Abilene Christian University

Abilene Christian University
Abilene Christian University seal.svg
Former name
Childers Classical Institute (1906–1920)
Abilene Christian College (1920–1976)
MottoPeople With A Purpose
TypePrivate university
Religious affiliation
Church of Christ
Academic affiliations
Endowment$675 million (2021)[2][3]
ChancellorRoyce Money
PresidentPhil Schubert
ProvostRobert L. Rhodes
Academic staff
Location, ,
United States
CampusUrban, 208 acres (84 ha)
ColorsPurple and white[5]
Sporting affiliations
MascotWillie the Wildcat
Abilene Christian University wordmark hz logo.svg

Abilene Christian University (ACU) is a private Christian university in Abilene, Texas. It was founded in 1906 as Childers Classical Institute. ACU is one of the largest private universities in the Southwestern United States and has one of the 200 largest university endowments in the United States.[6] Affiliated with Churches of Christ, the university is nationally recognized for excellence in service learning, undergraduate research, and undergraduate teaching.[7]


Abilene Christian University grew from an idea held by A.B. Barret and Charles Roberson to form a school in West Texas. The Churches of Christ in Abilene agreed to back the project. J.W. Childers sold Barret land and a large house west of the town, and lowered the price with the stipulation that the school would be named in his honor. Childers Classical Institute opened in the fall of 1906, with 25 students.[8] It initially included a lower school starting in the seventh grade.[9]

When Jesse P. Sewell became president of the institute in 1912, the school began using Abilene Christian College on all its printed material. In 1920, the school paid the Childers family $4,000 and formally changed the name.

The Optimist, the university's student-produced newspaper, was founded in 1912. The Prickly Pear, the school yearbook, was founded in 1916. The campus literary-arts magazine (now The Shinnery Review, formerly The Pickwicker) has been in production since 1933.

In 1927, with the help of a $75,000 contribution from the city of Abilene, the board of trustees purchased 680 acres (280 ha) northeast of Abilene. In addition, residents donated 75 acres (30 ha) of adjoining land. The new campus opened in the fall of 1929.

ACU's Onstead-Packer Bible Studies Building, Chapel on the Hill and Tower of Light seen from Faubus Fountain Lake

From the time of its founding to the present, the university has been governed by a board of trustees made up of members of the Churches of Christ.

Abilene Christian College first received school accreditation in 1951, when it became an accredited member of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.[10]

Amberton University, previously Amber University, was created as an extension campus of Abilene Christian University. It was launched in Mesquite, Texas, in 1971, moving to Garland, Texas, in 1974. It became a separate institution as Amber University in 1982, and was rechristened Amberton University in 2001. Like Abilene Christian University, Amberton remains affiliated with the Churches of Christ.

On February 22, 1976, the name of Abilene Christian College was changed to Abilene Christian University. The university celebrated its centennial in the 2005–06 school year. In July 2015, the university signed a lease for an expansion campus located in Addison, Texas.[11] Called ACU Dallas, the new campus began offering several new graduate programs, including an MBA and Ed.D. in organizational leadership.[12]

The school established an NPR station, KACU, in 1986. Initially, the community was concerned that the school might use the station for proselytizing, and for the station's first ten years, an advisory board composed of community members served to monitor the station against this possibility.[13] The JMC Network, a converged student media operation, was created in 2008 to produce all student-led news media. On October 18, 2008, the school hosted a live broadcast of Minnesota Public Radio's long-running A Prairie Home Companion radio show from the campus' Moody Coliseum.[14][15]

On Wednesday, August 23, 2017, the NCAA Board of Directors voted to pass ACU through to full Division I status, thus making them eligible for postseason play.


The university was officially segregated, for white students only, until 1962,[16] when Billy Curl became the first black student to enroll.[17] The university currently bars employees, but not students, from dating people of the same sex.[18] In 2016 the university recognized an LGBT student association.[19]


  • Allen Booker Barret (1906–08)
  • H. C. Darden (1908–1909)
  • Robertson Lafayette Whiteside (1909–1911)
  • James F. Cox (1911–1912)[2]
  • Jesse Parker Sewell (1912–1924)
  • Batsell Baxter (1924–1932)
  • James F. Cox (1932–1940)
  • Don H. Morris (1940–1969)
  • John C. Stevens (1969–1981)
  • William J. Teague (1981–1991)
  • Royce Money (1991 – May 31, 2010)
  • Phil Schubert (June 1, 2010–present)


ACU is institutionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. ACU's business programs are professionally accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International), the Engineering program is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, the Social Work programs are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, the Education programs are accredited by Teacher Education Accreditation Council and the Marriage and Family Therapy programs are accredited by Commission on the Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education. The Department of Journalism and Mass Communication is accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. The ACU School of Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). ACU Graduate School of Theology is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS).


  • The Prickly Pear. Beginning in 1916, this was the title for Abilene Christian University's (formerly Abilene Christian College) yearbook. The name was taken from Opuntia, a species of cactus native to the Abilene and West Texas area, commonly referred to as "prickly pear". The Prickly Pear ceased publication in 2009.[20]
Jacob's Dream statue and display on the ACU campus. The artwork is based on Genesis 28:10–22 and graphically represents the scenes alluded to in the hymn "Nearer, My God, to Thee" and the spiritual "We Are Climbing Jacob's Ladder" as well as other musical works.
  • Sing Song. Since 1956, this annual competition in mid-February has featured student groups of 30–100 people, singing themed a cappella medleys, usually satirical. Originating as a fundraiser for the school, the modern event has developed into a major show for which each group assembles costumes related to their act's theme, such as Peter Pan, the British Royal Guard, Coca-Cola, Adam and Eve, or forest fires. Often the costumes involve a mid-performance quick-change to a second costume—such as the 1987 acts in which grapes turned into raisins or bananas peeled to reveal Carmen Miranda—or elaborate choreography within the risers, as when the 1983 freshman class act recreated a Pac-Man screen and manipulated their costumes so that the character appeared to move around the screen.[21][22][23] The men of Galaxy and the women of Sigma Theta Chi currently hold the records for most wins of a men's club and women's club, respectively.[24]
  • Summit. Referred to as Lectureship until the 2008 school year. Begun in 1918, this annual program gathers thousands of attendees for lectures and workshops on religious topics connected with a biblical theme that changes each year. After many years of following directly after Sing Song, the lectureship moved in 2006 to a September event, in part to spread out the events that bring the most visitors to campus and also to take advantage of the more stable autumn climate, as winter storms and rain had hindered attendance on multiple occasions.
  • Wildcat Week. Formerly called Welcome Week, this event for the integration of incoming first-year and transfer students provides small-group study programs, social activities, and information fairs in the week preceding the beginning of the fall semester.
  • Homecoming. Like most residential U.S. universities, the campus hosts a celebration each fall for alumni to return for a parade, class-year and organizational reunions, and musical theater.[22]
  • Chapel. ACU is one of the few Christian colleges that maintains daily required chapel for all undergraduate, full-time students. Chapel is a 30-minute praise and worship time, usually with a featured speaker. Typically, no classes or meetings are scheduled during this half-hour. There are, however, opportunities for chapel exemptions that allow students to need less than the standard 55 chapel credits per semester.[citation needed]
  • School colors. The colors purple and white have long been the colors of ACU, standing for the royalty and purity of Christ, respectively.

Abilene Christian University Press

ACU is one of only seven faith-based institutions with a press.[25] ACU Press, founded in 1983 to print books about Churches of Christ theology, is now a member of the Association of American University Presses, printing books about Christian Higher Education, West Texas History and Christian Living as well as theology.[26] Along with its trade imprint, Leafwood Publishers, the press publishes an average of 36 titles per year. Among its notable authors are Rubel Shelly, Rick Ostrander, Darryl Tippens, Edward Fudge, Larry M. James and Walt McDonald.


Academic rankings
THE / WSJ[27]501–600
U.S. News & World Report[28]250

In the 2022/2023 U.S. News & World Report ranking of American colleges and universities, ACU was one of only 19 U.S. institutions ranked in the top 50 nationally in both Undergraduate Research/Creative Projects and Undergraduate Teaching. US News ranks ACU the following among all colleges and universities:[29]

National rankings:

Service Learning: #5 nationally

First-Year Experience: #8 nationally

Learning Communities: #9 nationally

Senior Capstone: #22 nationally

Undergraduate Research: #28 nationally

Study Abroad: #35 nationally

Undergraduate Teaching: #41 nationally

Technology and mobile learning

On February 26, 2008, ACU announced that all incoming freshman classes would receive a free Apple iPhone or an iPod Touch. This decision was the result of a study to find out the viability of iPhone and iPod for academic purposes. ACU was reported as the first university in the nation to embrace this opportunity to further education through the use of the new generation of smartphone technologies.[30] In February 2009, ACU hosted more than 400 academics and technologists from 31 states and 8 countries for its first ConnectEd Summit[31] on mobile learning. Attendees representing more than 90 schools participated in workshops designed to foster mobile learning programs on their own campuses.

In August 2008,[32] Campus Technology magazine named ACU "Innovator of the Year" in the mobile learning category for this "ACU Connected" initiative. On February 27, 2009, ACU received the award for Institutional Excellence in Information Communications Technology[33] from ACUTA and on March 4, 2009, Alcatel-Lucent named ACU a Dynamic Enterprise Award winner and awarded ACU with its first Analyst Choice Award[34] for its ACU Connected initiative. On June 13, 2009, the New Media Consortium presented ACU with one of three Center of Excellence[35] awards at its annual summer conference for ACU's efforts in mobile learning.

In August 2022 the ACU applied to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a construction licence for a molten salt research reactor for which it plans to achieve criticality by December 2025.[36]


Abilene Christian Athletics wordmark

Formerly a charter member of the Division I Southland Conference, Abilene Christian joined the Lone Star Conference (LSC) of Division II of the NCAA in 1973, but have since rejoined the Southland Conference as of 2013. In 2007, the conference included 33 ACU current and former student athletes in its 75-member all-sports team commemorating the conference's 75th anniversary.[37] Through 2009, ACU is fourth in NCAA history in team national championships won with 57, trailing Division I schools UCLA, Stanford, and USC, and tied with Division III school Kenyon College.[38]

In 2012 Abilene Christian had received NCAA permission to compete in Division I FCS and was under consideration for reattachment to the Southland Conference.[39] On August 25, Abilene Christian's board of trustees accepted Southland's invitation to rejoin the Conference effective with the start of the 2013 academic year.

  • The men's track and field program has won 32 NCAA National Track and Field Championships: 19 NCAA outdoor and 13 indoor.[38]
  • The women's track and field program has won 22 national championships: 12 indoor and 10 outdoor.[38]
  • The Wildcats were NAIA national football champions in 1973 and 1977.[40]
  • Before the NCAA invalidated its 2007 season, nine ACU football players were included in the LSC's 75th-anniversary list of top players in conference history.[37] The school's 2007 victories were vacated by the NCAA in 2009. The NCAA charged "two assistant football coaches helped a pair of players find an English correspondence class to take, enroll in the same course, allowed them to use the coaches' school computers for writing papers and paid to mail the assignments."[41] The school had scored more than 40 points in 11 of its 13 games and more than 50 points in 7 games and 70 or more points in two games including a 73–76 three overtime loss to Chadron State in the second round of the NCAA playoffs.
  • In 2008, the Wildcats "set a record for points in an NCAA (football) playoff game, beating West Texas A&M 93-68 in the second round of the Division II playoffs."
  • Ove Johansson kicked the longest field goal in college football history (69 yards) in 1976, 5 yards longer than the current NFL record. As of 2020 it remains the longest field goal ever kicked in any level of football competition and is an unbroken world record.[42][43]
  • Olympic athletes from ACU include Bobby Morrow, three-time 1956 gold medal winner; Earl Young, 1960 Olympic gold medalist in the 4x400 relay; Billy Olson, who made the 1980 and 1988 U.S. teams but did not compete in 1980 due to President Carter's decision to boycott the Games; Yolande Straughn, who competed in 1988 for Barbados; and James Browne, 1988 competitor for Antigua.[37]
  • ESPN and NFL Network analyst and author Sean Adams is a former NCAA All-American athlete for ACU.

Social clubs

The school has a number of student organizations called "social clubs" that are equivalent to a fraternity or sorority on other college campuses; chapters of national Hellenic societies, however, are not permitted. The main goal of these social clubs is to help in service to the surrounding communities and the school itself.[44] Clubs also participate in intramural sports and Sing Song. There are a total of fourteen social clubs for both men and women.[45]

Men's clubs Women's clubs
Sub T-16 Alpha Kai Omega
Gamma Sigma Phi Delta Theta
Nu Kappa Psi Zeta Rho (Defunct)
Pi Kappa GATA
Galaxy Ko Jo Kai
Trojans Sigma Theta Chi
Frater Sodalis Tri Kappa Gamma

Notable people



  • Everett Ferguson, Patristics scholar and noted author
  • Douglas A. Foster, Professor of Church History, editor of the Stone-Campbell Encyclopedia
  • Michael A. O'Donnell, former Professor of Family Studies; founding executive director of the Southwest Center for Fathering



  • [3] When James Cox's wife became ill, his brother, Alonzo B. Cox, filled in for him to finish the term.


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  2. ^ As of June 30, 2021. Endowment climbs to $675 million (Report).
  3. ^ Daniel, Dillon (January 30, 2021). "Endowment surpasses $500 million". Optimist. Archived from the original on February 1, 2021. Retrieved March 20, 2021.
  4. ^ "ACU achieves record enrollment for fourth year in a row". Abilene Christian University. September 8, 2021. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
  5. ^ Abilene Christian University Branding and Editorial Style Guide. July 1, 2020. Retrieved December 22, 2022.
  6. ^ "Endowed Market Values Revised".
  7. ^ Kilmer, Wendy (September 12, 2022). "ACU named top 50 nationally in Undergraduate Teaching and Undergraduate Research by U.S. News & World Report". Abilene Christian University. Retrieved September 17, 2022.
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  15. ^ Archived recording of October 18, 2008, A Prairie Home Companion broadcast from ACU's Moody Coliseum
  16. ^ Key, Barclay. "Race and Restoration: churches of Christ and the African American Freedom Struggle" (PDF). Retrieved December 29, 2018.
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  18. ^ Guzman, Andrea; Hime, Lilli (April 2, 2018). "New Abilene Christian University policy discriminates against LGBT students". Hilltop Views. Austin, Texas. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
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  61. ^ All-Time U.S. Rankings — Men's Pole Vault Archived December 1, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, ranked #1 in the world for 1982.
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External links

Coordinates: 32°28′10″N 99°42′29″W / 32.46944°N 99.70806°W / 32.46944; -99.70806