Bethel 150th logo

150 years of history. And we're just beginning.

In 1871, Bethel was founded in Chicago by John Alexis Edgren. He didn’t start with a building, or a classroom, or even a textbook. He started in the ashes of the Great Chicago fire, with nothing. One student, Christopher Silene, walked through the smoldering ruins to find Edgren and become Bethel’s first student. 

Today, 150 years from our humble beginnings, Bethel University is a thriving, faith-filled learning community that’s prepared over 50,000 graduates to renew minds, live out biblical truth, transform culture, and advance the gospel. And we won't be stopping any time soon. 

“As Bethel’s founder John Alexis Edgren once said, we ‘measure our performance by what God accomplishes through our graduates after they have been prepared at Bethel to go out into the world to serve.’ Today, we’re looking back on 150 years of equipping Bethel alumni to lead the way as truth-seekers, world-changers, and reconcilers. We’re excited to celebrate Bethel’s legacy this year, and we hope you’ll consider joining us at one or more of the events we have planned.” 

—President Ross Allen '84

Celebrate with us!

We'll be celebrating Bethel's 150th anniversary throughout the course of the 2021-2022 academic year. We hope you'll join us at the following events: 


Bethel at 150: Celebrating the Changing Arden Hills Campus | October 2, 2021

Visit the University Library during Homecoming to see a digital display of the development of Bethel’s Arden Hills campus. From its beginnings as an explosives storage site to the recent completion of the science addition, the campus has changed—and continues to change—to meet the needs of a growing university. 

Homecoming Hymn Sing | October 3, 2021

In commemoration of the university’s 150th anniversary, this year's Homecoming Hymn Sing event will feature a special selection of hymns through the decades led by department chair Jonathan Veenker and director of choral activities Merrin Guice Gill. 

"By Design (But Short on Money): The Aesthetic Philosophy Guiding Bethel's Campus Planning" | November 9, 2021

Did you know that in the 1960s, an aesthetic philosophy complete with guidelines for designing Bethel's campus was developed by Eugene Johnson, founder of the Art Department? Recently, art historian Wayne Roosa researched Gene's aesthetic guidelines and the history of their application (and misapplication) in the development of Bethel's campus. Learn more about his research in this Primetime at BU Library presentation.

Festival of Christmas | December 2-4, 2021

This year, we'll be celebrating 150 years of Bethel—and 65 years of Festival of Christmas! Tickets go on sale November 1. You won't want to miss this special event.  

150th Celebration | April 26, 2022

Join us at Bethel University’s 150th Celebration, a fundraising event to rejoice in all that God has accomplished through Bethel thus far and to help propel the university into all that God has planned.

Learn more about Bethel's 150 years

Timeline of Bethel's 3900 Campus

Since its beginnings as an explosives storage site, Bethel’s campus has changed—and continues to change—to meet the needs of a growing university.

Start Exploring

Presidential Reflections

Bethel President Ross Allen and President Emeritus Jay Barnes reflect on the history, mission, and vision of Bethel University.

Watch the Videos

Online Exhibits

Visit the Bethel University Library’s collection of online exhibits for more timelines and a closer look at Bethel’s early history.

Visit the Exhibits

Digital Archives

A collaborative work between the Digital Library and the History Center, these archives offer snapshot views of Bethel history.

Search the Archives

By Design (But Short on Money)

Learn more about the aesthetic philosophy that guided the design for Bethel's campus in this presentation from University Professor Emeritus and Art Historian Wayne Roosa.

View the Recording