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Southern Nazarene University - Character Culture Christ

Oklahoma Holiness College


Southern Nazarene University it is called today.

Bethany Nazarene College it was called till 1986.
Bethany-Peniel College it was called from the first merge until 1955.
Oklahoma Nazarene College it was called before the first merge in 1920.
Oklahoma Holiness College it was called since 1909 when C.B. Jernigan took over the "Beulah Heights" school in Oklahoma City near N.W. 39th & Pennsylvania from Miss Mattie Mallory and brought it out to Bethany.

Beulah Heights College and Bible School
Beulah Heights College and Bible School

Not many people know how many name changes this college underwent (four in a century), not even considering the fact that SNU merged together out of five different colleges. To include all those places in SNU's history it would have to be called something like Bethany-Peniel-Central-Arkansas-Bresee-Nazarene-Holiness-College.

Not many people know either that if SNU wasn't here, Bethany would possibly not even exist. Rev. C.B. Jernigan, who was the founder of Oklahoma Holiness College, at the same time founded Bethany as a town.

Bethany, though being the site where all the other colleges merged to, was not the first college of the five to be founded (Texas Holiness University in 1899). One hundred years ago, it still consisted of merely empty fields which were inhabited by birds and flies and spiders rather than eagerly learning students. Wild grass, shrubs, and bushes rather bore witness of contented wildlife than of neat and orderly young people. The eagle's call and the cricket's chirp filled the air instead of the laughter and chatter of pupils and teachers.

El Reno Interurban Railway
El Reno Interurban Railway

In 1906 a maiden lady by the name of Miss Mattie Mallory started a bible school in Oklahoma City. Three years earlier she had already founded an orphanage and a home for unwed mothers. Then, the railroad desired her property. Miss Mallory was persuaded to join the Church of the Nazarene and give the school over to the church.

At the first General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene Rev. C.B. Jernigan had been appointed District Superintendent of the Oklahoma/Kansas District.

He was the one who took the school, sold Miss Mallory's property at Beulah Heights and bought a piece of land in Bethany instead, four and a half miles west of the city limits of Oklahoma City.

The El Reno Interurban line ran right next to these grounds, which made it a very convenient place to build. Jernigan established the Oklahoma Holiness College on these grounds and with it the city of Bethany, in the year of 1909. The area was platted for a town and a school at the same time, and Jernigan marked off streets.

The Oklahoma Orphanage was also moved to Bethany, where it thrived and grew. Miss Mallory kept it till her death and then it was handed over to the state.

Oklahoma Holiness College was pretty much the same as all the other Christian colleges around at that time. Extraordinary perhaps is the phrase "The modern athletic craze is not followed here. We have no teams of any kind to play other schools." No NAIA champions, no intramural sports. Interesting also is the fact that of all the schools described so far, OHC was the only one who had any international students - and it even had two, one from England and one from Germany. The rest of the student body (147 in 1917/18) came from six different states.

In 1918 the name was changed to Oklahoma Nazarene College, and in 1920 Texas Holiness University merged and the name was changed to Bethany-Peniel College. After that, three other colleges merged to Bethany - Central Holiness College in 1929, Arkansas Holiness College in 1931, and Bresee College (Kansas) in 1940.

In 1955 there was another name change, which had a special reason. The name "Peniel" was frequently associated with a prison institution, which had a similar name, and it was decided to leave that part of the name out. For 31 years the school was called Bethany Nazarene College, which finally in 1986 was changed to Southern Nazarene University. Still, a lot of the alumni of our college still refer to it as BNC, and feel strange talking about SNU.

OHC's administration building that today is Bresee Hall
OHC's administration building, today's Bresee Hall

Southern Nazarene University still stands on the same grounds on which OHC was founded in 1909. Bresee Hall is still the administration building that it has been since time long gone. The El Reno Interurban line is now called NW 39th Expressway. And quite a few of the street names in Bethany bear witness of her origin.

SNU has a long history, combining the story of five different colleges in four states. Today, as she celebrates her 100th birthday, she has a legacy to be proud of and a memory to pursue.

Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left.

Isaiah 54:2+3

Dorli Gschwandtner

OHC Brochure
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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

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