Tennessee Wesleyan University was chartered in 1854 as Odd Fellows Female College but never opened due to financial difficulties. The building known as Old College was completed in 1857 and, with assistance from the Holston Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Athens Female College opened on September 10, 1858, with five faculty members and seventy young female students. This was the beginning of church affiliation of an institution which has existed under one of the branches of the Methodist Church from 1857 until today.
After operating for one year as a male college, East Tennessee Wesleyan College became coeducational and the name was changed in 1868. East Tennessee Wesleyan University was a pioneer as there were very few colleges who accepted both men and women.
In 1867, shortly before Ulysses S. Grant became President of the United States, he was solicited by President John Spence to make a cash donation to the school and became recognized as one the first donors in the school. Upon the death of Grant, President Spence renamed the school Grant Memorial University on what would have been Grant’s 64 birthday, April 27, 1886.
In 1889, Grant Memorial University was merged with Chattanooga University to become a single institution which resulted in another name change to U. S. Grant University. On June 6, 1925, a charter was issued by the State of Tennessee for the college to become Tennessee Wesleyan College.
But this college nestled in the heart of East Tennessee has continued to grow and emerge as a premier educational institution. In 2016, the charter was once again changed the college to became Tennessee Wesleyan University. What began as one building on two acres of land has become a thriving campus of academic excellence.
The latest addition was the Colloms Campus Center, a beautiful two-story student center and an open pavilion-style square to allow for outdoor dining and entertainment. New programs continue to be added and student education and opportunities continue to be enhanced.