Beginning with only seven students in 1902, Northwestern Bible and Missionary School was founded. Follow our history through location and name changes through 1947 when Rev. Billy Graham becomes president.


1902 | On October 2, Northwestern Bible and Missionary Training School was founded at First Baptist Church, Minneapolis, with four women and three men. “A little fire kindleth a great matter.” (James 3:5)

1904 | First graduate Anna Gooch receives her diploma May 4 and sails for Burma Sept. 21 to serve under the Women’s American Baptist Missionary Society.

1905 | The school’s first purchased property at Sixth South (later known as Fireside and finally as Firetrap) is refurbished for offices, classrooms and a residence as the school outgrows the church space.

1914 | Dr. Riley envisions a 12-storied Tremont-Temple-style building for Bible teaching and evangelism in the heart of Minneapolis. He writes a promotional brochure and hires an architect, but WWI interrupts his dream.

1920 | In the greatest single step forward by the school, Lyman Court is purchased to accommodate the increasing enrollment after WWI. The three residence buildings house 225 students and are renamed Lyman, Russell, and Stimson Halls.

1922 | The growing number of married students necessitates the purchase of two more buildings at Yale and 13th Street. The school welcomes mature men who are highly motivated to complete their schooling and enter into Christian ministry.

1923 | Jackson Hall is completed with offices and classrooms.

1932 | Not your typical summer vacation as 150 students in summer mission work in nine states, enroll 8,200 young people in 204 Vacation Bible Schools and report 982 saved. Student evangelists hold 301 meetings with 93 conversions. Students sleep in tents, deserted shanties, and school houses. Food is cooked over the open campfire or an oil stove.

1935 | With 47 students, the Northwestern Theological Seminary opens its doors to equip men to fill larger pastorates whose congregations do not want to draw from liberal seminaries. Appeals to the school for pastors are multiplying faster than the growth of both the Bible School and Seminary.

1941 | The annual budget for the school is $80,000 with an enrollment of 514 and 17 faculty.

1944 | Northwestern Schools becomes the single name for the institution, which now includes the Bible School, the Theological Seminary and the four-year College of Liberal Arts.

1947 | Dr. Riley passes away at age 86. From his sickbed he points his finger at a young evangelist he has chosen to succeed him as president. “You are the man!” he proclaims to William Franklin Graham, better known as Billy Graham.