Historical Timeline

1890s 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 2020s

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.

mendota seminary

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.


1899: Mendota College received its own charter after broadening its programs into a traditional liberal arts curriculum.

1900: Mendota College played its first football game against East Side High School in Mendota, Illinois.

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.

original buildings

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.”

original seal

1913: The men’s basketball team completed its first season with a final record of eight wins and four losses.

1922: The first constitution of the Students’ Association of Aurora College was written. It established a Finance Committee, an Athletics Committee, and a Committee on Societies.

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.

1929 football

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.

davis expansion

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.

1962: Academic offerings were enriched with the opening of the Stephens Hall of Science and the Charles B. Phillips Library.

stephens hall

1967: A Carillon System was purchased, thanks to a generous gift from Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Col. Harland Sanders.

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.

alumni hall construction

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. 

1978: The women’s basketball team completed its first season. 

Recognizing the importance of the arts, the college opened Perry Theatre opened, adjacent to Stephens Hall.

1981: Two building additions were made: a new dining facility was attached to Alumni Hall, and a new laboratory wing was added to Stephens Hall.

dining hall

1982: Aurora College joined the NCAA. Since that time, the Spartans have appeared in more than 150 NCAA Division III tournaments.

1985: After decades of growth and expansion of academic programs, the institution changed its name from Aurora College to Aurora University.

Graduate programs in Education and Business were offered.

1986: George Williams College, located in Downers Grove, Illinois, closed its doors and transferred its Social Work and LERA (Leisure and Recreation Administration) programs to Aurora University.

The football program was reinstated after a 32-year hiatus. 

1989: Dunham Hall, which was funded by the largest single donation in the history of the school, from Martha (Dunham) Schingoethe, was dedicated.

dunham hall

1990: The Schingoethe Center for Native American Cultures, which houses the Schingoethe collection of more than 6,000 pieces of Native American arts, artifacts, and related materials, opened. 

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. 

George Williams College

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.

2001: Music by the Lake, a successful summer performing arts festival from the mid-20th century, was re-established at George Williams College. 

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.

helena wackerlin

2003: Aurora University received a $10 million federal grant to create the Institute for Collaboration. 

institute for collaboration

2006: As the university reclaimed its historically strong undergraduate identity, new programs were added in Art, Museum Studies, Religion, Special Education, and Theatre.

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. 

arts and ideas

2007: A hallmark of the undergraduate experience, the Crouse Center for Student Success was established to help students make the most of their time at the university.

2008: In Aurora, Vago Field was completed and hosted football and soccer games.

At George Williams College, the new Ferro Pavilion was completed in time for the eighth season of Music by the Lake.


2009: Aurora University began offering graduate courses at the Woodstock Center in Woodstock, Illinois.

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.

2010: An addition to Alumni Hall was built, providing new, state-of-the-art facilities for the Nursing and Social Work programs.

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. 


2011: Men’s lacrosse played its first varsity season in the Midwest Lacrosse Conference.

2012: Aurora University celebrated 100 years.

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.

new residence hall

2013: Women’s lacrosse began its first season as an NCAA team, playing in the Midwest Women’s Lacrosse Conference. 

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.

Men's Hockey

2015: The Hill Welcome Center and Schingoethe Center was built.

Libby’s Place food pantry and Spartan Attic clothes closet opened.

Women’s bowling was added to Spartan Athletics programs.

Welcome Center

2016: The renovated Lowrey Hall and the new Thomas R. and Shirley Klein Scott Library were dedicated at George Williams College. Lowrey houses a two-story library, science labs, and classrooms.

Aurora University created the Junior Mentoring Program to help students identify their career and life goals.

2017: George Williams College introduced its Nursing program.

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.

Spartan Athletic Park

2018: The dining facilities in Alumni Hall were renovated and expanded. The dining hall includes all new kitchen equipment, furniture, flooring, and a new raised patio. 

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.


2019: The first class of MBA and MPA Plus One students graduated, earning their master’s degree in one year following their undergraduate experience.

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. 

2020: On-campus parking was vastly improved with the addition of a new 500-space, four-story parking garage.

Students enjoyed new acoustically controlled band and vocal performance spaces in the expanded Roger and Marilyn Parolini Music Center.

2021: The natural landscape of the George Williams College lakefront was restored. 

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.

Center for Student Success