Olivet Nazarene University, a denominational university in the Wesleyan tradition, exists to provide a university-level liberal arts ”Education With a Christian Purpose.” Our mission is to provide high-quality academic instruction for the purpose of personal development, career and professional readiness, and the preparation of individuals for lives of service to God and humanity. ”We seek the strongest scholarship and the deepest piety, knowing that they are thoroughly compatible (and) … a Christian environment … where not only knowledge but character is sought.” (Quotation from the Olivet University Catalog, 1915)
This mission statement clearly identifies Olivet as a university that seeks to help students integrate faith and learning. It is this Christian commitment that adds wisdom to learning. While the mission permeates all that is done at Olivet, it is most fully realized in the academic arena. Olivet seeks to foster and maintain a high commitment to academic excellence. The University affirms that all truth is God’s truth and, therefore, cannot be segmented into secular and non-secular categories and departments. The teaching faculty of the University are men and women who possess the highest academic credentials, a passion and gift for teaching, and a personal vibrant faith. As a teaching university, Olivet is designed to provide close teacher-student contact. Under the guidance of professors and counselors, students are assisted in completing the general education requirements of the University and in choosing a major field of study. Academic endeavors and experiences beyond the classroom are encouraged and facilitated in a variety of ways, including the several cooperative programs provided by the Council for Christian College and Universities, headquartered in Washington, D.C. These programs are both national and international in nature. In addition to the traditional undergraduate liberal arts programs, Olivet offers graduate programs in religion, education, business, and nursing. There is also a nontraditional degree-completion program that allows working adults to complete their baccalaureate degree online. Along with this commitment to learning, Olivet exists as a community where faculty, staff, administrators, and students share a common faith. Although the majority of Olivet’s undergraduate students are from the Church of the Nazarene, they are joined by hundreds of other students from more than 40 denominations. Campus life promotes the development of Christian character and grace and provides avenues of service to God, the community, and the world at large. The Olivet environment and culture are positive, challenging, and redemptive.
Statement of Faith
Olivet Nazarene University recognizes that there is a body of knowledge with which the humanities, the natural sciences, the social sciences, theology, and professional studies are to be differently but compatibly concerned. As an educational enterprise of the Church of the Nazarene, we pursue truth in order to glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: praying for the coming of the Spirit; remembering the promise of Scripture and tradition; keeping our hearts faithfully attuned to the voice of God; and being thoughtfully, acutely, and critically engaged.
We endeavor to foster the disciplines of scholarship and Christian spirituality. We seek in all of our intellectual labors to be true to the academic and theological traditions of which we are a part. We weave together the various strands of our educational labors on a vision of the Church as a corporate holy life, a life of loving devotion to God and of loving mission to the world that God so loves.
We emphasize the Arminian-Wesleyan tradition, which both acknowledges the devastation of sin and depravity on every aspect of human life and history and hopes in the transforming work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to sanctify the human heart, soul, mind, and strength to open history to the promise of the coming of Jesus Christ. As an indication of the commitment of Olivet Nazarene University to the historic Christian position, the University affirms a statement of faith that defines its doctrinal convictions as follows:
- That there is one God - the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;
- That the Old Testament and the New Testament Scriptures, given by plenary inspiration, contain all truth necessary to faith and Christian living;
- That humanity is born with a fallen nature and is, therefore, inclined to evil, and that continually;
- That the finally impenitent are hopelessly and eternally lost;
- That the atonement through Jesus Christ is for the whole human race, and that whosoever repents and believes in the Lord Jesus Christ is justified and regenerated and saved from the dominion of sin;
- That believers are to be sanctified wholly, subsequent to regeneration, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ;
- That the Holy Spirit bears witness to the new birth, and also to the entire sanctification of believers; and
- That our Lord will return, the dead will be raised, and the final judgment will take place.
Statement of Objectives
Olivet Nazarene University is an institution of higher education, affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene, serving those who share her values and priorities. The University seeks to communicate effectively the historical and cultural heritage and to provide opportunity for liberal arts education in a Christian academic community. The University articulates its objectives in three distinct and clearly defined dimensions:
General Education Dimension
To provide general education experiences so that an educated person may
- Be acquainted with both cognitive and affective dimensions of Christianity;
- Be able to think, write, and speak clearly and effectively;
- Possess understanding of the dynamic processes within and between persons and the larger systems of which each person and group are a part;
- Be exposed to an international culture;
- Be able to understand the procedures of science and the impact of scientific issues on daily living;
- Have an informed acquaintance with the aesthetic experience of literature and the arts; and
- Develop attitudes and philosophies that increase personal health.
To provide opportunity for concentration in chosen areas of learning, including
- An academic specialization equipping the individual for meaningful and productive living;
- Opportunities for basic and advanced preparation in several areas of Christian ministry, lay leadership, and churchmanship;
- Programs leading to further graduate or professional studies; and
- Professional education in selected areas on the undergraduate and graduate levels.
To provide a Christian academic community atmosphere which is conducive to the implementation of the motto ”An Education With a Christian Purpose” through
- The development of a Christ-centered character in preparation for excellence in service and citizenship;
- An appreciation for the historical and theological heritage of the Church and the development of a sense of responsibility to the fulfillment of her mission;
- A commitment to the ethical ideals and standards of the Bible and the Church of the Nazarene;
- Active participation in social and political institutions of contemporary society;
- The development of personal and social poise, firm convictions, and consideration for the rights and feelings of others; and
- The fostering of learning how to relate the Christian faith to the problems of world concern.
Statement of Diversity
Because Olivet is a Christian university grounded in the liberal arts within the Wesleyan-holiness tradition, we value diversity and recognize that it enriches and deepens the educational experience, both in and out of the classroom and online. Students, faculty, and staff represent a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Thus, as we learn and work together, students prepare to live in an increasingly globalized world. Interacting with individuals who have different perspectives, represent various racial, ethnic, and geographic backgrounds, and hold differing viewpoints and positions increases our understanding of and appreciation for others. Therefore, the University actively seeks to recruit and retain students and mission-aligned faculty and staff who represent a variety of characteristics, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, age, socioeconomic background, disability, and geographic origin. We also commit to educating faculty, staff, and students to elevate cultural awareness, to reflect cultural diversity in our curriculum, and to foster an inclusive and hospitable campus environment.
History of the University
Olivet Nazarene University’s origins can be traced to the first decade of the 20th century and to the resolve of several families in east central Illinois who were committed to providing a Christian education for their children. In 1907, classes were begun in a Georgetown, Illinois, home. A year later, the founders acquired several acres of land in a nearby village named ”Olivet.” There, they constructed a modest building and added the secondary level of instruction. A liberal arts college followed in 1909, along with the first name for the fledgling, but ambitious, institution: Illinois Holiness University.
By 1912, the founders and trustees were aware of the school’s need for a wider constituency and offered to give their educational work to the Church of the Nazarene. The young denomination accepted the school with a pledge to support and promote its ministry of Christian higher education. That early commitment is still being perpetuated by the more than 700 Nazarene congregations throughout Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.
The school grew slowly during the next decade. There were several acting and short-term presidents; the campus of 19 acres contained only a few small buildings; the first yearbook, the Aurora, was published in 1914; a new school name followed in 1915: Olivet University; and the name was changed to Olivet College in 1923. Decades later, a devastating fire destroyed the main campus building in November 1939, prompting the newly elected president, A.L. Parrott, and the trustees to consider locating a new campus as an alternative to rebuilding at their rural site. They found and purchased the present campus in Bourbonnais in 1940 and moved the college in the summer of 1940. ”Nazarene” was added to the college’s name that same year.
At the time of the college’s move to Bourbonnais, the campus consisted of 42 acres that had been the site of St. Viator’s College from 1868 until it closed in 1938. Four of the buildings purchased then are still in use today.
A major milestone for Olivet occurred in 1939, when the University of Illinois formally recognized the school. The college catalogs of the 1940s reflected a school of liberal arts, a school of music, a school of religion, and a high school academy. In 1953, all areas of study were grouped into curricular divisions which remained the model for Olivet’s academic organization until 2005. Academic restructuring into colleges/schools was initiated in 2005.
Dr. Harold W. Reed, president from 1949 to 1975, led Olivet through a period of remarkable growth, including the construction of 20 major buildings to keep pace with increasing student enrollments.
Dr. Leslie Parrott Sr. continued this focus on campus expansion, development, and beautification during his 16-year tenure, as he led the campaign to elevate Olivet to university status. In 1986, the school’s name was changed to Olivet Nazarene University to reflect the diversity of academic programs and graduate studies.
Dr. John C. Bowling, president from 1991 to 2021, continued to lead the University in its growth, effective ministry, and pursuit of ”Education With a Christian Purpose,” with the construction of four major buildings that richly enhanced the student experience.
After assuming the presidency in 2021, Dr. Gregg A. Chenoweth has been leading the university in the development of a strategic plan to reaffirm the motto of “Education with a Christian Purpose.”
Location and Transportation Facilities
Olivet Nazarene University is located in the Village of Bourbonnais, Illinois, 50 minutes south of Chicago’s Loop. The campus is situated on U.S. 45 and 52 and state Route 102, and is near state Route 50 and Interstate 57. Kankakee County is served by Amtrak Rail Passenger Service and Greyhound Lines (bus). In addition, the Metra rail service is available just 25 minutes away in University Park, and takes riders throughout Northeastern Illinois, including downtown Chicago. River Valley Metro bus service now offers service to University Park, throughout the Kankakee-Bradley-Bourbonnais area, and Midway International Airport. Bus stops for Metro are conveniently located along the perimeters of the campus.
Olivet receives mail through the Bourbonnais Post Office. The basic mailing address is Olivet Nazarene University, One University Avenue, Bourbonnais, Illinois 60914-2345.
The population estimate of Kankakee County is 109,589, including 26,074 in Kankakee, 15,374 in Bradley and 19,432 in Bourbonnais.
The location provides Olivet students and faculty with many advantages. Students enrolling in Olivet have the opportunity of earning part of their expenses in the many business firms of Kankakee County. The nearness of the school to Chicago lends the cultural advantages of the large city, and classes make field trips to many points of interest.
Campus and Facilities
The Olivet campus of 1940 in Bourbonnais included 40 acres of land and six principal buildings, four of which are still in use today: Burke Administration Building (built in 1906); Chapman Hall, a residence hall for men (1906); Miller Business Center (1926); and Birchard Gymnasium (1926).
Olivet’s current park-like campus includes over 200 acres of contiguous land with 32 principal buildings. Academic buildings now in service include: Reed Hall of Science (1966); Strickler Planetarium (1966); Wisner Hall for Nursing (1971); Benner Library and Learning Resource Center (1975), which combined with the Memorial Library (1956); Larsen Fine Arts Center (1982); the Weber Center (2001); and the Sims Education Center (formerly Robert Frost Elementary School, purchased in 2016).
Residence halls, in addition to Chapman, are Williams Hall (1951), Nesbitt Hall (1959), Hills Hall (1962), McClain Hall (1967), Howe Hall (1967) and Parrott Hall (1970) and University Place, an apartment complex converted to campus housing in 2001. In addition, the Grand Apartments, Olde Oak Apartments, Stadium Apartments, and Stratford Apartments serve as housing adjacent to the campus.
Ludwig Center was completed in 1966 to house the student meal services, bookstore, post office, student offices, and student affairs offices.
Chalfant Auditorium for chapel, convocations, concerts, and varied activities was completed in 1963. Kelley Prayer Chapel (1980) was a joint venture of the school and Student Council.
Ward Football Field (and track) was finished in 1978. Snowbarger Athletic Park was opened in 1979. The Warming House and ice rink were finished in 1985. An athletic service center was added in 1987.
The Brodien Power Plant was rebuilt in 1969. The James Tripp Maintenance Facility was completed in 1988 near the WONU Radio Tower, which was erected in 1986.
The Leslie Parrott Convocation/Athletic Center was completed in 1990, connecting with Birchard Gymnasium and Chalfant Auditorium.
The Harlow E. Hopkins Alumni Center, dedicated in 1994, is adjacent to Burke Administration Building. The center, formerly known as Goodwin Hall, is an historic community home and is a focal point for alumni activities throughout the year.
A new Admissions Center was completed in 1999, and the Weber Center was completed in 2001.
The WONU Broadcast and Learning Center (Shine89.FM) and Fortin Villa property in Bourbonnais were added as campus facilities in 2004 and 2005. The Villa property now houses Olivet’s ROTC program and is used by the intramurals program and the Marching Tigers band and color guard.
In 2010 the Betty and Kenneth Hawkins Centennial Chapel was completed and an additional student residence complex, Stadium Place, was acquired. The initial stages of a new campus plan were implemented as well. The Douglas E. Perry Student Life and Recreation Center was completed in 2012.
Benner Library and Learning Resource Center
Benner Library and Learning Resource Center is strategically located in the center of Olivet’s campus. The library houses over 450,000 items in various formats, print and electronic. Copiers, printers, (including a 3D printer and poster printer), microfilm reader-printers, and fax services are available for a nominal fee.
Additional library services include computer labs, public access computers, wireless access, scan to email, and group study rooms. The Curriculum Center provides an interactive learning zone, children’s books, and materials for educators. Special delivery services are provided for off-campus students. As a participant in the Federal Depository program, the library receives U.S. government documents on a selective basis. Original documents pertaining to the history of Olivet and the Church of the Nazarene are collected by the University Archives. Selected items are uploaded to the Wesleyan Holiness Digital Library.
Using the library’s online interface, students and faculty may search the library’s collection from anywhere. Benner Library shares its online catalog with 83 other Illinois academic libraries through a statewide consortium. Members of the Olivet community can check their borrowing record, renew materials, and place online requests for items in the shared catalog.
Faculty and student scholarship are highlighted on a dedicated digital screen in the library Fishbowl, and in the institutional repository, Digital Commons @ Olivet. Selected work from the Art Department is displayed in the vending area.
Center for Academic Excellence
In 2018, the Center for Academic Excellence was dedicated in the Benner Library and Learning Resource Center. The Center for Academic Excellence (CAE) contributes to the academic success and career readiness of Olivet’s traditional, undergraduate student body through curricular and co-curricular programming. Such programming includes Accessibility and Disability Services, Supplemental Instruction, Supported Study Contracts, the Academic Coaching Center, the Writing Center, the Freshman Experience, Career Development, and Persistence. The CAE values student academic success, high standards of academic excellence, engagement in critical thinking, reading, and writing, and professional collaboration. Students who utilize programming offered by the CAE will build self confidence in their academic and career potential, increase their engagement in the learning process, grow in self-efficacy, perseverance, and resilience, and enhance their academic and professional skills. The Center for Academic Excellence can be found on the 2nd floor of Benner library.