1893: After more than a year of planning by the Western Advent Christian Publication Association, Mendota Seminary opened on January 9 in Mendota, Illinois. Just six months later, the name was changed to Mendota College. Mendota College departments were Preparatory, Academical, Musical, Art and Bible Training, and Commercial (stenography and typewriting). Bible Training courses were initially designed for ministers, with a goal of enriching both their pastoral and professional efforts. The seminary opened with three students and grew to 31 students at the end of Winter Term. J. Oscar Campbell served as the first president of the institution.
1894: Advent Christian women created the Helper’s Union, an organization designed to contribute food, linens, rugs, furniture, and funds for decorating as needed. The group was also influential in raising funds for Mendota College’s Bible Training Department.
1911: Under President Orrin Roe Jenks, the groundbreaking for a new campus in Aurora took place on May 31, 1911. The move was mutually beneficial: citizens of Aurora desired a college to enrich the culture and stature of the city, and college administrators sought to relocate to a more populated area. The institution changed its name and formally incorporated as Aurora College in October.
1912: Classes at Aurora College began on April 4. The campus consisted of Eckhart Hall (classrooms). It was the only building that was fully functioning at that time; Wilkinson Hall (men’s dorm) and Davis Hall (women’s dorm) were completed soon after. The Tin Can Jimmie Club was formed to raise funds for the college endowment.
1912: The Aurora College seal was designed by B.J. Dean, president of Mendota College, and used for the first time on the college catalog issued in 1910. When the college moved to Aurora in 1912 the wording on the seal was changed to the present form. The book, scroll, and torch, which appear in the seal, symbolize the meaning of the Latin inscription which translates to, “The wise man treasures knowledge.”
1929: The football team was the first to be called the Spartans in fall 1929. They played on Patterson Field, which was built by students five years earlier. The first Spartans had a season record of four wins and three losses.
1930: The Illinois Department of Public Instruction authorized Aurora College to train elementary and secondary school teachers, marking the beginning of one of the institution’s most successful and longest-standing academic programs.
1947: In an effort to serve veterans returning from World War II, Aurora College introduced an innovative evening program. The flexible schedules allowed former soldiers to earn a college degree while working full-time jobs.
1955: Campus facilities took a major step forward with the construction of the addition to Davis and Memorial Halls, both of which were dedicated on December 3, 1955. This was soon followed by the construction and dedication of Jenks Hall in 1957. These new spaces allowed the university to meet the growing demand for on-campus housing.
1959: A new home for baseball, Snell Field, was dedicated in memory of Coach Percy Snell, the first coach hired by Aurora College. Snell had been the sole coach for all Athletics programs for many years. The field hosted baseball games on the southwest corner of campus for nearly 50 years.
1970: Two new buildings were dedicated: Watkins Hall, a residence hall, and Alumni Hall, which served as the home for the college’s Athletics programs. Alumni Hall replaced the long-standing Quonset huts that had been used as the gymnasium.
1972: The last bachelor’s degree in theology was awarded, reflecting Aurora College’s independence from any particular religious denomination. Faith and service programs continued to flourish at the college.
Recognizing the importance of the arts, the college opened Perry Theatre opened, adjacent to Stephens Hall.
Graduate programs in Education and Business were offered.
The football program was reinstated after a 32-year hiatus.
1992: Aurora University entered into an affiliation agreement with George Williams College to continue the legacy of its programs and the YMCA College Camp at the Williams Bay, Wisconsin, location. It soon encompassed the School of Education, the School of Physical Education and Recreation Administration, and the School of Social Work.
1997: The Williams Bay location of George Williams College began a period of expansion and renovation, with the acquisition of 91 additional acres of land and a number of enhancements to existing facilities.
2000: Rebecca L. Sherrick, Ph.D., was inaugurated as the 13th president of Aurora University, with a promise to “put students first.”
Aurora University and George Williams College formally merged.
The university launched the Doctor of Education degree, the first doctoral program in the institution’s history.
The Wackerlin Center for Faith and Action was established, thanks to a generous bequest from Helena Zentmyer Wackerlin, a 1918 alumna of Aurora College. The center engages students in both religious reflection and service to people in need.
The university established the Celebrating Arts and Ideas series, a cultural enrichment program for the enjoyment of Fox River Valley community members.
Aurora University became a charter member of the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference.
The Roger and Marilyn Parolini Music Center was renovated with the support of a generous gift from alumni Roger and Marilyn Parolini.
At George Williams College, the new Ferro Pavilion was completed in time for the eighth season of Music by the Lake.
The first AU Honors Program students graduated. The program had been established four years earlier to offer opportunities for intellectually curious and highly motivated students to enhance their college experience.
Academic programs grew as well, with new offerings leading to the Master of Science in Nursing, the Master of Special Education, and the Doctor of Social Work degrees.
In Crimi Auditorium, the new pipe organ, Opus 119, was installed, heralding the importance of the arts at the university.
AU Online begins offering undergraduate and graduate programs.
A new residence hall, Centennial Hall, located between the Institute for Collaboration and Watkins Hall, welcomed students for the spring semester.
2014: The Aurora University Orchard Center — a facility four miles from the Aurora main campus that includes classrooms, a computer lab, a lounge, and both faculty and administrative offices — opened to accommodate demand for the university’s undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree completion programs.
The John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School on the Aurora campus opened, serving third- through eighth-grade students from area school districts.
Men’s hockey made its debut as an NCAA Division III team in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association. The team played two previous seasons in the American Collegiate Hockey Association.
Libby’s Place food pantry and Spartan Attic clothes closet opened.
Women’s bowling was added to Spartan Athletics programs.
Aurora University created the Junior Mentoring Program to help students identify their career and life goals.
The Smithsonian Institution awards the Schingoethe Center affiliate status.
Construction began on Spartan Athletic Park, an 80-acre facility that includes tournament-quality softball, lacrosse, soccer, and football competition spaces with plans for additional sports facilities.
Men’s volleyball and women’s hockey made their debut.
The Ingalls Building, an icon of the George Williams College location since 1925, was transformed into the Chapel.
The Spartan football team won the NACC championship.
Students, alumni, faculty, and staff concluded a yearlong celebration in honor of Aurora University’s 125th birthday from the founding of Mendota College.
Students enjoyed new acoustically controlled band and vocal performance spaces in the expanded Roger and Marilyn Parolini Music Center.
Aurora University men’s and women’s wrestling programs began competition, becoming the 23rd and 24th collegiate sports at the school.
The Pathways program launched, helping students with autism spectrum disorder reach their potential in their studies and in their careers.
The newly constructed Kimberly and James Hill Center for Student Success opened. The center is a place where students receive guidance and inspiration to discover their path in work and life.