Messiah University
Former names
Messiah Bible School and Missionary Training Home (1909–1921)
Messiah Bible School (1921–1951)
Messiah College (1951–2020)[1]
MottoChrist Preeminent
TypePrivate university
Established1909; 115 years ago (1909)
Religious affiliation
Founded by Brethren in Christ Church; currently interdenominational
Academic affiliations
Christian College Consortium, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities
Endowment$133.8 million (2020)[2]
PresidentKim Phipps
ProvostAlison R. Noble (interim)
Academic staff
173 full-time

40°09′19″N 76°59′36″W / 40.1553°N 76.9933°W / 40.1553; -76.9933
Colors   Navy & white
Sporting affiliations
NCAA Division III, the Middle Atlantic Conferences
MascotFlex the Falcon

Messiah University is a private interdenominational evangelical Christian university in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.


Historic covered bridge on Messiah University campus

The school was founded as Messiah Bible School and Missionary Training Home in 1909 by the Brethren in Christ Church.[3] Originally located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in the home of Messiah's first president, Samuel Rogers (S.R.) Smith, a local businessman and leader in the Brethren in Christ Church, the school was moved to Grantham in 1911, following the construction of the campus' first building, Old Main. (The university now uses a Mechanicsburg mailing address, but its main campus is still located in Grantham.) The building was constructed on land donated by S.R. Smith, who had moved his home and various business interests outside of the city to allow for growth in the farmlands surrounding Grantham. In the early years, the school offered a high school curriculum and several Bible programs. By 1921, it had also become a junior college, making it the second junior college in Pennsylvania, and changed its name to Messiah Bible School.[4] The campus covers 375 acres.

By the 1950s, the school offered four-year college programs and accordingly in 1951 it changed its name to Messiah College.[5] Messiah discontinued its high school program in 1959 and added liberal arts programs during this period. It was accredited as a four-year college in 1963, and continued to expand its liberal arts programs.

In 1964, Messiah College took over the operations of Upland College in Upland, California, a Brethren in Christ Church college that had been operating since the 1920s. The Upland campus was closed and all operations were consolidated to Pennsylvania. Four years later, Messiah College opened its Philadelphia Campus in a partnership with Temple University. This campus closed at the end of the Spring 2014 semester.[6]

In 2002, Messiah College's Harrisburg Institute was founded in downtown Harrisburg. Its purpose was to serve as an academic and research center and connect students with the unique needs of an urban environment. The institute also provided housing for up to 25 students.[7]

Following the US Justice Department Scandal involving alumna Monica Goodling in 2007, several members of the media ridiculed Messiah College. Jon Stewart on The Daily Show referred to Messiah as a school "where people have faith that they'll receive a quality education, and yet somehow it never arrives,"[8] and "that everyone in the God business knows (Messiah) is a 'savior school'."[9] Bill Maher also mocked Messiah, calling it "the home of the Fighting Christies."[10]

Even though it is no longer owned by the Brethren in Christ Church, Messiah continues to be influenced by its traditions, primarily in the Anabaptist, but also the Radical Pietist and Wesleyan holiness movements.[11] Today, it is a nondenominational Christian college, with a faith base that is broadly evangelical and includes students and employees from a variety of denominations and Christian faith traditions.[12]

In July 2020, Messiah College became Messiah University.[13]

Photo of the Messiah University campus taken from above Kline Hall in the Fall of 2016

2008 Compassion Forum

The Compassion Forum was a question-and-answer session hosted by Messiah in which CNN commentators Jon Meacham and Campbell Brown as well as select members of the audience posed questions about Faith and Politics to Democratic political candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.[14] The forum took place on April 13, 2008, and was given live national coverage by CNN.[15] The event was organized by the religious organization Faith in Public Life. John McCain was invited to participate in the event but declined the invitation, citing a schedule conflict.[citation needed]


Messiah University offers more than 150 undergraduate majors, minors, concentrations, teaching certificates and pre-professional advising options [16] in two schools: the School of Arts, Culture and Society; and the School of Science, Engineering and Health. In addition to major requirements, there is a general education curriculum, required for all students. General education requirements include but are not limited to theology courses, a philosophy, a literature, a social science, an art course, a world views class, physical education courses, first year and senior seminars, and a comprehensive first-year seminar course added in 2009 called Created and Called for Community.

Messiah University awards Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in the liberal and applied arts and sciences. Specialized programs include extensive off-campus study, individualized majors, independent study, service-learning, internships, allied health programs in partnership with other institutions[17] and a College Honors Program.[12] Some majors allow students to graduate one or two semesters early, depending on their particular field of study.[18]

In 2009, Messiah University launched its first graduate programs, and currently offers master's programs. It also offers certificate programs along with an ACEND-accredited dietetic internship program.[19]

Messiah University students have earned academic honors and fellowships such as Rhodes, Fulbright, Carnegie, Truman and Boren scholarships.[20] Joy Yu-Ho Wang became Messiah University's first Rhodes Scholar in 1997.[21]

Messiah University's academic year is divided into Fall and Spring Terms. The January Term, or J-Term, was a three-and-a-half-week period where students could choose to take one course intensively, participate in a cross cultural study program or simply stay home for an extended vacation. J-Term was discontinued in 2021.

The university is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.[22] Academic programs in engineering, dietetics, nursing, athletic training, music, social work, education, theater, business, art and design, counseling and occupational therapy are each accredited by professional associations.

International programs

In 2015, the institution was ranked 25th among all undergraduate institutions in the country that send students to study abroad by the Institute for International Education's Open Doors Report. In 2014–2015, more than 500 Messiah students earned academic credit by studying abroad in more than 40 different countries.[23]

The Calvin and Janet High Center for Worship and Performing Arts is a 92,000-square-foot (8,500 m2) facility with classroom, office and rehearsal space for the School of the Arts. The centerpiece of the building is Parmer Hall, a performance hall complete with a choir loft and pipe organ. Also within the center is the High Foundation Recital Hall.

Cross-cultural courses are offered during May term. These trips are led by faculty members, and students earn credits by participating in an intense three-week study of a particular geographic region or culture. Messiah University students can also participate in the International Business Institute (IBI),[24] an overseas program in international economics and business designed to give students an opportunity to integrate academic study with international field experience. Students who travel with IBI during the summer visit corporate headquarters, manufacturing plants, and government and international agencies across Europe and Asia. Students can also work in a variety of fields through an international internship.[25]


The Messiah University Falcons compete in NCAA Division III athletics with 22 different intercollegiate athletic teams. Messiah is a member of the Middle Atlantic Conferences.[26] The Messiah University mascot is the Falcon, which was given the name Fandango in 2006.[27] Through the Senior Class Gift from the Class of 2017, the mascot changed his look and was renamed to Flex. Their local rival is Elizabethtown College.

Messiah's men's and women's soccer teams both won the NCAA Division III National Championship in 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2012. The Falcons men's soccer team are eleven-time national champions, winning the NCAA Men's Division III Soccer Championship in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2017.[28] Messiah's women's soccer team has won the NCAA Division III Women's Soccer Championship in 2005, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2019.[29] Messiah University is the only college in the NCAA to win both the men's and women's soccer national championship in the same year, and they have achieved that distinction four times (in 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2012). The men's and women's track & field teams have won 11 individual NCAA Division III National Championships. In 2010, Messiah was ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the third best school in the nation for soccer fans.[30]

The women's softball team won their first NCAA Division III national championship in 2009.[31]

The women's field hockey team won their first NCAA Division III National Championship in 2016.[32]

The men's wrestling team has won five individual NCAA Division III National Championships. The team finished as the national runner-up in 2016.

In 2017 Tim Moses became the first-ever NCAA Division III men's pole vaulter to earn All-American honors in every indoor and outdoor season (eight total).

Spiritual life

Community Covenant

Students at Messiah University are required to sign a Community Covenant[33] upon entering. The document states that every person is created in the image of God, and that there are certain responsibilities of living in community that must also be assumed in relation to God, others, and his creation.

The Community Covenant affirms belief in God and the Bible. The Covenant requires commitment to academic integrity, responsible decision making in light of Christian values, and balancing personal freedom with concern for others. The Covenant bans both on- and off-campus the use of illegal drugs, alcohol, and tobacco as well as gambling, profanity, "occult practices", sexual intercourse outside of marriage, and homosexual behavior. It also prescribes the avoidance of drunkenness, stealing, and dishonesty. The covenant also prohibits certain attitudes, such as greed, lust, and jealousy, but allows that these attributes are typically expressed less outwardly.

LGBT prohibition

Messiah's student handbook prohibits "same-sex sexual expression" including identifying as a couple or expressing physical intimacy, although heterosexual couples are specifically allowed to do these things by the handbook. Unlike many religious schools with a similar policy, Messiah has never requested a Title IX exemption for permission to discriminate against LGBT students.[34]

The university's stance on homosexuality, as stated in the Community Covenant, has been a source of contention and controversy amongst the student body, administration, and alumni. A number of articles have been published concerning the issue in the university's student newspaper, the Swinging Bridge, as well as in local media.[35]

An alumni group, Inclusive Alumni, was formed in support of Isaiah Thomas and aimed at changing the institution's policy. Isaiah Thomas was a student who decided to transfer out of Messiah in May 2011, after claims of harassment by students and also a professor. He also claims he received a death threat via Facebook. He claims that the institution said that they followed up on his claims but refused to change the policy.[36]


Undergraduate students at Messiah University are required to attend 14 chapel services each semester.[37]

In addition to chapel services, Messiah University provides discipleship groups, ministry outreach teams, community service, mission trips and other special programs such as "Powerhouse," a weekly student-led contemporary worship service.[citation needed]

Student activities

Students at Messiah University can spend their free time playing in intramural sports leagues, participating in various clubs, watching on-campus movies, and hanging out at local diners, among other things. Underclassmen also participate in floor activities organized by their RAs. The Student Government Association funds 60+ organizations on campus that aim at providing for a co-curricular atmosphere conducive to a holistic education and enjoyable experience while enrolled at Messiah. The SGA also provides students with unique access towards influencing governance and overall institutional prerogatives.

Messiah University's Student Activities Board (SAB) is an executive organization that attempts to help students engage with popular culture by bringing different concerts, films, and other forms of entertainment to campus. In recent years, Messiah University has, through SAB, hosted such musicians and bands as Bob Dylan, Counting Crows, Katy Perry, Chiddy Bang, Fun., Jack's Mannequin, Ingrid Michaelson, Mat Kearney, Owl City, Brand New, Guster, Janelle Monáe, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Anberlin, Nickel Creek, White Rabbits, The Decemberists, Regina Spektor, Iron & Wine, M. Ward, The Low Anthem, Mates of State, Exit Clov, Feist, Wilco, Rosie Thomas, Copeland, mewithoutYou, Phantom Planet, Erin McKeown, Rilo Kiley, 4th Avenue Jones, Lifehouse, Jon Bellion, Johnnyswim, Jason Mraz, Josh Ritter, Magic, 21 Pilots, Colony House, Smallpools, NF, Lecrae, Ben Rector, and VERITE, and as well as Christian artists Needtobreathe, Andy Mineo, Relient K, Jeff Deyo, August Burns Red, Jars of Clay, Cross Movement, Matt Wertz and Out of Eden, among others. They also plan dances, coffeehouses, cultural engagement and other special activities (like outings, Broadway trips, and festivals) for students. SAB hosts a free concert series throughout the semester, held in the Larsen Student Union building. Local, indie and up-and-coming bands and artists play throughout the school year. These concerts are free not only to students, but to the public as well.


Covered bridge over the Yellow Breeches Creek, where the "creeking" tradition occurs

Notable people

This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (July 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)




Messiah College CDP, Pennsylvania
Messiah College CDP is located in Pennsylvania
Messiah College CDP
Messiah College CDP
Coordinates: 40°09′27″N 76°59′03″W / 40.15750°N 76.98417°W / 40.15750; -76.98417
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
TownshipUpper Allen
 • Total0.87 km2 (0.34 sq mi)
 • Land0.83 km2 (0.32 sq mi)
 • Water0.04 km2 (0.02 sq mi)
Elevation146 m (479 ft)
 • Total2,841
 • Density3,300/km2 (8,500/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
FIPS code42-48868
GNIS feature ID2633703[41]

Messiah College CDP is a census-designated place[42] located in Upper Allen Township, Cumberland County, in the state of Pennsylvania. It is located near Grantham and consists of the campus of Messiah University. It was first listed as a CDP in 2010.[41] Per the 2020 census, the population was 2,841.[43]

Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[44]
2010[45] 2020[46]

2020 census

Messiah College CDP, Pennsylvania - Demographic Profile
(NH = Non-Hispanic)
Note: the US Census treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos may be of any race.
Race / Ethnicity Pop 2010[45] Pop 2020[46] % 2010 % 2020
White alone (NH) 2,015 1,962 90.97% 69.06%
Black or African American alone (NH) 49 168 2.21% 5.91%
Native American or Alaska Native alone (NH) 2 1 0.09% 0.04%
Asian alone (NH) 56 355 2.53% 12.50%
Pacific Islander alone (NH) 0 0 0.00% 0.00%
Some Other Race alone (NH) 2 1 0.09% 0.04%
Mixed Race/Multi-Racial (NH) 27 133 1.22% 4.68%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 64 221 2.89% 7.78%
Total 2,215 2,841 100.00% 100.00%


  1. ^ "A brief Messiah University history". Messiah University. Retrieved September 25, 2023.
  2. ^ As of June 30, 2020. U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2020 Endowment Market Value and Change in Endowment Market Value from FY19 to FY20 (Report). National Association of College and University Business Officers and TIAA. February 19, 2021. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  3. ^ Sider, E. Morris. Messiah College: A History. Evangel Press (Nappanee, IN: 1984).
  4. ^ "Messiah College: Centennial Celebration". Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  5. ^ Randall Herbert Balmer, Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism: Revised and expanded edition, Baylor University Press, USA, 2004, p. 448
  6. ^ "Important Philly Transition Announcement". Retrieved December 16, 2017.
  7. ^ Messiah College (August 27, 2015). "Residence Life at Messiah College | Messiah, a private Christian College in PA". Archived from the original on January 24, 2014. Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  8. ^ "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah". Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  9. ^ "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah". Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  10. ^ "Quotes About Monica Goodling (1 quote)". Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  11. ^ Shantz, Douglas H. (2013). An Introduction to German Pietism: Protestant Renewal at the Dawn of Modern Europe. JHU Press. ISBN 9781421408804.
  12. ^ a b "Messiah College: Distinctives 2010-2011" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 14, 2011. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  13. ^ Marroni, Steve (July 1, 2020). "Messiah College receives university status, changing name to Messiah University".
  14. ^ " - Transcripts". CNN.
  15. ^ "The Compassion Forum at Messiah College". Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  16. ^ Messiah College (August 27, 2015). "Majors, minors, and programs | Messiah College". Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  17. ^ "3+ Allied Programs | Messiah College | Grantham PA". Archived from the original on August 14, 2011. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  18. ^ "Three Ways to Three Years @ Messiah College". Archived from the original on August 29, 2011. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  19. ^ "Messiah College: Graduate Programs". Archived from the original on August 24, 2011. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  20. ^ Messiah College (August 27, 2015). "National Scholarship Competition | Messiah, a private Christian College in PA". Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  21. ^ "2 Main Line Residents Are Rhodes Scholars Joy Yu-ho Wang And Julie Levison Are Among 32 Americans Who Will Attend Oxford University. - philly-archives". November 26, 2013. Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  22. ^ Info724 Ltd. "Middle States Commission on Higher Education". Retrieved September 8, 2016.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  23. ^ Messiah College (August 27, 2015). "Messiah distinctives | Messiah, a private Christian University in PA". Archived from the original on September 2, 2016. Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  24. ^ Messiah College (August 27, 2015). "Department of Business | Messiah College". Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  25. ^ Messiah College (August 27, 2015). "Off-Campus Programs | Messiah, a private Christian College in PA". Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  26. ^ "Middle Atlantic Conference". Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  27. ^ "Messiah College: The Bridge - Mascot". Archived from the original on September 29, 2008. Retrieved July 8, 2008.
  28. ^ "Messiah College Athletics". Retrieved December 4, 2017.
  29. ^ "Messiah College Athletics". Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  30. ^ "9 Top Colleges for Soccer Fans | Education". US News. June 21, 2010. Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  31. ^ "Messiah College Athletics". Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  32. ^ "WOMEN'S SOCCER NATIONAL CHAMPIONS! Washington University Outlasts Messiah in Penalty Kicks". UAA. December 3, 2016.
  33. ^ "Community Covenant: All of Life Under the Lordship of Christ" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 30, 2015. Retrieved April 3, 2014.
  34. ^ Hoopes, Zach (August 17, 2021). "Title IX complaints said to be filed against schools including Messiah University as part of religious exemption suit". The Sentinel. Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Retrieved August 26, 2021.
  35. ^ "Blurred Lines: Staying vague on gay penalties impacts Messiah student community". August 27, 2013. Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  36. ^ DeJesus, Ivey (May 24, 2011). "Messiah alumni group supports gay students". The Christian Century. Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  37. ^ "Messiah College: College Ministries". Archived from the original on October 10, 2013. Retrieved April 3, 2014.
  38. ^ Messiah College (August 27, 2015). "Traditions | Messiah, a private Christian College in PA". Archived from the original on August 30, 2016. Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  39. ^ a b "Messiah University Student Handbook" (PDF). Retrieved November 30, 2023.
  40. ^ "The Bridge - Yellow Breeches". Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved May 14, 2007.
  41. ^ a b c "Messiah College Census Designated Place". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior.
  42. ^ "By Decade".
  43. ^ "Messiah College CDP, Pennsylvania". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved February 17, 2023.
  44. ^ "Decennial Census by Decade". US Census Bureau.
  45. ^ a b "P2 HISPANIC OR LATINO, AND NOT HISPANIC OR LATINO BY RACE - 2010: DEC Redistricting Data (PL 94-171) - Messiah College CDP, Pennsylvania". United States Census Bureau.
  46. ^ a b "P2 HISPANIC OR LATINO, AND NOT HISPANIC OR LATINO BY RACE - 2020: DEC Redistricting Data (PL 94-171) - Messiah College CDP, Pennsylvania". United States Census Bureau.