Heritage Christian University

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Heritage Christian University
HCU logo 2016 linear text green.png
Former names
International Bible College
Southeastern Institute (College) of the Bible
Type Private bible college
Established 1968
Affiliation Church of Christ
President Dennis Jones
Vice-president Dr. Bill Bagents, Pat Moon, Philip Goad
Location Florence, Alabama, United States
Affiliations ABHE
Website www.hcu.edu

Heritage Christian University is an undergraduate and graduate university in Florence, Alabama. It is affiliated with churches of Christ.

The university is governed by a Board of Directors, all of whom must be active members of the churches of Christ.


Heritage Christian University traces its roots to 1871, when T.B. Larimore opened Mars Hill Academy on land inherited by his wife Esther Gresham Larimore. Located along Cox Creek near Florence, Alabama, Mars Hill Academy equipped ministers and other Christian leaders for service in the Churches of Christ. Students trained at Mars Hill established hundreds of congregations in Florence and surrounding communities in North Alabama and southern Tennessee. Initially housed in Larimore’s home, the Academy closed in 1887 in order for Larimore to devote himself fully to evangelism. The 12-room house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. Among those educated by Larimore at Mars Hill were notable restoration preachers F.D. Srygley and J.C. McQuiddy.

Locally organized Christian education for the Churches of Christ resumed in 1947 when Mars Hill Bible School, an elementary and secondary school, began on the site of the old Mars Hill Academy. Property for the school was purchased by William Wallace Alexander, a local physician, from T.B. Larimore’s son, Virgil, who still resided on the land where his father had operated the original academy. Mars Hill Bible School continues to provide excellent preschool through high school education.

In November 1965, noting an extreme shortage of preachers, a number of Shoals area church leaders proposed to the Mars Hill Board of Directors the establishment of a school to help prepare men for ministry. A steering committee, functioning under the Mars Hill Board of Directors, quickly assumed responsibility for the promotion of the school, curriculum planning, and the selection of teachers. Supplementing the work of Mars Hill Bible School, the new T.B. Larimore School of Evangelists was seen as a restoration of the type of preacher training accomplished by Larimore in the late 19th century.

Opening in January 1966 with 70 students enrolled, the T.B. Larimore School of Evangelists followed the model of a non-credit Bible institute or preacher training school. After operating in the spring and fall of 1966, the school’s steering committee, at the direction of the Mars Hill Board of Directors, transitioned from an administrative function to an advisory one. There is no known record of the school meeting for classes after December 1966.

The dream of providing higher education in the Shoals, designed specifically for the training of preachers, did not lay dormant for long. Before the end of 1967, plans were already underway to establish a private college in Florence, independent of Mars Hill, to prepare students for ministry. In 1968, those plans began taking shape, when Malcolm Hill agreed to leave his work as preacher for the Forest Park congregation in greater Atlanta to become the inaugural president of the newly established Southeastern Institute (College) of the Bible in Florence. Inez Alexander, widow of Dr. William Wallace Alexander, donated land for a campus near the old T.B. Larimore home and local orthopedic surgeon, Dr. G.R. Melson, serving as chair of the Businessmen’s Advisory Board, began efforts to establish an endowment for the school. Founded in 1968, Southeastern classes met for the first time in January 1969. The institute would include a three-year program offering bachelor’s degrees in Sacred Literature and Religious Education. No accreditation from secular or academic associations would be sought.

In October 1970, the Southeastern administration and Board of Directors was reorganized and in early 1971, Charles Coil was selected by the new board as the second president of Southeastern College of the Bible. As president, Coil was empowered to establish a program unique among the Churches of Christ – the four-year Bible college. Neither a preacher training school nor a liberal arts college, the coeducational Bible college would have a standardized academic calendar, admissions policies, and curriculum. In September 1971, Southeastern was renamed International Bible College. The new name would reflect a desire and practice to train men and women for service worldwide. In 1989, after serving eighteen years as the college’s chief administrator, Charles Coil announced his resignation as president of International Bible College. He continued to serve as chancellor until his death in 1994. IBC alumnus, Dennis Jones, succeeded Coil as the institution’s third president, taking office on January 1, 1990.

To help meet the need for advanced education for preachers and church leaders, a graduate program offering Master of Ministry and Master of Arts degrees was added in 2000. In January 2001, the institution changed its name to Heritage Christian University to reflect more accurately its status as offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees. In August 2001, the first graduates were awarded their master’s degrees. In 2011, the university initiated a Master of Divinity program with emphasis on small church growth.

Heritage Christian University is properly constituted, authorized, and operated as a non-profit organization and is officially recognized by both state and federal authorities. A Board of Directors governs the university through its Constitution and Bylaws. Heritage Christian University was initially accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the Association for Biblical Higher Education in 1988. Accreditation was reaffirmed for a ten-year period in 2009. In 2011, HCU was acknowledged as a Military Friendly School, one of the Service Members Opportunity Colleges, and as a Yellow Ribbon School. The Internal Revenue Service recognizes the university as a tax exempt organization, 501(c)(3), eligible to receive tax-deductible gifts.


Heritage Christian University offers a 128-hour undergraduate program leading to a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies. All students major in Bible and may choose a minor in Biblical History, Biblical Languages, Counseling, Family Life (Youth) Ministry, New Testament, or Old Testament. HCU also offers an Associate of Arts program. This 65-hour program of study results in the A.A. in Biblical Studies.

Heritage Christian University offers three master’s degrees. The Master of Arts (M.A.) prepares students for serious biblical study in Greek and/or Hebrew. The Master of Ministry (M.Min.) trains students for more effective ministry. The Master of Divinity, the first professional degree in the field of ministry, prepares minister’s for comprehensive service for churches. In particular, in cooperation with the Ezell Institute for Biblical Research, students completing the MDiv degree will be equipped to work in churches with limited resources. All three degrees aim to prepare workers for more effective service in the kingdom of God.

The MA and the MMin are both 36 hour programs, while the Master of Divinity is 75 hours with a required Spiritual Formation program to be completed. Instead of a thesis, MMin students participate in a practicum “that specifically addresses the needs of a Christian community.”[1] On June 27, 2011, Heritage Christian University announced that the school had been approved to offer the Master of Divinity degree.[2]

Heritage Christian University is accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education. The ABHE is a member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and is recognized as a national institutional accrediting agency for Bible colleges and universities.

The Alabama State Department of Education licenses Heritage Christian University as a private university.

The U.S. Office of Education Register lists the university, making Heritage Christian University students eligible for grants and federal loans.

The Alabama State Approving Agency recognizes Heritage Christian University for educational benefits to veterans.

Heritage Christian University meets the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services's requirements for eligibility to enroll foreign students.


The Overton Memorial Library services the undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty and staff. The library was dedicated in November 1986 in honor of Basil and Margie Overton and in memory of their son Timothy, who died in 1974. Library holdings exceed 130,000 physical volumes and 140,000 digital items.[3]

In October 2005, the McMeans Family Reading Area was created in honor of William Delona and Othella Tuten McMeans. The Heritage Marriage and Family Resource Center was created within OML in April 2006 through a grant from the Alabama Marriage and Family Project. In June 2008, the Bagents Family Resource Center was created, honoring the Bagents Family.

The library hosts the Charles Coil Colloquium each spring semester. The lecture, in memory of HCU’s founding president Charles Coil, is “designed to enrich the intellectual climate of Heritage Christian University, its constituency, and the great academic community.”[4] Dr. Frederick William Danker, Professor Emeritus of New Testament, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, spoke at the inaugural lecture in 2010. Dr. Richard Bauckham, a Senior Scholar at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, spoke at the second Coil Lecture. In 2013, Dr. Thomas Long was the third Coil Colloquium speaker. The Fourth Annual Charles Coil Colloquium took place Friday, April 4, 2014, and featured guest Dr. Ralph Klein was the speaker.

Learning formats[edit]

Graduate and undergraduate classes are offered both on campus and online. This option in learning permits students to fulfill other commitments while pursuing a ministry degree.


One dormitory building owned by the university provides living space for up to thirty-two students. Each apartment is complete with living room, bedrooms, bath, and kitchen.

Two buildings located on campus contain both one- and two-bedroom apartments that are available to qualifying students.

Campus facilities[edit]

The Bible Building was constructed in 1977. This 27,000-square-foot (2,500 m2) academic building contains administrative and faculty offices, classrooms, and auditorium, and a cafeteria.

The Alexander Activities Building, erected in 1978, has a gymnasium for students. The Overton Memorial Library, faculty offices, and a recording studio are also housed here.

The Dr. John Kerr Student Center provides a kitchen, recreation room, television room, and laundry for students living on campus.

Spiritual formation[edit]

Spiritual formation plays an important role on the campus of Heritage Christian University.

Chapel is held from 11:00 to 11:30 am Tuesday through Thursday.

Each student is required to participate in two hours of a Christian service project each week. Students may select from fourteen different ministries including preaching, chaplaincy, Bible class teaching, and youth ministry.

Alumnus of the Year[edit]

Beginning in 1985, the University's Alumni Association began to award an annual "Alumnus of the Year" Award. The following individuals have been named "Alumnus of the Year":[5]

2015 Shelia Fay Hamlin (1997)

2014 Alvin L. Alston, Jr. (1979)

2013 Michael K. Knappier (2003)

2012 James E. Lee (1997)

2011 Bradley George Johnson (1999) and Ronya Joy Johnson (2000)

2011 Bradley George Johnson (1999) and Ronya Joy Johnson (2000)

2010 Sara Kathryn Lyne Goldman (2000)

2009 James Robert Hall (1979)

2008 James Waverly “Sonny” Owens (1988)

2007 Nigel Murray Milo (1998)

2006 Myra Wade Underwood (1978)

2005 P. Edmund Cagle (1988)

2004 Jerry Bell (1988)

2003 Steve Vice (1992)

2002 Stanley Hubbard (1992)

2001 Austin Vimba (1995)

2000 Tom Leavins (1977)

1999 David R. Short (1979)

1998 Steven Worley (1984)

1997 Phillip Hines (1976)

1996 Randy English (1989)

1995 Gary Marshall (1979)

1994 Chris Ward (1984)

1993 Bobby South (1986)

1992 Daniel Frithjof Steinhauer (1988)

1991 Thomas L. Holiday (1985)

1990 C. Wayne Kilpatrick (1974)

1989 Charles Thompson (1972)

1988 Herschel L. McFarlen (1975)

1987 Glenn Russell Nichols (1977)

1986 Subin Panboon (1973)

1985 John Henry (1973)


  1. ^ Graduate Catalog. Heritage Christian University. 2010. p. 28. 
  2. ^ "Heritage Approved to Offer MDiv Degree". Heritage Approved to Offer MDiv Degree. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 
  3. ^ "Honor to Whom Honor". Heritage Christian University Blog. Retrieved 8 June 2011. 
  4. ^ "Charles Coil Lectures". Coil Lectures. Heritage Christian University. 
  5. ^ "Alumni of the Year". Alumni of the Year. Retrieved 13 May 2011. 

External links[edit]

See also[edit]

Coordinates: 34°51′38″N 87°39′46″W / 34.86054°N 87.66272°W / 34.86054; -87.66272