Historical campus photo

Situated on the banks of Little Riley Creek in Bluffton, a small town in northwest Ohio, Bluffton University was founded in 1899 as Central Mennonite College. As the cornerstone was laid for the school’s first building, Noah C. Hirschy, Bluffton’s first president, concluded his remarks with an idea that has proved as durable as the structure itself: “Let us expect great things.” We have, and we continue to do so.

First named Central Mennonite College as compromise between Central Mennonite School and Bluffton College, the university started from humble beginnings. The first building sat on land that was once a ten-acre cow pasture donated by a local townsman. Around 1913, the institution became officially known as Bluffton College and Mennonite Seminary with the official motto becoming “The Truth Makes Free.”

In addition to a College of Liberal Arts and a Music Conservatory, the university soon produced a separate institution in 1920 known as the Witmarsum Seminary, partially named after the home of Menno Simon. This seminary lasted a short while, closing in 1930, but not forgotten as The Witmarsum had become a campus-wide name for community news organized by the press club, founded in 1914.

Bluffton College was accredited in 1956, and officially became Bluffton University in 2004.

While Bluffton is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA, its students, faculty, staff and alumni are not necessarily Mennonite. Elmer Neufeld, the university's seventh president observed “Bluffton should not be seen as somehow less than Mennonite for its diversity, but rather more than Mennonite, with a stronger Christian peace church witness growing out of this experience.”

Today, Bluffton continues to be committed to passing along our core values - discovery, community, respect and service - to each new generation of students.


Original drawing in plans for Marbeck Center.The idea for a building which would serve as a focal center of campus came in a June 3, 1965, report. By October of that year, a general location for the building was selected and in June 1966, 40 acres were purchased near the site. On July 18, 1966, the Board of Trustees selected Jack Hodell as the architect and the Turner Construction Company of New York to build the $1 million facility.

The new building was to be the "town square" of campus with the college bookstore, dining services, post office, conversation areas and student organization offices all in one place and all within a four minute walk from any of the residence halls.

This building was named Marbeck Center after one of the great early Anabaptist leaders, Pilgram Marbeck (or possibly Marpeck). A practicing Catholic and member of the city council, he was removed from office in 1528 when he refused to inform on the Anabaptists. Forced to leave his estate behind, Marbeck fled to Strasbourg and became an Anabaptist. Pilgram Marbeck died of natural causes in 1556.

Marbeck Center was officially dedicated on March 30, 1968. Former Bluffton student, Hugh Downs was the main speaker for the event. Mr. Downs was at the time the host for NBC's popular morning program, the Today Show.