• Hamline History

    Hamline History

    Hamline University is Minnesota’s first university. Named in honor of Leonidas Lent Hamline, a Methodist bishop who donated the funds, Hamline's first home was in the town of Red Wing in what was then the Territory of Minnesota.  The first classes were held on the second floor of the village general store. Classes were in the second term when students moved into the Red Wing building in January 1856. Seventy-three students enrolled at Hamline in the opening year. Hamline graduated its first class in 1859: two sisters, Elizabeth A. Sorin and Emily R. Sorin, who were not only Hamline’s first graduates, but also the first graduates of any college or university in Minnesota.

    Three courses of study were open to candidates for a degree:

    • The "Classical Program": Greek, Latin, English language and literature, and mathematics
    • The "Scientific Course": included the studies of the classical program but substituted German for Greek and Latin;
    • The "Lady Baccalaureate of Arts": a separate course for women, omitting Greek and abridging Latin and mathematics while introducing French and German and the fine arts

    On July 6, 1869, the Red Wing location was closed. It is believed that the building was torn down in about 1872. The city of Red Wing has turned the site into a park: a plaque was dedicated on June 14, 1939 and placed on the Methodist Church, which stands across the street from the park.

    Building operations for the new University Hall began in 1873, but the depression had overtaken the planners and there were repeated postponements and delays. The doors finally opened on September 22, 1880, and Hamline’s history in Saint Paul began. The catalog for that year lists 113 students, with all but five of them preparatory students.

    Tragedy shocked the campus on February 7, 1883 when the new building, barely two and one-half years old, burned to the ground. With frontier fortitude, the plans for a new University Hall were prepared. Eleven months later the new structure, the present Old Main, was dedicated in the presence of a throng whose carriages were parked all over the campus.

    When World War I came in April of 1917, the students responded to the call to duty in a variety of ways, seeming to grasp the issues at stake and the parts that would be required of them in the war. Voluntary military drill for men continued and by May of 1917 seventy-five women were meeting four times a week to learn the principles of first aid.

    In the fall of 1918, a unit of the Students’ Army Training Corps was established at Hamline and almost every male student became an enlisted member. The Science Hall was used for military purposes with the basement becoming the mess hall, and the museum and several classrooms being marked for squad rooms and sleeping quarters. The campus became an army post; the bugle replaced the class bell. This all came to end with the signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918.

    Lynn Beyer '32 and Carlyle Beyer '37 were awarded Hamline University's third and fourth Rhodes Scholarships during this time. Prizes and awards that recognized and rewarded creative achievement in art, essays, music, oratory, playwriting, poetry, as well as the natural and social sciences, stimulated the creative life of the campus. From 1927 to 1932, Hamline organizations and faculty members participated in programs on WCCO radio and helped establish radio as a medium for artistic expression and the communication of ideas.

    A new venture was launched in 1940 when Hamline University and Asbury Methodist Hospital of Minneapolis established the Hamline-Asbury School of Nursing, offering a five-year program (later a four-year) leading to the degree of bachelor of science in nursing. Hamline was moving with a growing trend in the country to provide academic training for women preparing for careers in nursing.

    A flood of veterans entered or returned to college after World War II under the G.I. Bill of Rights. The first reached the campus in the fall of 1946, when registrations passed one thousand for the first time.

    The School of Nursing was discontinued in 1962 following the decision to concentrate resources and staff on the liberal arts program. There were other curriculum and instruction methodology changes during this time, including special programs like the Drew University Semester on the United Nations, the Critical Language Program of Princeton University, and a faculty and student exchange from with Xavier University in New Orleans.

    The Hamline Choir, under the direction of Robert Holliday '30, grew to become one of the great choirs of the country during the 1960s:

    • Appeared with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Music Orchestra
    • Performed at the National Cathedral in Washington and the Naval Academy in Annapolis.
    • Was selected by the Office of Cultural Presentations of the U.S. Department of State to tour Central and South America.

    Basketball teams coached by Joe Hutton won the N.A.A. national championships in 1949 and 1951, and they participated in games and tournaments from coast to coast during the holiday breaks.

    During the 1960s, Hamline began to address such matter as the racial diversity of its students and faculty, institutional racism, and the education of culturally disadvantaged students. Hamline felt the impact of deepening racial turmoil during this decade. In 1968, black students on campus founded PRIDE—Promoting Racial Identity, Dignity, and Equality. PRIDE focused on helping minority students deal with problems at a predominately white institution

    Hamline broke ground on a number of new buildings during this time:

    • Bush Memorial Library, named to honor long-time Hamline trustee and benefactor A. G. Bush, opened in the fall of 1971, a three-story, 83,210-square-foot building housing some 240,000 volumes.
    • Paul Giddens/Alumni Learning Center, linked to the Carnegie Library and named for the former university president, opened in October 1972, and contains classrooms, study areas, and laboratories.
    • Hamline School of Law, dedicated in October 1980 with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun delivering the dedication address. The school had received full accreditation from the American Bar Association two months earlier. The roots of the modern law school lay in the Midwestern School of Law, an upstart, unaccredited school that came searching for classroom space in February 1974.

    Hamline's academic life also changed during the 1970's. After nearly sixty years of lobbying, the university was finally awarded a Phi Beta Kappa chapter in 1973. Hamline initiated a Jewish Studies program in 1974, and summer sessions in June 1977 (with an enrollment of 375). In 1980 the university added computer literacy as a prerequisite for graduation.

    Coach Mary Jane Olson established the women's gymnastics program in 1975, which by 1993 had produced fifty-nine All-American gymnasts and more All-Americans than any other team in Division III athletics. In 1987, legendary basketball coach Joe Hutton was named to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame. He was the first college coach selected for the Helms Foundation Hall of Basketball Immortals in Los Angeles.

    Larry G. Osnes became the 18th president of Hamline University in 1988. During his time at Hamline, Osnes saw many building projects come to fruition, including the building of Walker Fieldhouse and the renovation of historic Old Main, and the dedication of the Bishop statue. As part of the 150th anniversary of Hamline's founding in 2004, President Osnes said in a statement announcing his retirement, “It seems altogether fitting that Minnesota's first university is ranked as Minnesota's top comprehensive university . . . [and] is entering this anniversary period with a strong reputation that should make us all feel proud." The past two plus decades has again been a period of growth for Hamline, including:

    Dr. Linda N. Hanson became Hamline University’s 19th president in July 2005. Under her leadership the university developed a comprehensive, university-wide strategic plan, Creating Pathways to Distinction, which describes Hamline’s academic vision and strategies to innovate in the tradition of liberal arts and professional education; to be dynamic and actively inclusive; to be locally engaged and globally connected; and to invest in the growth of persons. Upholding Hamline’s strong commitment to leadership and civic engagement, Dr. Hanson led the expansion of the university’s global partnerships and exchange programs. The university’s Middle East Civic Education Project was recognized for its outstanding efforts by the U.S. State Department. Hamline established a relationship with the United International College, the first liberal arts college in mainland China, and the Shanghai Institute for Foreign Trade. 

    • Launched the Creative Writing Programs at Hamline, offering students an undergraduate major in creative writing, a MFA in Writing, and a Low-Residency MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.
    • Launched the Hamline MBA program in 2008 and re-aligned undergraduate and graduate programs in a School of Business and School of Education.
    • Opened a West Metro location in Minneapolis which offers master’s level programs in business and education.
    • The Anderson University Center was built in 2012 and has become a prominent symbol of the university, dramatically expanding Hamline's capacity to accommodate and serve its community.
    • In 2015, President Hanson secured an agreement with William Mitchell School of Law to combine with our Hamline School of Law and create the new Mitchell Hamline School of Law.
    • Watch the 10 Year Retrospective video to learn more about all the ways that Hamline changed over the past decade.

    President Fayneese Miller joined Hamline in July 2015 and was officially installed as the university's 20th president in October of that year. At her historic installation ceremony she was welcomed by local, state, and national politicians; esteemed members of the national higher education community; and the entire Hamline community. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton declared “Hamline University President Dr. Fayneese Miller Day” and Senator Amy Klobuchar remarked, "Dr. Miller’s deep dedication to giving Pipers everything they need to succeed in college, and even more importantly in life, is a great fit for this university.” In her installation address "Preparing Leaders for Tomorrow," Dr. Miller outlined her emerging vision for Hamline. You can see video of those remarks and the other keynote speakers on Hamline's website

    Dr. Miller brings 30 years of academic and higher education leadership experience to her role at Hamline and has big plans for capitalizing on the university's rich history, values, and vision while embracing new trends in higher education. You can hear some of her many media interviews about Hamline and higher education on the president's website

    Today, Hamline offers eleven graduate degrees, including two doctoral degrees, and over 40 major areas of study for undergraduate students.