Our history

On a bleak January day in 1890, a caravan of sleighs found their way to the crest of a hill near Lincoln. The group sought a central location for a Seventh-day Adventist college in the Midwest. Even though the weather didn’t give a warm welcome to the locating committee, generous incentives offered by the city of Lincoln swayed church leaders to choose the blustery Nebraska knoll over possible sites in several neighboring states. While visiting the future college site L.A. Hoopes, the locating committee secretary, planted his heel in the snow and exclaimed, “Here is where the southwest corner of the College Building should be.” His prophetic wisdom was fulfilled to the letter; it marked almost the exact spot where the administration building was later built, opening for classes on Sept. 30, 1891.

The community of College View, which grew up around Union College, is now a vibrant Lincoln neighborhood. Running roughly from 40th to 58th streets, College View is bordered by Van Dorn to the north and Pioneers Boulevard to the south.

The campus is no longer barren and empty. With more than 100 species of trees, Union College has become a site of the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum. Along with flourishing foliage, students also thrive in the Christian environment. As a Seventh-day Adventist institution, Union welcomes students of diverse backgrounds. The college’s Christian values, undergraduate emphasis, low student-teacher ratio and hands-on learning techniques provide students with unique opportunities for intellectual, personal and spiritual development.

Since the 1970s, the 100-foot clock tower on front campus has been a feature landmark in the Lincoln area, known for its chiming each Friday and Saturday evening to mark the college’s Sabbath observance. Before the current clock tower was built, the original College Building housed a clock tower that was a landmark in the community for many decades.

While the city of Lincoln has grown up around the college, Union has been reaching back to the community, strengthening the connection not just to the immediate neighborhood of College View, but to Lincoln as a whole.

Each fall, Union cancels classes just a week after they begin to send approximately 80 percent of the student body into Lincoln to help more than 50 social service agencies. On this day, students and employees give up a chance to sleep in so they can participate in Project Impact, the college’s student-run, annual community service day.

Paul Canny, former principal of Prescott Elementary School, has been impressed with the work of Union College volunteers. “This is an extraordinary program. The volunteers come out and don’t ask for anything. They just ask, “What can I do?” and they always do a good job,” Canny said.

Project Impact emerged from another community service program, Project BRUSH. This 10-year initiative was successfully completed when students painted more than 100 homes for elderly and disabled Lincoln residents before the college’s centennial celebration in 1991.

This heritage of service reflects more than just a one-day event for Union College. As part of the Lincoln community, Union students have always been committed to serving their local area. Through campus ministry opportunities, students regularly volunteer in hospitals and nursing homes, run programs for children in downtown Lincoln and help in local soup kitchens. Nursing and physician assistant students also provide a free foot clinic for community members.

Along with its strong traditions of service, Union College enjoys being a good neighbor to community members who utilize campus facilities. The Ortner Center includes guest rooms, conference facilities, an art gallery and the Union Market dining area. Larson Lifestyle Center health and fitness club provides a 25-meter swimming pool, year-round swimming lessons, water aerobic classes, a weight room and more.

Union College is an accredited, comprehensive institution of higher education. Enrolling students from around the world, Union offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 50 majors, a Master of Physician Assistants Studies and an honors program. The college is known for high medical school acceptance rates for pre-med graduates; high passing rates on nursing board exams; a specialized Teaching Learning Center offering support to students with learning differences; and a unique one-room school teaching lab for education majors. Union is also known for its strong student leadership with students planning, implementing and participating in a majority of the spiritual, social and community service programs.

Many who are familiar with Union College , whether as students, faculty, parents or campus guests, come to the same conclusion: Union’s warm and welcoming environment cannot be fully described, but must be personally experienced.

Photo of a horse drawn carriage in front of the old administration building

Students arrive with luggage during one of Union's earliest years in the nineteenth century.

Old photo of students in a classroom with a map of Scandanavia

Students gather for worship in the Scandinavian chapel. During Union's first three years, students from immigrant families could choose to study in English, German or Scandinavian languages.

In 1983, Union College became the first private institution in America to install computer terminals in every dorm room.

Photo of students and employees doing yard work with Jose Rojas during Project Impact.

A group of students and employees take a break during the 25th annual Project Impact in 2006. According to available data, Project Impact is the longest running collegiate service day in the nation, and also draws the greatest percentage of participation.