Grace Christian University began in 1939 as Milwaukee Bible Institute. Evening classes were held to train laymen and Sunday school teachers to serve God. In these early years, a dedicated group of evangelical pastors saw the need to prepare full-time Christian workers with particular concern for a dispensational theological understanding of the Bible and the distinct revelation given to the Apostle Paul. While the Institution has grown in many ways through the decades, its core values are rooted in the efforts of these early years.
Humanly speaking, Grace Christian University would not have come into existence without the visionary leadership of its first president, Reverend Charles F. Baker. The Institution was founded under his leadership, grew to a College and navigated the challenges of moving the campus from Milwaukee to Grand Rapids, MI. The Institution continued to grow as Dr. Jack T. Dean became president in 1967. Facilities and degree programs were expanded and the Institution was granted accreditation with the Association of American Bible Colleges. Dr. Samuel Vinton Jr. led the Institution from 1985 to 1989. During these years, the Institution began facilitating opportunities for international students to earn their degrees at Grace. Bruce Kemper became the fourth president in 1990. Coming from Pastoral Ministry, Bruce Kemper brought a strong emphasis of ministry to the Institution. Grace’s current president, Dr. Kenneth B. Kemper, was called to lead the Institution in 2003. President Kemper has brought renewed vision and energy to the Institution. From the beginning and continuing into this present year, God has called leaders who love His Word, love His people, and joyfully use the gifts God has given them at Grace Christian University.
From an evening school Bible Institute to the current University, academics at Grace is a story of growth and excellence. The early evening classes grew to a day school with a broader curriculum. Soon after the move to Grand Rapids, Grace achieved accreditation with the Association of American Bible Colleges (now the Association for Biblical Higher Education) in 1967. Regional accreditation was granted by the Higher Learning Commission in 1990. During the 1990s, Grace also established consortium agreements with Cornerstone University and Davenport University further opening degree options for students. In 2010, Grace began offering 100% online degrees expanding the reach of its educational opportunities far beyond the Grand Rapids campus. Graduate studies began in 2016 offering a Master of Arts in Ministry followed by a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership. The growth and excellence of academics at Grace is also seen in the example of its faculty in lifelong learning for whom the majority, rather than the exception, have earned terminal degrees. Grace now has 19 full-time faculty, 10 of whom hold doctorates or other terminal degrees.
While our most distinguished alumni of the Institution speak of the Milwaukee campus with fond memories, the majority of the alumni have only known the campus at 1011 Aldon Street SW. Although modified with additions, the original four 1961 buildings continue to serve the campus today. Additional buildings to the campus include: Bultema Memorial Library (1971, expanded in 2004), Enslow and Klein Apartments, Baker Chapel (1980), the Aldrich Athletic Center (1977), the Jack T. Dean Academic Center (2006), the Student Commons (2010) as well as the Dining Room and Kitchen renovation and expansion (2019). In 2022, Lord willing, Grace will open new student housing bringing room for an additional 116 students to campus. Further renovations and expansions are included in the Campus Master Plan to accommodate future growth.
What happens outside the classroom shapes students alongside their academic pursuits. Chapel continues with its strong history of corporate worship and instruction from God’s Word. Students put learning into action through Christian Ministry. Ministry trips, domestic and abroad, give students opportunities to experience other cultures and ministry contexts. Intercollegiate Athletics builds life learning through competition which has seen tremendous success with regional and national championships.
History in a Name
We can see a snapshot of the Institutional growth through the history of its name: Milwaukee Bible Institute, Milwaukee Bible College, Grace Bible College, Grace Christian University. Each year as new students come and graduates move on, we are reminded, with deep gratitude, of those who have come before us to humbly learn and serve God at Grace.