Wesley College, a school associated with the Methodist Episcopal Church, was established in 1891 as the Red River Valley University in Wahpeton, North Dakota. The school officially opened in October 1892 with Reverend M.V.B. Knox as president. In addition to preparatory and normal departments, it offered courses in business, languages, science, math, music, and art. Informal discussions began several years later, during the presidency of Edward P. Robertson, about the future of the school and its curriculum. Among the proposals was an alignment with the University of North Dakota (UND), initiated by UND president Webster Merrifield. After further discussions and meetings, the relocation to Grand Forks and affiliation with UND was approved at the North Dakota Methodist Conference in 1905. This was the first instance of a religious college officially joining with a state university in the United States.
The school acquired 80 acres of property just to the north of the UND campus. This addition was called University Place. Dr. Robertson chose names of leading institutions of higher learning (Columbia, Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, etc.) for the streets of University Place. Hamline was included as one of the street names because Robertson was a graduate of Hamline University.
The school was renamed Wesley College and operated under the auspices of Red River Valley Corporation. For governance, Wesley College had its own board of trustees and executive committee. The initial programs were a conservatory of music, with courses in piano, voice, and violin, and a school of arts, with classes in religion and philosophy. A department of expression was added about 1914. The curriculum at Wesley College was designed to complement the course offerings available at UND. Students at either institution could earn credits toward a B.A. degree by taking classes at the other institution.
The affiliation of Wesley College with UND continued until 1965. In that year, following approval by the Wesley College trustees, Wesley College sold its buildings to UND and the name was officially changed to Wesley Center of Religion. It continued to fund one faculty position in the Department of Religious Studies at UND for several years and supported a student center program. Properties adjacent to UND that were still owned by Wesley were sold in 1968 and 1973 to the University. The Wesley Center then relocated to an office in Wesley United Methodist Church in Grand Forks and proceeds from its investments are used to support programs consistent with its mission and vision.
Deposit - the original materials constituted a collection in the Orin G. Libby Manuscript Collection before being transferred to University Archives Record Group 63 in the 1970s.
Wesley Center of Religion (Formerly Wesley College). Sheffield, Wesley. Green, J. Carleton, joint author.; University of North Dakota. 1983 (LD3983 .S52 1983).
The story of the affiliation of Wesley College with the University of North Dakota. Robertson, Edward P. 1935 (LD5899.W42 R6x).
A good investment: the story of Wesley College and that of the mother institution - Red River Valley University - as well as the story of still earlier plans of the Methodist Church to promote educational work of college rank in North Dakota. Henry, George A. 1948 (LD5899.W42 H45x).
The Wesley College Records are organized into the following series: Presidential Papers, Administrative and Financial Records, Education, Programs and Publications, Assorted Materials, and Photographs.
The Presidential Papers are further divided into two subseries: Edward P. Robertson and Other Wesley College Presidents. These contain correspondence and related documents of the various presidents of the school. Robertson served as president for 32 years, retiring in 1931, and guided Wesley College during its affiliation with the University of North Dakota and subsequent relocation to Grand Forks. His correspondence spans most years of his presidency as well as his years as President Emeritus. Other presidents of Wesley College were Charles L. Wallace (1931-1939), T. Ross Hicks (1940-1946), Marcus J. Birrell (1947-1957), C. Maxwell Brown (acting president; 1957-1958), Phillips Moulton (1958-1963), and Wesley Sheffield (1963-1965).
The collection includes the former Orin G. Libby Manuscript Collection 18 (Wesley College) and records from the Wesley College buildings. Many financial records were destroyed according to the State Board of Higher Education Records Disposition Schedule.