North Park University
Former name
North Park Theological Seminary (1891–1894)
North Park Junior College (1894–1958)
North Park College (1958–1997)
Motto"In Thy Light Shall We See Light"
"Preparing Students for Lives of Significance and Service"[1]
TypePrivate university
Established1891; 133 years ago (1891)[2][3]
Religious affiliation
Evangelical Covenant Church
Endowment$99.5 million (2022)[4]
PresidentMary K. Surridge
Academic staff
125 Full-time[5]
Students2,624 (Fall 2023)[6]
Undergraduates1,877 (Fall 2023)
Postgraduates747 (Fall 2023)
Location, ,
United States
CampusLarge City, 33 acres (0.13 km2)
Other campusesGrayslake
ColorsBlue and yellow[7]
Sporting affiliations

North Park University is a private Christian university in Chicago, Illinois. It was founded in 1891 by the Evangelical Covenant Church. It is located on Chicago's north side and enrolls more than 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students.


The university originated in the founding of North Park Theological Seminary in 1891 by the Evangelical Covenant Church in Minneapolis. [8] In 1894, the school moved to Chicago and opened as North Park College.[9] It moved to its present location at the corner of Foster and Kedzie. Although far from the Loop, the location was close to then existing Swedish-American villages and the newly established Swedish Covenant Hospital. Old Main, the oldest building on campus, was erected and dedicated on June 16, 1894. It is at this time that the name North Park was first used to describe the school.[10]

Nyvall Hall

Struggles and success marked the early years of North Park; enrollment and funding fluctuated significantly. An interesting source of both money and headache came from P. H. Anderson, who was serving as a Covenant missionary in Alaska at the time. When he made a small fortune during the gold rush, he donated a significant portion of the windfall to North Park. However, the money was considered tainted by some of North Park’s leadership, who thought the money was of dubious origin.

The green space at the center of North Park's campus. The building in the distance is Brandel Library.
The Quad at the center of North Park's campus. The building in the distance is Brandel Library.

A leader at that time was David Nyvall. Nyvall served as president and teacher in the Seminary for many years. The current seminary building, Nyvall Hall, is named after him.

Since the early days, the school has developed and changed in many ways. In 1958, North Park Junior College expanded from a two-year college into a four-year program, becoming North Park College. In 1997, the decision was made to change the name of the school again, and North Park University was born.[11] Though North Park still holds on to its Swedish American past and close ties with the Evangelical Covenant Church, it is now an intercultural institution focused on diversity. North Park describes itself as a liberal arts university that is Christian, city-centered, and intercultural. North Park University is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and the Higher Learning Commission. It is also a designated Hispanic-serving institution. [12] The seminary is additionally accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada.[13] North Park's last president, David L. Parkyn, retired at the end of the 2016–2017 academic year.[14] Carl E. Balsam was named as the interim president in June 2017, and served until August 2018.[15] Mary Surridge was nominated as the school's tenth president, and began her term in August 2018.[16][10]


The university is organized into the following academic units:

It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees. Its most popular undergraduate majors, based on number out of 365 graduates in 2022, were:[17]


The North Park athletic teams are called the Vikings. The university is a member of the Division III level of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), primarily competing in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) since the 1962–63 academic year. The Vikings previously competed in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) from 1959–60 to 1961–62.

North Park competes in 19 intercollegiate varsity sports:[18] Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, indoor and outdoor track and field and volleyball; while women's sports include basketball, cross country, rowing, soccer, softball, tennis, indoor and outdoor track and field and volleyball. In January 2023, North Park introduced its first esports team, a co-ed intercollegiate sport that competes in the National Esports Collegiate Conference (NECC).

Men's basketball

North Park has had a successful men's basketball program. It has won five men's NCAA Men's Division III Basketball Championships since 1978, including three consecutive ones led by Michael Harper, who later played for the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers. In the 2022–23 season, North Park advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen under first-year and current head coach Sean Smith, going 24-6 (13-3 in CCIW Conference play). [19] Coach Smith also won Conference Coach of the Year, as well as NCAA Division III National Coach of the Year. [20]

Men's Track and Field

North Park's Dave Valentine won the 1983 NCAA Men's Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championship in the 10,000 meters setting a Division III National Championship record held from 1983 to 1994 and setting school records in the Indoor 2 mile, 3 mile and 5,000 meters in addition to the Outdoor 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters and Marathon.

Men's soccer

North Park men's soccer ended their 2017 season with a record of 20-2-2, finishing runner-up for the National Championship title. Their decorated season included a CCIW Championship, CCIW Tournament Championship, victories all the way to the NCAA Championship game, seven All-CCIW picks (including Newcomer and Player of the Year), four All-Region picks, a First Team All American selection, and a plethora of awards for Head Coach John Born: National Coach of the Year, Regional Coach of the Year, and CCIW Coach of the Year.[21] The team is currently coached by North Park soccer alum Kris Grahn.


North Park's baseball team is the six-time CCIW regular season champions, most recently winning in 2012. The Vikings have made the NCAA Division III tournament 18 times (five consecutive) and won the conference tournament thrice. The baseball team has made the NCAA tournament six times, most recently in 2012.

Two Vikings have been drafted by MLB teams: Randy Ross (15th round of the 1983 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers) and Mike Giovenco (14th round by the Kansas City Royals). The Vikings also boast five Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners.

Women's Volleyball

In 2022, Coach Michael Sopocy led the Vikings to the program's first-ever CCIW Tournament Championship. North Park defeated top-seeded tournament host Carthage College 3-1 to earn an automatic bid to the 2022 NCAA Division III tournament. [22]

Club sports and intramurals

North Park fields club teams for men's and women's ultimate frisbee and men's volleyball. There is also a healthy Intramural sports program on campus.

National championships

Men's Basketball: 1978, 1979, 1980, 1985, 1987.

Men's Track & Field: 1983 10,000 meters.

Student Government Association

Old Main at North Park University
Old Main

The North Park Student Government Association (SGA) sponsors many student-led organizations on campus. Some of these include Women in STEM, the Black Student Union, and the Christian Students Organization.

The Nancy and G. Timothy Johnson Center for Science and Community Life

The Johnson Center for Science and Community Life was opened in September 2014. The expansion cost $57 million largely funded by Nancy and G. Timothy Johnson in a capital campaign named "Campaign North Park".[23] The Johnson Center is a state-of-the-art addition to North Park University's science programs and is home to 1891 Bread Co. The Johnson Center has 101,000 square feet, three floors and a garden level and is located in the central area of campus. Equipped with 30 science laboratories, the building is a space for student and faculty research, "smart" technology in every classroom, and several conference rooms. The Johnson Center is also dedicated to campus community life with a two-story atrium and lobby for gathering and social interaction, offices for programs supporting co-curricular learning, spiritual growth, vocational development, urban engagement, and campus life. The building is also equipped with communal study spaces, a prayer room, and a courtyard.[24]

Swedish-American traditions

North Park University's Brandel Library administers the Swedish-American Historical Society Archives in Chicago. The Center for Scandinavian Studies at North Park is the legal trustee.[25] The Saint Lucy's Day festival is held each December in Anderson Chapel. The service follows many Swedish traditions and is one of the few Santa Lucia Festivals held in the Chicago area.[26] The university has an student exchange program with Södra Vätterbygdens Folkhögskola and Jönköping University in Jönköping, Sweden.[27]

Notable alumni


  1. ^ "North Park University: Christian - Urban - Multicultural". Archived from the original on September 13, 2008.
  2. ^ "North Park University: Christian - Urban - Multicultural". Archived from the original on September 18, 2008.
  3. ^ “US News - Best Colleges:"North Park University”
  4. ^ 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 (PDF) (Report). National Association of College and University Business Officers and TIAA. February 19, 2021. Retrieved February 21, 2021.
  5. ^ "North Park University: Christian - Urban - Multicultural". Archived from the original on November 13, 2008.
  6. ^ "North Park University".
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-09-07. Retrieved 2015-08-22.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Randall Herbert Balmer, Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism: Revised and expanded edition, Baylor University Press, USA, 2004, p. 497
  9. ^ Bill Keegan, North Park University Celebrates 125 Years of Quality Academics, Faith and Diversity,, USA, September 21, 2016
  10. ^ a b “North Park University History and Heritage”
  11. ^ Praeger, American Universities and Colleges, 19th Edition [2 Volumes]: Nineteenth Edition, ABC-CLIO, USA, 2010, p. 353
  12. ^ The Higher Learning Commission, December 2017
  13. ^ "North Park University - Christian, Urban, Intercultural". Archived from the original on 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2015-06-12.
  14. ^ "A Message from the Board of Trustees - North Park University". North Park University. 2017-02-15. Retrieved 2017-03-16.
  15. ^ "A Message from Board Chair, Dr. Kristine Strand and ECC President Gary Walter". North Park University. Retrieved 2018-06-08.
  16. ^ "Mary Karsten Surridge to Serve as North Park University's Tenth President". North Park University. Retrieved 2018-06-08.
  17. ^ "North Park University". U.S. Dept of Education. Retrieved March 3, 2023.
  18. ^ "North Park University Athletics". Archived from the original on 2011-09-27. Retrieved 2017-12-12.
  19. ^ "Vikings Conclude Historic 2022-23 Season in Sweet Sixteen".
  20. ^ "Sean Smith Named an IBCA Coach of the Year". North Park University. Retrieved 2023-10-31.
  21. ^ "A Historic Run to Greensboro". North Park University. Retrieved 2017-12-12.
  22. ^ "Viking Volleyball Goes Out with a Bang in 2022 NCAA Tournament".
  23. ^ "The Time is Now: The Johnson Center - North Park University - Christian, Urban, Multicultural". Archived from the original on February 27, 2014.
  24. ^ "Campaign North Park University - Christian, Urban, Multicultural". Retrieved 2015-06-12.
  25. ^ "Scandinavian Studies". North Park University. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
  26. ^ "Sankta Lucia: A Time-Honored Tradition". North Park University. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
  27. ^ "Chicago to Jönköping: North Park University's Oldest Exchange Program". North Park University. Retrieved May 15, 2016.

Further reading

41°58′31″N 87°42′35″W / 41.9752°N 87.7098°W / 41.9752; -87.7098