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Messiah College

Messiah College
Messiah College seal
Former names
Messiah Bible School and Missionary Training Home, Messiah Bible School
Motto "Christ Preeminent"
Established 1909
Type Private
Affiliation Founded by Brethren in Christ Church; currently nondenominational
Endowment US$99.8 million[1]
President Aaron Neil
Vice-president Alex Jones
Superintendent Zac Duchow
Provost David Broomell
Vice-Chancellor Josh Husmann
Principal Ben Richardson
Dean Spencer Mott
Academic staff
175 Full-time
Students 3,040 undergraduate and graduate students[2]
Location Grantham, PA, USA
Campus Suburban/Rural
Colors Navy and white         
Athletics NCAA Division III, the Middle Atlantic Conferences
Mascot The Falcon
Affiliations Christian College Consortium, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, Middle Atlantic Conferences

Messiah College is a private Christian college of the liberal arts and applied arts and sciences located in Grantham, Pennsylvania. Messiah's mission is to "educate men and women toward maturity of intellect, character, and Christian faith in preparation for lives of service, leadership, and reconciliation in church and society."[3]


  • History 1
  • Academics 2
  • International Programs 3
  • Athletics 4
  • Spiritual life 5
    • The Community Covenant 5.1
      • Homosexuality Policy Controversy 5.1.1
    • Chapel 5.2
  • Student activities 6
  • Traditions 7
  • The Compassion Forum 8
  • Messiah College in popular culture 9
  • Alumni 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12


Historic covered bridge on Messiah College campus

Messiah College was founded in 1909 by the Brethren in Christ Church, and was originally called Messiah Bible School and Missionary Training Home.[4] Originally located in Harrisburg, Pa., in the home of Messiah's first president, Samuel Rogers (S.R.) Smith, a local businessman and leader in the Brethren in Christ Church, the school was moved to the village of Grantham in 1911 following the construction of the campus' first building, Old Main. The building was constructed on land donated by S.R. Smith, who had moved his home and various business interests outside of the city to allow for growth in the farmlands surrounding Grantham. In the early years, the school offered a high school curriculum and several Bible programs. By 1921 it had also become a junior college, making it the second junior college in Pennsylvania, and changed its name to Messiah Bible School.[5]

By the 1950s, the school offered four-year college programs and accordingly in 1951 it changed its name to Messiah College.[6] Messiah discontinued its high school program in 1959 and added liberal arts programs during this period. It was accredited as a four-year college in 1963, and continued to expand its liberal arts programs.

Even though it is no longer owned by the Brethren in Christ Church, Messiah continues to be influenced by its traditions primarily in the Anabaptist, but also the Pietist and Wesleyan holiness movements. Today, Messiah College is a nondenominational Christian college, with a faith base that is broadly evangelical and includes students and employees from a variety of denominations and Christian faith traditions.[7]

Other Key Points in Messiah's History

  • In 1964, Messiah College took over the operations of Upland College in Upland, California, a Brethren in Christ Church College that had been operating since the 1920s. The Upland campus was closed and all operations were consolidated to Pennsylvania.[8]
  • In 1968, Messiah College opened its Philadelphia Campus in a unique partnership with Temple University.
  • In 2002, Messiah College's Harrisburg Institute was founded in downtown Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Its purpose is to serve as an academic and research center and connect students with the unique needs of an urban environment. The Institute also provides housing for up to 25 students.[9]
  • Messiah College celebrated its 100th anniversary during the 2009-2010 academic year with a Centennial celebration centered on the theme, "Shared Faith. Bold Vision. Enduring Promise."[10]


Messiah College offers more than 80 majors and pre-professional programs[11] in four schools: the School of the Arts; the School of Business, Education and Social Sciences; the School of Science, Engineering and Health; and the School of the Humanities. In addition to major requirements, there is a general education curriculum, required for all students. General education requirements include but are not limited to theology courses, a philosophy, a literature, a social science, an art course, a world views class, physical education courses, first year and senior seminars, and a comprehensive first-year seminar course added in 2009 called Created and Called for Community.

Messiah College awards Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in the liberal and applied arts and sciences. Specialized programs include extensive off-campus study, individualized majors, independent study, service-learning, internships, allied health programs in partnership with other institutions[12] and a College Honors Program.[7] Some majors allow students to graduate one or two semesters early, depending on their particular field of study.[13]

In 2009, Messiah College launched its first graduate programs, and currently offers online master's programs in art education, conducting, counseling, education, higher education and youth and young adult ministries.[14]

Messiah College has been named by U.S. News and World Report as the #4 "Best Regional College" in the North and has been ranked in the top 10 in its region as a "Great School at a Great Price".[15] Messiah College is also recognized by the Princeton Review as a "Best College in the Northeast."[16]

Messiah College students have earned prestigious academic national and international post-graduate honors and fellowships such as Rhodes, Fulbright, Carnegie, Truman and Boren scholarships.[17] Joy Yu-Ho Wang became Messiah College's first Rhodes Scholar in 1997.[18]

Messiah College uses the 4-1-3 academic calendar system where the academic year is divided into Fall, January, and Spring Terms. The January Term, or J-Term, is a three-and-a-half-week period where students can choose to take one or two courses intensively, participate in a cross cultural study program, sign up for the popular Skiing and Snowboarding class, or simply stay home for an extended vacation.

In 1963 the College was accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.[19] Academic programs in engineering, dietetics, nursing, athletic training, music, social work, education, theater, and business are each accredited by professional associations.

International Programs

Messiah College has a nationally recognized network of programs through which students can study abroad. In 2010, Messiah College was ranked 7th among all undergraduate institutions in the country that send students to study abroad by the Institute for International Education's Open Doors Report. In 2009-2010, more than 400 Messiah students earned academic credit by studying abroad in more than 40 different countries.[20]

Cross-cultural courses are offered during January and May terms. These trips are led by faculty members and students earn credits by participating in an intense three-week study of a particular geographic region or culture. Messiah College students can also participate in the International Business Institute (IBI),[21] an overseas program in international economics and business designed to give students an opportunity to integrate academic study with international field experience. Students who travel with IBI during the summer visit corporate headquarters, manufacturing plants, and government and international agencies in Europe, India, and China. Students can also work in a variety of fields—including the arts, politics, and health care—through an international internship partnership with Arcadia University. Students also have the opportunity to design their own international internship at the location of their choice in partnership with the College's Internship Center.[22]


The Falcon

The Messiah College Falcons compete in NCAA Division III athletics with 22 different intercollegiate athletic teams. Messiah is a member of the Middle Atlantic Conference.[23] The Messiah College mascot is the Falcon, which was given the name Fandango in 2006.[24]

Messiah's men's and women's soccer teams both won the NCAA Division III National Championship in 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2012. The Falcons men's soccer team are ten-time national champions, winning the NCAA Men's Division III Soccer Championship in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013.[25] Messiah's women's soccer team has won the NCAA Women's Division III Soccer Championship in 2005, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012.[26] Messiah College is the only college in the NCAA to win both the men's and women's soccer national championship in the same year, and they have achieved that distinction four times (in 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2012). In 2010, Messiah was ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the third best school in the nation for soccer fans.[27]

The women's field hockey team has appeared in the NCAA division III final four twelve times, making four of these appearances in the past five seasons.[28]

The Women's softball team won their first NCAA Division III national championship in 2009.[29]

In October 2009, USA Today ran a national front-page sports feature profiling Messiah College's success in bringing together the two aspects of its mission statement, "Pursuing Athletic Excellence. Developing Christian Character."[30]

Spiritual life

The Community Covenant

Students at Messiah College are required to sign a Community Covenant[31] upon entering. The document states that every person is created in the image of God, and that there are certain responsibilities of living in community that must also be assumed in relation to God, others, and his creation.

First and foremost, the Community Covenant affirms belief in God and the Bible. Specifically, the Community Covenant requires commitment to academic integrity, responsible decision making in light of Christian values, and balancing personal freedom with concern for others. Practically, the Covenant bans both on- and off-campus the use of illegal drugs, alcohol, and tobacco as well as gambling, profanity, "occult practices", sexual intercourse outside of marriage, and homosexual behavior. It also prescribes the avoidance of drunkenness, stealing, and dishonesty. The Covenant also prohibits certain attitudes, such as greed, lust, and jealousy, but allows that these attributes are typically expressed less outwardly.

The text of the Covenant can be found on Messiah College's website.

Homosexuality Policy Controversy

The college's stance on homosexuality, as stated in the Community Covenant, has been a source of contention and controversy amongst the student body, administration, and alumni. A number of articles have been published concerning the issue in the college's student newspaper, the Swinging Bridge, as well as in local media.[32]

An alumni group, Inclusive Alumni, has formed in support of Isaiah Thomas, aiming at changing the college's policy.[33] Isaiah Thomas was a student who decided to transfer out of Messiah in May 2011, after claims of harassment by students and also a professor. He also claims he received a death threat via Facebook. The college followed up on his claims, but has refused to change its policy.

Related to this issue, Messiah College President Kim Phipps sent a statement to college employees and alumni that read in part, "There has been much attention given to Messiah's Community Covenant's stance on homosexual behavior in recent media accounts--some of it more accurate and contextual than others. However, an equally important part of our Community Covenant emphatically states the importance of each person, that individuals are to be valued and respected because all human beings are created in God’s image. In its May 10 editorial, The Patriot-News called Messiah’s goal on this issue 'admirable,' and notes that the College is 'trying to be a bridge between two parts of society who rarely even talk to one another, let alone have a meaningful conversation.'[34] My hope and prayer for the Messiah College community is that we will reflect the love of Christ to one another and to our neighbors even in the midst of difficult conversations and challenges."[35]


Undergraduate students at Messiah College are required to attend 14 chapel services each semester.[36]

The mission of Chapel is to be "a central expression of our identity as a community of Christians with a deep commitment to spiritual growth and academic excellence."[36] Chapels are intended to "nurture holistic Christian faith through worship that expresses our faith with a full range of contemporary and traditional form, teaching that connects God's Word and our world, and community building that affirms our common identity in Christ and celebrates our diversity."[37]

In addition to chapel services, Messiah College provides other opportunities for spiritual growth throughout students' college experience, including discipleship groups, ministry outreach teams, community service, mission trips and numerous other special programs such as "Powerhouse," a weekly student-led contemporary worship service.[38]

Student activities

Students at Messiah College can spend their free time playing in holistic education and enjoyable experience while enrolled at both Grantham and Philadelphia campuses. The S.G.A. also provides students with unique access towards influencing governance and overall institutional prerogatives.

Messiah College's Student Activities Board (SAB) is an executive organization that attempts to help students engage with popular culture by bringing different concerts, films, and other forms of entertainment to campus. In recent years, Messiah College has, through SAB, hosted such musicians and bands as Bob Dylan, Counting Crows, Katy Perry, Chiddy Bang, Fun., Jack's Mannequin, Ingrid Michaelson, Owl City, Brand New, Guster, Janelle Monáe, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Anberlin, Nickel Creek, White Rabbits, The Decemberists, Regina Spektor, Iron & Wine, M. Ward, The Low Anthem, Mates of State, Exit Clov, Feist, Wilco, Rosie Thomas, Copeland, mewithoutYou, Phantom Planet, Erin McKeown, Rilo Kiley, 4th Avenue Jones, Jason Mraz as well as Christian artists Relient K, Jeff Deyo, August Burns Red, Jars of Clay, Cross Movement, Matt Wertz and Out of Eden, among others. They also plan dances, coffeehouses, and other special activities (like outings, Broadway trips, and festivals) for students. SAB hosts a free concert series every Wednesday night, known as "B-sides", which is held in the Larsen Student Union building. Local, indie and up-and-coming bands and artists play every Wednesday night throughout the school year. These concerts are free not only to students, but to the public as well.


Messiah College has, over the years, accumulated a number of traditions. One of the oldest traditions is known as "creeking". This tradition started out as a way of congratulating male students who had recently gotten engaged. The student would be taken to the nearby Yellow Breeches Creek by his friends and thrown in. It is also common for people to be "creeked" on their birthdays.[39] The tradition has been extended to the female population.

The Compassion Forum

The Faith in Public Life. John McCain was offered an invitation to participate in the event, but declined the invitation, citing a schedule conflict.

Messiah College in popular culture

Following the US Justice Department Scandal in which Messiah College alumna Monica Goodling was intimately involved, several members of the media ridiculed Messiah College. Jon Stewart on The Daily Show referred to Messiah as a school "where people have faith that they'll receive a quality education, and yet somehow it never arrives,"[42] and "that everyone in the God business knows is a 'savior school'."[43] Bill Maher focused his satirical criticism on Goodling's legal education at Regent University, but also mocked Messiah, calling it "the home of the Fighting Christies."[44]



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  4. ^ Sider, E. Morris. Messiah College: A History. Evangel Press (Nappanee, IN: 1984).
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  6. ^ Songe, Alice. American Universities and Colleges: A Dictionary of Name Changes. Scarecrow Press (Metuchen, NJ: 1978), p. 121.
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  39. ^ "The Bridge -- Yellow Breeches"
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  41. ^ The Compassion Forum at Messiah College
  42. ^ , July 30, 2008: Illegally BlondeThe Daily Show
  43. ^ , May 24, 2007: As Goodling As It GetsThe Daily Show
  44. ^
  45. ^ Eurasian College: "Visiting Lecturers- Jay Smith" retrieved March 15, 2015
  46. ^ Christianity Today: "Unapologetic Apologist - Jay Smith confronts Muslim fundamentalists with fundamentalist fervor" by Deann Alford June 13, 2008

External links

  • Messiah College official website
  • Messiah College official athletics website
  • At Messiah College, glory comes on and off the field - USA Today
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