Stephens College
Former names
Columbia Female Academy (1833–1856)
Columbia Female Baptist Academy (1856–1870)
TypePrivate women's college
Established1833; 191 years ago (1833)
PresidentDianne Lynch
Students593 (Fall 2021)[1]

38°57′00″N 92°19′21″W / 38.9500°N 92.3225°W / 38.9500; -92.3225
CampusUrban, 86-acre (35 ha)
ColorsMaroon and gold
Sporting affiliations
NAIAAmerican Midwest

Stephens College is a private women's college in Columbia, Missouri, United States. It is the second-oldest women's educational establishment that is still a women's college in the United States. It was founded on August 24, 1833, as the Columbia Female Academy.

In 1856, David H. Hickman helped secure the college's charter under the name The Columbia Female Baptist Academy. In the late 19th century it was renamed Stephens College after James L. Stephens endowed the college with $20,000. From 1937 to 1943, its Drama Department became renowned under its chairman and teacher, the actress Maude Adams, James M. Barrie's first American Peter Pan. The Warehouse Theater is the major performance venue for the college. The campus includes a National Historic District: Stephens College South Campus Historic District.

The college enrolled 593 students in Fall 2021.[1]


Situated in the center of Missouri, Stephens is approximately 120 miles (193 km) from both Kansas City and St. Louis. The Stephens campus is near downtown Columbia.[2]


The college follows a liberal arts curriculum and prior to 2024 had three schools: School of Health Sciences, Conservatory for the Performing Arts, and School of Integrative Studies.[3] The school is now transitioning to two schools: The Women’s College and the Conservatory for the Performing Arts.

In addition to undergraduate programs, Stephens offers the following graduate degrees: Master of Education in Counseling (emphasis in school counseling or clinical mental health counseling), Master of Fine Arts in Television and Screenwriting, and Master in Physician Assistant Studies.


Stephens College has an acceptance rate of 67% for first time applicants.[4]

Campus life

Before 2024, Stephens was one of four women's colleges, along with Bennett College, Spelman College, and Brenau University, to have sororities on its campus. Both sororities were part of the National Panhellenic Conference. Kappa Delta is inactive as of 2024. The Eta Alpha chapter of Sigma Sigma Sigma is inactive as of 2020. The sororities were governed by the Panhellenic Council and the Junior Panhellenic Council. Before the national sororities, there were four local sororities on campus, which closed in 1997: Zeta Phi Delta, Alpha Phi, Heta Epsilon Gamma, and Omega Psi. Currently, Stephens students can join historically Black or Asian sororities at the nearby University of Missouri campus.

There are a few academic honor societies on campus: Mortar Board (inactive), Psi Chi, Alpha Lambda Delta (inactive), Sigma Tau Delta, Tri-Beta, Kappa Delta Pi, Phi Alpha Delta (inactive), and Sigma Eta Rho. Although Stephens College is no longer a two-year institution, it is the location of the Alpha chapter of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society of the Two-Year College.

The student newspaper, Stephens Life, is online with a magazine printed once a semester. The college's literary magazine, Harbinger, is released each spring.[5]

Stephens opened pet-friendly residence halls in 2004.[6] The college also allows students to foster shelter animals in exchange for scholarships.[7]

The Warehouse Theatre Company is a student-run playhouse on campus which stages an average of four different productions per academic season.

Citizen Jane Film Festival

Citizen Jane Film Festival

The Citizen Jane Film Festival was an annual film festival established at Stephens College. The festival was first held October 17–19, 2008. Films were chosen that showcased women behind and in front of the camera.[8] Though the festival has been discontinued, Citizen Jane continues in the form of a lecture series hosted by the Stephens College digital filmmaking program.


The Stephens athletic teams are called the Stars. The college is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), primarily competing in the American Midwest Conference (AMC) since the 2008–09 academic year. The Stars previously competed as an NAIA Independent from 2004–05 to 2007–08. Prior joining the NAIA, Stephens was also a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA): in the Division III ranks from 1994 to 1995 (when the school re-instated back its athletics program) to 2003–04; and in the Division II ranks from about 1982–83 to 1986–87, before transitioning to club status until discontinuing the athletics program after the 1988–89 school year.[9]

Stephens competes in four intercollegiate varsity sports: basketball, soccer, softball and volleyball. Former sports included cross country. Club sports include competitive dance and esports, which is the first varsity esports team at an all-women's college.[10]


The Stephens College Alumnae Association has more than 20,000 members internationally. Alumnae are found in every state.

Notable alumnae

Presidents of the college

No. President Term Notes Source
William R. Rothwell February 1857 – June 1857
X. X. Buckner 1858 – 1859
G. W. Pendleton 1859 – 1860
J. T. Williams 1860 – 1865
J. A. Hollis 1865 – 1869
E. S. Dulin 1870 – 1876
R. P. Rider 1877 – 1883
T. W. Barrett 1883 – 1894
Sam F. Taylor 1894 – 1904
J. R. Pentuff 1904 – 1905
W. B. Peeler 1905 – 1910
H. N. Quisenberry 1910 – March 1, 1912
G. W. Hatcher March 1, 1912 – June 1, 1912 Acting president
James M. Wood June 1, 1912 – June 3, 1947
Homer P. Rainey June 3, 1947 – June 30, 1952
Nell Hutchinson June 30, 1952 – December 1, 1952 Acting president
Thomas A. Spragens December 1, 1952 – November 11, 1957
James G. Rice November 11, 1957 – 1958 Acting president
Seymour Smith 1958 – 1975
Arland F. Christ-Janer 1975 – 1983
Patsy Sampson 1983 – 1994 First non-acting female president
Marcia Kierscht 1994 – 2003
Wendy Libby July 2003 – June 1, 2009
Dianne Lynch June 2, 2009 – present Has announced her retirement

Historic buildings

Main article: Stephens College South Campus Historic District

Firestone Baars Chapel

Firestone Baars Chapel

The Firestone Baars Chapel was designed by world-famous Finnish architect Eero Saarinen, who also designed the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. The chapel symbolizes commitment to individual spiritual development and worship. The chapel is used for meditation, religious services, vespers, weddings, memorials and campus programs.

Historic Senior Hall

Main article: Senior Hall (Columbia, Missouri)

Historic Senior Hall dates back to 1841, when Oliver Parker bought the 8-acre (3.2 ha) tract of land on which the college was first located. In 1857, the Columbia Baptist Female College, which later became Stephens College, acquired the building. Until 1918, Historic Senior Hall was the only dormitory at the college. It was the tradition for the President of the Civic Association (now the Student Government Association) to occupy the first floor room just north of the Waugh Street entrance. Many generations of students feel this building is their tie to the past. A complete restoration of Historic Senior Hall began in the spring of 1987, and the building was rededicated in the spring of 1990. Senior Hall was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.[12]


  1. ^ a b "Fall 2021 enrollment report". Missouri Department of Higher Education. Archived from the original on June 7, 2022. Retrieved April 24, 2022.
  2. ^ "Stephens College : About Stephens - Facts & Figures". Archived from the original on April 12, 2006. Retrieved April 16, 2006.
  3. ^ Archived 2023-03-27 at the Wayback Machine [bare URL]
  4. ^ Peterson's (2009). Colleges in the Midwest. Peterson's. ISBN 978-0-7689-2690-3.
  5. ^ [1] Archived February 7, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "pet program » Stephens College". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  7. ^ "At pet-happy Stephens College, some dogs and cats come with a scholarship". kansascity. Archived from the original on 28 February 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  8. ^ "Citizen Jane Institute Home - Citizen Jane Institute". Citizen Jane Institute. Archived from the original on 1 August 2015. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  9. ^ "About Stephens Athletics - Stephens College". Archived from the original on 2022-10-26. Retrieved 2022-07-23.
  10. ^ "Stephens College". Archived from the original on 25 February 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  11. ^ Bryant, Tim (January 14, 1981). "Jean Muir Finds Second Career". The Republic. Indiana, Columbus. United Press International. p. B-1. Archived from the original on March 3, 2018. Retrieved March 2, 2018 – via Open access icon
  12. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.

Further reading