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Our History

The story of Concordia University dates back to the mid-1950s when a small group of Southern California Lutherans began to plan for a Lutheran college to serve the people of the Pacific Southwest. By 1962 the decision had been made by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) to build the new school.

An extensive search for the “perfect” site led to Irvine, California. Construction of the campus began in 1975 and in 1976 classes were held for the first time at Christ College Irvine, the original name of the institution. From a single building and thirty-six students, the school has grown to over twenty buildings and an annual enrollment of more than 5,000 undergraduate, graduate, and online degree students.

In February 1993 the Board of Regents of Christ College Irvine, responding to a decision by the LCMS to incorporate its ten colleges and universities into the Concordia University System (CUS), voted to change the name of Christ College Irvine to Concordia University Irvine. This CUS, along with the two seminaries, 130 high schools, and over 900 elementary schools of LCMS, comprises the second-largest church-related school system in the United States.

Concordia University includes Christ College, the Townsend Institute, and the Schools of Arts and Sciences, Business and Economics, Education, and Health and Human Sciences.

Historical Timeline


  • The idea of a "preparatory college in southern California" affiliated with The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) is first voiced by Dr. Victor Behnken, president of the LCMS Southern California District.


  • In a letter dated June 5, 1962, to Rev. Robert Einspahr, who was the chair of the committee surveying the possibilities of establishing a "...preparatory college in southern California." Einspahr stated, "The Irvine Company welcomes the idea of building a private Christian university in Irvine." During this period, LCMS officials looked at 87 sites in southern California.
  • On June 28, 1962, the Synod passes Resolution No. 1-22, authorizing the Board for Higher Education to establish a college in southern California.


  • The Board for Higher Education votes to purchase the site where Concordia University is today on November 2, 1963.


  • The Articles of Incorporation for a Lutheran College at Irvine is signed by Secretary of State Edmund G. Brown, Jr. on May 22, 1972.


  • Rev. Dr. Charles Manske accepts the call to be the college's first president. He takes office on April 1, 1973.
  • The Lutheran College Irvine Foundation becomes incorporated on April 5, 1973. The founding trustees are Mr. Ray Grimm, Mrs. Molly Frick Wampler, Mr. James Beam, Dr. Arthur Oswald, and Mr. Alvin Dierker.
  • The name of the college, Christ College Irvine, is selected on June 11, 1973.


  • Christ College's first building, the Living Learning Center, is constructed. It contains classrooms, a library, administration offices, dining facilities, and student living quarters.


  • Classes begin for the first academic year in the single-building campus with 36 students, 5 faculty members, and 2 staff members.


  • Founders Hall (classrooms and labs) and Alpha Building (Residence Hall) construction completed.


  • Rev. Dr. D. Ray Halm becomes Christ College's second president.
  • Christ College heralds its first full-term (four-years) graduating class.


  • Christ College earns full academic accreditation from the Western Alliance of Schools and Colleges (WASC).


  • Sports Arena and Hallerberg Multi-purpose Center construction completed.


  • Library and the Center for Worship and the Performing Arts construction completed. School of Education and School of Arts and Sciences formed.


  • Christ College Irvine becomes Concordia University Irvine, the tenth campus in the national Concordia University System that was formed by the LCMS in 1992.


  • Concordia launches its first comprehensive campaign of $30 million, On Wings of Eagles.


  • CUENet (Concordia University Education Network) distance learning system established.


  • Rev. Dr. Jack Preus becomes Concordia's third president.
  • Rodney Lawrence Grimm Memorial Student Union construction is completed.


  • School of Theology formed, including theology, philosophy, and biblical and classical languages. Christ College remains a separate school.
  • MBA program formed.


  • Concordia is listed in the John Templeton Honor Roll of Character-building Colleges.
  • The Center for U.S. Missions is formed.
  • On Wings of Eagles Campaign ends with $44 million received and pledged.
  • Women's Cross Country Team takes National Championship.
  • Twenty-year anniversary of the first graduating class (1980).


  • Concordia University celebrates its 25th Anniversary (1976).
  • Chi Rho residence hall construction completed.
  • CU Accelerate Degree Completion Program formed.


  • Chi Sigma residence hall construction completed.
  • School of Business established.
  • President's Advisory Council and School of Business Dean's Advisory Board founded.
  • First Endowed Chair established: Harry and Caroline Trembath Chair of Confessional Theology.


  • Men's Basketball wins the NAIA Division I Championship.
  • First Faith & Business Forum held on campus on October 22.
  • First 'Gala of Stars' benefit dinner and auction held on May 15.
  • Thirtieth anniversary of the installation of the Concordia University Foundation (1973).


  • MA in International Studies and MA in Coaching and Athletic Administration launched.
  • Satellite campuses in San Diego and Temecula open.


  • Twenty-fifth anniversary - 1st graduating class (1980).
  • First year-graduation is held at UCI's Bren Center.
  • The School of Adult Studies is established.


  • Concordia's 30th anniversary (1976).
  • Hundred-year anniversary of the California Concordia College in Oakland.
  • Construction begins on Robert Alan Grimm Hall formerly known as the Education, Business & Technology Center.
  • Dr. Mary Scott appointed Provost and Dr. Peter Senkbeil appointed Associate Provost.
  • Christ College & School of Theology merge into one school: New name: Christ College.


  • Robert Alan Grimm Hall completed and dedicated in March.
  • Nursing Degree Completion Program established.
  • The School of Business and the School of Adult Studies are combined to form the School of Business and Professional Studies.


  • Nursing Program receives accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).


  • Dr. Kurt J. Krueger Inaugurated as Concordia’s fourth president.
  • Concordia unveils The Core Curriculum, its innovative general education program.


  • Concordia celebrates 35th anniversary (1976).
  • Center for Civics Education established.
  • Baseball captures NAIA National Championship.


  • Men’s Basketball wins second NAIA National Championship.
  • Women’s Volleyball wins NAIA National Championship.
  • Concordia joins Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).


  • Men’s Volleyball wins NAIA National Championship in its Inaugural season.
  • Women’s Softball wins NAIA National Championship.
  • Forensics wins overall team sweepstakes at National Parliamentary Debate Association’s (NPDA) Championship Tournament.
  • The School of Business and Professional Studies splits into two schools: The School of Business and The School of Professional Studies.


  • Concordia offers its first doctoral program, the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership.
  • First fall graduation ceremony.
  • Ribbon cutting ceremony at new Concordia University Spectrum Center location.
  • New Nursing facility open at Park Place location.
  • WASC accreditation renewed for 10 years.

*The baccalaureate degree program in nursing at Concordia University Irvine is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, 655 K Street NW, Suite 750, Washington, DC 20001, 202-887-6791.

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