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Vincennes University

Coordinates: 38°41′18″N 87°31′12″W / 38.68833°N 87.52000°W / 38.68833; -87.52000
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Vincennes University
Former name
Jefferson Academy
S'Instruire pour servir
Motto in English
Learn in order to serve
TypePublic baccalaureate college
Established1801; 223 years ago (1801)
FounderWilliam Henry Harrison
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
PresidentCharles "Chuck" Johnson
Students18,897 (system-wide) 4,416 (Vincennes campus)[1]
Location, ,
United States

38°41′18″N 87°31′12″W / 38.68833°N 87.52000°W / 38.68833; -87.52000
Campus4 Campuses
2 Small Cities
1 Small Town
1 Large City
Colors   Blue and Gold
Sporting affiliations
NJCAA Division II
Mid-West Athletic Conference

Vincennes University (VU) is a public college with its main campus in Vincennes, Indiana. Founded in 1801 as Jefferson Academy, VU is the oldest public institution of higher learning in Indiana. VU was chartered in 1806 as the Indiana Territory's four-year university and remained the state of Indiana's sole publicly funded four-year university until the establishment of Indiana University in 1820. In 1889, VU was chartered by the State of Indiana as a two-year university. From 1999 to 2005, Vincennes University was in a state-mandated partnership with Ivy Tech State College (changing its name to Ivy Tech Community College).[2] In 2005, VU began offering baccalaureate degrees.

VU's campus in Vincennes is a residential campus nestled along the banks of the Wabash River. Other VU sites include a campus in Jasper, Indiana, the Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics in Fort Branch, Indiana, along with centers for Aviation, Logistics, Advanced Manufacturing, and American Sign Language, in the Indianapolis area.


Territorial University[edit]

Vincennes University is one of the oldest universities north of the Ohio River and west of the Alleghenies. The institution was founded in 1801 as Jefferson Academy and incorporated as Vincennes University on November 29, 1806. Founded by William Henry Harrison, VU, along with the University at Buffalo and the University of Virginia, are the only colleges founded by United States presidents. For over two hundred years, VU was the only two-year university in Indiana, although baccalaureate degrees in seven select areas are now available and were available prior to 1889.

Vincennes University, also known colloquially as Territorial University during the early 19th century, was the only public university established by the Indiana Territory, prior to the formation of the states of Indiana and Illinois. The town of Vincennes was chosen as the location of both the capital of the Indiana Territory and of the university because it was centrally located at the approximate population-density center of the Indiana Territory. Father Jean Francois Rivet, former professor of Latin at the Royal College of Limoges, France, was the first headmaster of Jefferson Academy, with classes taking place in the main room of the church rectory.[3]

When the Illinois Territory was split from the Indiana Territory in 1809 in preparation for Indiana statehood, Vincennes fell slightly east of the Indiana and Illinois territory border. The formation of the state of Indiana in 1816 (which considered itself an entirely new and separate legal entity from Indiana Territory that had created VU), and the formation of the state of Illinois in 1818, funding for Vincennes University became less and less certain because VU was considered to be owned by the now-defunct Indiana Territory.

Because of Vincennes' status as the capital of the Indiana Territory, it figured prominently in early Indiana-Illinois territorial and statehood policy. For example, on February 3, 1809, the 10th U.S. Congress passed legislation establishing the separate Indiana Territory in preparation for Indiana's proposed statehood. That act established the Indiana-Illinois border not with reference to a landmark along Lake Michigan near Chicago, but rather via direct reference to Vincennes:[4] "...all that part of the Indiana Territory which lies west of the Wabash river, and a direct line drawn from the said Wabash river and Post Vincennes, due north to the territorial line between the United States and Canada..."

State of Indiana's state university[edit]

Further complicating the question of funding for VU was the state of Indiana's desire to establish its own state-controlled public university in Bloomington, Indiana. Until the establishment of Indiana University, Vincennes University was the sole public university within the entire Indiana Territory and then more narrowly within the state of Indiana. The states of Indiana and Illinois partially abandoned their financial responsibility for the Territorial University after they had established their own separate public universities that did not present the legal complications of an institution whose legal control perhaps spanned the borders of at least two states and had been established by a defunct governmental entity. Conversely, these complications also set the stage for VU's two-century long history with some of the most architecturally-significant early 19th-century buildings to be found at any two-year institution in the U.S.

In the mid-19th century, the Indiana state legislature tried to reclaim the original VU land grant, to be used for what would become Indiana University. The resulting lawsuit (Trustees for Vincennes University v Indiana, 1853) was eventually heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, who decided in VU's favor, based on its earlier decision in a similar case regarding Dartmouth College. The legal dispute arose in part because a portion of VU's status as a land-grant public university derived from the fact that VU is the inheritor of the land-grant and facilities of Territorial University.[5]

To clarify the mission of VU vis a vis Indiana's other institutions of higher education at the time (Purdue University, the State Normal School, and Indiana University), the state of Indiana rechartered VU in 1889, changing it from a four-year university to a two-year university.

Tau Phi Delta and the Sigma Pi fraternity[edit]

In 1897, a small literary society called Tau Phi Delta was started at VU, which soon after became the founding ("Alpha") chapter of Sigma PiFraternity,[6] making that organization the first of its kind to be founded west of the Ohio Valley. A clock tower on the VU campus commemorates that event. The fraternity has since grown into one of the largest collegiate fraternities and, despite relocating its headquarters to Tennessee; they continue to recognize VU as its birthplace.

Relationship with Ivy Tech Community College[edit]

In 1999, Indiana Governor Frank O'Bannon and Stan Jones, commissioner for higher education, persuaded the Indiana state legislature to mandate a "coordinated partnership" between Vincennes University and what was then called Ivy Tech State College. Writing for a national publication, reporter William Trombley characterized the "shotgun marriage" as something that was spoken of cautiously by officials at both institutions: "It was not our initiative," Vincennes President Phillip M. Summers said in an interview. "We were asked if we would participate and we agreed".[2] Thomas Cooke, dean of instruction at the Ivy Tech Indianapolis campus, said "We have everything except the liberal arts degree . . . And that could be easily accommodated within our present structure" (4).[7] This tenuous arrangement was dissolved by the 2005 rechartering of Ivy Tech State College as a statewide system of comprehensive community colleges named Ivy Tech Community College.


Vincennes University offers a diverse set of majors that are focused on careers in teaching and industry. Vincennes University has a 24% graduation rate.

Vincennes University is organized into six colleges:

  • Business and Public Service (includes Homeland Security and Law Enforcement)
  • Health Sciences and Human Performance
  • Humanities
  • Science, Engineering, and Mathematics
  • Social Science, Performing Arts, and Communications
  • Technology

Vincennes is working with Techman and Telamon Robotics to develop a cobot training curriculum.[8]


Buildings and facilities on the campuses of Vincennes University include:[9]

Main campus[edit]

  • Updike Hall of Science Engineering and Mathematics
  • Jefferson Student Union (replaced Beckes Student Union in 2017).
  • Construction Technology Building
  • Shircliff Humanities Building
  • Davis Hall (Public Service/Broadcasting)
  • Homeland Security Building
  • Governors Hall (Admissions) (Original Beckes Student Union, until 1992).
  • Welsh Administration Building
  • Beckes Student Union (built in 1992, it was the student union until 2017).
  • Wathen Business Building
  • Donald G. Bell Student Recreation Center
  • PE Complex
  • Police Department
  • Phillip M. Summers Social Science Building
  • Robert C. Beless Gym
  • Robert E. Green Activities Center
  • Dayson Alumni Center
  • Della Young Building – Statewide Services
  • Center for Health Sciences
  • Tecumseh Dining Center
  • Red Skelton Performing Arts Center / Red Skelton Museum
  • Shake Learning Resource Center
  • Automotive Technology Building
  • Residence Halls
    • Clark Hall
    • Ebner Hall (College of Technology Learning Community)
    • Godare Hall
    • Morris Hall
    • Vanderburgh Hall
    • Vigo Hall
  • Outlying Main Facilities
  • State historic buildings
    • Jefferson Academy building[10]


  • Ruxer Student Center
  • Habig Technology Center
  • Administrative Classroom Building
  • New Classroom Building
  • Center for Technology Innovation and Manufacturing (CTIM) Building

Indianapolis area[edit]

Fort Branch / Gibson County[edit]

  • Center for Advanced Manufacturing, in cooperation with North American Crane Certifications (NACC), became an official training and testing site for Crane Institute Certification (CIC) in February 2016.


The Vincennes Trailblazers baseball team in 2014

VU is a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). In honor of its local heritage, the VU team moniker is the Trailblazers. Trailblazers refers to the early years of Vincennes as a French fur-trading post and American outpost in the frontier of the Northwest Territory and its later period as capital of the Indiana Territory. When the Trailblazers moniker needs to be personified by a mascot, VU depicts a Trailblazer as minute man or woodsman-type frontier settler, inspired by such as George Rogers Clark who resided in Indiana after his military career.

The VU Trailblazers compete in baseball, bowling, golf, basketball, cross country, volleyball, and track and field. Its bowling team is particularly well known as it has won 21 NJCAA national championships. The men's bowling team won the 1983 USBC collegiate national championship. The men's basketball team is a national NJCAA power, winning national titles in 1965, 1970, 1972 and 2019; they were national finalists in 1986. The men's cross-country team won NJCAA titles in 1969 and 1971; they have 12 additional "Top Ten" finishes in the NJCAA National Finals.[11]

Broadcasting facilities[edit]

The university operates television station WVUT, a PBS affiliate, on channel 22. It also operates full-power radio stations WVUB at 91.1 MHz —WFML at 96.7 MHz.

Notable faculty and staff[edit]

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ "VU Facts". Archived from the original on August 27, 2017. Retrieved August 27, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Trombley, William. "Indiana's New Community College Plan: A state-mandated partnership between Ivy Tech and Vincennes University is seen by some as a shotgun marriage." National CrossTalk: A Publication for the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. Vol. 8. No. 1 (Winter 2000). 1–9.
  3. ^ "Vincennes". Indiana State Museum. Archived from the original on April 1, 2023. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  4. ^ "Act dividing Indiana Territory - 1809". Indiana State Library. December 2, 2020. Archived from the original on September 21, 2006.
  5. ^ "Indiana Colleges". westminster-mo.edu. Archived from the original on May 11, 2013.
  6. ^ Anson, Jack; Marchesani Jr., Robert F., eds. (1990). "III NIC Member Fraternities". Baird's Manual of American College Fraternities (20th ed.). Baird's Manual Foundation. pp. 133–134. ISBN 0-9637159-0-9.
  7. ^ Trombley, William (Winter 2000). "Indiana's New Community College Plan". National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved May 14, 2015.
  8. ^ Orr, Susan (October 8, 2021). "Telamon founder Albert Chen launches firm to put 'cobots' in factories". ibj.com. Indianapolis Business Journal. Archived from the original on November 7, 2021. Retrieved November 3, 2021.
  9. ^ "Architectural Services & Facilities". Vincennes University. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 29, 2014. Retrieved November 15, 2014.
  10. ^ "Indiana State Museum". Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites. Archived from the original on September 4, 2009. Retrieved November 15, 2014.
  11. ^ "Men's Cross Country & Half Marathon Records". NJCAA. Archived from the original on July 25, 2018. Retrieved April 27, 2020.
  12. ^ "David Goodnow". Ocean City Tabernacle. Archived from the original on September 8, 2008.
  13. ^ https://www.indianahouserepublicans.com/members/general/chuck-goodrich/
  14. ^ "California Transhumanist Party Leadership". Archived from the original on February 23, 2021. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
  15. ^ "NBA Player Profile - Shawn Marion". About.com. Archived from the original on February 28, 2008.
  16. ^ "A Fraternity Is Born". Sigma Pi Fraternity, Alpha Delta Chapter. Archived from the original on December 4, 2007.
  17. ^ "Eric Williams". Thedraftreview.com. July 17, 1972. Archived from the original on July 17, 2018. Retrieved May 14, 2015.

External links[edit]