. Students in top 25% of high school class is 36%. First to second year retention rate is 70%. Graduation rate (6 year) is 67%[6]


National recognitions
2015 U.S. News & World Report' America's Best Colleges, top tier of Best Baccalaureate Colleges in the Midwest

Religious heritage

Bluffton University was founded as Central Mennonite College by the General Conference Mennonite Church and became affiliated with Mennonite Church USA when it was created in 2002 by a merger between the GCMC and the Mennonite Church. It has been a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities since 1991.

The Mennonite church is an Anabaptist denomination committed to nonviolence, social justice, and voluntary service. However, since its founding, Bluffton has been open to non-Mennonites. In fact, members of the Mennonite denomination now make up a minority of students.

Historian Perry Bush, in his centennial history of the college, argues that Bluffton's distinctive religious orientation has been to avoid both secularization and generic American evangelicalism. While many other denominational colleges adopted the latter, Bluffton leaders, "refused to separate Mennonite ethical principles from the doctrines they held in common with other evangelicals. They refused to treat peace and service as if they were add-ons, 'nonessentials,' extra-chrome options. Christ's theological and ethical teachings were all of one piece, Mennonites have insisted, and a proper Christian college would be built on the firm integration of the two."[8]

Evidence of this focus can be found in the high percentage of Bluffton graduates, "devoting lives to service occupations: teaching, medicine, social work, church ministry, and the like."[9]


Residential and intimate in nature, the Bluffton University campus is situated on 234 wooded acres in the northwest Ohio village of Bluffton.

The village of Bluffton, a Swiss-German community founded in 1861, is a thriving, friendly rural community with a population of approximately 4,000. Bluffton offers dining, shopping, a hospital, movie theatre, bowling, golf, an airport, and more. Main Street offers a variety of interesting shops, including a full service quilt shop and a hardware store. It also has shops offering antiques, folk art, crafts from third world countries, sports gear and health food.

In addition, Toledo is just an hour to the north and Dayton is 90 minutes to the south.


  • Riley Court
  • Sauder Visual Arts Center
  • Public Relations House
  • Houshower House
  • Musselman Library
  • College Hall
  • Centennial Hall
  • Shoker Science Center
  • Berky Hall
  • Mosiman Hall
  • Yoder Recital Hall
  • Buildings and Grounds Center
  • Founders Hall/Burcky Gym
  • Marbeck Center
  • Sommer Center

Residence halls


Bluffton is a member of NCAA Division III and the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. Its sports teams are nicknamed the Beavers, and the school colors are Bluffton purple and white.

The school fields 14 athletic teams: seven men's teams and seven women's teams.

Men's teams: baseball, basketball, cross country, football, soccer, indoor and outdoor track & field

Women's teams: basketball, cross country, soccer, softball, indoor and outdoor track & field, volleyball

Head coaches

Student life

Academic clubs

  • Art Club
  • Bauman Medical Society
  • Bluffton Education Organization
  • Bluffton University Business Leaders
  • Bluffton University Nutrition Association
  • El Club de Español
  • English Club
  • Ohio Collegiate Music Education Association
  • People's Movement for the Advancement of History
  • Recreation Club
  • Science Club
  • Social Work Club
  • Sports Management Club
  • Student Investment Club

Special interest

  • Cheerleading
  • College Republicans
  • Exercise Science/Strength and Conditioning Club
  • Fault Lines (line dancing)
  • Habitat for Humanity International Campus Chapter
  • International Connection
  • Japanese Anime Club
  • Marbeck Center Board
  • Multicultural Student Organization
  • P.E.A.C.E. Club
  • Pals (Peer Awareness Leaders)
  • SOUL (Student Organizations United in Leadership)
  • Student Alumni Association
  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • Women's Issues Circle
  • Young Democrats


  • The Bluffton Connection
  • Shalith
  • WBWH radio


  • Chapel/Sunday Night Worship services
  • Serve
  • FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes)
  • Hall Chaplains
  • Ministry Teams
  • Spiritual Life Week

Student government

  • Student Senate
  • Hall Associations


  • Camerata Singers
  • Concert Band
  • Jazz Ensemble
  • University Chorale
  • Gospel Choir
  • Musical
  • Theatre

Intramural athletics

  • Flag football
  • Softball
  • Tennis ball-golf
  • Tennis
  • Indoor volleyball
  • Sand Volleyball
  • 5-on-5 basketball
  • 3-on-3 basketball
  • Bowling
  • Soccer


The university was founded in 1899 as Central Mennonite College but in its early years functioned as an academy and junior college. When the first president, Noah Hirschy, resigned in 1908, the college had only one building.[10]

In 1913, under President Samuel Mosiman (1910–1935), the college reorganized as Bluffton College with support from five Mennonite groups.[10] The first baccalaureate degrees were confirmed in 1915.

By 1930 enrollment had increased to 371 students, but it fell to 185 by 1936 as the college was battered by the Great Depression and by charges from some of its Mennonite constituency that it promoted theological liberalism.[11] The college had a seemingly successful raising drive in 1929 in an effort to increase its endowment to $500,000 and qualify for accreditation from the North Central Association.[12] However, donors were unable to make good on their pledges after the stock market crash; the college failed to gain accreditation and fell into financial crisis.

In 1931, Witmarsum Theological Seminary, which had been affiliated with the college, closed its doors for good.

Musselman Library was completed in 1930, joining College Hall (1900) and Science Hall (1913, later renamed Berky Hall) as the primary academic buildings.[13]

After the brief presidency of Arthur Rosenberger (1935–1938), Lloyd Ramseyer assumed the Bluffton College presidency in 1938 and served until 1965. Although enrollment plummeted to as low as 77 students during World War II, Ramseyer's tenure was marked by growth and expansion.[14] Enrollment surpassed 300 in 1957 and 400 in 1960. The college finally received NCA accreditation in 1953.[15]

Under presidents Ramseyer and Robert Kreider (1965–1972) the college also underwent a building boom. Since 1924, Bluffton had had just two residence halls, Ropp Hall (1914) for women and Lincoln Hall (1924) for men. Ropp Annex was completed in 1958 followed by four others (Bren-Dell Hall, Hirschy Hall, Hirschy Annex and Ropp Addition) by 1967.[13]

Other new buildings during this period included Founders Hall (1951) and an addition Burcky gymnasium(1971), a sports facility with a 2,000-seat auditorium; Mosiman Hall (1960), the music building; a four-story expansion to the library (1966); Marbeck Center (1968), a student union with dining facilities, book store and other student facilities; and Riley Court (1969), a five-building complex that now house administrative offices.[13][16]

There were plans for future expansion and growth, but the 1970s instead were a time of retrenchment and conflict. Enrollment peaked at 789 in 1969 but dropped below 700 by 1972 and below 600 by 1975. The college fell deep into debt and made significant cut-backs.[17]

Bluffton's sixth president, Ben Sprunger (1972–1977), proposed increasing enrollment by transforming Bluffton into an evangelical college. This proposal was resisted by faculty, leading to Sprunger's resignation. However, during Sprunger's term, the college managed to balance the budget, conduct a successful capital campaign and construct Shoker Science Center (1978).[18]

Enrollment at Bluffton was below 600 for most of the 1980s, but the college experienced another era of growth and expansion in the 1990s under presidents Elmer Neufeld (1978–1996) and Lee F. Snyder (1996–2006), the first female president at Bluffton or any other Mennonite college. By 1995, the enrollment surpassed 1,000 for the first time.[19]

The college built two new residence halls, Ramseyer Hall (1994) and Neufeld Hall (2003), to meet housing demand. Other building projects included Sauder Visual Arts Center (1991), which houses an art gallery and studios for painting, drawing, sculpture and other arts; Yoder Recital Hall (1994), a 300-seat, state-of-the-art performance facility; and Centennial Hall (2000), a new academic building.[13]

Another major addition was the Emery Sears Athletic Complex, which includes 2,600-seat Dwight Salzman Stadium (1993) plus a baseball diamond, all-weather track, and soccer field.[13]

In 1995, Bluffton began a masters program in education, the first of its graduate programs.

In 2004, the college, which now had three graduate programs, became Bluffton University.

In 2006, James Harder became Bluffton's ninth president.

WBWH-LP 99.3 FM serves as the campus and community radio station.

2007 bus crash

On March 2, 2007, a bus carrying the Bluffton baseball team fell off the Northside Drive overpass on Interstate 75 in Atlanta, Georgia, after the driver apparently mistook a southbound left-side exit ramp for a high-occupancy vehicle lane. The bus crashed into and flipped over a concrete barrier on the overpass and fell 30 feet back onto the interstate.[20][21]

Four members of the Bluffton baseball team were killed in the accident, along with the bus driver and his wife. A fifth player died a week later from injuries caused by the crash. On March 12, 2008, a memorial titled the "Circle of Remembrance"[22] located near the baseball field was dedicated prior to a Service of Remembrance[23] to mark the one year anniversary of the event. Of the 35 people on the bus, the following were killed as a result of the crash:[24][25]

Notable alumni


  2. "Bluffton University". Retrieved 9 March 2007.
  3. "Bluffton University academic programs".
  4. "Bluffton University". Retrieved 9 March 2007.
  5. Bush, Perry (2000). Dancing with the Kobzar. Pandora Press U.S. p. 72. ISBN 0-9665021-3-2.
  6. "Institutional Data". Bluffton University. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  7. "Tuition and fees". Bluffton University. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  8. Bush, Perry (2000). Dancing with the Kobzar. Pandora Press U.S. pp. 20–21. ISBN 0-9665021-3-2.
  9. Bush, Perry (2000). Dancing with the Kobzar. Pandora Press U.S. p. 259. ISBN 0-9665021-3-2.
  10. 1 2 Bush, Perry (2000). Dancing with the Kobzar. Pandora Press U.S. p. 58. ISBN 0-9665021-3-2.
  11. Bush, Perry (2000). Dancing with the Kobzar. Pandora Press U.S. p. 113. ISBN 0-9665021-3-2.
  12. Bush, Perry (2000). Dancing with the Kobzar. Pandora Press U.S. pp. 95–96. ISBN 0-9665021-3-2.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 "Bluffton University". Retrieved 10 March 2007.
  14. Bush, Perry (2000). Dancing with the Kobzar. Pandora Press U.S. p. 130. ISBN 0-9665021-3-2.
  15. Bush, Perry (2000). Dancing with the Kobzar. Pandora Press U.S. pp. 152–153, 162. ISBN 0-9665021-3-2.
  16. Bush, Perry (2000). Dancing with the Kobzar. Pandora Press U.S. pp. 163–164. ISBN 0-9665021-3-2.
  17. Bush, Perry (2000). Dancing with the Kobzar. Pandora Press U.S. pp. 190–192, 216. ISBN 0-9665021-3-2.
  18. Bush, Perry (2000). Dancing with the Kobzar. Pandora Press U.S. pp. 226–231. ISBN 0-9665021-3-2.
  19. Bush, Perry (2000). Dancing with the Kobzar. Pandora Press U.S. pp. 234, 247. ISBN 0-9665021-3-2.
  20. "CNN". Archived from the original on 4 March 2007. Retrieved 2 March 2007.
  21. "Yahoo News". Archived from the original on 11 March 2007. Retrieved 9 March 2007.
  22. Circle of Remembrance Archived March 12, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  23. Service of Remembrance Archived March 12, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  24. "Columbus Dispatch". Retrieved 3 March 2007.
  25. "Atlanta Journal-Constitution". Retrieved 3 March 2007.
  26. "Vintage Physics Chart Installed in Science Center". Eastern Mennonite University. 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-10.
  27. "". Archived from the original on May 31, 2006. Retrieved 8 March 2007.
  28. "Bio. True Story".
  29. "". Retrieved 5 May 2009.

External links

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