Central College is a residential liberal arts college dedicated to helping students discover and develop their greatest potential. Guided by its ecumenical Christian tradition, the college community engages in vigorous, open inquiry in pursuit of academic excellence. The College nurtures the development of the mind, while fostering spiritual and emotional maturity and physical well-being. Central integrates career preparation with the development of values essential to responsible citizenship, empowering graduates for effective service in local, national and international communities.
Spawned by the wilderness of pre-Civil War Iowa, Central College has, since its inception, been committed to the ideals of liberal education. Originally a Baptist institution, Central was founded in 1853 by a determined group of pioneer settlers who emigrated to central Iowa to escape religious tyranny in the Netherlands. Central College officially opened on Oct. 8, 1854, with a class of 37. The "campus" consisted of one two-story building containing three rudimentary classrooms. This fledgling institution grew both in size and mission during its first 60 years, eventually moving to a parcel of land donated by Pella's founding father, Dominie Pieter Scholte. The College survived fires, three wars, and economic depression during a period of history that saw the United States double in size. It remained solvent because of the faith and dedication of its early faculty members, some of whom accepted produce from local farms as payment. In 1916, Central was transferred from Baptist control to the Reformed Church in America. The relationship with the RCA strengthened the College as families within the denomination sent their sons and daughters to be educated for teaching and the ministry. As its academic reputation grew, Central attracted many more students from outside the denomination. International study programs were introduced in 1965, spawning an institutional emphasis on cross-cultural study. The first overseas study center was established in Paris, France, and a second was added in Vienna, Austria. Later, programs were opened in Granada, Spain; Bangor, Wales; London, England; Merida, Yucatan; and Leiden, the Netherlands