Hamline University's Mission and History

Bringing opportunity and equity to all since 1854

Old Main with purple flowers

Mission statement

At Hamline University, our mission is to create a diverse and collaborative community of learners dedicated to the development of students' knowledge, values, and skills for successful lives of leadership, scholarship, and service.

Statement of purpose and belief

A history of firsts and a commitment to educate all

At Hamline University, we believe that everyone should have access to a quality education and that education is the most important vehicle to transform lives and communities. We bring together a community of learners who excel academically, are intellectually curious, and demonstrate determination, spirit, and drive. We were the first university in Minnesota and the first to award bachelor’s and master’s degrees to women and men. Today, we remain true to our beginnings, with nearly half of our students the first in their families to attend a four-year college.

A career-ready education

We provide students with an exceptional educational experience, rooted in the liberal arts, which prepares them for their careers and a lifetime of growing both in their fields and in fields they may not yet envision. Through our student-centered approach, students learn the essential skills that empower them to both excel in rapidly changing professions and contribute meaningfully to society. A Hamline education is a career-ready education that opens doors to wide-ranging opportunities for students to continue to build successful lives.

Building a better society through education

We believe in John Wesley’s motto of “doing all the good we can, in all the ways we can.” We are champions for justice and social change. We fuel our students’ desire to contribute to—and transform—society. We demonstrate that academic excellence goes hand in hand with improving the lives of others. We strive to ensure that our students graduate prepared to flourish in their communities ready to practice inclusivity and uphold equity. A Hamline education gives students the tools to change the world.

Hamline University: Known for firsts

Old Main Building with Hamline students in a historical image


Before there was a state of Minnesota, there was a university. Hamline University was founded in 1854 in what was then still the Territory of Minnesota, as the state’s first university and one of the first coeducational colleges in the United States. Hamline’s history of first continues to this day:

  • 1856: Hamline offers Minnesota’s first legal education curriculum. 
  • 1859: Hamline confers Minnesota’s first bachelor’s degrees—to women, Elizabeth and Emily Sorin.
  • 1863: Hamline confers Minnesota’s first master’s degrees—to women.
  • 1883: Minnesota’s first medical school established at Hamline.
  • 1895: Hamline hosts the first-ever intercollegiate basketball game.
  • 1922: Hamline confers its first bachelor’s degree to an African American — Anna Hedgeman.
  • 1924: The nation’s first exchange program established with Peking (Beijing) University. 
  • 1946: Fall registration passes 1,000 students for the first time, mainly due to veterans entering or beginning college after World War II.
  • 1969: Black students start PRIDE (Promoting Racial Identity, Dignity, and Equality), Hamline’s first organization for and by students of color. The organization is now known as the Black Student Collective.
  • 1984: Hamline implements the nation’s first computer literacy requirement for undergraduates.
  • 1994: Hamline offers Minnesota’s first advanced writing degree.
  • 1995: Hamline offers the Midwest’s first doctorate of public administration.
  • 2015: Dr. Fayneese Miller becomes Hamline’s first Black president. She is the second woman to hold the position.
  • 2017: Minnesota’s first Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Center established at Hamline. 
  • 2022: Hamline offers Minnesota's first bachelor's degrees in forensic science.
  • 2023: Hamline offers Minnesota's first Nature-Based Early Learning Certificate.

More about Hamline’s history