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Hastings College is a private, co-educational, residential liberal arts college. It was founded in 1882.
Nine years earlier, a small group of forward-looking civic leaders, anticipating the need for a college in a growing community, had met in one of the then seven buildings of the village of Hastings to discuss the idea. At that time Hastings was only two years old and still a year away from incorporation as a town.
Of strong religious beliefs, these early settlers proposed the establishment of a Christian liberal arts college, much in the tradition of the liberal arts colleges in the East, from which some of Hastings' early settlers had come. Their initial proposal, enthusiastically approved by the community, was presented to the Kearney Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in August 1873.
Nine years later, on September 13, 1882, Hastings College greeted its first class of 44 students on the second story of the old Post Office building on the northeast corner of First Street and Hastings Avenue, where classes were held for two years until construction of McCormick Hall, the first building on the campus, was completed. There were five professors—three full-time and two part-time.
The first brochure (July 1882) of the College, announcing the opening of classes for the fall term, had this to say about the intended nature of this fledgling institution:
- . . . It is intended to be a Christian institution in its work and influence, evangelical in its spirit and tone. While teaching the principles and duties of the Christian religion, no favor or distinction will be shown on account of any form of religious belief.
The purpose and endeavor of the College will be to stimulate and discipline the intellectual and moral faculties; to cultivate such habits and inculcate such sentiments as tend to develop in the students the characteristics of strong, earnest, and conscientious men and women.
In doing so, it has remained committed to its heritage as:
- A quality liberal arts college.
- An institution of Christian higher education, and
- A college where young men and women acquire the learning, leadership skills, and sense of values that enable them to play constructive roles in their vocational and professional pursuits and in their personal lives as well.
Today our college occupies a stronger, more secure position than it did ten years ago or at any time in its existence. Hastings College continues to fulfill the mission set by its founders while responding to ever-changing educational needs.
In 1882, two courses of study were available: "the Classical and the Scientific." A third option, the Literary Course of Study, was added within the first five years. Electives were almost non-existent; only two were allowed over the four years. Academic standards were strict.
At first, the College offered the Bachelor of Arts degree only. Within a few years, the Bachelor of Science degree was added. In 1934, the B.S. was discontinued because its requirements and those for the B.A. degree were so similar and because the liberal arts were considered an indispensable part of a student's preparation for life and living. That decision still holds today despite strong programs in the natural and social sciences.
In the early 1940's, the College's only undergraduate professional degree, the Bachelor of Music, was added, shortly before the Department of Music was initially accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music.
A summer session was initiated in 1916, the same year the College received its initial accreditation by the North Central Association. In the 1920's, seven departments of instruction were added, and in 1927, an affiliation with the Mary Lanning Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in Hastings resulted in the College's offering liberal arts and science courses for a three-year nursing program. The nursing program became a part of Creighton University in 1986, but Hastings continues to offer background courses in the humanities, arts, and sciences for the nursing students.
Partly as a result of an NCA accreditation review in 1964, Hastings, following the lead of Florida Presbyterian (now Eckerd) College, made a rather dramatic change in its calendar and curriculum in 1965, moving to a 4-1-4 program with a January Interim Term and a unit system of courses equivalent to four semester hours each. The program took effect during 1966-67. The unit system was abandoned in 1982, but the 4-1-4 calendar and the January Interim Term continue to be integral parts of the academic life at Hastings College.
Developments in the 1970's and later included the establishment of the Personalized Program (whereby students propose their own course of study, subject to the advice and counsel of their academic advisors and the approval of the Personalized Program Board); an expanded and academically rigorous internship program; and several new interdisciplinary major programs including Human Services Administration, Human Resources Management, Health Promotion and Management, International Studies, and Biopsychology.
After 105 years as an exclusively undergraduate college, Hastings applied for and received permission from NCA in 1987 to offer its first and only graduate degree—the Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.). Modeled after programs at some Ivy League institutions, the M.A.T. seeks to provide a convenient way for liberal arts graduates to acquire credentials to teach in elementary and secondary schools. The faculty in Teacher Education have established and maintained an academically demanding Master's program, which graduates an average of about 15 students per year.
Finally, to conclude this brief historical survey, it is important to emphasize that at the same time many of our peer institutions have become more entrepreneurial and moved heavily into extended campuses, distance learning, and dual-credit (high school) programs, Hastings has chosen consciously and determinedly to remain a residential liberal arts college. This, we feel, is our niche.
Furthermore, we continue to take our Presbyterian Church relationship very seriously, even though that relationship is decidedly less evangelical than it was 120 years ago. We have a strong Religion and Philosophy Department, which, in addition to a major and a minor in Philosophy, offers majors in Religion and in Religion with a Christian Ministry Emphasis, and minors in Religion and in Christian Ministry. We also have a Chaplain, who oversees a variety of religious programs, including weekly Chapel services. However, Chapel attendance has not been required since the late 1960's, and the only formal religious experience explicitly required of our students is an academic one, which exists as part of the Liberal Arts (general education) Program.