Over 140 Years of History

historic black and white photo of students on the steps of a campus building

Westminster University has played a pivotal role in the educational heritage of the intermountain area. Founded in 1875 as the Salt Lake Collegiate Institute, a preparatory school, Westminster first offered college classes in 1897 as Sheldon Jackson College. Named in honor of its primary benefactor, Sheldon Jackson, the college operated for many years on the Collegiate Institute campus in downtown Salt Lake City.

Gradually, the institute became identified as the college preparatory department, and high school classes continued to be an integral part of the curriculum until 1945. In 1902, college trustees adopted the new name, Westminster. Moving to its present location in 1911, Westminster became the first accredited two-year junior college in the intermountain area. In 1935, Westminster modified its curriculum to qualify as a four-year junior college and in 1949 became a four-year liberal arts institution offering baccalaureate degrees in the arts and sciences.

Today, Westminster exists as a fully independent, privately funded, nondenominational, comprehensive liberal arts institution of higher learning with selected graduate programs, meeting the West's educational needs as it has since 1875.

Westminster University Timeline


  • 1875—Founded by the First Presbyterian Church as the Salt Lake Collegiate Institute, 27 students enrolled
  • 1897—Offered courses as Sheldon Jackson College
  • 1902—Adopted the name Westminster College
  • 1911—Moved to present campus
  • 1911–1913—Did not offer classes for 8 consecutive semesters; no longer on the list of approved colleges
  • 1913—Appointed Herbert Reherd as first residential president; classes offered again
  • 1919—Enrolled 123 students
  • 1919—Football program began
  • 1920—Woman’s tennis program started
  • 1926—Built Foster Hall as dormitory
  • 1928—Built Payne Gymnasium
  • 1935—Became a 4-year college
  • 1935—Adopted a four-year junior college format offering associate’s degrees in addition to a high school diploma
  • Near the end of WWII—Sought accreditation as a 4-year baccalaureate institution to meet anticipated peacetime needs for higher education
  • 1949—Became a 4-year liberal arts institution offering baccalaureate degrees in the arts and sciences
  • 1949–1967—Built a science building, Hogle, Carleson, Nightingale, and Bamberger halls.
  • 1968—Held first baccalaureate classes in St. Mark’s School of Nursing
  • 1974—Ended denominational relationship with the Presbyterian Church
  • 1979—Declared financial exigency
  • 1979—Athletic programs (the Parsons) discontinued due to financial crisis
  • 1983—Officially closed college—and immediately reopened as Westminster College of Salt Lake City
  • 1983—Reorganized college; schools of arts and sciences and business formed
  • 1983–1998—Grew from 400 students with 25 faculty to 2200 students with 100 full-time faculty and 150 adjunct faculty
  • 1984—Began men’s soccer
  • 1980s and ’90s—Reorganized college; schools of arts and sciences and business formed
  • 1983—Ended mutual agreements with United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church—completely cut ties with religious schools
  • 1988–1995—Added MBA, MPC, and MSN programs
  • 1988–2004—Built Residential Village, Giovale Library, Gore School of Business, and Emma Eccles Jones Conservatory
  • 1989—Ferry Hall (one of the original buildings) was razed
  • Start of Graduate Programs
  • 1990s—Intercollegiate athletic program gradually restored with the Griffin as mascot
  • 1992—Creation of Master of Professional Communication program (MPC)
  • 1996—Founded School of Education
  • 1999—Reinstated men’s and women’s basketball
  • 2004—New strategic plan
  • 2005—Launched Capital Campaign
  • 2006—Opened Dolores Doré Eccles Health, Wellness, and Athletic Center
  • 2006–2007—Began fielding a men's lacrosse team following the completion of a new athletic field on campus
  • 2007—Creation of the Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program (MSCMHC)
  • 2013—Creation of the Master of Strategic Communication program (MSC)
  • 2014—New strategic plan approved
  • 2015—Accepted into NCAA Division II membership process—rejoining former conference home: the RMAC
  • 2023—Transitioned to Westminster University