College History

You'll have a better experience on this website using a secure, up-to-date browser. Click here for information and instructions about updating.

Dordt University began in 1953 as Midwest Christian Junior College. At the time, there was a dearth of qualified Christian school teachers in the area, and the new college sought to fill that void. The college’s doors opened in 1955, with 35 enrolled students and five faculty members. The campus was comprised of a new four-classroom building; the property was set on a former mink farm and surrounded by fields of crops.

Once the institution became a four-year college, its name was changed to Dordt College in honor of the Synod of Dordt held in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, in 1618-19, a synod which emphasized the sovereignty of God through his electing grace.

Dordt’s first four-year B.A. degrees were awarded to a graduating class of 58 in 1965. The college grew rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s, with enrollment climbing above 1,200. Many faculty members, intending to teach here only a few years, became committed to the college mission and remained for their entire careers.

Although it began as a college for training up Christian school teachers, Dordt has expanded its academic offerings to include programs in agriculture, nursing, engineering, business, social work, criminal justice, construction management, international business, and more.

The four presidents of Dordt have provided leadership and commitment to a distinct vision for Christian higher education. Rev. B.J. Haan, who served as first president of the college until his retirement in 1982, worked tirelessly to lay the foundation that is today more clearly articulated in The Educational Task. Dr. J.B. Hulst, a founder and early dean of students, supervised the development of a strategic plan for the future of the college. Dr. Carl E. Zylstra, Dordt’s third president, urged faculty and students to make the continuing educational vision concrete in their teaching, learning, and living. Dr. Erik Hoekstra, who began his presidency in 2012, has championed Dordt’s mission statement and continues to adhere to Dordt’s distinct vision.

Over the years, Dordt continued to add and deepen academic and co-curricular programs that, as Dordt’s mission says, “equip students, alumni, and the broader community to work effectively toward Christ-centered renewal in all aspects of contemporary life.” In doing so, Dordt began to look and act more like a university than a college; the institution prioritized robust scholarship, excellence in teaching, and increased opportunities for students and faculty to collaborate. In addition to a diverse array of traditional undergraduate programs, Dordt’s academic offerings began to include online studies, graduate programs, and professional-technical associate degrees. Students came from more than 26 countries to study at Dordt, and alumni lived all over the world. In May 2018, the Board of Trustees and Dr. Erik Hoekstra announced that Dordt would become known as Dordt University. The transition to Dordt University officially took place on May 13, 2019.