A History of Eastern Mennonite University

EMU is a four-year liberal arts Christian college that emphasizes core values of service, community and peacebuilding.

Alumni serving and leading all over the world

The Christ-centered education we offer prepares students to build community and understanding wherever they go. Our cross-cultural program, one of the first in the nation, focuses on immersion in another culture, walking a mile in another person’s shoes, and has been a requirement for all students for decades.

More than 75% of faculty have lived and worked internationally, and they bring that experience to their classrooms. In the 1960s EMU began taking students into new cultures for transformative learning experiences. In 1982, cross-cultural study was formalized as a graduation requirement in the core curriculum.

It’s since become core to education at EMU. Indeed, nearly 20,000 EMU graduates are currently serving around the world as pastors, community leaders, fair-practice business owners, peacebuilders, health care providers, educators and more!

Whether you’re at our beautiful campus in Harrisonburg, Va., or at our thriving site in Lancaster, Pa., you’ll notice the focus on hospitality and community that is so important to EMU.

A place of learning and deepening of faith

Founded in 1917 by the Mennonite Church, one of the historic “peace” churches, EMU was shaped to be a place of learning and deepening of faith.

Over the years our school has grown from a small Bible academy into a fully accredited university with over 1,400 students in more than 35 undergraduate programs, seminary and five graduate programs.

In 1947 EMU’s first four-year degree program was approved by the state of Virginia, and regional accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools followed in 1959.

In 1948 Willis Johnson, a local African American, enrolled, making EMU one of the first Southern universities to admit a black student. Peggy Webb became the first African American graduate of EMU in 1954.

Seminary and graduate programs bloom

Eastern Mennonite Seminary

By 1965 a graduate theological school had evolved. Eastern Mennonite Seminary, which prepares students for pastoral ministry in the local congregation, offers an intensive, well-rounded program of biblical, theological, historical and practical studies.

The first graduate program (other than seminary) – counseling – began in 1993. It was followed by two others in the next two years – conflict transformation and education.

An adult degree completion program was established in 1994 and by 2010 nearly 1/3 of graduates were adult students completing their degrees.

A distinctive MBA program began in the fall of 1999 and the late 2000s began offering tracks focused on nonprofit entrepreneurial management and general stewardship.

In 2010, EMU first offered a masters in nursing leadership and management.

In August 1994 we finally got the call to the big game: our name changed from “college and seminary” to “university.”