AboutHistory of Concordia University, St. Paul

The History of Concordia

Concordia University, St. Paul was founded in 1893 to provide a Christian learning environment for young men preparing to enter the professional ministries of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Today, Concordia University continues to grow to meet the needs of students, the church and the community, while at the same time holding steadfast its historical values and mission.

Historical Timeline

1893 – 1920: A College is Born

CSP_History_Big4Concordia University, St. Paul was founded in 1893 to provide a Christian learning environment for young men preparing to enter the professional ministries of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Originally founded as Concordia High School, the first class takes up residence in temporary quarters on September 13, 1893. The following year, Concordia spends $22,000 to purchase land and buildings previously owned by the state training school for boys in a then remote location midway between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Concordia adds a fourth year of high school, then freshman and sophomore college years.

Enrollment growth leads to new construction, including the Gymnasium (converted in the 1950s to Graebner Memorial Chapel) and Recitation Hall (now Meyer Hall).

Concordia earns accreditation as a two-year college in 1921. Students complete their first two years at Concordia College then transfer to a Concordia senior college to finish their undergraduate degree.

1920 – 1940: Surviving the Great Depression

CSP_History_Big3Concordia feels the effects of the financial panic of 1929 and the Great Depression and by 1931 enrollment has dropped by more than 50 percent. The Synod considers closing the college for a few years to wait out the financial slump. Budgets are slashed, three residence halls stand empty, students work around campus without pay, and food donations from congregations help supplement the school’s food service. It was one of the most difficult eras in the young school’s history, but Concordia survives.

1941- 1946: The War Years

CSP_History_Big6As the United States entered World War II, Concordia’s fortunes shift in a more positive direction. Enrollment increases and Concordia is poised to respond to a shortage of pastors in The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Concordia celebrates its 50 year anniversary in 1943.

1947 – 1959: Post-War Boom

CSP_History_Big2Concordia welcomes its first class of female students in fall 1950, much to the delight of the young men on campus and the dismay of coeducational opponents who predict a significant drop in academic achievement. Despite the distraction, students excel in their studies.

The college begins granting Associate in Arts degrees in 1951 and earns North Central Association accreditation in 1959.

Concordia enters a period of robust expansion. Lutheran Memorial Center, a gymnasium / auditorium and memorial to the service and sacrifice of war veterans, is dedicated in 1953. Other buildings constructed in the 1950s include Buenger Memorial Library (1951), Centennial Hall (1957), Minnesota Hall (1958) and Walther Hall (1959). The original gymnasium is converted to Graebner Memorial Chapel.

1960 – 1984: Change and Growth

CSP_History_Big1Concordia expands its curriculum in 1962 to include a four-year college degree and awards its first Bachelor of Arts degrees two years later. By 1967, Concordia earns accreditation for its four-year liberal arts program and joins the Minnesota Private College Council.

Concordia Academy officially separates from the college and moves to its suburban location under its new name, Concordia Academy.

Rapid enrollment growth leads to another decade of expansion and new construction including the student residence, Wollaeger Hall, Arndt Science Hall, Poehler Administration Building, Buetow Music Center and the Student Union.

New construction growth includes the Hyatt Village residence hall (1984) and the Theatre Arts Center (1984).

Concordia responds to a growing need for minority teachers in the public schools by forming Metropolitan Teacher Education Program Selection (M-TEPS), which enrolls African-American and other under-represented groups in a program designed to supplement the curriculum with personal coaching, tutoring as needed and academic planning. The program was reformed in 1983 as the Southeast Asian Teacher (SEAT) Licensure Program, which serves Hmong and other minority populations in a similar fashion.

1985 – 1999: Pioneering Adult Learning

CSP_History_GangelhoffThe institution is renamed Concordia University, St. Paul in 1996 to better represent the curricular and organizational changes implemented over the previous decades. The university adopts the semester system and develops the mission and vision statements in use today.

Concordia becomes the first private college in Minnesota to offer an accelerated degree completion program for adult students in 1985. The cohort-based model is wildly popular with adult students who want to earn their undergraduate degree and keep their full-time jobs. A master’s degree option is added in 1990. Students in these cohort-based programs now represent more than half of the institution’s overall enrollment.

Concordia becomes the first private university in Minnesota to compete in the NCAA Division II. They bid farewell to the Concordia Comets nickname and introduced a new athletics identity, the Golden Bears. Critics feared Concordia would fare poorly against the larger schools in the highly competitive Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC), but the Golden Bears made a respectable showing and were soon bringing home conference and national championship honors.

New construction growth includes the Gangelhoff Center (1993).

2000 – 2010: The New Millennium

CSP_History_HOLSTHALLConcordia reformats its academic units into four colleges:
College of Arts and Science
College of Education
College of Vocation and Ministry
College of Business and Organizational Leadership

Concordia University is the first private, four-year institution in Minnesota to become a laptop campus, providing a laptop computer to all full-time traditional students. Soon wireless internet becomes available throughout campus.

Concordia dedicates a long-awaited and much needed Library Technology Center (2003), which includes seven classrooms and a popular adjacent lounge space and café. Construction is completed construction on the apartment-style Residence Life Center (2008), rededicated as Holst Hall in 2011.

After more than 50 years without its own football stadium, in 2009, Concordia played its first homecoming in Sea Foam Stadium. The lead gift to the project from alumnus Phil Fandrei of the Sea Foam Sales Company constructed a football/soccer field with artificial turf, running track and field event space, outdoor plaza, seating for 3,500 spectators and an inflatable dome for winter months.

Concordia University continues to grow to meet the needs of students, the church and the community, while at the same time holding steadfast its historical values and mission.

Presidential History

  • Rev. Dr. Brian Friedrich (2020- )
  • Rev. Dr. Tom Ries (2011 – 2019)
  • Rev. Dr. Robert Holst (1991 – 2011)
  • Dr. John Johnson (1989 – 1991)
  • Rev. Alan Harre (1984 – 1989)
  • Rev. Gerhardt Hyatt (1976 – 1984)
  • Rev. Harvey Stoegemoeller (1971 – 1976)
  • Rev. William Poehler (1946 – 1970)
  • Rev. Martin Graebner (1927 – 1946)
  • Rev. Theodore Buenger (1893 – 1927)

Did you know?

CSP is one of 10 institutions affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod throughout the United States that comprise the Concordia University System.