Skip to Content
Southern Nazarene University - Character Culture Christ

Arkansas Holiness College

  • Founded by a group of people who had been thrown out of their church because they believed in holiness.
  • Struggling through the threats of the Great War and through the challenges of post-war America.
  • Doomed by the onslaught of the Great Depression of the 1930s and finally transferred to Bethany.

These are the difficulties that Arkansas Holiness College faced. Still, the college that was started in 1900 in Vilonia, Arkansas, and which merged with Bethany-Peniel College in 1931, was a blessing to many.

Vilonia, AR Vilonia, AR

In 1894 Rev. Ferris, a Methodist pastor in Vilonia, experienced entire sanctification, and was followed in this by 20 to 25 people. Their churches however weren't very happy about the change; Rev. Ferris was moved, and the others were excluded from church. Not discouraged, they put up a tabernacle and began having meetings there. In 1900 they started a school, and in 1905 they added a college, calling Professor Hawkins as first president. After only a short time the school had three buildings, a school house and sanctuary, a boys and a girls dorm, which included the dining room and kitchen.

Boys Dorm

Boys Dorm

Professor Hawkins, who served two terms at AHC, built a curriculum, collected a faculty, and by 1908/09 the college housed 200 students.

The purpose of the school was "to offer to the great Central West an institution where boys and girls - regardless of wealth and rank - can pursue a thorough literary course to the neglect of neither soul nor body", as stated in the catalogue of AHC in the year 1913/14. Curriculum, rules, and other matters of interest were similar as in other schools of that time.

"At no time during the year are students allowed to give or receive calls from the opposite sex unless by special permission of the President." - "No student is allowed to absent himself from College or town without consent of the President." - "Loafing positively forbidden. No cards, intoxicants, firearms, tobacco, profanity, vulgarity, brutal games, or reading trashy literature."

Administration Building Administration Building

With seven exceptions all students came from Arkansas. The college included a preparatory school, an Academic school, a College school, a Theological school, a School of Music, a Commercial school, and a course in Expression. College expenses were $112.50 yearly for Room & Board, and $36.00 for tuition.

An interesting observation is that the college catalogue of 1913/14 was almost half way made up of advertisement, while in 1923/24 the advertisement, which ranged from horseshoeing service over Bottled Carbonated Beverages and Real Laying Hens to Undertakers and Embalmers, even took considerably more than half of the space. In our current SNU catalogue there is not a single page of advertisement. Obviously the colleges couldn't finance their catalogues in any other way during the first half of this century.

1929-1931 Catalog1929-1931 Catalog

There cannot be found a great deal of differences in the 1923/24 catalogue. College expenses were almost the same, rules remained mainly unchanged, though the kind remark "Anyone not willing to conform to them is not wanted" was added, further a notice to girls not to wear dresses with short sleeves and low necks or thin material. There existed a few clubs or societies and a rather big department of music. The school calendar was similar to ours today, with the exception that the first semester closed on January 17th, Christmas Vacation ended on December 30th, and examinations only followed after Christmas.

Arkansas Holiness College was accepted by the Church of the Nazarene in 1914, and later rejected again, as the church could not support too many colleges. The college made it through this difficult time, and also through the First World War and the following years. Yet, as the Great Depression of the 1930s struck Vilonia and the college was in great distress, the leaders decided it was to the best of everyone to transfer AHC to Bethany, where it merged with Bethany-Peniel College in 1931 and thus became one of the founding colleges of Southern Nazarene University.

Dorli Gschwandtner

Our Nazarene Heritage
Founded in 1899, Southern Nazarene University is a private, Christian, liberal arts university - a service of the Church of the Nazarene. Located on a 40-acre campus just west of Oklahoma City, SNU grew out of several small colleges committed to educating people for lives of service to God, leadership, and reconciliation toward their neighbors and within the global community. More than 32,000 alumni work and serve throughout the United States and the world. Read About Our Heritage

Southern Nazarene University is committed to facilitating the accessibility of its website. Please be aware that our efforts to ensure website accessibility are ongoing.
If you have specific questions or concerns about the accessibility of any particular web page, please contact