Northwestern History

We celebrate God’s blessings on our 120 year journey as a higher education institution and over 70 years as a major media outlet.

Campus shot

Founded in 1902 as Northwestern Bible and Missionary Training School by Dr. William Bell Riley, Northwestern has since grown into a flourishing Christian university and media ministry. What started as a collection of classes at First Baptist Church in Minneapolis has grown into a robust, Christ-centered liberal arts university and dynamic media ministry that spans over 12 states.

The Rev. Billy Graham became Northwestern’s second president and launched KTIS radio. Despite gaining national prominence under Graham, the college temporarily closed in 1966 for restructuring and relocation. Guided by the leadership and faith of new president Dr. William Berntsen, the college – then Northwestern College – reopened in 1972 on the current St. Paul campus. With the move, the institution began to expand, seeing a steady addition of programs and buildings over the next several decades. In 1978, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools granted accreditation to the university.

Enrollment has steadily grown since Northwestern moved to its current location. In 1996, full-time enrollment was 1,250. Additional educational venues were developed, and the college launched its first graduate program in 2005 and has continued to expand with total enrollment currently over 3,400 students. In 2013, the institution, then Northwestern College, was rebranded to University of Northwestern-St. Paul (UNW) to better align the name with the organization’s academic offerings. Throughout its 120-year history, UNW has remained true to its mission of equipping students to grow intellectually and spiritually, to serve effectively in their professions, and to give God-honoring leadership in the home, church, community and world.

Over the course of 73 years, Northwestern Media has expanded to 81 outlets and a podcasting network, featuring contemporary Christian music and preaching, teaching, and compelling conversation to lead people to Christ and nurture believers in their spiritual growth. Over 1.4 million listen to Northwestern Media on a weekly basis.