College History

Dordt is infused with the energy and excitement of an institution that is still young and the confidence of an institution that is already well-established. Through God's blessing and the hard work of his servants dedicated to Christian higher education, Dordt has grown from the small beginnings of five faculty members, 35 students, and one building, to a vibrant institution of 80 faculty and approximately 1,500 students living and learning on a modern, well-equipped 150-acre campus.

Dordt University began in 1953 as Midwest Christian Junior College. The impetus for a new college was primarily the need for qualified teachers for Christian day schools in the area. When doors opened in 1955, the 35 students and five faculty members held classes in a new four-classroom building set on a former mink farm and surrounded by fields of crops.

Around the time the institution became a four-year college, its name was changed to Dordt College in honor of the historic Reformed synod held in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, in 1618-1619, a synod which emphasized the sovereignty of God through his electing grace. On May 13, 2019, its name changed to Dordt University to reflect our mission fit, academic excellence, and global footprint.

Over the past six decades, Dordt's remarkable growth in size, offerings, and reputation has led us to exclaim in humble amazement, "What hath God wrought!" The college's first four-year B.A. degrees were awarded to a graduating class of 58 in 1965. The college grew rapidly in the '60s and '70s, with enrollment climbing above 1,200. During this time the number of faculty grew as well; many faculty members, intending to teach here only a few years, became thoroughly committed to the college mission and remained for their entire careers.

Although the initial academic emphasis was on teacher education, Dordt has greatly expanded its offerings to include programs in such diverse areas as agriculture, nursing, engineering, social work, criminal justice, biotechnology, construction management, international business, and theater management. Dordt is not only preparing students to serve in a wide variety of careers and occupations, but also to understand that those fields are under God's sovereign care and important in his kingdom.

The three former 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 of Dordt College." Dr. J.B. Hulst, a founder and early dean of students, was as ardently committed to that vision as his predecessor and supervised the development of a strategic plan for the future of the college, titled "Renewing the Vision." Dr. Carl E. Zylstra, the first non-founder president, presented as his inaugural theme in 1996 "Living the Vision," urging faculty and students to make the continuing educational vision concrete in their teaching, learning, and living. Dr. Erik Hoekstra began his presidency in 2012, promising to continue Dordt's mission of working toward Christ-centered renewal in all areas of life.