Mackinac College was a private liberal arts college which opened on Mackinac Island, Michigan, in the fall of 1966 and closed after graduating its Charter Class in 1970. The campus was later turned into a hotel, Mission Point Resort.
The college had troubles relating in part to its association with the Moral Re-Armament/Up With People movement. While the college was ostensibly an independent, non-sectarian institution, many of the founders and faculty were members of MRA. Most students were not aware of the connection until they were on the campus. There was much controversy among the students regarding how MRA was to be involved in the mission of the college. As a result, after graduating its first and only senior class in 1970, the first Mackinac College closed its doors. The original Mackinac College continues to be celebrated by the establishment of the Mackinac College Legacy Fund within the Mackinac Island Community Foundation.
In the early 1820s, Reverend William Ferry, a Protestant missionary, built the Mission House to house and teach Indian children. A few years later, he established Mission Church, one of the first Protestant churches in the Midwest. The southeast end of Mackinac Island thus became known as Mission Point. The mission was closed in the late 1930s and within a decade the original school building was being used as the "Mission House" hotel, one of the first resort hotels on the island. The building was operated as a hotel until the Great Depression.
During the 1940s, Moral Re-Armament (MRA) began holding conferences on Mackinac Island. MRA was a multi-national group, who, led by Dr. Frank N. D. Buchman, promoted a philosophy of love, unselfishness, purity and honesty in a world-wide evangelistic campaign. Originally established in the 1930s in England and known as "The Oxford Group," it eventually had its headquarters in Switzerland. It was an ideological alternative to the post World War II spread of Communistic influence. It held conferences on Mackinac Island beginning in the 1940s at a variety of locations, ultimately purchasing the Mission House and adjacent properties. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in 1954 and construction soon began on what was to become the MRA's World Conference Center.
The theater was the first building constructed. Fifty foot trusses made of Norway Pine from nearby Bois Blanc Island supported the roof, and 45 tons of native stone formed the original building. Construction on what is now called Huron Court and the Main Lodge began in the Fall of 1955, with the large trusses for the Great Hall being raised in early 1956.
The main lobby is one of the most distinctive architectural structures on the island. Nine-ton trusses, converging at a height of 36 feet (11 m), resemble a 16-sided tepee. This structure is said to fulfill the Indian prophecy that "Someday, on the east end of the island, a great tepee will be erected. All nations will come there and learn about peace."
In 1957, the building which is now Straits Lodge was completed. Its lobby, known as Johnson Hall, exemplifies wood craftsmanship. Its focal point is a five-foot (1.5 m) marble-paneled fireplace.
The movie production sound stage was constructed in 1958. At that time it was the second largest of its type in the world. Universal Studios leased the sound stage for the 1979 summer season to produce the motion picture Somewhere in Time starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. The entire cast and crew were hosted at the resort, then "The Inn on Mackinac."
The MRA relocated its operation to Switzerland and deeded much of the property to Mackinac College in 1966. Several new facilities, including a classroom building (Clark Center) and library (Peter Howard Memorial) were constructed. This institution of higher education operated from 1966 until 1970. It developed programs in statesmanship and leadership, as well as more traditional curricula. The property was later sold to televangelist Rex Humbard who operated the facility as a "Christian family resort" and bible college. However, by the late 1970s he sold everything to a private resort company. The original Mission House building was sold to the Mackinac Island State Park Commission.
In 1971, the entire property was sold to evangelist Rex Humbard, who briefly resumed the use of the facility as a college and religious retreat (with no connection or identity with the original Mackinac College). The Mackinac property ceased to be used as a college in 1973; the college office was then moved to Lansing, Michigan where it remained until 1998. After 1973, the Humbard organization began to use the property as a vacation resort. In 1977, the property was sold to a Dallas-based management and investment firm, which changed the name to Mackinac Hotel and Conference Center.
The property was sold in late 1987 and renamed Mission Point Resort. The new name reflects back into history when this part of the island housed one of the first churches and the Mission House, a historical landmark which still stands on the property.
- Original 1966-1970 Mackinac College website
- Mission Point Resort
- Original 1966-1970 Mackinac College Promo Video (Youtube)
- 1971-1973 Facebook group (with historical pictures)
Nesteby, James (1970). Quasi-Brief on Ideology. San Diego: Next City Publishing.