History of Hardin-Simmons
Established in 1891, Hardin-Simmons University is a pioneer of higher education in the West. Our founders dreamed of creating a place to nurture both the minds and spirits of our students.
Hardin-Simmons Through the Years
The city of Abilene was still in its infancy when a group of settlers—merchants, ranchers, and preachers—sought to found a college in this fledgling pioneer town. Through the tireless efforts of Rev. George W. Smith and attorney Kirwin Kade Legett, and the support of the Sweetwater Baptist Association, the school came into being February 18, 1891, as Abilene Baptist College.
Laying a Foundation
Abilene citizens joined the original trustees in raising $5,000 to initially fund the school. An Abilene businessman and his Fort Worth partners donated 16 acres and an additional $5,000. Plans were drawn and a building, Old Main, began to rise north of Abilene in the summer of 1891.
New York preacher Dr. James B. Simmons provided funding to help the school complete construction of its first building. And the trustees honored him in renaming the institution Simmons College. The Simmons family continued to harbor a deep interest in the school, providing financial support and even requesting that they be buried in the midst of the campus.
The first class of sixty students entered Simmons College in 1892. William Friley led the school as the first president. In the first 20 years, five presidents came and went. In 1909, Dr. J. D. Sandefer accepted the presidency. Under his 40-year leadership, the school grew and flourished. In 1925, the school became Simmons University.
During the Great Depression, Simmons struggled, but financial help arrived when John and Mary Hardin of Burkburnet, Texas, donated part of their fortune to the school. The Hardins’ generosity and commitment brought the university long-term stability and, in 1934, a new name: Hardin-Simmons University.
Evolving Education & Campus
In 1926, Hardin-Simmons welcomed its first graduate program. In the 1960s, the campus expanded with a multi-million dollar campaign that results in a new library, science center, and a health and fitness complex. By the 80s, offered master’s degrees in six areas. Also in the 1980s, the school’s enrollment hit 2,000. By the 2000s, HSU grew to offer more than 50 majors, and was divided into distinct schools and colleges.