College to University – A Historical Perspective

The plan to transform Heidelberg College into Heidelberg University isn't new. In fact, it happened once before — more than a century ago.

When Heidelberg was founded in 1850, it was dubbed a college, and remained that way for almost 40 years. But in 1889, that distinction changed when the Rev. John Kost — the chancellor of the University of Florida and a powerful minister affiliated with the Methodist Protestant Church — journeyed to Heidelberg with the offer of a substantial gift based on one condition.

Since the mid 1880s, Heidelberg had been working to establish a museum for its growing array of specimens, and Dr. Kost was offering to donate his collection, valued at $50,000, as a memorial to his late son, John Kost Jr. In exchange, Kost asked President George Williard to have Heidelberg's status as a college changed to that of a university. The Board of Trustees granted Kost's request at a special meeting on Sept. 10, 1889, when Heidelberg College officially became Heidelberg University.

It remained that way until Oct. 29, 1926, when Heidelberg again returned to its "college" status.

Today, Heidelberg College is preparing to return to a university. This time, however, the name change isn't at the insistence of any one individual. This time, “university” more accurately represents what Heidelberg has become, and will provide a competitive edge in recruiting students at home and abroad.