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College History

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William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) came to Dayton in 1925 for the Scopes Evolution Trial when he expressed the wish that a school that would teach truth from a Biblical perspective might be established on one of Dayton's scenic hills.

William Jennings Bryan Memorial Association

Following Mr. Bryan's death in Dayton on July 26, 1925, a national memorial association (photo below) was formed to raise funds for the establishment of an educational institution in Bryan's honor to be located in Dayton, Tennessee. 

The Committee initially included 52 members, among whom were the following:

  • Congressman William D. Upshaw, 1932 Prohibition Party candidate for the presidency. Lost to FDR.
  • Judge John T. Raulston, Judge for the Scopes Trial
  • Rev. Bob Jones, Founder of Bob Jones University (1927)
  • Mrs. Mary Harris Armor, President of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union
  • Dr. T. C. Horton, co-founder of Biola in Los Angeles
  • Austin Peay, Governor of Tennessee
  • J. P. McCallie, Co-founder of McCallie School in Chattanooga
  • Governor Victor Donahey, Governor of Ohio
  • Dr. C. M. Rosser, Founder of Dallas' first medical school (which became Baylor Medical College) and president of Texas State Medical Society in 1925.
  • Charles Horner, Established the Redpath-Horner Chautauqua and Lyceum Bureau in 1906, executive assistant to the administrator of the National Recovery administration (1933) under FDR, and president of the National Aeronautics association.
  • Rev. Paul Rader, Pastor of Moody Church, Chicago (1914-1921), President of the Christian & Missionary Alliance.

Committee of William Jennings Bryan Memorial Association, September 11, 1925
Hotel Lafayette, Washington, DC

Beginnings and Beliefs

The College was founded by individuals representing at least eight denominations, explaining in part why Bryan is a not affiliated with a denomination as many other private Christian schools are.  Denominational affiliations included the following: 

  • Presbyterians
  • Baptists
  • Episcopals
  • Methodists
  • Lutherans
  • Brethren
  • Christian Missionary Alliance
  • Methodist Episcopal

William Jennings Bryan University was chartered in 1930 and admitted its first class in the fall of that year. Its stated purpose was, and is, to provide "for the higher education of men and women under auspices distinctly Christian and spiritual."  In 1958 its name was changed to William Jennings Bryan College and in 1993 was shortened to Bryan College.

Bryan College is founded upon the belief that God is the author of truth; that He has revealed Himself to mankind through nature, conscience, the Bible and Jesus Christ; that it is His will for man to come to a knowledge of truth; and that an integrated study of the arts and sciences and the Bible, with a proper emphasis on the spiritual, mental, social and physical aspects of life, will lead to the balanced development of the whole person.

Bryan College Today

Bryan is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award the associate, baccalaureate, and graduate degrees. It is an independent, Christ-centered liberal arts institution offering degrees in 40 areas including Biblical Studies, Biology, Business Administration, Christian Ministry, Christian Thought, Communication Studies, Elementary Education licensure, English, Environmental Science, Exercise and Health Science, History, Liberal Arts, Mathematics, Music, Politics & Government, Psychology, Spanish, and Theatre. About 80 percent of the faculty holds earned doctoral degrees.  More »

For more information on the history of William Jennings Bryan, the Scopes Trial, or Bryan College, explore the links on the left.