Southwest Baptist University
Former name
Southwest Baptist College (1878–1981)
TypePrivate university
Established1878; 146 years ago (1878)
Religious affiliation
Missouri Baptist Convention
Academic affiliation
PresidentRichard J. Melson, PhD
ProvostTroy Bethards (Interim)
Location, ,
United States

37°36′07″N 93°24′33″W / 37.60186°N 93.40911°W / 37.60186; -93.40911
Campus152 acres (61.5 ha)
ColorsPurple and White
Sporting affiliations

Southwest Baptist University (SBU) is a private Baptist university in Bolivar, Missouri. It is affiliated with the Missouri Baptist Convention, which is part of the Southern Baptist Convention. In 2023, it had a total enrollment of 2,168 students enrolled.[1]


Abner S. Ingman and James R. Maupin founded Southwest Baptist College in 1878 in Lebanon, Missouri.[2] The Lebanon campus originally had an enrollment of 60 students and six faculty. The college lasted one year before the city decided it no longer wanted it. When news got out that the college would be moving, the communities of Aurora, Monett, and Bolivar in southwest Missouri attempted to attract the college. In 1879, the state of Missouri chartered the school and it moved to Bolivar, Missouri. The college went through many financial difficulties in the early part of the twentieth century.

On June 1, 1910, at 11:00 am., the fire that would destroy the campus started. The fire broke out under suspect circumstances, leading some to believe arson was the cause. Bolivar citizen firefighters tried to put out the fire, but the water supply ran dry and at 2:00 pm the fire engulfed the whole campus. Losses were estimated at $20,000. The college was rebuilt, and reopened in 1913.[3]

Southwest Baptist University was granted an exception to Title IX in 2015, allowing the school to legally discriminate against LGBT students for religious reasons.[4]

In November 2021 its accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission, placed it on probation for being in noncompliance on criteria related to governance, academic freedom, and effective leadership.[5][6][7] In November 2023, the Higher Learning Commission took the University off of probation and restated their accredidation.

Campus history

When it reopened in 1913 as a junior college, Southwest Baptist College consisted of four buildings, two of which still stand on the Stufflebaum campus. Among the buildings still standing from the original Stufflebam campus are Casebolt Apartments (formerly Casebolt Science Building) and Memorial Hall.

On March 26, 1962, a fire destroyed Pike Auditorium. Students and townspeople saved eight pianos and almost all of the sports equipment from the locker rooms of the multipurpose building at that time. Pike Auditorium was the only building destroyed by the fire.[8] The fire became a turning point in the history of Southwest Baptist. The newly elected president, Robert E. Craig, used the event to stimulate the buying of 102 acres (41.3 ha) of farmland south of Bolivar. This farmland expanded into the Shoffner Campus on which Southwest Baptist University resides today.[9]

The Shoffner campus, located approximately a quarter-mile south of Stufflebaum campus, was first used in 1962 with the opening of Beasley Hall. Within ten years, Landen Hall (formerly New Men's Dorm), Leslie Hall, the Goodson Student Union, and the Wayne and Betty Gott Educational Center (formerly the campus library) were opened. In 1977, Mellers Dining Commons was opened, adjoining the Goodson Student Union.[10]

In 1981, the Gene Taylor National Free Enterprise Center was opened to facilitate the College of Business and Computer Science. This was the same year in which Southwest Baptist College became Southwest Baptist University. In 1989, the Sells Administrative Building was completed to accommodate the growing administrative department of Southwest Baptist University.

In 1992, the Wheeler Science Center opened, giving the science department a facility capable of housing hundreds of students. The school of Physical Therapy was located in this building until it moved to a nearby, offsite location.

In 1995, SBU agreed with St. John's School of Nursing, a traditionally Catholic institution, to form St. John's School of Nursing of Southwest Baptist University located in Springfield, Missouri. It has since been renamed the Mercy College of Nursing and Health Sciences of Southwest Baptist University.[11]

The Wayne and Betty Gott Educational Center was renovated in 1998 to accommodate classroom needs. The campus library moved to what is now the Jester Learning and Performance Center, and was renamed the Harriet K. Hutchens Library, which opened in 1996. The rest of the Jester Learning and Performance Center was completed in 2001. It currently houses the Davis-Newport Theater, the Department of Language and Literature, the Department of Art and the Bob R. Derryberry School of Communication Arts.

The most recent addition to the Shoffner campus is the Jane and Ken Meyer Wellness and Sports Center. It opened to students in January 2005. This facility houses an indoor track, intramural gym, fitness center, pool, café, racquetball courts, rock wall, and Hammons Court, the home of Bearcat Basketball.


Presidents listed in chronological order.[12]

  1. James R. Maupin (1878–1884)
  2. Abner S. Ingman (1884–1886)
  3. Julius M. Leavitt (1886–1889)
  4. W. H. Burnham (1889–1892)
  5. Robert E. L. Burks (1892–1895)
  6. Asa Bush (1895–1897)
  7. James R. Rice (1897–1899)
  8. Ernest W. Dow (1903–1905)
  9. Joseph Rucker (1905–1908)
  10. J. E. Austin (1908–1913)
  11. Charles W. Fisher (1913–1915)
  12. B. W. Wiseman (1915–1916)
  13. John C. Pike (1916–1928)
  14. John W. Jent (1928–1930)
  15. Courts Redford (1930–1943)
  16. Samuel H. Jones (1943–1948)
  17. John W. Dowdy (1949–1960)
  18. Robert E. Craig (1961–1967)
  19. James L. Sells (1968–1979)
  20. Harlan E. Spurgeon (1979–1983)
  21. Charles L. Chaney (1983–1986)
  22. J. Edwin Hewlett Jr. (1989–1990)
  23. Wayne Gott (Interim) (1991–1992)
  24. Roy Blunt (1993–1996)
  25. C. Pat Taylor (1996–2018)
  26. Eric A. Turner (2018–2020)
  27. Brad Johnson (Interim) (2020-2021)
  28. Richard J. Melson (2021–Present)


Southwest Baptist University Colleges include:



Logo for Bearcats athletics at Southwest Baptist

Main article: Southwest Baptist Bearcats

Southwest Baptist University athletic teams compete in the NCAA Division II Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC). SBU previously competed in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) until in the spring of 2019 and will begin regular season competition for all sports in the GLVC beginning in the 2019–20 season.[14] The university currently fields 18 NCAA Division II varsity sports. SBU was also one of the first schools to establish a varsity collegiate esports team and is a charter member of the Collegiate Esports Association (CESPA[15]). SBU added a Cheer and STUNT team beginning in the 2018–19 season.[16]

Notable alumni


  1. ^ a b "Enrollment Report for Missouri Public and Comprehensive Independent Institutions". Missouri Department of Higher Education. December 1, 2024. Retrieved February 3, 2024.
  2. ^ "History of Southwest Baptist University | SBU Legacy and Heritage". Retrieved 2018-06-18.
  3. ^ Hamlett, Mayme (1984). To Noonday Bright: A History of Southwest Baptist University . Bolivar, MO: Southwest Baptist University. (p. 78)
  4. ^ "Worst List: The Absolute Worst Campuses for LGBTQ Youth". Campus Pride. Retrieved August 23, 2021.
  5. ^ Redden, Elizabeth (10 November 2021). "Accreditor places Southwest Baptist on probation". Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  6. ^ Kaylor, Brian (9 November 2021). "SBU Placed on Probation by Accrediting Body". Word&Way.
  7. ^ "Southwest Baptist University". Higher Learning Commission. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  8. ^ Hamlett, Mayme (1984). To Noonday Bright: A History of Southwest Baptist University. Bolivar, MO: Southwest Baptist University. (p. 274)
  9. ^ Hamlett, Mayme (1984). To Noonday Bright: A History of Southwest Baptist University. Bolivar, MO: Southwest Baptist University. (p. 275)
  10. ^ C. Taylor, Personal Communication, January 10, 2008.
  11. ^ "College of Nursing and Health Sciences | Southwest Baptist University". Retrieved 2018-06-14.
  12. ^ (portrait list of presidents on display at Harriett K. Hutchens Library in the Jester Learning and Performance Center, Shoffner campus, Bolivar, MO.)
  13. ^ "Academic Colleges | Southwest Baptist University". Retrieved 2018-06-18.
  14. ^ "Great Lakes Valley Conference Admits Southwest Baptist University as Full-Time Member". Southwest Baptist University. Retrieved 2018-06-14.
  15. ^ "SBU Launches Varsity eSports Program for Fall 2016". Southwest Baptist University. Retrieved 2018-06-14.
  16. ^ "Southwest Baptist University Adding STUNT As a Sport in 2018-19". Southwest Baptist University. Retrieved 2018-06-14.
  17. ^ "Benjamin Marcus Bogard (1868–1951)". Retrieved August 4, 2013.