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A Century-Old Tradition: ACU Through the Years

By on January 10, 2018 in About ACU, Student life with 0 Comments

old photo of early acu building

When A.B. Barret and Charles Roberson first dreamed up the idea of building a new school in West Texas, they couldn’t have imagined that 100 years later people would be earning degrees in both Abilene AND from afar thanks to technological advances.

As an ACU Online student, whether you live near campus or are taking classes from across the globe, you’re part of a century-old tradition of Christian education. Here, we’ll share with you a bit about our history and how we show our school spirit.

Planting Roots in Abilene

Founded in 1906 as Childers Classical Institution, the school first focused on primary and secondary grades. The educational approach changed under the leadership of Jesse P. Sewell, the fifth president. In 1912, along with this new direction came a new name: Abilene Christian College.

During Sewell’s tenure, ACU grew its campus footprint, and its student population expanded to about 300. Also during this period, the institution became accredited as a junior college in 1914, then a senior college in 1919.

A Growing College

In 1924, Batsell Baxter took over as president, and his approach to campus organizations and activities led student life to flourish. ACU was starting to outgrow its home. Plans for a new and larger location began in 1927, and the campus you know opened in the fall of 1929.

Other important milestones in this era include:

  • earning accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1946
  • surpassing the 2,000-student mark in 1955 (due to a post-war boom in education)
  • adopting an ambitious master plan in 1962.

Over the next almost 20 years, thanks in part to a capital fundraising campaign, ACU grew by leaps and bounds: 15 new buildings, major renovations to 10 others.

Modern-Day ACU

In 1976, then-Abilene Christian College officially became Abilene Christian University. By this time, enrollment was at about 4,000 full-time students. Throughout the 80s and 90s, ACU continued to grow in size, students, offerings, and endowment. In the early 2000s, ACU celebrated its centennial and many other milestones, including innovations in campus technology. The ACU story continues, now, with its 21st-Century vision of redefining Christian education and producing leaders who think critically, strategically, and missionally.

ACU Traditions

Our campus is home to many time-honored traditions, including:


The centerpiece of this daily campus gathering is a brief time of devotion, singing, praise, and fellowship. Students also hear from guest speakers, share announcements, and generally take time to remind each other that ACU is not just a university: it’s family.


As a rich Abilene Christian University tradition since 1956, approximately one-third of ACU’s student body participates in Sing Song each year. A top men’s social club, women’s social club and mixed voices group are crowned for having the best song medley.


This busy weekend in October is full of a whirlwind of traditions: a waving (and sometimes weeping) queen crowned at halftime at the football game, an early-morning parade, and a music spectacular.

Purple Friday

Here’s one you can do from anywhere! What began in the mid-1990s as a routine of employees wearing “game-day attire” has grown into an every-Friday tradition as more faculty, staff and students choose to show their school pride and Wildcat spirit by donning purple. If you don your ACU colors on Friday, you can even share on social media using #GoWildcats!

Whether near or far, as an ACU Online student, you’re a Wildcat! We hope you feel proud to be a part of a school with such a rich history and vibrant community.


Want to be a part of ACU Online, where a Christ-centered education comes to you? Explore our graduate programs.

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