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Our History (Written in 2013)

Over 50 Years of Excellence Inspired by 200 Years of Legacy

Judson’s roots are almost a century old, an outgrowth of Northern Theological Seminary, which was founded in 1913.

From its inception, Northern offered both graduate and undergraduate education to men and women training for the ministry.

In the early 1960s, when the seminary portion of Northern moved from Chicago to Lombard, it was decided to make the college an independent entity. Under the guidance of Dr. Benjamin P. Browne, college and seminary president, a "new" school was founded along the shores of the Fox River in 1963.

The college was named after Adoniram Judson, the first American missionary abroad, arriving in Burma in 1813 and eventually spending 37 years overseas, returning home just once in all that time.

Judson University has become home to people from all around the world, including students from Kenya, India, Serbia and Japan.

From a 19-acre private estate, Judson has expanded to 90 acres of woods and lawns. Nearly two dozen buildings dot the grounds, including four residence halls, a campus apartment building, a fine arts center, a fitness center, student center and a 700-seat chapel.

Judson’s first president, Dr. Browne, retired in 1967. Dr. Amos B. Barton served as president through 1969 and Dr. Harm A. Weber from 1969-1992. Dr. James W. Didier was next in line, serving from 1992-1998. Dr. Jerry B. Cain became Judson’s fifth president, serving 14 years before retiring in June 2012. Dr. William Crothers served as our Interim President during the 2012-2013 academic year. In April 2013, Judson welcomed Dr. Gene C. Crume Jr. as President-Elect. He became president in June 2013.

History has shown that each one of the presidents believed that where people come from isn’t nearly as important as where they are going. With such a mindset, leadership is action, not position. In the Judson administration building, it is commitment, not authority, that has always produced results.

Those results have allowed for close personal relationships among almost everyone on campus, an egalitarian spirit supported by the school’s relatively small size.

Judson is an evangelical Christian university of the liberal arts, sciences and professions, offering a wide variety of B.A. programs and “practitioner-based” graduate programs in architecture, education, organizational leadership and literacy.

In 1994, Judson introduced a new academic division concentrating on continuing education for non-traditional students. Since its inception, the Division of Adult and Continuing Education has offered innovative programs with a high level of student service, both at the main campus in Elgin and at its extension campus in Rockford. The extension campus was established in 1999.

With an academically challenging environment and encouraging spiritual community, Judson shapes lives that will shape the world.

Golden Centennial Anniversary in 2013

In 2013 and 2014 Judson University celebrated its Golden Centennial Anniversary, commemorating 50 years since the college's relocation to Elgin in 1963. Judson also recognized its roots with the Northern Theological Seminary which was founded in 1913 as well as the school's affiliation with Adoniram Judson, the first American missionary abroad who traveled to Burma in 1813.

History of Judson

Golden Centennial Interviews

Golden Centennial Anniversary Book

Anniversary Book

Anniversary Book

Read all about Judson's history and the people and events that have made Judson a wonderful community in a coffee-table edition of Judson's Golden Centennial Anniversary Book. This history of Judson was written by Robert Bittner '82 with many stories contributed by alumni and key leaders.


A Brief History of Judson University:
In the Beginning

By Lynn Hammerlund, former Judson Librarian


It is not an exaggeration to call Judson University “the miracle college.” Throughout its 40-plus years of existence, Judson University has had to face almost insurmountable difficulties just to survive, and then great challenges to endure. And yet, through the grace of God and a dedicated core of people who believed in “the Church at work in higher education,” Judson is poised to proceed to its half-century anniversary—not just surviving, but thriving.


Judson College got its start as the four-year undergraduate division of Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Chicago. When the seminary’s neighborhood changed and became a high-crime slum area, the trustees looked to move to the suburbs as a matter of survival and safety. The seminary president was able to negotiate a great deal with Bethany Seminary, and they made plans for a new campus in Oak Brook in the western suburbs. The NBTS board of trustees, however, did not want the undergraduate division to move with them. The college division could not stay in the Chicago location. The administration had to find another site quickly.

Dr. Benjamin P. Browne (president of the college division), Dr. Edgar Boss (academic dean), Dr. Amos Barton (trustee), Attorney William Brady (trustee), and Dr. Willis Reed (NBTS alumnus) were instrumental in finding and securing the Elgin campus location. The story of how the property was purchased is an amazing one. Indeed, Dr. Browne, in his history of the college, titles the chapter “How to Buy a College Campus Without Any Money.”1

On November 30, 1962, Dr. Reed tipped Dr. Browne to the availability of an estate on the Fox River known as Braeburn-on-the-Fox, owned by a doctor’s widow. The owner, Mrs. Margaret Deuterman, was ready to sell the estate to a business concern that was planning to convert it into an entertainment club. She was willing to listen to the men from NBTS in their pitch to use the estate for a college, but all parties involved knew that it would happen only if the buyers could meet Mrs. Deuterman’s price of $150,000. Her real estate agent was present at the meeting—ostensibly, to offer advice, but most likely, to keep her resolve firm at that price. Dr. Browne knew that he did not have $150,000, and he had to have the approval of the NBTS trustees to secure any financing.

Through some adroit persuasion and a healthy dose of inspiration from the Holy Spirit, the college leaders managed to get Mrs. Deuterman to agree to a price of $100,000. All she required was $500 earnest money to seal the deal. Dr. Browne pulled out the last $5 bill in his wallet. No one else had any cash. But Dr. Amos Barton, who owned a construction business, had his company checkbook. He agreed to “loan” the college the $500 needed to secure the property. The college had to present to her a formal written plan of how the estate was to be used by Dec. 18. Then, as they discussed financing the purchase,¬¬ Mrs. Deuterman told them that she expected the remainder of the purchase price to be paid over twenty years. This was unheard of—and exactly the kind of miracle the college needed to get started. Judson College was able to get financing with this extended payment period.

Things began coming together in rapid fashion. The core college leadership secured enough money to make the down payment at the closing. The college received a charter from the State of Illinois, dated March 11, 1963—to “Judson College, a Baptist Institution.”

Moving to Elgin

The only buildings on the estate were the manor house (the current Weber Administrative Building), a carriage house, and a maintenance shed. Dr. Browne knew that he needed another building in order to bring students here, with a targeted opening date of September 1963.

Through another miracle of financing and donation of services by people who believed in Judson College’s mission, a multipurpose building was constructed in the low area west of the manor house. The board of trustees was still not sure that this college would survive, so the building had to be the kind that could be sold for apartments, should the college fail. On an aggressive construction schedule, the new three story building (Volkman Hall) was opened on September 19, 1963, a few weeks late. Students were housed in the apartment dorms. The library, bookstore, and classrooms occupied the first floor. Faculty members had to share one tiny office. The manor house had a huge air-conditioned dining room and kitchen facilities, and the students ate in shifts at the new Administration Building. The carriage house had a second floor apartment which became the new home of the family of Paul Thompson, the Building and Grounds Supervisor. Eventually, the carriage house became classroom space, as well as rehearsal space for the Judson College Choir, and makeshift chapel for daily services.

Members of the administration did double duty, having at least two titles with their names. Thus, the President was also the Director of Public Relations, the Academic Dean was also the Admissions Counselor/Recruiter, etc. Several faculty members taught classes outside of their discipline; for example, the art professor, an avid bird watcher, also taught ornithology. The wife of one of the college professors became the college nurse.

While the campus had great natural beauty, there was only a one-man grounds crew to take care of it. Students themselves organized clean-up days, and pitched in where heeded to keep up with maintenance.

Fierce opposition

While trying to keep the college afloat, Dr. Browne also experienced fierce opposition from just about every side—the trustees of NBTS, other Baptist seminaries, other Baptist colleges (“the market is saturated”), and even the leadership of the American Baptists. Indeed, very few people thought that Judson College was a good idea, and several influential people hoped it would fail.

The college, naturally, was severely strapped financially for most of its first ten years of existence. There were times when the trustees delivered a financial ultimatum that, unless the college could raise so many hundred thousands of dollars to meet payroll and other obligations, the school would have to fold. Yet, the college would receive enough donations from Judson supporters before the deadline so it could remain open. Such financial “miracles” were regular occurrences.

Still, Judson was attracting students, and enrollment continued to grow. By the fifth year, Judson was sending more graduates to Baptist seminaries than all the other established Baptist colleges. It took awhile, but eventually the most vocal adversaries of Judson College were silenced by its successes, especially when times were toughest.

Changes in leadership

Dr. Browne became the founding President at age seventy, and the stress of the job took its toll on his health. He knew that he had to turn the reins of leadership over to someone else, and do it quickly. In June 1966, the trustees elected Dr. Amos Barton to succeed him as President.

Dr. Barton served his Presidency from 1967 to 1969. He, too, was plagued by ill health, and was forced to resign in July 1969.

The Board elected Dr. Harm Weber as the third Judson College President. Many trustees told him frankly that his major task would be to close the school with dignity, as it appeared ready to fail. Instead, the college underwent its greatest growth under President Weber, after Judson received full accreditation by the North Central Association, which meant that Judson College had now officially arrived, after ten years, as a recognized school of higher education. Dr. Weber served as President until December 31, 1991.

Judson innovations

Dr. Edgar Boss came up with an innovative academic calendar based on three fourteen-week terms a year, running from early September through the last week of June. (July and August were for vacations.) Students who took all three trimesters could graduate in three years. Students who needed to work could “drop out” for that third trimester, and start earning their college money in late March. They would still be able to graduate in four years. Because students were on a non-traditional schedule, classes were designated as freshmen, middlers, and seniors. Judson eventually modified that calendar to end in mid-June, and continued the trimester calendar until June 1983.

In the 1970s, Dr. Boss was eager to take part in the spirit of educational experimentation that was rampant on most college campuses. He designed the curriculum into six divisions: Christian Religion/Philosophy, Communication Arts, Fine Arts, Human Institutions, Human Relations, and Science/Mathematics. Judson also eventually offered a Teacher Education program in cooperation with North Park College (now North Park University) in Chicago. Interdisciplinary classes became the order of the day, team taught by at least two professors of different divisions, with such titles as Arts and Man and Science and Man. Students at the time enjoyed the discussion and dialogue that such integrated courses encouraged, but the faculty had a tough time trying to deliver a quality product with so many teachers in charge of one course. After a few years, these integrated courses were abandoned as being too difficult to deliver. (The lone holdover course from this time is Faith and Life, taken by every Judson senior.) The overworked but dedicated faculty was willing to try innovative curriculum, even if it did not succeed in the long run.

In January 1994, Judson launched the AIM (Adult Instructional Model) program, a continuing education plan for adult students to complete their four-year college degrees. Using the cohort model and accelerated learning classes, the curriculum allowed a student with an associate’s degree to earn a bachelor’s degree in about eighteen months. This educational delivery system was so innovative and successful, it was adopted by several other colleges, and became known as “the Judson model.” The initial AIM program was in Management and Leadership; other programs were added in Human Resources, Human Services, Information Management, and Criminal Justice. AIM became DACE (Division of Adult and Continuing Education), and in the summer of 2008 became Adult Professional Studies. It was modified in 2009 to Adult and Continuing Education.

Expansion of curriculum

Judson College renamed its academic divisions in the late 1980s: Christian Religion/Philosophy, Communication Arts, Business Administration, Fine Arts, Human Relations, Physical Education, Science/Mathematics, and Teacher Education. Human Relations later became Social Sciences; Fine Arts branched into Fine Arts/Music and Visual Arts; Physical Education became Exercise and Sport Sciences, which then became part of Teacher Education. New programs were added in Youth Ministry and Adolescent Studies, Architecture, and Worship Arts. With the arrival of Architecture, Visual Arts was renamed the Division of Art/Design/Architecture (DADA). In 2004, Judson’s architecture program received full accreditation from NAAB (National Architecture Accrediting Board), right on schedule and with glowing praise from the accreditation teams.

The Division of Graduate Studies was established to oversee the master’s degree programs. In 2003, Judson awarded its first master’s degree in architecture. In 2005, Judson awarded its first master’s degree in education. In January 2007, the AIM program launched its first cohorts for the master’s in organizational leadership. Over the summer of 2008, the first cohorts started for the master’s degree in literacy.

Judson also began a program that enabled students who already had bachelor’s degrees to earn a teaching certificate in about a year’s time.

During the 2008-2009 academic year, Judson was reorganized into schools and colleges with their own deans. The first deans in the reorganization: Dr. Kathleen Miller (Teacher Education); Dr. Lanette Poteete-Young (College of Arts and Sciences); Dr. James Rohe (Graduate and Adult Professional Studies); Dr. Curtis Sartor (School of Art/Design/Architecture).

Campus expansion

In 1997, the college purchased a hotel building on River Road across from the campus, which became the Lindner Center, and is now the Lindner Tower. The Lindner Tower houses the Registrar, academic offices, the Center for Adult Professional Studies, the Learning Center, classrooms, computer labs, and several dormitory floors.

Judson started offering classes in Rockford for adult students and purchased space in the former IBM building on Featherstone Road to become the Rockford satellite campus. In August 2006, Judson held a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of its new Rockford campus building next to the IBM building. It opened in the summer of 2007.

Fortieth anniversary celebration—and beyond

Beginning in January 2003, the college kicked off its fortieth anniversary celebration, which included a bridal fashion show that showcased Judson brides among faculty, staff, and alumni over forty years. The Weber Administration Building was featured in the 2003 Elgin Historic House Walk, remembering its beginnings as Braeburn-on-the-Fox. A short dramatic presentation re-enacted the meeting between Mrs. Deuterman and Dr. Browne that secured the purchase of the campus.

In November 2003, Judson announced a major government grant from the Department of Energy--$7.5 million to fund the construction of the Harm A. Weber Academic Center, which would house the new library and the DADA program, and was touted to be the most energy efficient, greenest building in the Midwest. This grant was orchestrated by the architects, several trustees, administrators and faculty members through the office of former Speaker of the House, the Honorable Dennis Hastert, who represented the Elgin area in Congress. A celebratory Thanksgiving chapel announced the grant to the world. The monetary award hastened the construction of the new Weber Academic Center, with groundbreaking scheduled for Founders Day 2004.In spring 2006, a major anonymous donor gave the money to finish the building so that it could open with both the library and DADA components completed. DADA and the library offices moved over the summer, and the ribbon-cutting took place on August 27, 2007.

The Judson community came together to mourn the passing of one of its beloved founding professors in February 2004. Dr. Ed Thompson founded the Music Department and molded the Judson College Choir into an outstanding musical group that has toured all over the world, spreading the Gospel and promoting Judson College. At Dr. Ed’s funeral, alumni filled the chapel platform, coming back as choir members to say good-bye to their beloved Dr. Ed, their voices raised in Handel’s ”Hallelujah Chorus.”

Judson University

In the changing climate of academia, the word “college” was becoming blurred in meaning, as many community colleges deleted “community” from their names as a marketing tool. This would cause confusion among prospective students: Was a college a two-year or a four-year institution? Did only universities offer graduate degrees?

Judson College studied and debated this question for several years. With the addition of three master’s degree programs, Judson could call itself a university. But would that distort the atmosphere of Judson as a place with small classes and great faculty involvement with their students? Judson College polled its constituents—faculty, staff, students, alumni, trustees, donors, and supporters—to find out how feasible it would be to change the name to Judson University.

During the 2006-2007 academic year, the trustees voted to change the name to Judson University. The change became official on Tuesday, August 28, 2007, with fireworks at midnight on campus (that frightened the neighbors at Willow Lakes) and a ceremony with many local dignitaries present. The Daily Herald printed an insert to add to their newspapers on August 28, celebrating Judson’s new name and identity.

In February 2008, Judson went through an accreditation visit from the Higher Learning Commission. The University passed its accreditation for the next ten years. The HLC Site Team stated in their report, “It should be noted that this community’s faith and commitment to its mission may well be unprecedented in the experiences of the members of the site visit team.”2

In the summer of 2008, the Fine Arts Building was renamed the Alice & Edward Thompson Center in honor of the beloved long-serving music teachers at Judson College. Mrs. Alice Thompson was present at the dedication on Founders Day in October 2008. She went to be with the Lord on January 10, 2009, and her funeral was held in Herrick Chapel, with an overflow crowd of former students and faculty colleagues who came to honor her ministry in music and education, despite bitterly cold temperatures.

An added cause for celebration was the 2008-2009 edition of U.S. News & World Report’s Guide to Colleges, with Judson at number 18 among Midwest baccalaureate colleges. During the previous year, Judson University was ranked at number 21. This is a testament to the growing academic reputation of the miracle college that had to struggle to stay alive. For the 2009-2010 edition, Judson remained in the top tier, at number 26. See this website page for Judson's current accolades.

In April 2010, President Harm Weber passed into eternal life. A memorial service and celebration of his life of service and ministry was held on Founders Day, October 29, 2010.

At the Welcome Back luncheon for faculty and staff on August 17, 2011, President Cain announced his retirement, effective June 30, 2012.


Through the Providence of God and the fierce determination of its leaders and supporters, Judson College, now Judson University, has endured the hardships suffered during the early years. With an eye toward innovation and a commitment to be “the Church at work in higher education.” Judson has seen its enrollment expand to over 1200 students. Judson University now thrives, and in the words of namesake Adoniram Judson, “The future is as bright as the promises of God.”

1 Browne, Benjamin P. Comrades in an adventure of faith: a somewhat personal history of the beginnings of Judson College. Elgin, Ill. : The College, 1971.
2Quoted several times by President Cain and other members of the Administration since the preliminary report in March.

Primary Source Bibliography

Browne, Benjamin P. Comrades in an adventure of faith: a somewhat personal history of the beginnings of Judson College. Elgin, Ill. : The College, 1971.

Judson University. Accreditation self-study: in preparation for a site visit to Judson University on February 18-20, 2008 from the Higher Learning Commission. Elgin, Ill. : The University, 2008.

The Lantern. Elgin, Ill. : Judson College, 1964-

Self study of Judson College, Elgin, Illinois. Elgin, Ill. : The College, 1972.

Judson University Seal and Motto

The official motto of Judson University, chosen by Dr. Benjamin P. Browne, is Christus Lux Mundi—Christ the Light of the World.

Charles Waughaman, first professor of art, designed the official seal. The seal is encompassed by the circle of eternity with the threefold iris flower at the center, symbolizing the Trinity, surrounded by four crosses representing both the sacrifice of Christ and the four points of the compass to which the light shines forth from Christ, the Light of the World.

Judson University Brand Promise

The official motto of Judson University, chosen by Dr. Benjamin P. Browne, is Christus Lux Mundi—Christ the Light of the World.

Judson went through a branding program in 2012 and launched its current tagline of "Shaping Lives that Shape the World," which focuses on a commitment to the student, spiritual development, leadership and excellence.

Judson College/University Presidents

Dr. Benjamin P. Browne 1963-1967
Dr. Amos Barton 1967-1969
Dr. Harm Weber 1969-1991
Dr. James Didier 1991-1999
Dr. Jerry Cain 1998-2012
Dr. Gene Crume (updated) 2013-present

Judson College/University First Ladies

Mrs. Rachel Browne 1963-1967
Mrs. Sadie Barton 1967-1969
Mrs. Arlie Weber 1969-1991
Mrs. Joan Didier 1991-1998
Mrs. Linda Cain 1998-2012
Mrs. Cindy Crume (updated) 2013-present


Pre-1963 Manor House, Braeburn-on-the-Fox (Administration Building)
1963 Volkman Hall
1964 Faculty Apartments
1965 Science Building
1965 Dining Residence Hall (becomes Wilson Hall)
1965 Rachel Browne Amphitheater
1966 Barton House (originally President’s House)
1966 Gymnasium (becomes Plant Operations in 1990)
1966 Benjamin P. Browne Library
1969 Ohio Hall
1973 Herrick Chapel
1975 Herrick Fine Arts Building; renamed Thompson Center in 2008
1982 Lindner Commons
1984 Wilson Hall (rename)
1990 Lindner Fitness Center
1993 Weber Administration Building (rename)
1996-97 Lindner Center, now known as Lindner Tower
1996-97 Mobile classroom, “Moo Lab” (becomes Eastside Offices)
1999 Creekside South
2004 Eastside Offices (rename)
2007 Lindner Tower (rename)
2007 Harm A. Weber Academic Center, for library and SoADA
2008 Alice and Edward Thompson Center (rename)
2009 University Center, Browne Underground Student Lounge, Business Offices, Security

Named Areas on Campus

Alice and Edward Thompson Center—named for founders of the music program at Judson College (formerly the Herrick Fine Arts Building)

Barton House—named for Amos Barton, founding trustee, businessman, and the second Judson College President

Benjamin P. Browne Library (“the Ben”)—named for Benjamin P. Browne, “Founding Father,” Judson College’s first President, American Baptist leader and writer

Creekside South—built on the south banks of Tyler Creek which flows through campus; now houses the School of Teacher Education

Draewell Gallery (HAWAC)—named for Dr. David and Mrs. Betty Draewell, who donated a valuable collection of fine art prints to the Judson permanent art collection; Dr. Draewell was a long time Vice President of Business Affairs

Eastside Offices—located on the east side of the campus; originally a mobile classroom that housed the computer lab

Harm A. Weber Academic Center (HAWAC)—named for the College’s third President; houses the library and School of Art, Design, and Architecture; major funding from a government grant for an energy-efficient building using green technology

Herrick Chapel—named in memory of Ray W Herrick, “a manufacturer from Tecumseh, Michigan, a Christian philanthropist dedicated to ‘making the world a better place.’” (from the plaque in the Chapel lobby)

Herrick Fine Arts Building—named for the Herrick Foundation of Tecumseh, Michigan, Kenneth Herrick, President; renamed the Alice and Edward Thompson Center in 2008

Hoffer Baseball Field—named for Robert Hoffer, founding trustee and long time Judson supporter; founder of Hoffer Plastics in Elgin member of the Judson Athletic Hall of Fame

John A. Dawson Field—named for Dr. John Dawson, a Chicago stockbroker, past president of the American Baptist Convention as well as the Baptist World Alliance, Judson Trustee (1964-1978); long time supporter of Judson athletics

Lindner Commons—named in honor of Mrs. Betty Lindner, long time trustee

Lindner Fitness Center—named in honor of Robert D. Lindner, trustee and long time Judson supporter; member of the Judson Athletic Hall of Fame

Lindner Tower—named in honor of the three Lindner Brothers, Richard E., Carl H., Robert D., trustees and long time Judson College/University supporters

Memorial Meditation Room (Chapel basement)—dedicated to the memory of J. Marcus Didier and Donna Shotwell, two students who were tragically killed in a car accident in 1975

Ohio Baptist Hall—named for the Ohio Baptist Convention churches that were the major donors for the building

Rachel Browne Amphitheater—named for Mrs. Rachel Browne, Judson College’s first First Lady, who also taught art

Reed Room (Lindner Tower)—named for Dr. Willis and Mrs. Sarah Reed, found trustees and long time Judson supporters

Thompson Fountain (lagoon in front of Volkman Hall)—named for Dr. Edward and Mrs. Alice Thompson. Dr. Ed directed the Choir, and Mrs. Ed (Alice) directed the Handbell ChoirArt & Architecture; Fine Arts; Architecture; Photography

University Center (original library building)—houses Browne Underground, Business Offices, Wellness Center, Financial Aid, Student Accounts, and Technology Services

Volkman Hall—named for Dr. William (Bill) Volkman, who financed and built the first dormitory/classroom building

Weber Administration Building—named for Dr. Harm A. Weber, Judson’s third President and current Chancellor; the original Manor House of Braeburn-on-the-Fox

William Brady Entrance—named for William Brady, a “Founding Father,” and first Chairman of the Board of Trustees; long time Elgin attorney and Judson supporter

Wilson Hall—named for C.D. (Cliff) Wilson, Jr., long time Judson trustee and supporter, who also donated funds for the first tennis courts

Judson University, Shaping Lives that Shape the World