Cornerstone University is an independent, evangelical Christian institution. The university began as an evening Bible institute on Jan. 7, 1941.
Two hundred and eleven students enrolled in Bible courses designed to make them more effective lay workers in local churches. Classes were held two evenings per week in the educational wing of Wealthy Street Baptist Church in Grand Rapids, Mich. Fees for regularly enrolled students were $2 per term! The response to the program and the expressed desire of many students to enter into ministry led to the inauguration of a day school in 1944, which offered two- and three-year programs of study.
In 1945, the hiring of seminary-educated professors raised the level of education for ministry. As a prerequisite to entrance into the pastoral ministries program, a minimum of two years of general education, including Greek and philosophy, was required.
In 1955, the seminary moved to admit only students with baccalaureate degrees. Steps were also taken to change both the level and the function of the Bible Institute to a degree-granting, undergraduate institution. One of the options considered was to become a liberal arts college. Finances and faculty did not adequately support that move, and in 1963 the Bible Institute became a state-approved Bible College, chartered to offer the Bachelor of Religious Education and Bachelor of Music degrees.
The institute continued to grow and develop into a day and evening school. Eventually, a seminary began and the Bible institute became a four-year Bible college and seminary. The Bible College incorporated the general education of the pre-seminary course, added six 15-20 hour concentrations in the liberal arts to its curriculum, and became a four-year college with a two-year general education base and a major in Bible. In 1964, the college and seminary moved to a new 64-acre campus, and the same year the college was received as a member of the American Association of Bible Colleges. The campus is now 132 acres.
The day before students were to arrive on the new campus that fall, the administration building was still an unbelievable mess. The college president, administrators and professors went to work with buckets, mops, soap, brooms and dust cloths, working until midnight to make sure all was ready. “That first night,” said then-president Dr. W. Wilbert Welch, "we fed our arriving students oven-heated Spam!"
In 1972, with the development of facilities, faculty and finances, the institution was approved by the State of Michigan as a degree-granting college of arts and sciences. In 1977, the institution was accredited by what is now The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (230 N. LaSalle St., Suite 7-500, Chicago, IL 60604-1411, 312-263-0456). Information and documents relative to accreditation are available for public inspection through the Office of the Executive Vice President. In 2001, the institution was accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music.
In 1993, Grand Rapids School of Bible and Music was joined to the institution for the preservation of its rich heritage and academic records. The following year (June 1994), the name of the institution was changed from Grand Rapids Baptist College and Seminary to Cornerstone College and Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary. In 1993, the college also instituted the Adult and Continuing Education program (currently called the Professional & Graduate Studies program).
On July 1, 1999, following approval by the State of Michigan, Cornerstone College and Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary became Cornerstone University. In June 2003, the graduate theological school became Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.
Cornerstone University holds memberships in the Council of Independent Colleges, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Michigan, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM , since 2001) and the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA, since 1977).
Names of the Institution Since Its Beginning:
1941-1944: Baptist Bible Institute of Grand Rapids, Michigan
1944-1948: Baptist Bible Institute and School of Theology of Grand Rapids, Michigan
1948-1963: Grand Rapids Baptist Theological Seminary and Bible Institute
1963-1972: Grand Rapids Baptist Bible College and Seminary
1972-1994: Grand Rapids Baptist College and Seminary
1994-1999: Cornerstone College and Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary (legally named Cornerstone Baptist Educational Ministries)
1999-present: Cornerstone University