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Wilmore, Kentucky must have been quite the solitary place in 1890! The sound of a passing train would have been a welcome interruption to this little village. Yet the Lord impressed upon John Wesley Hughes that this community was “a model place to locate the college” and would be “the very place to develop character.”

Kentucky Holiness School, later renamed Asbury College, opened its doors in September 1890, with the objective of developing the “whole person… with a well-rounded education involving a genuine Christian experience” as stated by founder and President, John Wesley Hughes.

Now one hundred twenty years later, we found ourselves at another defining moment in the history of this great institution. While our mission has not changed, the methods and means through which we accomplish this mission must speak to the current age if we are to be effective. For this reason, after prayerful consideration and seeking God’s will for Asbury College, the administration and the Board of Trustees agreed that adoption of the name Asbury University was a better reflection of who we are as an institution.

Name changes are not uncommon. We find compelling examples in which the Lord chose to change an individual’s name, not to change them, but rather to reflect who they had become: Abram became Abraham; Sarai became Sarah; Jacob became Israel. We also recognize Asbury College began as Kentucky Holiness School but that name did not long reflect the broader nature of who she had become.

We are a university in mission, outreach and global connections. We currently have four academic delivery sites (Wilmore, Nicholasville, Orlando and online) with multi-level academic programs (Academy for high school seniors; associate degrees; traditional undergraduate degrees; an adult undergraduate degree completion program; graduate degrees; and graduate + 30 hours for a rank 1 education degree is in the development stage). This year, our academic programs were restructured into four schools: College of Arts & Sciences, School of Graduate & Professional Studies, School of Education, and School of Communication Arts.

Asbury University provides the impetus for greater recognition of who we are. It reduces confusion in international circles regarding the quality and strength of the institution, as the word “college” often in other countries means high school or prep school. Our research and grant opportunities will increase as we are known for our university status and our reputation will grow as an international leader in higher education. Further, the new name provides clarity to the broad liberal arts character of the institution.

Our commitment to academic excellence and spiritual vitality is everlasting! The institutional seal still proclaims, “erudition and religion,” meaning the best in learning combined with theological conviction and spiritual dedication. There is nothing in our understanding of the nature of Christ or of Biblical interpretation that suggests our standards can be reduced or that our commitment to excellence and spiritual vitality be compromised. We have a high calling to excellence based upon our understanding of who Christ is. This is more than a strategic direction, it is a spiritual mandate.

Therefore, we are increasing our focus on meeting the spiritual needs of our students, continuing to integrate faith into their educational and social experience. Just as learning is not limited to the classroom, spiritual vitality is not limited to the walls and seats of Hughes Auditorium. Our Lord is omnipresent. He is in classrooms, on the athletic fields, in residence halls and on the green. He meets us on mission trips, cross-cultural experiences and off-campus excursions. His messages are broadcast through the internet, conversations and the written word.

We are humbled, yet confident, that the Lord is calling us to engage the culture, to be salt and light in a needy world, and, as summarized by the words of Charles Wesley, which we sing in A Charge to Keep I Have, to “serve this present age.”

“Anchored to the Rock, geared for the times,” a famous quote of Finley Peter Dunne, aptly summons the image of Asbury University. We want to be found charting new waters as the Lord Himself leads. Asbury University takes us into a new century of Christian Higher Education, readied and poised to make a difference for Christ. I value your friendship, support and prayers. Please continue to hold us in your heart and your prayers as we embrace the days ahead.

May God’s deepest and richest blessings be upon you in this new year.


Sandra C. Gray