Olivet University began its educational journey as a grammar school in Georgetown, Illinois in 1907 when the Eastern Illinois Holiness Association opened Miss Mary Nesbitt’s grammar school inside of a house. After acquiring 14 acres of land, the original founders decided to move the grammar school to the village of Olivet in 1908. The school became a liberal arts college in 1909 and the name changed to Illinois Holiness University.
In 1912, the trustees and founders school gave the school to the Church of Nazarene in an attempt to reach a wider constituency and to promote Christian higher education. More than 800 Nazarene congregations throughout Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan are still committed to keeping the promise. The school changed names again to Olivet University in 1915 and to Olivet College in 1921.
Economic problems during the 1920s caused the trustees of the college to declare bankruptcy in 1926. T.W. Wilingham purchased the school at an auction with a new educational plan in mind. A devastating fire destroyed the main building of Olivet College in 1939, influencing the school to find a new location. The school moved again in 1940 to the previous campus of St. Viator’s college, which resided in 42-acres of land in Bourbonnais, Illinois. The school changed names again with the new location, and the name changed to Olivet Nazarene College. The school experienced its final name change to Olivet Nazarene University in 1986.