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UM-Related Education and the Transformation of U.S. Higher Education

Melanie Overton
February 2, 2012

It is fascinating to learn how educational systems have emerged and the roles they play in different countries and regions. Since joining the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry six months ago, I have been struck by The United Methodist Church’s role in the development of the educational system of which I am a product. The Church has played a substantive role in transforming higher education in the United States. I offer the following timeline to celebrate the work God has done and is doing through faithful individuals and institutions within The United Methodist Church!

1780s: Education for All - Establishment of the earliest frontier colleges not for the elite, but “…to give the key of knowledge in a general way to your children, and those of the poor in the vicinity of your small towns and villages”

1836: Empowering Women - Opening of the first college to grant degrees to women in the United States (Wesleyan College)

1860s: Scholarships and Loans - Initiation of programs of scholarships and loans to support United Methodist students in pursuing higher education

1866: Freedman’s Aid Society - Founding of the Freedman’s Aid Society to address the vocation, educational, and religious needs of newly-freed slaves

1892: University Senate - University Senate founded as the first accrediting agency in the United States to address concerns about educational quality

1913: 1st Mission School - Creation of the first pre-collegiate mission school by a Methodist laywoman acting through the Women’s Missionary Society (Lydia Patterson Institute)

1913: 1st Campus Ministry - Establishment of the first Wesley Foundation to provide a United Methodist presence at public colleges and universities (University of Illinois)

1960s: EIIA Consortium - EIIA insurance consortium created to facilitate survival of institutions, particularly Historically Black Colleges and Universities, unable to obtain affordable, high-quality insurance

1964: Scholarships - United Methodist Higher Education Foundation was created with the initial goal of raising $50 - $100 million to provide scholarships for Methodist students attending Methodist institutions

1972: UMC Social Principles - Adoption of Social Principles, which include, “We believe that every person has the right to education,” by The United Methodist Church

1972: Black College Fund - Establishment of the Black College Fund to minister to those underserved by the U.S. system of higher education

1976: HANA Scholars - Establishment of the HANA Scholars program to assist Hispanic, Asian, Native American and Pacific Islander students

2000: Continued Commitment to Excellence - Council of Bishops, National Association of Schools and Colleges of The United Methodist Church, and General Board of Higher Education and Ministry produce covenant celebrating 250 years of commitment to church-related education and pledging to continue mutual support

2011: Continued Connection - The UMC maintains largest non-Catholic system of higher education and largest system of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the United States



Melanie B. Overton, Ed.D.
Assistant General Secretary – Schools, Colleges, and Universities

Follow me on Twitter:  @MelanieOverton