Gutenberg College admitted its first class of four students in September 1994 and held its first commencement exercises in June 1998. Gutenberg’s history, however, has a much earlier beginning. The college was the culmination of many years of thought and experience by the staff of McKenzie Study Center (MSC), founded in 1979 as a Christian ministry to Eugene-area college students.
MSC was a L’Abri-style campus outreach ministry designed to uphold the intellectual integrity of biblical Christianity and to facilitate dialogue on issues of significance to college students. Those attending the University of Oregon were facing a strongly secular intellectual atmosphere that questioned the Christian faith. MSC provided an opportunity for students to confront the tough questions from a biblical perspective.
After years of teaching students to interpret and apply the Bible, MSC teachers saw a need for providing a broader education, one that would build the learning skills essential to understanding the Bible and other writings and to understanding life. Discussions as to what would constitute such a program and, more generally, what would constitute a quality undergraduate education resulted in a proposal largely consonant with the Great Books colleges.
Those discussions began in October 1991 when the MSC staff called a special meeting to consider the idea of forming a liberal arts college. A committee convened later that month and held weekly planning and development meetings. In December 1993, the founding faculty applied to the State of Oregon for authority to grant the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts, which the State granted after evaluating the college’s application and making a site visit. Gutenberg’s first classes opened in September 1994. On June 18, 1998, the board of governors formally adopted the mission statement of Gutenberg College.
In 2002, Gutenberg began the process of accreditation. It sought an accrediting association that adhered to high academic standards, supported its biblical focus, and was flexible—that is, willing to take the time to understand Gutenberg and to see the intimate size of the student body as an advantage rather than a detriment. The Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS) proved to be just such an organization.
Although Gutenberg did not fit—and did not want to fit—the standard educational mold, the TRACS accrediting team knew from what they saw—academically, spiritually, and corporately—that Gutenberg College deserved to be accredited. TRACS therefore approved Gutenberg College for candidacy for accreditation on November 9, 2004. Gutenberg College was later awarded full accreditation on November 3, 2009, which it has maintained to the present.
In 2015, some of the founding faculty and administration decided that while they fully supported the mission of the college, they wanted to pursue more fully their passion for studying and teaching the Bible. And the board of governors, many of whom had served since Gutenberg’s founding, decided to step down as well. With the board’s approval, a transition committee was formed of remaining faculty and supporters of the college. During the summer of 2016, this committee formed a new administrative team and called into service a new board of governors. With renewed energy and enthusiasm, this team and board are excited to bring the college into its next stage of life and continue the college’s reputation for intellectual integrity, commitment to teaching, and professional and ethical conduct.