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The History of Graceland

Providing exceptional education and meaningful connections since 1895.

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Built With Kindness

From day one of Graceland University, we have known the power of community. In fact, it’s thanks to the fellowship and generosity of the RLDS church (now Community of Christ) that Graceland even came to be. Over 125 years ago, the church members of Lamoni gathered together to donate the land where our campus sits to this day, with the first 20 acres graciously given by Marietta Walker, who later became known as the mother of Graceland. Not only did this land provide the space for the college to flourish, it also inspired our identity; Graceland was named by Col. George Barrett, who surveyed the land for the college and selected the name because of the graceful slope of the hill on which our university was built.

Until the administration building was completed, classes were conducted in a building in downtown Lamoni. The first day of classes was Sept. 17, 1895. There were 18 male and female students, four faculty and one dean.

The first building – now the administration building – housed the college in its entirety. It was dedicated on January 1, 1897. The church president, Joseph Smith III, said on the day of dedication that the college “should be free to all irrespective of faith or creed.”

Following an extensive renovation in the mid-1990s, the administration building was named the Higdon Administration Building in 1997 in recognition of three presidents: Earl T. Higdon; his son and daughter-in-law, William “Bill” Higdon and Barbara McFarlane Higdon.

In 1917, Graceland received accreditation from the states of Iowa and Missouri and from the Higher Learning Commission, making it the first fully accredited junior college in Iowa.

Graceland became a four-year college in 1960.

Graceland’s nursing program began in 1910 in a cooperative program with the Independence Sanitarium and Hospital, Independence, Missouri. The Graceland campus was extended to Independence with the establishment of the college’s bachelor’s degree program in 1968-69.

The physical location of the Independence campus was in three different sites before construction of the present building on W. Truman Road in 1999.

Graceland College became Graceland University on June 1, 2000.

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For More Information

For more information about the history of the university, contact the Graceland Marketing Department.

Graceland University
1 University Place
Lamoni, IA 50140