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Distinguished History

Distinguished History

Doane University turned 140 in 2012, a new year in a long, distinguished history among liberal arts and sciences colleges of the Midwest. Quality begets quality and we started with the best.


Gaylord HallIn the 1870s, Doane was the passion of prominent men and women who wanted to build a college of Ivy-League scale in a prairie town – people like Founder Thomas Doane, a Massachusetts native and civil engineer, a constructor of railroads and the Hoosac tunnel; a gentle, yet decisive man of power.

And David Brainerd Perry, who “built the college from scratch” as its first president, a man with deep New England roots and an even deeper faith, who made a tireless 40-year commitment to the college – a professor, preacher and fundraiser on horseback.

Distinguished students came to the college they created; bright, forward-thinking, service-oriented students who worked hard for an outstanding education.

140 years in a nutshell:

  • Founded by New England Congregationalists
  • Established on land donated by the railroad
  • Incorporated in 1872
  • Remarkable growth in size and strength, from the first graduating class of three to a residential campus of more than 1,100
  • We survived the Great Depression, world wars and other events that caused many colleges to fail
  • Continuous accreditation
  • National recognition
  • New locations, student populations and advanced degree programs

You’ll see us pay homage to our history here: when first-year students gather in Cassel Open Air Theatre for the candlelighting ceremony; when the bell in Merrill Tower rings out a football victory. We’re proud of our history and the people who built it.

Students like you carry Doane’s tradition of quality forward.