Our History

Historical Eckhart Hall

Aurora University traces its origins to the 1893 founding of Mendota College in Illinois and the Western Secretarial Institute in Wisconsin, the two organizations that matured into Aurora College and George Williams College, respectively.

Mendota College was established initially as a seminary to prepare graduates for ministry, but it soon adopted a broader mission, moving in 1912 to a new campus in the nearby community of Aurora. With this change came a different name, Aurora College, and a growing enrollment. When World War II ended, the campus population swelled again as veterans enrolled in the college’s innovative evening degree program. The 1970s and 1980s saw an expansion of curricular offerings in a number of professional fields and the awarding of advanced degrees in selected disciplines. These changes culminated in the 1985 decision to rechristen the institution Aurora University.

The roots of George Williams College run deep in the YMCA movement of the 19th century. In 1884, leaders from America’s YMCAs gathered on the shores of Geneva Lake in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, to attend a summer training program. Two years later, the camp was incorporated, and the first parcel of the current Williams Bay campus was purchased. Since that time, “college camp” has been a source of inspiration, recreation, education, and renewal for thousands of guests and students.

In 1992, Aurora University and George Williams affiliated. A merger was completed eight years later. Today the institution operates in Aurora, Illinois, and Williams Bay, Wisconsin, as well as through AU Online. The university also offers undergraduate degree completion programs in social work, nursing, and elementary education at the University Center at McHenry County College in Woodstock, Illinois.

For more history highlights: